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Questions and Answers

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

From the Archives: All Dirty Uniforms Welcome!

softball-340488_960_720Question:When ball games, work, or other activities in which our young people may participate require them to leave mid-game, mid-practice etc…in order to make it to the services of the church, is it a wrong thing for them to wear their uniforms to worship services or Bible classes?

Answer:

Are you kidding me? What better statement to the church, the world, the Lord and the devil can a young person make than the one he wears to that service! He says “I was involved in what many people consider to be the most important part of life: sports. But that’s not the most important thing to me.” She says “ I’ve had to make it clear to those on my team and to my coach that my participation in this activity is a distant second to my faithfulness to the assemblies of God’s people.” It is a statement that so many of our adults need to hear.

When our young people wear ball uniforms to worship, my husband stands from the pulpit and makes a very clear object lesson from the young people who sit there in that attire. He says something along these lines: “We are so blessed to have young people of faith who chose to be at the gospel meeting tonight. Look at these guys in their uniforms. They left the field at the bottom of the seventh inning. They don’t know whether their team has won or lost. But there is one victory they are determined to win and it is the most important one. We are privileged to have men in uniform in our midst. And it’s a blessing to get to clean up a little dirt if it falls from the cleats of these guys. I know you will tell them how proud you are of the choice they made tonight.”

I have, unfortunately, heard of those who have criticized these young people for wearing uniforms to services. How could any church member get his conscience’s consent to discourage a teen or child who has made such an extremely difficult decision by criticizing the wearing of the uniform? I would be afraid of the wrath of Diety who called a little child to him and said “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven…But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for Him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the sea.”

For every one of these children who show up in uniform there are generally several adults who made conscious choices to be elsewhere that Wednesday night or during that particular service of the meeting. Perhaps our time would be better spent addressing the decisions of those who are failing to seek first the kingdom (lovingly helping them arrange priorities), than addressing whether or not the kids who made courageous decisions to fly in the face of negative peer pressure are spic and span when the first song begins. May their souls always be clean. May their lives always be unspotted. But let all dirty uniforms be welcome!

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Questions and Answers: Unspoken Prayers

3349205988_f95fd8c813_bQuestion:

Often I see  on Facebook a request for unspoken prayers. Does God hear and answer unspoken prayers?

Response:

If you mean by an “unspoken prayer”, a prayer that is directed from a Christian to heaven  from the mind of a  man or woman without being audibly spoken, the answer is “yes”. God can hear your prayers without your saying them aloud. We learn this from Hannah in I Samuel 1. 

If, in reality, you mean by an “unspoken prayer”  a request that Christian friends pray for you  in general terms so that God can respond to the specific needs of your life without necessarily revealing all of those needs to the ones who may be praying, the answer is, again, “yes”. Surely God knows all of our needs and certainly, if a friend asks me to pray because some difficult things are going on in her life, I am happy to honor that request. I don’t have to know the details because the Father knows them and can respond in ways that are far superior to any solutions that I might have, even if I knew every detail of my sister’s struggle. Sometimes, women will call such a request an “unspoken prayer request”. They simply mean that the details of their needs are not spoken to those to whom requests are being made. 

If you mean, though, by “unspoken prayer”, a nebulous better-felt-than-told sort of heavenward inclination—a wish toward God that you don’t take the time or energy to articulate or speak to the Father—I do not believe we have any promise that he will respond to those wishes. He has asked us to make our requests known to Him with supplications (Phil. 4:6). Would anyone argue that God does not know the needs or wishes of His children without our speaking them? Of course, our Father knows our needs (Matthew 6:32). But He wants us to express, in words, our requests. He also wants us to give Him our thanksgiving. It’s not enough to feel thankful to God, even though He knows our hearts (I Thessalonians 5:17,18). So, if by “unspoken prayer” you mean a wish or feeling that you never express, vocalize or articulate, I do not believe there’s any Biblical evidence that God responds to such a “feeling”, particularly if a person is not humbly relying on the power of Biblical prayer in her life. Since Jesus taught us how to pray in Matthew 6:9ff and Luke 11:2ff, and the pattern clearly includes very specific requests, we should utter, from our hearts, words that, to the best of our human abilities, express our needs before His throne.  

 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Questions and Answers–Marital Insecurity?

imagesTonight, when I sat down to write, I had several messages in my inboxes that needed responses. One was from a young wife in a far-away place who has begun to lack the confidence she needs to feel like she’s “good enough” to be in her husband’s circle of friends or to be at his level of competence. She even has feelings of jealousy toward another woman, who actually is not a threat to her marriage; more like a small part of her husband’s life before marriage. She knows that her husband is a good man, but still, she’s struggling with being what she wants to be in her attitudes toward him. She asked for my advice. Now I know I do not have all the answers and we all struggle at times with insecurities, but perhaps this post, even to an anonymous writer, can help someone else who’s feeling not-quite-good-enough in a marriage that’s good, but can, like almost all of our marriages, be even better with a little work. The irony of an imaginary threat is that, given the expanse of mind to grow, the perception, though false, can cause some real pain. Let’s be careful not to cut each other with imaginary knives.

Here’s the response:

Of course, you are all he wants. You are beautiful and, just from the short time I observed you, I know you are funny and the center of his attentions. I am so glad he made the decision to become a Christian and I am so thankful that you both want the marriage to be a God-directed union. That is the way you can spend eternity together. 

From what you have told me, I do not believe you have any threat to your marriage to worry about at all. The threat is only inside of you. Here’s my advice: 

As your husband is a new Christian and growing in the Lord, he will become less and less impressed with people who are worldly and more and more enamored with the beauty of holiness. I would like to see you put all of your efforts into being the kind of woman who wants, with all her heart, to follow the Lord. Tell him that is what you want for your marriage; to grow in the Word together and be all you can be, as a couple, for the Lord. 

Then, let me send you a copy of our marriage book, “You’re Singing My Song”. Ask him if he will commit to reading a short bit of it each night together…just a page or two. It will draw you closer  together and I believe it will strengthen your sense of intimacy with him…to know that you are the woman who is in the most intimate circle that he has. 

Then, I want you to intentionally grow past this. You believe that the only threat is inside your imagination. I do, too. SO realize that your life is short and that you would not want to be treated this way if the shoe was on the other foot. Follow the golden rule and treat him the way you would like to be treated. In fact, when those feelings of insecurity rise to the surface, MAKE yourself do something your husband really loves…a back rub, a note on his bathroom mirror, a meal that he loves….whatever he likes…INSTEAD of confronting him about what he might be thinking. You will be surprised how this will draw him to you and you will grow in your confidence. 

I believe your husband wants to be a man of God. You are so blessed in this way. Praying for you! Now, to what address can I send this book?

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Q and A…Should a Single Christian Adopt?

Unknown-1Is it always wrong for a single person to adopt children?

Recently, I made the statement, in the context of gay marriages, that the choice to raise children in homes without parents of both genders is detrimental to children. I certainly believe that two homosexual people do a great disservice to children they might bring into that home. Such an atmosphere is extremely spiritually damaging to children.

But the question arises: “Did you mean to say that it is always wrong for a single Christian to adopt children?”

I did not intend to convey that. It is true that, given the choice between a Christian home with a single parent or a Christian home with two parents, I believe the godly home with two parents is far superior for many Biblical and logical reasons. I do not believe it would be a good thing for a single Christian  mom to adopt a baby if there was a Christian home with a mom and a dad available to be the adoptive parents of that baby.

But that option is, unfortunately, not always available. Thus,  I believe a truly Christian single mom may be the best available choice. It  is the better choice if the other options all involve parents who are not Christians.

Let me be clear. Our desire for all children, as Christians, is that they are raised for heaven. If you are single and your home is the best scenario available to facilitate heaven for a child, then It would be a right thing for you to adopt that child. If there is a better opportunity for facilitating that, then you should want to yield to that opportunity. If a single parent is the only available Christian parent, then, by all means, let’s connect the child to the Lord whenever possible.

Deep and foundational principles of Christianity should rule huge decisions like adoption. Agape instructs us to make every choice along the way with much prayer and the will to do what is in the eternal interests of the soul of the child. I understand that we do not know the future and we cannot always accurately predict just what is best for a child, but, to the best of our human abilities, we should unselfishly seek heaven for those children who need parents.

…And let us not forget that those of us who already have children should be operating daily on the same principle. Every parenting decision should be rooted deeply in our indomitable will that every soul in our homes will ultimately live in heaven.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Q and A–“Is my Child Ready for Baptism?”

600-00934291This is a frequent question from godly parents and we wonder about it for all the right reasons. We all want our children to want to be Christians. We want them to want to follow Jesus all of their days and so we are excited that they think about this decision at young ages. We don’t want them to wait until there’s a lot of regret and baggage to come to the Lord. At the same time, we want them to have both their hearts and minds engaged in what should be the largest of life’s decisions. Often, the subject of the discussion is a six or seven-year-old who is insistent on being baptized.

The first thing I must say is this: I surely do not have all of the answers. Given the gravity of the situation, the fact that I do not always even know the children involved and the varied developmental rates among children and then adding to these factors my own fallibility, I would never presume to tell parents the answer to this question. But having given it some thought, I do have some suggestions that might be useful to some.

First, Kyle Butt has done some thinking, too, and has written a book called “Am I Ready to be Baptized?” If your child is very young and thinking about baptism, it might be very productive to say, “Let’s take some time each night and study through this book,” as we try to decide if you are ready to make this big decision in your life. I also think it is good to make the book of Acts your curriculum for your family Bible time for a few months when this decision is being made. Some have said, “My child is too young to be interested in the text of Acts.” If this is the case, my advice would be to wait until your child is old enough to be interested in the accounts of conversion—the text. After all, if he/she wants to be a candidate for membership in the church, he/she should want to understand its origin and its significance in the scheme of redemption.

Second, there are critical questions that can give parents windows into the hearts of their children. Questions like. “Why do you want to be baptized?” and “What kinds of things will you be promising to do when you are baptized?” and “ Can you tell me about the Lord’s Supper and what it means to you?” and “Do you know why baptism is a burial?” are all good things to discuss. But the most important question, in my judgment is “ If you died today, would you go to heaven?” Many times children, when too immature for baptism will answer “Yes, of course!” If that is the answer, then, obviously the child is not ready and would be immersed for the wrong reasons.

But, thirdly, you may get all the right answers and still have strong doubts about a sufficient maturity level. In other words, the child may academically know the gospel, but he/she may not yet be capable of a love and commitment that is with all of the heart, soul, strength and mind. Emotionally, the ability to “tie into” Christianity for all of a lifetime, though developing, may not yet have ripened. Allowing a child to be baptized void of proper commitment (a strong yearning to please God for all of his life) would be a mistake that could have negative ramifications when the ability to commit to long-term projects has processed into completion. Perhaps an examination of other commitments might help you decide. Are there multiple projects that your child was very excited to begin (perhaps a building project, a sewing project, piano lessons, etc…), but soon abandoned due to lack of interest? When a child is ready to commit to Christ, there should be at least some ability to complete long-term projects. This is not to say your child should always complete every venture (How many of us do?), but there should be some propensity for perseverance in your child’s character when making this most monumental commitment.

Next, you may want to ask your child if he would like to wait until Sunday or next month to be baptized? You will find out something valuable when you ask this question. If your child is willing to wait, then he/she is likely not ready. The urgency of salvation combined with the necessity of baptism for salvation are concepts that your child needs to be unmistakably sure of when contemplating baptism. Remember, you are not asking this question to trick your child, but rather to obtain information about his thinking process as it relates to an eternal issue. If your child answers this in the “wrong” way, then assure him or her that this answer is not a “bad” answer, but it is something that you think is important to examine from scripture. (If your child is all about doing it with a friend, is overly excited about cameras and grandparents and celebrating  with others, this is a sign that you need to wait a while.) This is a great time to launch into the study of Acts together. The very fact that you are willing and excited about studying through this as an important family process will make your child look at this decision as something that is “big” and wonderful to your family. It will tighten the spiritual bond in your home as you work to decide this together.

Next, whenever you decide it is an appropriate time for baptism, it is a great idea to have your child write down, in her own hand, the decision she is making—“Today, I am being baptized into Jesus, for the remission of sins. I will be added by the Lord, to his church.”  I am doing this for the following reasons. Then have her list those. It’s okay to discuss the reasons being listed, but not to “give” the reasons (or the initial statement)  from your perspective. This document should be fully “owned” by the child. Assuming the document is composed in a mature and sound manner, you should make a couple of copies and put them in places of safe keeping. Often, this is very valuable to reassure these young Christians, later on, that their baptisms were valid and resulted in salvation.

Next, if you are unsure, take your child to mature elders and have them discuss this decision with them. They are seasoned and wise and may pick up on attitudes or thoughts that you, as a less objective party, have missed.

Next, remember this: Baptism is unnecessary and is a mistake when there is no sin. Just because your child is capable of rebelling against your will, telling an untruth, or disobeying does not mean he is yet capable of sinning. A child that is yet blissfully unable to feel the guilt of sin, who is unfamiliar with the torment of godly sorrow, is not a candidate for baptism. Sometimes we may be very sure of a child’s belief, but not as attentive to the process of repentance. An innocent child has nothing of which to repent—and, without repentance, there can be no scriptural baptism. Perhaps this lack of emphasis on repentance comes from the “ask Jesus into your heart” doctrine of denominations around us. It seems so simple and child-like to “ask Jesus into your heart.” And we hear of four and five and six-year-olds all the time who are “asking Jesus into their hearts” in denominational families around us. But may I suggest that there is a world of difference between “asking Jesus into your heart” in that denominational sense and in having sins washed away in the blood of the Lamb? While we do not want our children to wander into the life of the prodigal son in the far away land before baptism, we must also be aware that accountability for sin is required before repentance and baptism are needed. Knowing exactly when that accountability and guilt is a reality in the life of a child who has always been taught about God is not always easy. But it is important to wait until there is a need for a washing before immersion takes place; otherwise the significance of the need is lost in a useless formality. It becomes “symbol without substance”.

Finally, be sure your children are hearing you pray daily for their souls. Always. Pray privately for them individually and specifically. But be sure they also hear you pray for them. When they do, you are building a trust that will help you navigate this time during which you will make the biggest decision of their eternal lives. You will be building in their minds and hearts the import of the decision well before they actually are faced with it. And that preparation will be huge in their ability to shoulder the great responsibility that comes with becoming His child. Your very parenting is a bridge over which they will easily pass as they become children of THE Parent.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Q and A: Boo-ing Halloween?

10615534_10204242926530145_8465613083946747314_nQuestion: Should Christians participate in Halloween traditions?

Response: Perhaps I am wrong about what I think about Halloween traditions. Maybe there’s something I’ve yet to consider that may change my mind. At the very least, it is probably not a smart thing for me to publicly say what I think because there will be so many people who disagree with me about a matter that I deem so inconsequential. Besides that, we all know that it really doesn’t matter what I think about it…at all. So you can stop reading now if you want and be none the worse.

But the question has surfaced in our inboxes three times already this week, so I’ll go ahead and take a stab at conveying my thinking about costumes, trick-or-treating, jack-o-lanterns and all things Halloween.

1. I believe there is an innocent way to observe the candi-est holiday of the year. I was an adult before I knew there was any supposed tie to anything pagan or evil about Halloween. When I was a child my parents were creative in costuming and very much involved in our fun neighborhood masquerade night. I had absolutely no idea that wickedness was ever associated with the holiday until I was much older…an adult. Today, my family in the West Huntsville church has the best of times in what we call a “trunk-or-treat” night, although it is primarily done indoors in our fellowship hall. It involves nothing scary and nothing that has to do with death. It involves sweet children in delightful costumes walking around giving big smiles and hugs to the adults that line the walls. And it involves chili and Mexican cornbread and orange cookies and treats in the bags that the children carry. Lots of the adults dress up and join in the fun, too. I’ve already been a popcorn vendor and “Lucy” from the Peanuts gang at two different West Huntsville get-togethers this season.

2.   I do not believe that the origin and early development of the holiday necessarily prevents our nod to it in benign observances. It is my judgment that, just as we can separate Christmas from the birth of Christ and celebrate it as a national rather than religious holiday,we can celebrate Halloween as a cultural observance rather than a pagan one. Just as we can celebrate Valentine’s day without expressing allegiance to or approval of a Catholic“saint”, we can celebrate Halloween, in innocuous (otherwise innocent) ways without any allegiance to anything wicked or pagan. Just as we can call the names of our months by names that are derivatives of the names of pagan gods without implying approval of idolatry, I believe we can trick-or-treat without implying approval of witchcraft, Satanic practices or devil worship.

3.   I do believe this is a matter of opinion and not faith. (I love I Corinthians 8 when I’m contemplating matters of judgment.)

4.   I believe if one finds herself in violation of conscience by participating in any form of trick-or-treating or pumpkin carving, that it would be wrong for her to thus violate her conscience by so participating. It is always wrong to violate your conscience. Consciences can be retrained by diligent Christians who are studying the Word, but never should be violated.

5.   I believe it would be wrong for me to cause another Christian to stumble by my participation in any event that is not commanded by the Lord. If a weaker brother who worships with me is offended if I wear a shirt around Halloween time that says “Boo”, then why would I wear that shirt? However, in most scenarios, I have found that those who choose not to celebrate Halloween in any way are reading the same book about unity and freedom in matters of judgment that I am reading, and, most of the time, they are not offended by the “fun” that others in the church are having with pumpkins and trick-or-treat.

6. I believe it is appropriate for moms and dads to decide together about their tolerance level regarding this holiday. While things associated with death and the morbid and certainly the mean and destructive practices are not becoming of Christians, things associated with princesses and super-heroes and candy treats might be fun  and wholesome for your family. I believe parents should enjoy the freedom to guide their families in this tradition.

7. In congregations in which unity may be threatened over an observance of Halloween, it would  be good for elders to sit down with concerned families and express their judgments about the concerns and members should thus abide by their wishes. After all, what are shepherds for, if not to  make judgment calls in matters of opinion and, in making such decisions, to preserve the flock from division? The biggest tragedy about Halloween would be for a church to find itself, on November 1st, splintered and at odds over something so insignificant as a Halloween party…or not. (I might add here that it would be challenging for me, as a preacher’s wife in our congregation, to abstain from participating in our West Huntsville time of holiday fellowship without causing some discomfort among some in the body. That is, I believe dressing up this year as Lucy for trunk-or-treat was more of an encouragement to others than a stumbling block, in my particular circumstance. Perhaps in another church in another part of the country, that might not be true.)

8. I believe Halloween is a great opportunity for widows and elderly Christians to bond with the children of the church. Our own children made “appointments” with elderly people in the church to come by and “show off” their costumes and we sometimes took treats to those elderly people (kind of backwards trick-or-treating). Anticipation and excitement emanated from the faces of those older saints. But more importantly, our kids grew, through this and other service projects to love these mature Christian people—a great blessing in the development of our children, for sure.

9. I believe that sometimes the innocent celebration can open doors for evangelism. I know it did with us in our neighborhood as we discussed and invited neighbors who had questions even in the street as our kids trick-or-treated together. Of course, that knife could cut two ways and if your religious friends are  negatively impacted by your participation, you should be sensitive to their concerns and even take the chance to discuss your practices with them. Souls of people are far more important than your personal family fun.

10. Having said all of this, we should not underestimate the positive impact of family traditions on our kids. They are a big part of the glue that holds your family together. They are second to the spiritual traditions of family Bible times, prayers before meals, prayers before kids leave the house for school or college, attending singings and gospel meetings together, participating in programs for leadership development,etc… in binding your family together. From experience, I know that the anticipation of traditions and holidays celebrated in ways that belong uniquely to your family are huge in creating the cohesiveness that you want your family to maintain—the bond that helps you through the tough times that every family inevitably faces. (And it is usually Mom who best creates and maintains the great traditions that sweeten the adult memories of every child who grew up loving family traditions.)

Now, this ten point synopsis is probably overkill for the subject of boo and bats and costumes and candy. Further, I’m sure there will be those who disagree and that’s okay. But if all of us can be 100 times more concerned about the health of the Body of Jesus than we are about promoting our own “take” on the holiday, we will experience a strengthening of our precious unity as the family of God, even during the last week of October.