Browsing Tag

Thankfulness

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Grown Men Crying

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

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

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

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

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

we command you

in the name of our Lord, Jesus

In the name of our Lord Jesus. 

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

for the destruction of the flesh

that the spirit may be saved

Your glorying is not good.  

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

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

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

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

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

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

November: Thinking of Thanking

In the month when many are counting blessings, Christians have the longest lists; the bounty that others can’t approach. In fact, those who do not know Christ cannot even know that they don’t know how to be truly thankful. Let’s take a minute to look at the first chapters of one Old Testament book and one New Testament book as we contemplate gratitude as a starting point to holiness and, conversely, ingratitude as the genesis of immorality.

The first four chapters of Isaiah are anything but complimentary of the nation of Judah. In fact they are an indictment from the Lord; an indictment the likes of which rivals any of the arraigning passages of scripture. As I read Isaiah one yesterday, I could not help but be reminded of the New Testament condemnation of the heathen people found in Romans chapter one. I think it very interesting and relevant to America today that the dire state of both cultures began with the sin of ingratitude:

The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider (Is. 1:3).

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful… (Rom.1:21a).

It’s interesting, also, that when a recognition of the Source of good gifts and, thus, a glorification of that Source was missing, all sorts of vile behaviors and the acceptance of resultant atrocities became commonplace.

If you look, you can find that both cultures were characterized by those who were hypocritical, those who were unmerciful to the needy, those who were murderers and those who were idolaters. Today’s challenge is to locate these sins in Isaiah one and in Romans one. Also, notice the punishment promised in the last verse of each of the passages. It’s almost as if the two passages had the same Author!

Finally, as you contemplate these two cultures, separated by hundreds of years and by a big body of water, and yet so very much alike, contemplate one more culture: your own.

I was recently engaged in conversation with a woman who expressed to me her excitement that soon she would be able to quit her job. I was excited for her, but then she went on to explain that if she lowered her income to a certain level, then her rent would be paid by the government. With the extra money she would “make” by not having to pay rent and by collecting unemployment (if she could swing that), she would be able to pay her bills. In lowering her income, she would also lower her grocery bill, because she would be able to get government food stamps. Another woman recently became very angry at me when I told her that our congregation wished to apply a large amount of money to a medical debt she owed. The reason for her anger?…she thought she “deserved” to be given the cash to use as she saw fit.

It occurs to me that there is a large segment of our society that has adopted the “I deserve” mentality rather than the “I appreciate” mentality. People who choose not to work are among those who protest against the government and society for what they would call the “uneven distribution of funds,” thus biting the very hand that feeds them. (Is it any wonder when we look at Isaiah one and Romans one, that these protests are problematic, to say the least, because of violence and sex crimes?) School textbooks include large sections about the cultural celebration we know as Thanksgiving without making mention of the divine blessing Source that is the Benefactor of all. People throw around the word “right” as if it applies to every desire that pops into human consciousness: healthcare, privacy, home-ownership, insurance, even heaven. Girlfriends, some things that we enjoy are simply undeserved blessings!

Further, some people have even come to think about sin as a deserved privilege: the “right” to choose to kill my pre-born baby, the “right” to be happy and thus divorce my mate, the “right” to kill myself or my spouse if I/she grow(s) old or become(s) debilitated. One father even told his elders recently that his daughter “deserves to go to the prom”!

What we deserve is described in the last verse of each of these chapters:

And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them (Is. 1:31).

Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them (Romans 1:32).

May we always acknowledge with the deepest possible human gratitude our allegiance to the plans and our awe at the power of the Giver of all good gifts. May we never forget our permanent status before Him of being undeserving of these gifts. It is only with gratitude in our hearts that we can avoid what comes, in these two chapters, between ingratitude and eternal death: hypocrisy, a lack of mercy, all manner of vile behaviors (including murder), and, at last, the making and worship of our own idols in place of the God who can deliver us from death.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: From Thankfulness to Holiness

Often we think of the first chapter of Romans, remembering the fervent denouncement of those involved in what is there called “unnatural” and termed “vile affection.” It is extremely important in a world in which tolerance seems to have been been promoted to the position of executive and operative virtue of society, to be aware of the concluding verse of the chapter. It is the verse that, quite literally, is slicing our culture in half. The verse is clear that it is not enough to refrain from committing homosexual acts. As his people we must never lend our voices to defend such behavior or to show our approval. On the subject of homosexuality, we have to choose between cultural correctness and the word of God. We have to be sure that, neither with silence, nor with words or actions, do we ever indicate approval of the sin of homosexuality. We do not laugh at it in sit-coms, allow it to occur in our homes when others visit, or fail to respectfully express the truth about God’s condemnation of it in our blogs, posts, and conversations. 

But today, as I was reading from the chapter, I noticed that the Scripture details the progression of the trip from innocence to the guilt of homosexuality. In verse 21, it says that those who were changing the “natural” into that which is against nature, failed to glorify God and failed to offer Him thanksgiving.

Moms, how important is it that you and I chart a clear course of thanksgiving in our homes? How important is it that we make sure our children hear us, in abject humility, pour out our praises to God? How vital is it that we have them to make those lists of blessings at Thanksgiving time and, more importantly, all throughout the year…every year? How important, really are crayon colored thank-you notes written in the hand of young children? How important is that never-missed heartfelt table prayer prior to every meal? How important is it that parents control the impulses of instant gratification that are accompanied by little acknowledgement of His providence and of our resultant responsibility to use blessings for His glory?  How vital is it that you, Mom, are displaying constant thankfulness rather than constant complaining about the simple circumstances and problems of this life? Does gratitude matter?

The answer is yes and yes a thousand times over. Romans one clearly details a progression from unthankfulness to unholiness; from the heart of ingratitude to insolence. in fact, in this passage,  it is the failure to glorify and give thanks that predicates the sin of homosexuality. 

Moms have a wonderful opportunity to exhibit and promote a spirit of thanksgiving on this national holiday. But, then again, on which day of the year do we not have a rich harvest of His blessings for which our children should see us praising and thanking the One from whom all blessings flow? 

Our kids might eventually choose to live unholy lives to their eternal loss. Those words are difficult for me to even type. The thought of the loss of one of my children’s souls is more horrible than I can contemplate for very long. The specific possibility that one of my children would ever come to us and tell us that he/she had chosen a life of homosexuality or bisexual behavior is unspeakably grievous. But to look back and realize that I had contributed to a spirit of rebellion by failing to take opportunities to instill gratitude during their formative years would fill me with sorrow. 

Take the time. Look for His glory in all of your world each day. Magnify Him when you see Him in nature, in providence and in specific answers to prayers. Do this in front of your children. Engage them in thanksgiving every time you are in prayer together. Make thank-you notes a weekly or even daily part of your home’s core “curriculum”.  The ‘gratitude chambers” of your kids’ hearts may not be automatically opened in our affluent culture of self-gratification. So make sure  you are putting thanksgiving in those places of their hearts, remembering, as you do, that you are building a resistance against sins of rebellion that are death-worthy (Romans 1:32). 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Topic Needed Was Topic Assigned.

So today…

  1. My dad was a sleepy-head because he coughed all night long.
  2. He was nauseated because of the antibiotic he took for the coughing.
  3. He was also dehydrated because of the nausea, which was because of the antibiotic, which was because of the cough.
  4. I got all mixed up about the starting time of my ladies’ day and I got there an hour early on a morning when I really could have used a little sleep. 
  5. I stopped on the way home to take a very short nap in the car and my husband phoned to “check on me” just as soon as I drifted off. Time all up!
  6. When I got back to my dad’s house, he had once again lost his breakfast and had despairingly gone back to bed. 
  7. I tried to get him up to watch the Bama game with me, although what I really wanted to do was go to a hibernation hole somewhere. But just as I was hoisting him up, the doorbell rang and a stranger delivered the news that Dad’s little dog had been hit by a car. 
  8. I told my dad to lie back down and do not get up. I got in the SUV with a big blanket to go down the meadow and find Tommy, bleeding and addled. 
  9. It took about eight calls before I could find an open veterinary office. 
  10. The veterinarian projected that the minimum cost for the surgery likely needed is two thousand dollars.
  11. I made the sad decision to have the puppy euthanized. 
  12. I had the sad duty to tell my father about the puppy.

So today, I am thankful for:

  1. The steroid and antibiotic that gives me hope for a better night’s sleep tonight.
  2. Supper that has “stayed down” for almost three hours now. 
  3. Mixups that make me early, rather than late.
  4. A chance to talk to women from Philippians 4 about how it’s not what’s happening on a particular day that determines my contentment. It’s about the promised peace that passes understanding. Do you think God provides what we need as His children?!… that His Word throughly furnishes us?!  I needed to do that particular expository of the great chapter about rejoicing. 
  5. A husband who checks on me.
  6. A sweet cousin who helps me with dad when I have to be gone for a couple of hours, even on days when he is sick.
  7. A great Bama victory to keep my dad preoccupied during the sad afternoon’s business. 
  8. Neighbors who were kind enough to take care of Tommy and come and notify me.
  9. Understanding my father’s limited income and his sadness, a clinic that donated the euthanizing shot and the cremation.
  10. A husband who always helps with difficult decisions, and does it with logic and a level head.
  11. My dad who, even though he forgets a lot of things (like I do), has not forgotten the difference between human beings and his dog. He simply said. “Well, we did what we could.” 
  12. A pillow on that bed in the back room and a monitor so I can hear my father if he calls. And the Word I can read as I fall asleep on that pillow…so I can hear my Father as He calls.

Some days you just think about Philippians 4 and the wonderful things Paul said about contentment from a dank and dark prison cell. And then the things about which you’re anxious seem small—negligible. And the peace that passes all understanding guards your heart and mind. It’s been a good day….And tomorrow? It’s the day when we go and get all that encouragement from the family of God. I hope my dad is well enough to go and get that…and worship the God of peace.

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Sister to Sister: Water, Bread and Meat

This week at the Colley house, we have been without internet. My husband started digging on Sunday afternoon to repair an underground water pipe that was leaking and he dug right through our internet cable. At our house, there is no television cable or dish, so the sole source of information/ entertainment/communication this week has been our two little iPhones. That means there’s been no printing at all and all of this in a week when we have Ezra, our grandson who is a bit of an avid  Sesame Street and Peppa the Pig fan. Add to that it was scheduled to ne  a week of some pretty intense problem-solving meetings via Skype and Facebook and messaging. Worst of all, it’s PODCAST WEEK! The most interesting caveat is that the podcast this week is all about the consequences of  murmuring. Yes, the study is about some people who got in some pretty big trouble for complaining about that manna in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. I keep thinking, “You know, if those Israelites who were smitten with death by poison because they murmured could have enjoyed one percent of the luxuries I’ve enjoyed this week, they would have been wide-eyed with wonder in the wilderness!” Add to that the practical challenge of this month’s study, which is to make it through one day without verbalizing a single negative thought and I am a pretty delinquent Digger, for sure!

I love the passages of the study this month. They are rich with practical lessons. As I write, we are three hours till live podcast. There’s a make-shift tent in my living room covering a toy-strewn floor. A chubby-faced two-year-old sits beside me eating dry cereal in my bed. Tiny  crumbs are sprinkled on the brown sheet. I was already having trouble sleeping this week because I accidentally left my pillow…MY personal only-one-that’s-comfortable pillow. There’s been a mountain of laundry on the guest bed all week. There’s a huge pile of mending waiting for any day with a few extra minutes. There a dress that was supposed to be for Colleyanna’s Christmas that remains unfinished and she is quickly outgrowing it. I’m supposed to have a gallon of chili made by tomorrow for a benefit for Freed Hardeman University and I have not even purchased the ingredients yet. There are people in the cabin who have also lost their water and their internet in the all of the digging. Ezra ran in the study and interrupted a very serious counseling session Glenn was doing this morning. He poured two gallons of water out of the bathtub this afternoon and stuffed something unidentifiable up the spout of the tub.  A long list of correspondence and thank-you notes await me and there is no current means to catch up. There are still some Christmas decorations up in some of the rooms in my house and tomorrow it’s February. There is a large pile of unpacked luggage in my bedroom floor from two trips by two different people. And there is a little boy who is inviting me earnestly into his tent to “play cars” this very minute. Did my husband ask me this week if I wanted to travel to Chattanooga with him yesterday and pick up a purchase he made at an antique auction and stop on the way home for ice cream? I thought I heard that.

You know where this is going. You know because you live like this, too. Oh, you may not be living quite this frenzied this week, but you’ve had a week or two like this. And some of you are currently living crazier. But you’ve had meat to eat this week IF you wanted it. The Israelites were homeless people in the wilderness with very little variety in diet and a lot of enemies ahead to defeat. Their children did not have cribs and nurseries and their elderly did not have eldercare. They were tired from slavery and intimidated by strong nations. But still, they had a God who was providing their every need and did not take kindly to their disbelief and strife. He loathed their grumbling and punished them mightily for it. 

So here’s the list you knew I was getting to:

  1. There are 4500, more-or-less, women who are interested in the study that drives me bonkers as I try to keep up every month and it’s a study about the ransom that’s been paid for all of us. How encouraging! A bunch of those women have recently sent heartfelt notes of encouragement. I’m blessed way beyond what I could ask or imagine.
  2. We have the technology to study together thanks to wonderful elders at West Huntsville and we have Jennifer Benavides and Mike Deasy who know how to make it work for us.
  3. I have a living room for a tent instead of a tent for a living room.
  4. I have a bed with linens on it and a sweet two-year-old who loves to be there with me. 
  5. He’s chubby. His ribs have lots of flesh on them.
  6. I have a pillow and I can sleep in peace and His assurance when it’s under my head.
  7. I have a guest bed and I have clothes (even enough to make a mountain and even enough to be clothed while there’s another pile waiting to be mended and two more piles simultaneously in pieces of luggage.)
  8. I have a sewing machine (and lots of other machines).
  9. I have a granddaughter who is healthy and growing, even faster than I can sew.
  10. I have enough money to purchase food to share.
  11. I have the room for company and sweet company for the room.
  12. I have a husband who helps people with serious sinful addictions instead of the other way around.
  13. All I had to do to get the running water was unclog the spout; not strike the rock or walk to the outskirts of a city as was the case in our studies this month.
  14. We have a little cable that brings the world to our fingertips.
  15. I have lots of generous family in Him to whom I owe multiple notes of gratitude.
  16. I have reminders of a wonderful time of holiday joy with family.
  17. I have a husband who likes to buy me ice cream.

I am on my way to the promised land. He is fighting my battles and providing for all of my needs. He is my rock in the desert (I Cor. 10:2-4). How dare I murmur! He is my water (John 4) and my bread and my meat (John 6). He is my all in all. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

From the Archives: A Bird in a Basket

images-1This past Saturday I spoke at a ladies seminar in the state of California. It was a great day–rewarding in lots of ways for me. It was a stormy weekend in my home state of Alabama, while sunny and calm in California. Sometimes it’s just a little serendipity when I get to slip away from the storms (in my mind and in the sky) and enjoy a space of calmness. I actually got to sit on a tiny sunny townhouse patio and visit with a sister I’d never met before. Two small birds live in a basket on that patio and I stood about two feet from Mr. or Mrs. Bird (not sure which) and clicked his/her photo. (I really wish I had brought along my Canon rather than just my cell phone.) I’m told that those birds come back each year and have begun to feel so comfortable in that basket that sits among some artificial flowers on a plant stand, that they don’t even bother to stir when people walk all around them. Before the evening was over, we had five people within a very few feet of the nest and no panic in the nest whatsoever. My host told me that one of that family of birds plucked one of those artificial flowers one year, took it around to her front yard and used it in the building of it’s own nest in a front yard tree.My host, Mrs. Maggie, knows a lot about the birds that feather that nest each year. But she cannot be sure it is the same birds year after year. She pays close attention to their patterns of nest-sitting. She knows that it is both a male and female that exchange places sitting, for she looks through her kitchen window (only a few inches away) and sees them swapping places. She knows that baby birds are born there each spring because there are a few fleeting days between the hatching and the flying when she enjoys watching them grow. All she has to do is keep putting the basket out for them year after year and they check-in as if they know their upscale room is reserved.

But did you ever think about how that God, from somewhere as far away as heaven and yet closer than that kitchen window does know whether it’s the same birds year after year? He knows whether or not the original nest sitters have survived the winter. In fact, he will know the exact moment that the bird in my photograph falls never to fly again.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father (Matthew 10:29).

The passage goes on to ask the rhetorical question: “Aren’t you more valuable than many sparrows?” God knows and cares about the nest home of those birds and its inhabitants. He knows about my home and its inhabitants, too. He knows that one day, like the sparrow I too, will fall. But I am of more value than many sparrows and I, who have never before taken wing will, on that “glad morning when this life is o’er, fly away.” Praise the God Who cares for the tiny bird in the basket, but cares infinitely more for me.