Browsing Tag

Fellowship

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Persecution. Here and Now.

We all knew it was coming and we all know it is only the beginning. But we know that God still has His people in His bundle (1 Samuel 25:29) of life. Faithful elders in one of our American towns are under public attack for withdrawing fellowship from a member who has divorced her husband and entered a very public lesbian relationship.

Notice just three important key points that Christians should remember:

1. The denunciation of this sin and the withdrawal are Biblical requirements for those who are following Scripture. (Romans 1: 26-28; 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11, 1 Corinthians 5:1-8). The Holy Spirit left no room for disputation about that.

2. Publicizing sin is never the purpose of withdrawal of fellowship. Elders did not/do not wish to make it known in communities that there’s sin in the church. (That’s antithetical to their purposes.) The sinner announced her sin in a broad and public way. The addressing of the sin was done/is done in private communication up until the date of withdrawal . Even then, the nature of the sin is not always specified and the announcement of withdrawal is made only to the members of the local body for which the elders are responsible. 

3. When one becomes a member of the church in a community, it’s an exercise of religious liberty. No one forces anyone to be a member of the New Testament church. People willingly place their souls under the care of the shepherds of a church, willingly giving elderships the responsibility to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in protecting their souls from loss in this commanded way.  The assigned task of elders is grave (Hebrews 13:17).  May we support and encourage those who are serious about their responsibilities. 

True persecution of godly men and their families has ensued as a result of their commitment to following the Scriptures. I would ask each woman who reads to pray fervently for the church right now; especially for her elders and their families. This is the quickly emerging and fiery persecution that the people of God are facing in a country in which religious liberties are at stake. This one thing is sure: Our citizenship in heaven is secure. Romans 8:28 is happening this week. Things will work out for the ultimate benefit of His people even if that benefit is the ultimate rest around the throne. There IS a way of escape for godly people who are determined to follow the directives of the Holy Spirit given in Scripture, even if we find that way to be fraught with peril and even if the escape route guides us more quickly to death and victory (1 Corinthians 10:13). Let’s be prayerful for the men of God who are privileged to partake in a significant way right now in the sufferings of our Lord (2 Timothy 1:8). As mothers and grandmothers, let’s be doubly vigilant to prepare our children for life in the new America in which there will be fewer and fewer lukewarm members of the body. Those who commit to being in the body will be signing up for persecution like we’ve never faced in this country. Our kids have hard days ahead of them.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Grown Men Crying

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good.

Yesterday I witnessed these clear passages at work. I witnessed Christians, who had prayed and wept and reached and prayed some more—I witnessed them rejoicing as a strapping brother walked down the aisle. He started his walk before the song we were singing to encourage him even began. He beat the elders to the front; the ones who were on their way down front to take the hand of any one who came forward. I watched one of those elders weeping. I heard the statement of the erring brother; clear and humble and penitent, and I watched his family in the Lord embrace him and rejoice. It was a long time coming and it was eternal in its result. 

It had been one week since the announcement had been made of his pending withdrawal of the fellowship of a congregation that loves him deeply. One week of praying and pleading with him. One week of inner turmoil and decisions to make on his part. 

Why would anyone believe that we can ignore passages to withdraw our fellowship from those who become impenitent and hardened in sin? Notice some key words in the verses above that are taken from First Corinthians five and Second Thessalonians three:

we command you

in the name of our Lord, Jesus

In the name of our Lord Jesus. 

when you are gathered with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ

for the destruction of the flesh

that the spirit may be saved

Your glorying is not good.  

How could we ever even presume to say that we are following, as congregations, His will and incurring His full blessings when generations have gone by seeing Christians walk away into sins of all kinds—living and then dying in them—while we ignore passages that begin with a command to do something in the name of the Lord Jesus?

If you are a part of a congregation that lovingly obeys this immediately hard and eternally powerful command, you are blessed in a rare and comforting way. It’s purposes, in the context of these passages, is two-fold: purity of the church and penitence-provoking in behalf of the lost one. If you are a part of such a congregation, give deep and introspective thought before leaving such a church. (I know your reasons could be many and that this is not the only important New Testament command for churches.) One day the soul in jeopardy may be your own and you want to be part of a community of Christians under faithful shepherds who are weeping and coming for you when you are walking away from holiness. You want late-night, prayerful, living-room elders who are bound to Inspiration’s path of bringing lost brethren (and sisters) back. 

True, sometimes the impenitence persists and the withdrawal is complete and the lost soul never returns. The Lord will not force a soul go to heaven. (This whole blog and my whole life would be an exercise in futility if this earth were not the testing ground for faithfulness.) But, even in cases where the purpose of a soul’s salvation is not achieved, the purpose of the purity of the church is not thwarted. 

Don’t take the blessing lightly if you have shepherds who bravely lead in discipline in a who-are-you-to judge-me world.

And if you do not have the blessing, and you are proud of the “loving environment that would never presume to call out sin”, Your glorying is not good. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Together: It’s what I’m Missing!

I’m currently at a studio in East Tennessee hammering out a total of ten lessons for this year’s virtual Polishing the Pulpit. I want to be able to do it without masking up in between the sessions if I need to go and purchase a drink. I wish I could do it in the beautiful setting of the Smoky Mountains like we do each year. I’d love to hear some singing in between the speaking times. I wish there were lots of classes I could attend between the speeches I’m making. I wish these speeches were not so back-to-back-to back. Most of all, though, I’m wishing for you…for the faces, hugs, smiles, laughter, in-person prayers, and sit-down conversations of sister in Christ. It’s hard to keep on going without these big boosts that all of us need when we get TOGETHER.

“Together” is a huge encompassing blessing, the significance of which has eluded us in times of fellowship. The fellowship famine has placed a flashing neon sign in my heart: “This girl needs sisters!” Pray with me that it will not be long till we can go to worship and hug each other. Pray that it won’t be long till our children can all have classes and we can pass out snacks and they can stand in line for their sermon sheet prizes. Pray that we can pass communion and a basket for our offerings. Pray that we can shake hands and hold hands and chat up-close-and-personal all over our buildings. Pray that we can sit down in quiet places, grab each others’ hands and bow our heads and together talk over our challenges with God. Pray that soon we can have sisters in our homes for devotionals and that two of us can look at the same Bible or commentary as we together try to figure out a passage’s meaning. Pray, pray, pray. Email, Zoom, virtual conventions and drive-by parades have been fun, but they do not suffice for togetherness. Pray!

Yesterday, my one remaining fall ladies day was turned into a Zoom meeting. I can’t even tell you the mental grasping that I did at that moment for some simile of normalcy. Pray that one day soon, we’ll be planning, persevering, and praising hand-in-hand. We are better when we are together. Physical synergy is a real thing.

And, for now, let’s get every bit of the nourishment that’s in our limited meetings and in the virtual. Pray that these spoon feedings will tide us over. Pray for elders and leaders who are making very tough decisions. Just pray.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Laughter. Do You Need a Dose?

Sometimes things happen to you that you just can’t write about in a blog post. You want to, though. They are events that make you laugh harder than you’ve laughed in a long time. They are the kind of bizarre things that you just can’t make up. But then, you really can’t write about them. They’d embarrass someone. They might even impede the gospel’s progression. They might close a door that otherwise could be at least a little ajar for the good news in some life. One of those things happened to me recently and I can promise you that the sister I was with (if she’s reading) is reminded of a search for a lost phone on a very warm Sunday afternoon and she is laughing at the memory. 

As I think about that day—the one I can’t write about—I’m glad I’ve had a lifetime of laughter with Christian sisters. I’m glad for scores of ladies day lunches, Christian camp late night silliness, road trips   and campaigns.  Being with evangelistic sisters with whom I can talk freely and laugh heartily is amazing therapy. 2020 is a time in my life when I need laughter and the camaraderie of women who are looking to eternity and trying to win souls. So much separation and sadness and so many obstacles have been (I believe) strategically placed in our paths by the devil this year. He’d love it if Christians could be depressed. He’d like us to bring the unrest of the world around us into the body. He’d love to make us wonder whether people in our congregations really care about the things that are challenging for us. He’d think it was a good thing if he could make us less involved in each other’s lives. He’d like each of us, personally, to become discouraged with ourselves, with our spiritual progress, and maybe even with our congregations that are struggling to be together and to be the strong support that they’ve been in more normal seasons. We are challenged to try to remain strong and soul-conscious when we’re without our usual vacation Bible schools, classes, seminars, gospel meetings, conferences and ladies days —events that normally serve as the mortar that binds us. One thing is for sure: Cindy Colley is learning the intrinsic value of physically coming together to edify each other. Although there have been times in my life when I thought I was overdoing the “togetherness” with Christians, I’ve learned in 2020 that being “too” busy with such events is far better than this fellowship famine. Certainly one ingredient that I’m short on during this difficult season, is laughter with my family in Him. 

I hope you’ll join me in praying daily for our leaders—the elders in our churches—as they make tough decisions about resuming our assemblies and activities together. When they do resume activities, I hope we’ll all be back with a passion. Let’s be sure we’re not back at Walmart, back at the salon, and  back at the restaurants while failing to be back at work together for Him at every opportunity. I hope you will pray with me daily for our unity, for our support of those elders, and for the defeat of the devil’s ploys to discourage us. Pray that we will view the amazing price that Christ paid for the church as reason enough to do all we individually can do to  protect her from division, even in times when the world is an increasingly hostile place. I’m praying that I’ll always view “my people,” not as any race or even physical family, but as the people of God.  

And pray for laughter together again…the kind we can hear and see…up close and in person. 

“A merry heart does good like a medicine.” I think I need a good dose!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

We’re Family.

Caleb Colley and Nathan Anderson…a few years back.

Tonight was the night the West Huntsville church said goodbye to the Anderson family. They’ll always have a tender spot in our hearts. Glenn and I have known Nathan since he was three years old. His dad was a deacon in the church where Glenn preached when our children were very young. He was our son Caleb’s backyard Ninja Turtles partner, camp basketball teammate and college roommate. They stood up for each other at their weddings.  Now Nathan is a deacon in the church in which his own children are growing up. At least he was.

Nathan, Ellen and their three sweet children, Nell, Cliff and Mark, will be traveling to the UK tomorrow, where Nathan will be working for the next three years. I can’t imagine the richness of the adventure for three children who will come back to Huntsville in three years with distinctly British accents and conversing about the barbours and wellies they have in the boot of the car. But the hole they leave behind is already palatable and their absence will surely make us appreciate the fact that God has given us family in the body of Christ. 

 Every day something makes me vastly glad He made us family with the blood of the firstborn. 

Glenn and I have been attempting to try and help a sweet couple put their marriage on the right track for the past several months. They’ve worked hard and we think they have come a long way. But finances are tight and some ditches of depression are just easier to escape when there’s a change of scenery. Glenn and I strongly recommended the Great Smoky Mountain Marriage Retreat (https://smokymountainmarriage.com) for this change of scenery. Within hours, I found Christians who were willing to make sure their registration fee was paid. Another sister offered lodging in a cabin in the beautiful Smoky Mountains. This life-changing event has been made possible for this couple because we are a family. 

Five sibling babies needed a home and family. One couple in the body was willing to love and raise them in the Lord. Another family had the resources to pay the bulk of adoption fees. Another did leg work to connect children to parents. Yet others contributed financially and gave emotional support. Because we are a family. 

One young person in the church was assumed to be participating in a very worldly activity simply because the activity was on the itinerary of the group with which she was traveling. But a family (church) member said “Let’s not assume she did this. Let’s ask her.” Sure enough the young lady had abstained from the activity even though the whole group was participating. Family members not only hold each other accountable, but we assume the best about one another. We’re family.

Someone’s having surgery. Someone else is cooking food. Someone’s having a Bible study with a non-believer. Someone else is watching the children. Someone’s child is needing costly medical attention. Someone else is contributing anonymously. Someone’s loved one has passed away unexpectedly Someone else is helping with funeral expenses. Someone’s despondent. Lots of others are writing notes of encouragement. Someone is putting on Christ in the middle of the night. Someone else is rejoicing all the way to the water. 

Because we’re family (2 Corinthians 6:17,18). 

I’m not great at goodbyes. I did come back to the auditorium last night, after a short meeting in Glenn’s office to get my hugs, and the Andersons were already gone. (I can hardly even fathom how many loose ends they must still be tying even as I write.)    

Nathan (far left) and Caleb (2nd from right) in 5-year-old Bible class. Salem, VA

Caleb, Nathan and Grat Tucker… at Caleb’s wedding.

So Nate, Ellen, Nell, Cliff and Mark…know that Glenn and I will be keeping you close in prayer, counting the weeks till your pew is full again, all your jobs are back in your capable hands and three of Mammy’s sweet children are playing on the steps down front again. (I hope they are not too big to do that when they get back!) Post a lot of the pictures  we love ( and some of the scenery there, too) and tell us the funny things the kids say. Remember to pray for your family here often. Build the kingdom there, but remember where home is. Your family here loves you!

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: My Life on a Cart

Polishing the Pulpit (https://polishingthepulpit.com) is a conference for Christians, held annually in Sevierville, TN and it’s become a 5500-person fellowship/teaching event that’s unlike any other; both in great potential for the gospel’s spread and in popularity with gospel-followers. As you can guess by its name, it began as a little workshop for preachers and has developed in 25 short years to be a power-house conference (because of His power) that has meaty and practical sessions for all of God’s people. As one of the audio and video technicians, who gave his life to Christ in baptism at the end of the week said “Where can you find this many people who are just this nice?” I love that assessment.

I know the devil would love to worm his way into this event, but God’s people there, both leadership (the elders of the Jacksonville church of Christ) and attendees, are determined to keep a sound and unified event. It’s become a family (both physical family and spiritual family) reunion for the Colleys, to which we look with great anticipation every year. 

As we left the convention center this year, I took a long look at our luggage cart, and there I saw a huge conglomeration that’s now still a big pile in my bedroom floor. But looking at that cart, I saw a small cross-section of my whole world.  I could look at that all-too-familiar hotel cart and see my life–the things that I love and the things I do–rolling across that parking lot.  Some of the things were meaningful in a long-term way. Some, like the number of pairs of shoes I’d brought along, were just extra and unneeded baggage. I looked at that cart and contemplated for a minute.  

I saw all the Digging Deep paraphernalia…my new DD bag that had carried handouts, books, baby entertainment items for worship, and bread to give away before my classes began; my Digging Deep t-shirt and the old “Authority” book from which I’d taught a couple of times through the week. And my brand new “Glory” book was also somewhere on the cart. There was even a shovel, a rake and a hoe, given to me by one of the Georgia diggers . Digging Deep was everywhere on the cart.

There was stuff from the Digging Deep Israel trip: a large group photo given to us by John and Carla Moore as they packed up the Bible Land Passages table in the Exhibit Hall. At the very top of the cart was the ram’s head with real ram’s horns, given to us by fellow Israel traveler, Caysi McDonald. Lindsay VanHook put them on the head she crafted and Linzee Stephenson mounted the ram’s head on a wooden spatula. It served us well, at the climax of the Mount Moriah scene, in Family Bible week at West Huntsville and then at Family Bible time in the Atrium with a hundred or so kids.

There were a lot of grandchildren things on that cart. There was my Bernina sewing bag, a big white laundry basket that had served to transport a bunch of birthday gifts and decorations for little Maggie’s first family birthday party, held just outside the atrium, after the crowds had exited on Thursday. There was a big black plastic garbage bag that had served to hide the 34-year-old red and white wooden scooter that Glenn had made for Caleb for his first birthday; now being passed along to Maggie (She loved it, repeating over and over “Brooom, brooom!” as she pushed it around by the wooden handle bars.)  The big bag was now full of laundry awaiting the wash.  There were leftover snack bags and boxes; surprises we’d brought to tape on the hotel room doors of the grandkids. The grands were fully represented on the cart.

My sisters were there, too. The little trinkets and treats and notes of encouragement that so many sweet friends had shared were rolling, too, in various bags and cases.

There was a computer printer, two large Bibles, a portfolio for organizing lessons, two lap-tops and an iPad, a large commentary and a big package of computer paper. It’s the way we roll when we are speaking in a total combined  number of sessions that exceeds thirty. There was even a coffee maker and a bag of Keurig cups to keep us burning the midnight oil. And there were dress clothes for all those speeches. And dress shoes and ties and scarves and there was a bag of brand new socks for Glenn because he has that propensity for leaving his at home. (He has that propensity in common with Don Blackwell. We went to Israel and washed the same pair of socks every.single.day.) 

I guess I could go on listing blessings on that cart. But the thing that struck me is  this: Your stuff represents your heart. Obviously, the stuff on the cart is the stuff I didn’t want to do without for a week-and-a-half.  Jesus said something in the same vein over in Luke 6:34

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 

By the time we left, I noticed the world was refilling the empty hotel. Carts were coming in with vastly different loads; carts pushed by people who were almost naked—carts that held luggage and beer and swimsuits and water shoes and tickets to the pleasures of the world around us. My husband commented that after watching Christians crowd those hotel hallways for a week, it was very shocking to see the world. We probably need to keep on being a little shocked. 

It’s also very motivating. Think about the diffusion of those 5500 people into a world that pushes the wrong load. Think about what we can do if every one of us invites one person to study the Bible with us monthly between now and our next gathering in Sevierville. Think about what we can do if each family has Family Bible Time daily for all 355 days between now and the next PTP. Think about how much stronger our families will be if every mother at PTP studies the Word deeply every day between now and next August 12th. Think about how much of an effectual working will occur if every woman who left that place is fervently in daily prayer for this entire year. Think about the power of a diffusion. How many carts could we load for heaven? 

How many? How many could I help load, given my opportunities in my little circle of influence? I’m going to try to have at least one more packed and loaded for heaven before that gathering on the mountain next year. Will you try, too?