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Gospel

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? 

  

                                                 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Where is Your Sting? –(The Conclusion)

The sting of death is sin.

Perhaps it seems a distasteful subject on which to spend eight successive posts and all the thought behind them; but death is an unrelenting common denominator to all people of all eras, nationalities and stations. Death is the unbending end. It is the unchanging destination to which all of us travel. We do not change our minds about the unspoken final entry into the universal journal.  So, why should we not spend time thinking about its ramifications? And why should such a natural passage be so very uncomfortable to approach in conversation or writing? 

It’s because what lies beyond it is universally unknown. No one that you know today can tell you about what is on the other side. You will never have lunch with someone who can tell you about a trip beyond death. You will not read a best-seller by someone who has returned from the land beyond death (though there have been many claims). So death is shrouded by mystery. It scares us and we prefer not to think much about it. We certainly don’t like to discuss it, and especially, we like to avoid discussing our own impending deaths. 

It’s only the Christian who has, by faith, a glimpse into the world that is already a reality for those who have left this life. And, for the Christian, that glimpse of faith should not be scary. Faith, after all, is not the substance of the the things we dread. It’s the “substance of the things we hope for,” (Hebrews 11:1). Truly, we are the only people who can, but we should be able to “look” over there with great anticipation and be ready for the transport of our lives when we leave this earth! 

The sting of sin is death (I Corinthians 15:56). In this marvelous chapter about the ultimate resurrection, we find these words that encompass all the other hurts of death. Death makes us regret only because of sin. Death makes us sad and lonely because of sin. Death makes empty chairs and hearts because of sin. Death makes its victims suffer pain because of sin. Death exists because of sin. Its introduction coincided with and resulted from the introduction of sin into our world (Genesis 3). It affects me, personally, because of my own sin (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23). Death is the figure on the payroll for my work of sin. 

Further, there is no answer for sin, but the gospel. Only the gospel—the good news—can make something good out of physical death. That’s what I Corinthians 15 is driving home to the Christian. The law of works (or the law of the Old Testament) only confirmed and defined sin. It made sin, sin. Men learn how to sin by looking at a perfect standard—a law. Man could not transgress against the law of God until that law was given. Romans 7:1-14 is a deep discussion, by Paul of sin and death, in which he tells us that the law makes sin “exceedingly sinful.” It’s the law that gives death its vigor…its sting. 

Nothing—no sacrifice, no piety, no law of God—could give us any ability against the ultimate formidable enemy which is death. Only the gospel—the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus— could give us the victory over death. It’s ironic that one single death (and subsequent resurrection) could provide the victory over all other deaths prior to and following that one single death. Only a death followed by a permanent  resurrection could conquer the enemy that  had stung every human since the dawn of time. Only that good news could make Cindy Colley have a prayer against that venomous sting. 

And so the gloom of death—the pain, the horror the fear, the pallor—has all been eliminated for the Christian. The grave has no holding power; no victory. Death’s sting has been neutralized by the resurrected Savior. 

How foolish it is for any one of us—so weak, so affected by sin, so unrealistic in any bragging rights of strength or power against death—how foolish, I say, for any of us to reject the gospel, for it is the only strength we have against the sting of death. But the gospel is complete and total conquering victory over it. The grave is not the terminator for people of God. Why would smart people quibble over the simple requirements of such a gospel. Why, on earth, would people argue to their own eternal undoing about whether baptism really does put us into his death (Romans 6:3,4)—the only death that has ever held any power, any victory over the blackness of the “other” death that comes to all men. I want to be deeply buried in His death where there is no sting. When and if I lie in some hospital bed in my final moments, I want to claim the victory. I want to be able to welcome those angels. I want to hear my children singing “Be With Me Lord” because of their assurance that I am in Christ—in His death, in His victory. 

That’s why we should all spend some time contemplating death: because it is in our power at this moment to choose to subjugate death to a foe on which we trample because of the blood of Christ or to exonerate death to its ultimate victory over eternal salvation and happiness. If I choose the latter I give death the power: to sting, to enslave, to horrify, to torment forever. But why would anyone do that?