Browsing Tag

Influence

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Family Ties in the Social Distance #30: Proverbs 13:20–Choosing Good Companions

My husband, Glenn, is sharing these daily lessons  for our West Huntsville family as we are necessarily (because of the virus) spending less time physically together in worship, study and fellowship. We may be “socially distanced,” but  we’re a close-knit family and we want to keep it that way! One way to stay on track together, spiritually, is to think about a common passage and make applications for our lives together even when we are unable to assemble as frequently. I’m sharing these daily family lessons here for those in other places, whose families (or even congregations) might benefit from a common study in these uncommon days of semi-quarantine. There are Family Bible Time guides included, as well. You can adapt, shorten or lengthen them according to the ages of kids (and adults) in your family. Blessings.

From Glenn:                                                            

My Favorite Proverbs: Choosing good companions (Prov. 13:20).

“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”

No one is perfect in this old world, but there’s a big difference between one who fears God and one who does not.  Psalm 14:1 unflinchingly calls some people fools: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God.’”  

In the history of mankind, perhaps the greatest example of making bad companion choices involves the Israelites moving into the land of Canaan.  They were commanded by God in plain terms to drive the Canaanites out of that land.  This expression of God’s anger came with this caution: “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.”

What God told them to do, they did not do:

“But the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem; so the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day” (Jud. 1:21).

“Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; so the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them” (Jud. 1:27).

“Nor did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Acco or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, or Rehob” (Jud. 1:31).

Here was the sad consequence of disobedience:

“I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you. And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this? Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you.’” (Jud. 2:1-3).

“When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel” (Jud. 2:10).

This is the reason parents of teens are concerned when their teens are running with kids who drink, or use drugs, or play video games which contain immoral material or have become sexually active. It is also a critical reason why marrying someone who isn’t a Christian is eternally dangerous.  It is predictable that we will be somehow influenced and drawn away from our commitment to Christ.  Where do you suppose Lot’s daughters learned the atrocities they committed with their father?  From their Dad? No (2 Pet. 2:8). Apparently, they were influenced by their vile friends in Sodom. 

Today, think about not only the friends you now have, but also what kind of friend you are. There are two kinds of friends; friends around whom it is easy to be good, and friends around whom it is easy to be bad.  

Pray for wisdom as you work to be the right influence on all your friends.

Bible Time with Glenn and Cindy

Tonight’s family Bible time comes from 2 Samuel 12:15-23, the sad conclusion fo the David and Bathsheba union. Read these verses and relate them to your children, emphasizing that David fasted and prayed for the baby for seven days, until he died. Also relate that the servants were afraid to tell David that the baby was dead, because he was so distraught about the impending death. They were surprised when he got up, cleaned up and began eating upon learning that the baby was dead. Talk about why he did this. (He was fasting and praying in case God would change His mind, but when he knew that the death prophecy was fulfilled, David knew he had to get up and live his life so that he could go to heaven and see his son.)

  1. Review once more the three super-powers of God that make Him sovereign.
  2. In view of these three things, did God know for sure the baby would die even before the baby became sick? Was he with the baby when he died? Was He also with David when the baby died? Was He also with Bathsheba at the time of the baby’s death? Was he there with the servants who discovered that the baby was dead? Was he also on His throne in heaven? Did God have the power to make the baby well, if that had been His will?
  3. What was the first thing David did after cleaning himself up? How important is it for us to keep on worshipping God faithfully, even when we have hard days or when we have failed in some area of our lives? For small children, talk to them about how much we are missing worshiping with the rest of our congregations during the COVID days and how very much we want to gather together to worship again. “Do you miss your Bible class and your teacher?” Ask them to help you sing some of the songs they sing in Bible class. Have them call their teacher and tell her that they miss getting to come and worship with her. Have older children write a letter to one of the elders (or leaders, in cases where there are no elders) and tell him that they are missing the assemblies and that they appreciate the elders’ work to try to bring us back together for worship.
  4. Pray with your children and pray that very soon the Christians will get to come together for worship again.

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Family Ties in the Social Distance #26: Proverbs 12:16–Kindness to Animals

My husband, Glenn, is sharing these daily lessons  for our West Huntsville family as we are necessarily (because of the virus) spending less time physically together in worship, study and fellowship. We may be “socially distanced,” but  we’re a close-knit family and we want to keep it that way! One way to stay on track together, spiritually, is to think about a common passage and make applications for our lives together even when we are unable to assemble as frequently. I’m sharing these daily family lessons here for those in other places, whose families (or even congregations) might benefit from a common study in these uncommon days of semi-quarantine. There are Family Bible Time guides included, as well. You can adapt, shorten or lengthen them according to the ages of kids (and adults) in your family. Blessings.

From Glenn:

My Favorite Proverbs: The importance of kindness to animals. 

“A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (Prov. 12:16).

The World Animal Protection organization is in London and is a strong advocate for the humane treatment of animals, but the better known organization in the US is PETA, People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals.  A quick glance at their website will raise most Christians’ eyebrows. The lead headline is “Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.”  The site asserts that animals and people are no different, and that the word “others” in the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12) applies to animals and humans alike. Bible believers know that these folks have failed to consult the Word.  The Creator of animals, it seems to me, ought to get a say in these matters:  

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26).

“So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Gen. 9:1-3).

“Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matt. 3:4). 

Scripture often seems to answer questions it anticipates being asked in the future.  The Proverbs writer warns against cruelty to animals in our text today,  but on the same page, Proverbs 12:27, says, “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man’s precious possession.”  Solomon obviously didn’t consider hunting, killing, and eating animals to be cruelty.

But that doesn’t mean this Proverb teaches nothing important.  Using animals for clothing, food, transportation, and companionship is not cruel, but abusing them without regard for their pain is cruelty. Furthermore, I doubt you’ll find a man who thus abuses animals and also treats humans as he should.  There is a connection in there somewhere.  One of the ways we teach our children to be gentle with other children is to teach them to be gentle with puppies.  

It may very well be that God’s prohibition against abusing animals is less about the animals and more about what such abuse says about us.

 

Bible Time with Glenn and Cindy:

Review the events about David and Bathsheba with your kids.

Tonight’s lesson is from 2 Samuel 11:25:

Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab: ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack against the city, and overthrow it.’ So encourage him.”

I. Read and explain the verse to your kids. Notice with the kids how that David also wanted to encourage Joab to not worry about the horrible sin they’d committed. Have them see that people often think it will make them feel better about their own sin if they can try to make other people feel better about doing wrong. Sin makes sort of a “club” for “Let’s make each other feel better about this bad thing we are doing.” Talk with your kids about a list of things we might say to help each other “feel better” about sin. 

 

  1. “People do this all the time.” (That’s what Joab was saying when he mentioned Abimelech.)
  2. “This is not as bad as what some people do.” (People who are social drinkers talk about how they are not drunkards. People who dress immodestly often point out that what they wear is a lot better than what ___________ wears. For small children, it might be that “I sometimes get a checkmark by my name at school for misbehavior, but I never get five checkmarks like ________does.”
  3. No one will ever know.” (For your teens, perhaps talk about pornography addictions. For younger children, maybe something like when they hide a mess and pretend they cleaned it up. I’m sure you can think of applicable things in your specific case.)
  4. “God will forgive us later, when it’s a good time to do the right thing.” (If you’re talking with teens, talk about premarital sex. Almost always, premarital sex, committed with intentions to marry later, never does even end in marriage; it ends in regret. Even if it does end in marriage, it still ends in regret, for God’s people, because it is sin.)
  5. “We can always make different choices later, if this turns out wrong.”  Let’s just live our best life now. ( A good example is Abraham lying about Sarah. He thought it was so temporary. [Gen.12 and Gen. 20]. Another example is when couples move in together or marry and say “Let’s try this and see how it works out.”)
  6. People still look up to us. We are doing a lot of things right.” (Solomon must have thought this when he was the richest man in all the world and yet was idolatrous.)
  7. We can’t confess this. It would hurt our influence.” (Joseph’s brothers lived the consequence of their treatment of Joseph and the deceit that followed for many years. After all, their family was prominent  in their community.)
  8. It’s okay. We are just going through a hard time right now.” (People who may cheat on their income taxes or take things that do not belong to them are examples of this rationalizing.)
  9. “I know it was wrong, but we did it to help someone else.” (Example: When people lie in order to make someone happy.)
  10. I know this is against what the Bible says, but I just think God wants me to be happy.” (Example: When people marry people to whom they have no right.

Talk about each one of these things and see if your children can think of examples of people today, or people in Scripture, who may be thinking/ have thought this way. Obviously, you will have to adjust this conversation to fit the maturity levels of your children. You may want to omit some of the points for very young children. I included some examples for possible discussion above. 

The point of tonight’s lesson is that people can think of a good “reason” to do any bad thing that they want to do. They can also make it seem like it’s not so bad after they do it and they can comfort each other into thinking it’s not so bad. Try to remind your children of this throughout the day tomorrow when they may make excuses for disobedience or argue about what you tell them to do. There’s never a good reason to do the wrong thing or to disobey. 

II. Also, notice with your children that it’s easier to do the wrong thing when someone is helping you. People who disobey God love to get other people to do it with them. Joab and David encouraged each other to do the wrong thing. They were a “sin team” led by David. Ask your children if they have ever had someone who tried to get them to be on their sin team. “Has anyone ever tried to get you to do the wrong thing with them?”

Quote the KidSing rule.

Pray with your children. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

The Power of Positive Influence: Lois Duncan Lyon

Every now and then there’s a bend in life’s road that wakes me up all over again to the power of influence. One of those events has been the passing of my aunt Lois Ann last Friday—a passage from a rich and full life to the infinitely better life that’s way beyond my scope of comprehension. 

As I reflected on her sweet life of service to God and others, it didn’t take me long to realize that there’s a myriad of little things I do that are pretty directly traceable to the preacher’s wife I was watching before I ever dreamed I’d one day be married to Glenn Colley, who would work hard to preach the gospel. 

Lois was married to Bobby Duncan, who was my mother’s brother—both n the flesh and in the Lord. From the age of five, I grew up in the congregation where Bob preached. I can still remember the points from several of His gospel sermons and I’m sure the power of his pulpit played a large role—maybe the biggest one— in the conviction that’s guided my life. I’m thankful—-profoundly—for His plain and Biblical teaching. 

But it may have been Lois, his wife, who gave me the most practical guidance. It occurs to me, when I reflect on the beauty of her well-lived life, that there are quite a few things I do that I probably do because I was watching her. 

I think I have everyone in the church over every Christmas time because she did. I think I have one of my nieces or nephews each year to help me with “Christmas at the Colley’s” because she asked me, her niece, to come help her with her party. I remember one year she sewed for me a beautiful red polyester maxi-dress (this was the seventies) with white trim with a big bow that tied in the back, to wear to serve at her open house. I thought I was pretty big being invited to be the hostess at the petit four table at the Duncan’s house …and wearing a floor length holiday dress! 

I think I place our family picture and Christmas greetings in the church bulletin each year because she did. 

I think my husband has a little boy’s kite stashed away in his office, saving it for a little boy and a windy day, because her husband did. 

It was Lois who asked me to serve at my very first dress-up banquet along with her daughter, Jill, and my sisters. I remember there were lots of surprises for the adults at this banquet and being trusted with secrets was a pretty big deal to me. 

It was Lois who first asked me to be a baby-sitter. On Friday nights, Bob and Lois would play Rook with several couples from the congregation and very often, they’d ask me to come over and stay with Jill while they were out. I think maybe they knew that the absolute most fun I ever had on Friday nights as a middle-schooler was getting to be at their house with Jill, who was five years younger than I. I learned a lot, for certain, about hospitality and about the importance and art of making children feel special, from Lois.
 

 

I learned about traveling with my husband to his meetings and about being a supporter of gospel preaching from watching Lois. Sometimes, she and Bob would invite me to go along with them for a Sunday as they began a gospel meeting in a nearby town. They were probably inviting along some entertainment for Jill and, later, for their new son, Tim (whom I absolutely and completely adored). I was fifteen years older than Tim and I thought he it was the most amazing thing that Lois would let Tim sit with me during worship services and then come home with me for Sunday afternoons full of doing exactly whatever Tim wanted to do. I was sitting beside Lois in a small country church in Centre, Alabama when baby Tim broke my long strand of beads during his Daddy’s sermon and those beads bounced loudly on that tile floor, for what seemed  like five full minutes, as they made their way under all the pews and rested in front of the communion table in the front and center of that little auditorium. Tim thought that game was epic. I’m glad he enjoyed it because he never got to play with beads in church again.  And, speaking of beads, I will never forget that day when Jill, at about age three was playing, in her mother’s lap, with beads during the lesson and got one stuck in her nose. It was about three gasping, flailing, upside-down-in-the-foyer minutes later when that bead, too,  (much to our relief) went bouncing across the floor. Sometimes I was laughing at the mayhem while I watched, but I was watching Lois. 

I remember a few times when truth and faithful teaching were not appreciated by all who heard and I remember being absolutely sure that Bob’s number one cheerleader in the rough patches was his faithful Lois Ann. But she had a way of keeping it real, too. Once Bob was lamenting the digression of many preachers during a dark period in the history of the church. He said to Lois “I just wonder how many really good preachers are left today.”

Her answer was quick and dry: “I don’t know, but I think probably about one less than you might think.” 

She was sacrificial to Christian education; being the entire lunch program one year for our small Christian school. 

She was an encourager to young preachers and their wives. When we were in our twenties, we thought she and Bob just liked to go bowling with us or eat popcorn and visit or play cards or whatever we were doing while we were telling them the challenges of our work. We now know they were doing what they did not have time to do and that they were doing it for lots of young preaching families just like ours. They were going the second and third miles to keep people in the ministry and to keep them encouraged.

Lois gave us lots of valuable intangibles…memories and laughter. There’s one tangible gift, though, that she gave Glenn about 20 years ago following the passing of Bob. I think I can say that the filing cabinet in my basement that has all of the sermons that Bob Duncan ever preached, written out, in his own handwriting, is the most valuable and practical tool that my husband Glenn has ever inherited. It’s been a blessing to my brothers-in-law, my son and my son-in-law, all of whom like to come and copy sermons from a master preacher. I love it on the Sundays when I recognize material from my childhood and I marvel at the relevance 50 years hence of what I first heard from that pulpit in Adamsville, Alabama fifty years ago; teaching that took me to the water where Bob baptized me. 

She loved souls. I’ve been on a mission trip or two with her. If you ever did that, you laughed a lot. You may have gotten salt in your ice cream when you weren’t looking or found the meat on your hamburger missing when you got back from the bathroom, or any number of mishaps. She loved to laugh. If you accidentally sung the wrong words in worship or belted out “He could have called ten-thousand angels” after the first verse, when they’d said they were going to sing all three verses first…well, it was all over if you were sitting beside her. 

I have laughed till I hurt when with Lois, but especially when it was not a good time to laugh. 

But Lois could get really serious about spiritual things. I remember once, when I was speaking to a group of ladies and she was introducing me, she said something far too kind and, frankly, untrue about my character. I was not the person she described. But I can tell you, from that moment, I wanted to be that woman. She had a way of always making me want to be better. I have an idea there are lots of people still working in the Lord’s church who are still trying to be better because they knew Lois. 

I AM better for having known her. 

For Lois…

Not often, but, along my path there sometimes crosses one

Whose words and actions leave, for me, a light when her life’s done.

The gifts she gave keep giving and her life keeps living on.

Returns from her investments are on track, though she is gone.

If death could stop the sway of right and rob that giver’s power,

Then I might weep and mourn the loss of goodness in this hour.

But the grave of a righteous woman is a mere sweet place of rest

And those who await its opening are the more, in that hope, blessed. 

So thankful for the blessing today. 

       

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“I Will Forever Love this Coach…”

Lots of you already know that transferring the celebration of Father’s Day from happy travels to see the patriarch and gifts for the aged man who raised you… I say the transfer to celebrating solely the great man who is the father of your own children is difficult. You have to work to fill the big heart chasm left when the patriarch dies. But almost all of the work was done at Calvary. You know you’ll see your earthly father again when you see your heavenly Father for the first time. There is great support, comfort and hope in Calvary for every situation in the Christian’s life. So I am pretty determined to celebrate Father’s Day with hope and gratitude at the forefront. (Maybe I’m also just preparing myself on paper for a hard day, but I am surely going to give it my very best shot.)

In honor of the memory of my father, I’d like to share this little tribute I received shortly after his passing. It speaks to the value of a good man’s influence, a simple integrity, and just doing the right thing. 

I am praying for this sweet man upon whom also fell the good influence that molded me…that persisted through my life in a father that was looking forward to heaven. I’m glad for Dad. Being in glory is the point…the whole point of a life well-lived. In fact, all the other points of light in any life are extinguished at death. But the reflection of THE Light (John 12:46) just brightens to eternity.

Here’s the tribute:

Remembering Lee Holder

Mr. Holder came to Webster’s Chapel School as a teacher about 1951. He taught the 8th and 9th grade. I was a 9th grader. Webster’s Chapel is a small, rural community in Calhoun County. He was a very good teacher. All the students loved him. He was fair, friendly, honest and always had his students’ best interests at heart. 

He was our junior high basketball coach. He was skilled at coaching and knew how to get the best out of his players. I was the son of a share-cropper (farmer) and my family could not buy me any basketball shoes. In the 8th grade, a year before Mr. Holder came to be our teacher, I only got to play in the games when we played on an outside court because of not having tennis shoes. I got enough money to buy a pair of shoes in my 9th grade year, and made the team, coached by Mr. Holder. Win or lose, after the games, he would stop by a cafe and we would get a burger. I never had any money. He would buy my burger, but none of the rest of the players ever knew he paid for my food. 

I was on the starting five on the team. When I needed to rest, he would call time out. I would take off my shoes and let my substitute borrow them. He didn’t have any tennis shoes, just like me the year before. He was a team player coach. We had a star player on our team, but he hogged the ball, he wanted to be the star player. He benched him for a while, until he played as a team.

This rag tag team beat teams that we were not supposed to. We beat a team one night, a big school, we had to escape the fans and players to keep from getting hurt. They rocked Mr. Holder’s car as we left the parking lot. He wouldn’t let us fight back.

I will forever love this coach and the role he played in my life. He motivated me to do my best regardless of my upbringing. He taught me compassion, team work, do your best, right living, sacrifice, and to invest in others. Perhaps, although as far as I know we hold the record as the best of record winning in basketball that our school ever had. He did his best coaching off the court, by investing in the lives of his students and players. 

It was good to see him again after more than 50 years when I visited the Jacksonville Church of Christ. I will see him again when I get to heaven. 

Then this handwritten note: 

I will forever love this coach, too.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Westside…Still the Best Side of Virginia!

Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of the Westside church in Salem, Virginia. It was a blessing and honor for Glenn and me to be invited back to speak to the regulars and home-comers as faithful saints gathered on this day, as they have faithfully done in this locale for fifty years. Interestingly, our local work with this congregation began on it’s twentieth anniversary. We were extremely blessed to have lived and worked there for a wonderful and memorable five years. That means that twenty-five years have elapsed since we made the decision to move from Salem to Alabama. That sweet family of God, where the candle of Revelation two is very much still aflame, will always hold a deep and dear spot in our hearts. 

I learned some things about myself yesterday about which maybe I needed to be reminded, or even to learn. 

I learned that I love to talk about God’s Word, no matter the circumstance. Though there were friends in that room for whom I have great affection…friends I was longing to hug and with whom I longed to reminisce, the first order of the day and my favorite one, other than worshiping Him, was to open that great Book and talk about Philippians one. It still always amazes me that He has given us Words appropriate and pressing for every circumstance and meeting of His people.

I learned that time is a speeding locomotive and I long for the timeless side. It just took my breath away when I realized a few days ago that exactly thirty years had elapsed since that day we pulled up with a newborn and a three-year-old into the driveway at 203 Parkview Drive in Salem and saw Charlie Gwaltney, in his plaid driving cap, waving us into the drive as he bounded across that yard with a big box of doughnuts and a welcome that good elders know how to give new preachers. How could this really be? I want to be in that place where the shock of the passing of time never gives me this helpless feeling and where death doesn’t steal away large segments of the congregation while I’m briefly looking the other way. That congregation around the throne will be secure and immovable. 

I was reminded that I am consistently treated, by God’s people, in a manner that’s far better than I deserve. I want to treat every member of His family with whom I have contact just that way. They are the channel of His blessings to me. May I BE the channel to others. 

In the middle of huge blessings that were just packed tightly into a few hours, there was still something that was inside of me…something that gave my heart just a shred of dissonance and kept making me think “I love this so much, but why is this so hard?” I kept trying to put my finger on it, this “feeling” that kept welling up inside me, sometimes almost evoking sentimental tears. It’s hard to know, in the middle of the emotion of a flood of memories, but I think the dissonance was this: The world, the congregation, the work, the influence in Salem Virginia is not mine in 2017. In 1987-92, that was my world. My purpose was all wrapped up in souls in Salem—my kids’ souls, my husband’s work, the Eddlemons, who were learning the gospel, the ladies retreat, the friends and family day, the radio program and the neighborhood outreach that I tried to do at the library and the school and in our neighborhood fourth of July parade. 

But someone else’s truck is parked in our driveway. That’s a good thing. It means we went somewhere else, to a place where we thought the need was greater for us—for our family in His cause,  for ministry to my mother who was dying, at the time.  Certainly we are never irreplaceable. In fact, those who followed us have done greater works than we could have done in that place. For those men and those works, we are profoundly grateful. There’s a great work still happening in that place. God’s goodness is everywhere in Salem, Virginia in 2017. 

But is it okay to acknowledge with a little bit of sad nostalgia that, right then and there, in the middle of a huge flood of memories for so many people, that I am one of those memories? Maybe it is okay. Maybe it’s a good thing to enjoy being physically present in the time and place, wherever that is, where our influence for Him, however small, is greatest. I had a work to do for Him in Salem in 1987-92 and it kept me very busy and extremely fulfilled. It was the “time of our lives” when reviewed with the perspective of child-rearing. What happened in those years is propelling a young preacher in Jacksonville, Florida today and a young mother of two who is a preacher’s wife in Columbus, Georgia. There’s no adequate gratitude to the Westside church for that environment of faith. 

But still, our influence there now is extremely limited. I think that reality yesterday was a kind of wake-up call for me. If there is any good that I can do in my sphere of influence in 2017, I’d better get busy.  Many of those who listened to the gospel in 1987 have gone on to glory or moved to other places. Lots of the arenas where our words were heard have been replaced by other venues—better ones. This reality made me long to return to the place and time in 2017 where our small influence is still engaged—where there is still a space to “get busy.”

Today, we are on our way back there. We wouldn’t trade that walk down memory lane yesterday for any amount of money. It was priceless to us. We owe a great debt to the Westside family. But we praise Him for the here and now…and, most of all, for the heaven that waits!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: A Shepherd’s Plea

One  of  my favorite holiday gifts this year was from my brother-in-law, Scotty Sparks. This gift originated with my grandfather, a shepherd in the church for many years in Jacksonville, Alabama. It’s a letter he’d thought about a lot and typed out to send to members of his congregation who had gone astray. Following his death in 1982, the letter ended up in my mother’s hands. She eventually gave it to Scotty at some point in the late 1980’s and, as you will see from Scotty’s note to me, he used it as an outline from which to preach the gospel. Every plea in the letter is just as pertinent to people who walk away from the Lord today as it was to wayward members of the body when it was first penned. I know my “Daddy Duncan” wrote this from a heart of grief at the lost condition of some soul that was under his care. Perhaps he sent it to several. Perhaps, he also preached from this outline.

 

Here are Scotty’s words prefacing the letter he gave me for Christmas:

This is a copy of a letter written by your grandfather, John Duncan, while he served as an elder at Jacksonville. I do not know the year. Your mother, Johnnia, gave it to me while I was at FHU to have as a resource. (She was always giving me good books or material.) I eventually developed this into a sermon. I hope you will overlook my “boxing in” the points. As a college student with a low inventory of sermons and an even lower inventory of dimes for the copier, I simply used the original letter for my notes. Perhaps the precious knowledge that your grandfather’s deep love for souls demonstrated in the words of this document and preached several years after his death to encourage people he would never meet on this side of heaven will compensate for the defacement. 

And here is my grandfather’s letter. If you have walked away from faithfulness, will you think about his words?

Dear brother in Christ,

I am writing this letter not to censure or criticize your any way, but that I may exhort you and cause you to think of what it means to live in a lost condition.

One of the most solemn questions that could be asked of a lost person is:

“What if you should die in your lost condition?”…Terrible thing to think about….Judgment. One day we will have to stand before the great white throne and give an account unto God for the way we live here. We need to read often Luke, the sixteenth chapter, beginning with verse 19; the story of the rich man and Lazarus, and also the other passages of the Scriptures that teach what an awful place hell is.

Another question just as solemn is:

“What if you should live in your lost condition?” At first, that question doesn’t sound to be very solemn at all, but let’s think seriously about what we are doing when we are living in a lost condition.

First of all, we lend support to the forces of Satan against the Lord; fighting, whether we mean to or not, with Satan against the Lord’s cause, because there is no such thing as being neutral in the conflict between Christ and the devil. Christ, himself, said, “He that is not with me is against me.”

Secondly, we will influence others to be lost. not intentionally, of course, but inevitably. As God uses His children to lead others to salvation, the devil uses all others to lead people into sin and to keep each other in sin. Wicked men and women are used to lure some into evil, but some people will not be tempted by them, so, to reach these, Satan must use good and upright people. For example, wives may keep their husbands from being saved; husbands may lead wives to hell; parents may cause their children to be lost; or children may even do the same for their parents. 

Thirdly, we will live a life less abundant than God intended for man. Jesus came to give life more abundantly (John 10:10). A more abundant life includes many things…for example, forgiveness, hope of eternal life versus no hope, hence no fear of death versus a fear of dying; fellowship with Christ versus no fellowship…and many others.

Fourthly, our hearts will become harder (Heb. 3:13). “But exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” …Hebrews 3: 7,8… “Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, “To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness…” …I Timothy 4:2…”Your conscience will become seared as with a hot iron.”

Fifthly, we will die in our lost condition. It is a mistake–a lie of the devil–to think that we might live in a lost condition  and die in a saved condition. In Numbers 23:10, Balaam wanted to die the death of the righteous, but he had refused to live the life of the righteous. And, if we die in this lost condition, we will be lost eternally. 

In conclusion, if we knew we would die tomorrow, we would want to be Christians, but if we knew we would live to be 110, we should still want to live each day for the Lord. There is one thing worse than dying in a lost condition–and that is living in a lost condition. 

 

My grandfather, to me, was that great friend who took us hiking in the woods in the fall and  fishing in the summer. He was that friend with whom we watched Bonanza on Sunday nights after worship. He was  the friend who went to town on my birthday to buy me the wonderful very hard plastic horse that I  still treasure and the silver necklace with the tiny blue bauble. He is the man who had such a credit rating in this small town that I could go in almost any store in town and pick up whatever he sent me for and simply say, “Put this on John Duncan’s bill.” He could build anything in that garage and he would take me to work with him and let me play on a giant old adding machine on his desk. He taught me to skip rocks and to bait hooks. He was the quintessential grandfather.

But to others, he was more. He did not, to my knowledge, have even a high school education, but he did important things. He faithfully raised two children of his own and three stepsons whose father left them at a young age. He was the progenitor of seven faithful preachers and of six women who married faithful preachers; of three elders in the Lord’s church and of four women who are wives of elders in the kingdom. 

Once, as a child, I enquired about why my grandmother all of a sudden had a lady coming every now and then, to help her do housekeeping chores. I had never seen a maid before and, though my grandmother was kind of ill by then, she was the hardest-working woman I knew. “Well,” she said, “…this lady needed some food and some help with her light bill, so your grandfather told me to try and think of some jobs she could do, so he could help her back on her feet.” I didn’t think so much about that then, but I have thought a little more about it as an adult. It’s a pretty good thing when you can help people without enabling indolence.

The congregation where he worshipped and served is now 99 years old. Next year, as it celebrates its 100th birthday, it will rejoice in the fact that its publication “House to House/Heart to Heart” reaches millions of people around the world annually with the gospel. The congregation will reach thousands who attend its Polishing the Pulpit conferences around our country. Of course, none of this is his doing. It is the doing of our great God who has used lots and lots of ordinary people through the years to keep the work that began with a gospel meeting in the year 1918 by Brother C.H. Woodruff alive in Him for the next 100 years. Each man in Christ is just one little link in a chain of events and lives and opportunities: one chapter in a book that will find its last chapter around the throne. But still, I’m glad for His tiny little part and I’m glad he was my friend.

As I write, I am sitting in the large Houston Cole library (pictured) on the campus of Jacksonville State University. It is one–the last, in fact–of several buildings that my grandfather helped construct on this campus. His secular job was to direct the maintenance operations for this university during several decades of the twentieth century. He was proud of its buildings and grounds and fiercely dedicated to a work ethic and the management of a team of hardworking men. He did not own his own home, but lived in university housing. (That’s me on the porch of that university house with a surprise from under their tree circa 1963.) He did not own his own car, but drove a university truck. His large and productive garden, where I learned how to grow things and what happened to people who didn’t like to work, was planted on university soil. He typed the letter that I am holding on a university typewriter and directed his team from a little university office. His sons would gather in a particular spot in one of the dorms that was acoustically wonderful and sing hymns. I even have a recording of one of those hymn-sings, and those young men were incredibly good for a country quartet. (I doubt that the dorms at JSU are often used for hymn-singing today.)

Now, I know that I am not unique in being able to reminisce about godly influences in my early years. I know that there are congregations all over this world that warm by fires that have been stoked through the years by faithful, yet very ordinary people. I know that my grandfather never once thought about the fact that I might someday sit and reminisce, from this chair, in a building constructed from a blueprint he once held in his hands. But here I am. In the same way, you and I do not know where and how our influence may live in the ensuing decades. But there will be a time and place in which someone will be thinking about me. I will be, to the world, an insignificant name on a grave marker. But to someone, I might be able to make an eternal difference. I hope I can do that for the little souls in my family, Ezra and Colleyanna, and I hope that difference will be for heaven.

My grandfather did not own much as he traversed a tiny little area on this planet. But he owns a mansion now. It would do a lot of people I know an eternally important good if they would heed the words transcribed above from a simple twentieth century shepherd. Can I help you live in a saved condition?