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Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Guest Writer: Reflecting on Homosexuality and the Slow and Painful Death of a Family Dynamic

Recent work in several areas has glaringly portrayed to me that even God’s people can, over time and with the right exposure to and stimuli from a wicked environment, come to accept sinful behaviors and even to be sharply critical of the people of God who do not come to celebrate the culture’s accepted sins. Things that could have been said twenty years ago with the unanimous approval of Bible-believing people are today the catalysts of division in families, both physical and spiritual. (Darwinian evolution, even given millions of years, can never be accomplished. But the evolution of sin’s acceptance happens with the passage of much briefer periods.) I have a friend who was an advocate of holy marriage twenty years ago, but is now a confessed impenitent adulterer; another who stood squarely for the submissive role of women in worship who now worships in a church where women are fully incorporated into leadership positions; yet another who believed in the sanctity of Biblical marriage just 15 years ago, who now is married to her same-sex partner. I ache in my soul for these friends, understanding that the changes in their perspectives came, not because God’s perfect Will evolved with the times, but because they looked away from His Will –they got distracted, coming out of the Word and into the world.

It doesn’t take a lot of time and effort, in an environment that’s spiraled so quickly, to make the change. You get to ride the strong waves of culture’s tide.  But coming back is a herculean battle against that tide. It’s easier for people to go with the current and lash out against those who believe the very things that they, themselves, knew to be true only a few short years ago. It’s self-gratifying to use words like backward, unloving, intolerant, bigoted, holier-than-thou, and judgmental in describing those who believe the very things that they once, a short time ago, knew, from the Bible, to be truth. On the other hand, it’s conscience-soothing to use words like enlightened, matured, liberated, discerning, loving, accepting and open-minded about one’s self, when one has traveled with the current.

Today’s guest writer chronicles the short trip so many have taken in a culture of subjectivity and spiritual death. She shares it with a heavy heart and a flickering light of hope that could still be fanned into flames if hearts will turn.

Growing up, I was always taught that marriage was between a man and a woman.   My parents are still married after raising all their children to adulthood, and for as long as I can remember, they stood against those who would defame marriage with homosexuality.  While I did not grow up in the church, my parents professed a belief in God, and homosexuality was never a gray area for us — we knew that it was wrong, even with our limited exposure to true Christianity.   The same was true for pornography.  Although I grew up with virtually no “modesty” standards, we knew that viewing pornography was bad.    I don’t remember ever even being tempted by either of these sins (homosexuality or pornography), because the teaching on these was so absolute that I knew I never wanted to get close to them.

However, the devil works in crafty ways.   He can penetrate even the most resolute hearts if we give him entrance and do not immerse ourselves in God’s word.  After I moved out of the house and started my own family, one of my younger siblings engaged in some behavior online that resulted in punitive action from the internet and email providers. My parents were stunned.  Surely a child raised in their home could not have engaged in such horrific behavior under their watchful eyes!  They had done all things “right” in that sense.   The computers were in prominent locations in the house. Screen time was limited.  We were told to be careful where we clicked and looked.   The internet company had surely made a mistake!  We were “good” kids. However, after investigating the browser history on the computer, it became obvious that there had, indeed, been inappropriate behavior occurring in their home. So began the tearing down of strongholds in our family.   Slowly but surely, things that had once been deemed terrible sins by my family began to have “another side to the story.”   One thing led to another, and gradually our family values were torn apart.   

I still remember the day years ago when my sister called me out of the blue.   I was shocked (and yet, not surprised) when the confession was made that her ever-present same-sex roommate was actually way more than a roommate and was, in fact, a “partner.”    Even though I suspected this for a long time and knew deep down that this was the case, hearing the actual words from my own flesh and blood destroyed something in my heart and in our family.  I found out that my parents had encouraged this hidden life and secret-keeping because they knew my stance on the matter and wanted to protect my sister from my “judgment.”     In that moment, I knew we were at a crossroads and that life would never be the same.    We talked for a long time, and I let her know in no uncertain terms that she was living in sin.  Yet, I reminded her that we were family and that I still cared for her soul.    We ended our conversation on heartbroken terms, and we rarely see each other now.   I still pray for her often, and I still try to find opportunities to teach her and to love her while hating her sin.    

It has been unbelievable to me to see how my parents have progressed through the years.   What was first appalling and disgusting to them has now become acceptable and even glorified.     When my sister and her partner decided to “marry” according to the law, there was great rejoicing and celebration among my family (although not from me or my husband).   The rest of my family considers this “marriage” to be the same as mine to my husband, and they can’t understand why I cannot accept it as such.   They have begun justifying her choices and accepting this sin that once was incomprehensible.   They view us as judgmental, unloving, and intolerant, and they constantly encourage us to “accept her just as God made her.”   What they once reviled, they have now determined is “the way she was created.”      

I have witnessed firsthand the destructive nature of sin.   I have seen the slow progression from covetousness, to lust, to sin, and to spiritual death.   My children have been exposed to things at an early age that I would have chosen to shield them from much longer.   I have not given up on my family accepting God’s word and obeying the gospel, but this sin has torn asunder any shadow of a foundation of truth in their hearts.   Sin is destructive.   Sin is selfish.  Sin is sin.  “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.”  Isaiah 5:20   May we never be among those who blur the lines of truth.  May we ever be steadfast and resolute in our battle for what is right.   

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Guest Writer on Lads to Leaders–Caleb Colley


Last weekend, about 20,000 people were encouraged, strengthened and blessed by a program that’s dear to the Colley house. The following, penned by Caleb a few years back, is a reflective look at the benefits of participation. 2019 marked our family’s 26th year of participation as a family and our third generation of participants had a great and chaotic time in this blessed little spiritual boot camp. We are tired. We have had enough Stax burgers and Paisano pizza to last us till next year for sure. Our cars did not leave their parking spaces for 72 hours. We walked about 3984357 miles in the hotel. We rode the elevator 238974 times with two strollers. We helped host a dinner for the very first Nashville recipient of the prestigious RED COAT AWARD. (I love that guy. He worked very hard!) We attended a reception for a board member that I live who’s been working in the program for all of its fifty years. (I love that guy, too!) Our faith in the great I AM and His wondrous mercy for the third and fourth generations reached new levels. We are thankful to Him.

Here are Caleb’s thoughts. (I know he’s looking to the future of Lads with even greater anticipation now, since this year was his first “stroller year” at convention. Maggie did a lot of “speech” this year at the Orlando convention, but her mom said the content was mostly  “Bye-bye-bye-bye. Here she is with her great aunt Lois Duncan Lyon at the Orlando convention.)

A congregation that is close to my heart will be initiating its participation in Lads to Leaders in the coming days, and this event calls to mind how much Lads has done for me. As I enter my 21st year of participation, I would like to briefly describe the program and say why more congregations nationwide should consider participating.

Society has built-in mechanisms to assist and motivate young people in athletic, academic, and entrepreneurial achievement, but too often the church has slight and ineffective means to encourage Bible knowledge and spiritual achievement among children. Every congregation of the church should have a mechanism whereby it assists parents in promoting children’s spiritual development. In my opinion, the best such expedient is Lads to Leaders, a program that affords structure, content, and motivation, and can be tailored to the specific needs of each congregation as specified and directed by its eldership.

 

In Lads to Leaders, there are 37 categories of participation, through which children and adults learn what the Bible says and how to apply it in daily life and in the work and worship of the home and church. The events culminate at an annual convention in six cities (Atlanta, Dallas, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, and Orlando) where the participants’ efforts are celebrated and encouraged by thousands of brethren. Most (26) of the events are non-competitive, i.e., participants are evaluated, but not in comparison with others. Some (11) events are competitive. In my experience Lads competition has been friendly, mild, and profitable—always edifying and never discouraging. Consider in turn some of the benefits Lads offers:

Structure. Sometimes, although we want our children to learn God’s word and become spiritual leaders, we’re unsure how to start and to keep going over time. Lads event rules have been carefully designed for maximum long-term benefit, by church leaders who have experience in working with young people and parents. Consider the event called “Debate.” Here, students study an important proposition, such as “The use of mechanical instruments of music to accompany the worship of God by His church is not authorized by His Word,” in preparation for organized, formal (mock) debates. And, in the event called “Good Samaritan,” students habituate service by systematically learning what they can do for others and then scheduling it. Lads systematically connects adults who have expertise in a particular activity with students who are interested in that area. For example, song leaders train the participants in the event called “Song Leading,” and public speakers train the participants in “Speech.”

Content. Lads has a strong focus on quality, biblical curriculum that serves as the foundation for several events. For example, in the event called “Headed to the Office,” students read a book by Glenn Colley on how to prepare to fulfill the biblical qualifications for eldership, and complete projects that help them develop the requisite characteristics. A new event called “Keepers” helps girls to develop the attributes of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31, including homemaking skills. Other events (e.g., “Centurion of Scripture,” “Bible Bowl”) challenge participants—including adults—to memorize Scripture.

Motivation. Part of Lads’ structure is a system of competition and recognition that keeps children working. As a young Lads participant, I would not yet be all the way home from the Lads convention before I starting working on my speech for the next year’s convention, because I wanted to win the trophy. Before long, I stopped caring so much about the material reward and cared more about the intrinsic rewards of writing and delivering my best possible speech. Nonetheless, competition was a critical stimulus in the early stages. Just as children are motivated by getting a star sticker on a chart for attendance or good behavior, a trophy in a contest goes a long way toward showing a child that a difficult task is worthwhile.

Individualization. Autonomous congregational leadership is fully in control of how its membership utilizes Lads. The events and all material supplied by Lads are, like Sunday school curriculum, tools at the disposal of congregations and families. Folks can participate in as few or as many events as they like, and can choose whether to attend the convention.

Whatever service I am able to render in the kingdom is largely the result of the training provided to me by my parents and other mentors in the context of Lads to Leaders. I am honored to continue the tradition by mentoring students in the program. Begin to use Lads to Leaders at your congregation today. Contact me if I can help get you started or check out the website where all information can be found: http://www.lads2leaders.com.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Guest Writer: Ten “Must-Have”s on a Christian Girl’s List for a Prospective Husband

                                                                 

–contributed by Ally Smith.

  1. 1. First and most important “must-have” is finding a man who puts God as his “number one”; even before you and his family or job.
  2. 2. Is he committed to building the kingdom of God and spreading His Word? Wait for the man who is always involved in church events and always conducting in some way during worship; not someone who only shows up when he has to or when he’s expected to. He should always want to be involved in his congregation.
  3. 3. Does he love God…or does he love the world? Wait for the man who falls deeply in love with God instead of worldly temptations and possessions. 
  4. Is he a man of constant prayer? Does he pray before you pull off on a date for your safe travels? Does he pray before your meal on a date? Find a man who is constantly praying and talking to God.
  5. Is he pure in heart? The Bible says in Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance (watchfulness), for from it flow the springs of life.” Wait for the man who is constantly aware of his actions and making sure they are pure and in keeping with God’s Word.
  6. Is he slow to anger? Proverbs 22:24-25 says “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” Wait for the man who is temperate and is willing to talk through misunderstandings and conflicts.
  7. Is he wise with his money? Proverbs 21:20 says “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” Does he save and put his money towards good things or is he always finding ways to spend it and sometimes finding himself in trouble? Don’t get involved with a man who loves his money more than the Lord for that leads down a sinful path of destruction and torment. 
  8. Is he considerate? Philippians 2:4 says “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” A considerate, selfless man will have your best interests in mind. 
  9. Is he a man of forgiveness? Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” don’t get involved with a man who holds grudges and dwells in the past. Wait for the man who is forgiving and understanding of others. 
  10. Does he set a Christian example? Titus 2:7 says “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity and dignity.” Look for a man who is being a good example to his younger siblings and peers. 

 

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Guest Writer: Ally Smith

Several years ago, while speaking at a teen girls’ purity day in Tennessee, I passed out a sample “Letter to my Future Husband,” (Casey Herringshaw at https://enjoyingthewritingcraft.blogspot.com). Encouraging the girls to think long and hard about the qualities in a husband that would make for happiness in this lifetime and help them live in eternity with God, I encouraged them all to write their own letters and take them out and read them every now and then. Most of all, I wanted them to have clear and godly goals for their marriages and never to veer from them in pursuit of something plastic and temporal.

At that time, Ally was probably about 13 or 14 years old. Recently, Ally and I have been meeting up to visit. She’s 20 now and she shared with me the other day that, using that letter from long ago as a template, she’d written a letter to that man who is still anonymously working to be the one who will one day walk into Ally’s heart and then through life by her side. With some recent edits, she’s given me permission to share her letter, still much like that letter from the purity day so long ago. I hope her letter will help someone young who reads to think about some characteristics that will make for a marriage that God will bless with joy; to write down some goals–maybe even write her own letter– but, most of all, to determine to have uncompromising convictions for the Lord and to never settle for someone who cannot share those convictions and the soul’s best last hope, its only hope…the hope of heaven! Here’s her letter:

To my future husband,

I have been waiting to meet you my entire life; sometimes patiently and sometimes not very patiently all. I know it won’t be long until I will not only be in your heart, but in your arms. That will be the best feeling ever. I know that God has hand-crafted you just for me. But while we’re apart, I’m sure that I am following God’s path to you. I do not know your name nor could I even begin to guess what you’re like or how we’ll meet or if we’ve already met. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking, dreaming and praying for you every day. I know that it sometimes seems like the day that we will meet will never come. But please stay strong and have faith that soon enough God will lead us to each other when the time is right.

There are just a few things I need you to promise to me….Always hold my hand and give me hugs. Hold me in your arms when you get home from work, kiss me on the forehead and tell me all about your day and whether it was good or bad. Remind me often of how much you love and care for me; even if it’s simply leaving a note on my mirror on your way to work or surprising me with cheap flowers. Ask me how my day was before we go to bed, and comfort me if I’m having a bad week. Be my biggest fan but don’t be afraid to let me know when I’m wrong. Tell me jokes–even the stupid ones that make no sense. I love laughing with you.

Draw me closer to God. Remind me how much he means to me by constantly showing faith in him. Pray with me everyday and share with me your struggles and your accomplishments. Please never place bars across your heart. Always be honest with me even if you’re scared of the reaction. I will never judge you or put you down. I want to spend the rest of our lives lifting each other up and towards heavens pearly gates. Learn about my interests and things I enjoy doing, support me in my dreams. But don’t be afraid to tell me if I’m stumbling down the wrong path.

Dance with me in the kitchen with our children laughing at us. (because you know I can’t dance to save my life). Come behind me and kiss my neck when I’m making dinner and tell me you love me. Hold me tight when I’m upset. Hug me tight when the pain is too much for words. Always kiss me goodnight, even if we aren’t on good terms. Let’s never go to bed angry at each other. Surround us and our home in God’s love, joy and constant laughter.

Always take me to church whenever the doors are open. Love children, especially ours, and let them know everyday just how much. When the devil threatens our home and shakes the foundation of our marriage, promise never to leave and to never let the word “divorce” enter out vocabulary, even if it’s out of spite. Always be the spiritual leader of our home and believe what the Bible has to say from beginning to end. Be someone that, when anyone looks at you, they see Jesus Christ. Always speak with love and kindness and teach our children the wonders and consequences given in God’s word.

Find what you’re passionate about and chase it. Be my best friend, the one person I can always go to…my soulmate… and the man I’ve been waiting to meet my entire life.

With all the love I could ever give,

Ally

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Guest Writer: Lillian Howard on Fear’s Paralyzation

I’ve been thinking about how our Digging Deep  study, Authority, is not for the fearful. I have already been called on to do some major self-examination and ready myself for submission in important ways that I have been tempted to ignore.  Recently while speaking in the state of Missouri, I met Lillian Howard. Lilly is still in high school, but she has her own personal arsenal of written defensive missiles against our great spiritual enemy. Listen to her words (and the Lord’s) about the danger of our own fear, specifically about how our fears  can make us ashamed of our Lord. They are convicting. Here’s Lillian:

In Revelation 21:8, God gives us one of several lists telling of those who will not enter Heaven. It has such people as the unbelievers, murderers, and liars. But it is the first one that really catches my attention. Fearful.

In this verse, fearful means timid or cowardly. Cowardice is succumbing to fear. Cowards will be kept out of Heaven. But why? Obviously because God said so, but why did he say so? I think we understand why most of these others are wrong. If you don’t believe, you can’t even begin to do anything else God commands us. Murder is the unlawful taking of a life, made in the image of God. And lying breaks down trust and our influence. But what does cowardice do that makes it so serious?

First, succumbing to fear can make us ashamed.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord… 2 Timothy 1:7-8

For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory… Luke 9:26

But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in Heaven. Matthew 10:33

Clearly, being ashamed of the one who died for us is a serious matter, as is being ashamed of his gospel. It is, after all, the power that saves us, Romans 1:16.

Second, fear can keep us from doing what we know is right. Remember Esther? She had the chance to save her entire race from annihilation. But she was scared. It could cost her her life. In a nutshell, Mordecai told her, opportunity + ability = obligation. It’s not as though she didn’t have a choice. But cowardice would have cost her and her family immensely, Esther 4:14.

We are given a similar command in James 4:17-

Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Next time: What Can We Do about Fear?

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Guest Writer, Grace Yocum: Others Down/Self Up?

(Grace is 12 years old. She speaks with clarity about a temptation faced by many young teens. In fact, maybe we should all examine ourselves to be sure we approach relationships with humility. Edited by Cindy Colley)

Have you ever met someone who thinks she is just very cool; perhaps a “popular girl”? Did you feel like you were less important and left out? If you have, then maybe you didn’t have feelings of love towards this person. You may have even reacted by putting her down with your words or actions, or even spread an ugly rumor about her so that she wouldn’t be liked by as many people. Maybe you thought this would make you feel more important. Maybe if that person wasn’t so cool and popular, you would have a better chance at being cool and popular. Maybe you were jealous of this person, and put her down to “lift yourself up” or feel better about yourself. Unfortunately many around have us fallen into this bad habit. Do not be tricked into thinking that this is okay, because it is not. Ecclesiastes 12:14 says, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” This means that if you make bad decisions with your words and actions towards your neighbors, God will judge you by all of your actions, good or bad. Further, you and I should always think of the golden rule! When you think about treating someone badly, you should think again. 

Strong Christians don’t put others down; they lift them up. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians five, verse eleven, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up….”  When you encourage others you feel much better about yourself than when you are putting others down. Insecure people have to make excuses and put others down to feel confident; but confidence isn’t walking into a room with your nose in the air and thinking you are better than everyone else. It’s walking into a room and not having to compare yourself to anyone in the first place. It makes God happy when you help other people, and it makes the devil happy when you discourage people. So instead of putting people down for being cool or popular, maybe you should figure out what is wrong in your own life that makes you need to put them down. Exactly what is it about yourself that makes you insecure? Be an encourager! It is far more effective to be a person who encourages others than it is to spend your time criticizing, ridiculing, and finding  flaws. Not only will you feel better about yourself for being a force for good, but you’ll be making a positive difference in people’s lives. Refuse to put people down. Refuse to do to others what you wouldn’t like done to you. Help people live their lives in a positive way by encouraging more of what you’d like to see in the world. Lift people up and raise their spirits. Make friends; not enemies. Be kind. Be encouraging. Be honest. Inspire others to live with integrity, and lead by example. 

You can be confident without wanting to be better or thinking you are better than everyone else! Putting others down shines a very bright and unflattering light on your character, or lack of such. Philippians two, verse three, says “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” 

If you have an humble character, then most likely you won’t have the temptation to put others down.  C.S. Lewis once wisely said “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” Colossians 3:12 tells us to clothe ourselves with humility. We need to realize that we can still be happy and confident even if we don’t try to get a “one-up.”

We are always responsible for our actions, no matter how we feel. The next time you find yourself in a situation where you want to discourage someone, think of what God has told you to do with your words and actions, and remember that you need to encourage others and think of yourself less.