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Beware ! ! ! !

BEWARE ! ! ! ! !

   Life is full of warnings. These warnings are provided for us for our own safety or for our benefit. Often the potential for danger is not readily apparent, so a sign, barrier or barricade is placed so that we hopefully become aware of the harm that can befall us and that we will take the correct evasive action.   When we see the need to quickly warn someone of an unseen pending calamity, we are likely to shout: “Watch Out!” or something like that.  Some warnings we observe, some we don’t. That seems to be part of human nature.   Most folks don’t want to be told what to do or not to do.   But when the things we are told are for our benefit, should we not take heed?  

   God has provided a number of warnings for man in His Word, all of which need to be heeded as He has given us these for our spiritual well-being.   He too, has used a number of different ways to warn us as well as instruct us as to what to do and also what not to do. Unlike man, God does not place a sign in front of a place or action which is detrimental to us.   He has used “Words”, His Word to warn us, guide us, direct us and to protect us.  

   In Acts 20:31 we read the Words the Spirit gave the apostle Paul to warn the Ephesian elders. He spent a great deal of time and effort in warning all of the Ephesian Christians. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.  Three years of error free instruction from the Spirit would contain the types of warnings they would need to remain faithful to God. They would be dealing with the same types of persecutions and temptations that came upon all Christians during that time.  

   These same elders were cautioned in Acts 20:28 as they were charged with “feeding” the congregation which they were to oversee. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. These presbyters needed to beware because vs 30 tells us that even some of them would stumble and fall.   Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 

   In the passages we have used, we have seen the Ephesians elders warned using the words “watch”, ”warn” and “take heed”. There are other passages that utilize these same terms. When one “watches” they are supposed to be alert, or on guard, which means that they are to be aware of the dangers around them.      

     In 1Corinthians 16:13 the Corinthian brethren were admonished to “beware” of the potential of falling. Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.  This is much the same warning as was given earlier in the same letter.   The words “take heed” are used in 1Corinthians 10:12 to warn these brethren. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 

   In addition to the Corinthians and the Ephesians being warned, other brethren have been informed by the Spirit about the problems and pitfalls the world would

put before them. In Colossians 2:8 we read the counsel provided to them so they would not be ruined by the world and what the world offers.   Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

   Even in this day we need to “heed” the warnings God has provided us in His Word. We cannot successfully overcome the temptations that are placed before us if we don’t read, study, and learn the Word of God.   Just like the brethren in Corinth, we have been given a way of escape when we are tempted. They were told this in 1Corinthians 10:13. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.  But, none of us can expect to escape these if we don’t “heed” His warnings and “watch” out for the dangers.    

   Another way we are told to “beware” and to be “watchful” is found in the warning we find in 1Peter 5:8-9 as well as why we need to be watchful, and that we are not the only ones receiving this warning. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

     Heed the warnings – Your soul’s destination depends on it.

                                               Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Wake Up Sleepy Head

Wake Up Sleepy Head

   The title of this article sounds like what we may have heard in our youth as we sought to remain in our beds rather than go to school or arise and take on a task in which we would rather not be involved.   No doubt many of our parents used this phrase to urge us to get up and get going.  

     We all know sleep is necessary for proper mental and physical growth and to maintain a certain level of clearness of mind for the tasks of the day. But, too much sleep or sleeping when more pressing issues need to be addressed is problematic to say the least. I think we are all aware of the need to remain awake and alert while driving a car or working with power tools. But it seems that some are “sleeping” their way through life and not taking care of the most pressing issue of life, which is making provision for the final abode of the soul.

   Sleep is mentioned a number of times throughout the KJV Bible. The first time we see it is in Genesis 2:21 when God caused Adam to sleep deeply and God performed the first surgery in the Bible in which He took one of Adam’s ribs and made a woman for Adam. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;  One would certainly want to be asleep (knocked out) during this kind of operation.   The final occurrence of sleep in the Bible is found in 1Thessalonians 5:10 and deals with something other than our retiring for an evening.   This passage is speaking of Christ and the sacrifice He made so we can be in Him, whether we remain alive or are sleeping the sleep of physical death. Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 

      As we compare the two verses above, surely we can see two different kinds of “sleep” being referenced.   One is a sleep in which Adam was awakened to live another day; the other sleep is the state of waiting until the Lord returns and the judgment occurs.   This is why one must always consider the context before one can understand what is actually being put forth.   This is true of any passage of the Word of God.

     Not all “sleep” within the Bible is the same. As we live here on the earth, we sleep to recharge our bodies. As we leave this earth, our bodies will sleep in death. Those who are not “in Christ” will also sleep the sleep of death, but will not live afterward with Him, as they have not lived for Him in this life.  If one does not live with Christ when they are awake, how can they be “in Christ” while sleeping? This applies to the sleep of rest as well as the sleep of death.  

   In 1Corinthians 11:30 we find that the Spirit had Paul address a problem with the group of Christians that met in Corinth. He was directed to write: For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.    Surely the Spirit was not having Paul write of normal restful period of nighttime sleep as the context in that part of this chapter is that of the proper partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Also, those referenced as being “asleep” were not physically dead, because dead people cannot partake of this memorial feast. Therefore the Spirit must have directed Paul to speak of being asleep spiritually.  

     Too sleep spiritually means one is not ready for the coming of the Lord. This is why the 1Thessalonians 5:6 admonition was written for those brethren as well as for us. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.  And, there are several other passages within the New Testament which also remind us to “awake”.   These are not as frivolous as the call of our parents when we were young and when they said: “Wake up sleepyhead”. Their call was to arouse us so we could get on with our day. The warnings given by God in His Word to awake spiritually and remain alert and ready are given because our eternity depends upon staying spiritually awake.  

    As the Roman letter was penned, some there needed to awake from sleep as

Romans 13:11 points out. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.    Then, in 1Corinthians 15:34, the brethren there were told unto what they were to awake and informed them that it is a shame to not have the knowledge of God. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. One way for us to be “awakened” spiritually is to have our minds stirred up by the Word of God as 2Peter 3:1 tell us. This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:

   Let us, as children of God, strive to be “mindful” of the Words spoken by the prophets and the fulfillment of those things when the church was established.   One must not only be a member of the church, but they must also remain awake spiritually to continue to be in favor with God and productive in the kingdom.

                           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

An Inspired Guarantee

An Inspired Guarantee

   Isn’t it a good feeling to have a guarantee? I know when we are forced to buy a new appliance, tool or even a new car, it is very comforting to know that if the product quits working properly, provided I didn’t do something to cause it, the repair or replacement would be covered by the provider. These guarantees are usually in writing and often times there are qualifications that must be met for the guarantee to remain in effect.   In the case of the purchases mentioned above, the buyer must have purchased the item, or keep the payments up if it is a large purchase. The seller, or the one that provided the product is the one that offers the guarantee. With these types of guarantees, the seller or provider promises that the product will work as it should or give the service for which it was designed for a specified period of time without problem or defect.

   The single greatest “purchase” ever made was made for us by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.   He came to earth, born of a virgin, and lived a prefect life with one focus throughout. That focus was to do the Will of His Heavenly Father. Part of doing that Will, was to die on Calvary’s cross. It was upon the cross where He shed His life’s blood to provide Salvation for all who would follow Him and be obedient to the gospel which was first preached on Pentecost following the resurrection and ascension of Christ. When He ascended, Christ took His precious blood to the Father to purchase the church.   Acts 20:28 is where the Spirit had Paul admonish the Ephesian elders, then remind them of what Christ purchased when He shed His blood on the cross and took it to His Father. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

   John 1:12-13 shows that Christ’s blood gave mankind the power to become the children of God. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.   Once the blood of Christ is contacted in baptism, one is “born again”, and they become a child of God. This is where the guarantee comes in.

     When one becomes a child of God by contacting the blood of Christ, they have been given the promise of eternal life by God in 1John 2:25. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. Then in accordance to 1John 5:13 we read that we can “know” we have eternal life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.   But as we have already read, we have eternal life in promise.   It is promised to us only if 1) we have been born again 2) if we remain faithful.

   We also have been given instructions which, if followed, guarantee us that we will receive that which God has promised.   Space here will not permit the listing all the things required of us, but they are found in 2Peter 1:5-7. Then we read in vs 8if these things be in us and abound” we will “neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of” Christ.   If we lack them we are “blind and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten” that we were “purged from” our “old sins”. (vs 9)   Then in 2Peter 1:10 we find the inspired guarantee.   Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: There you have it; the guarantee of God to man in writing!

   As we pointed out earlier, we – the end user of the product – in our case, what God has promised, eternal life, have the responsibility to not forfeit this “inspired guarantee” by misuse or improper handling. The Christian Jews, the Hebrews were in danger of doing so when tempted to return to the Law of Moses by the Judaizing teachers. The Spirit had the writer of Hebrews admonish them in Hebrews 10:23 and also remind them that God is faithful of His promise to man. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) We are also aware from 2Timothy 1:13 that this same admonition was given to Timothy as the Spirit directed Paul to write.   Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. The written “guarantee” of God is the Word of God, delivered to man as promised by Jesus, beginning when the Comforter was sent to the apostles on the day of Pentecost, A.D. 33.  

     If we are Christians, and if we are faithful as directed in the Word, we have that “inspired guarantee” of the promise of eternal life. If not, we are promised an eternity of destruction in accordance to 2Thessalonians 1:9. Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;    This too is an “inspired guarantee”. Which guarantee do you want?    

                             Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Attitude and the Bible

Attitude and the Bible

   There is not one single occurrence of the word “attitude” in the King James version of the Bible. This does not mean that attitude is not taught in the Bible or is not important. One dictionary definition of attitude is: “a position assumed for a specific purpose”.   This is fitting as we have to take a position when it comes to the Word of God.   Jesus made this abundantly clear in Matthew 12:30 following the time when some accused Him of casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub. He said: He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.  When Jesus said this He knew that not all would have the same attitude toward Him or His Word.

   In John 12:46 Jesus stated that He came as a light into the world so that the world could make the choice as to which “position” or “attitude” they would have toward Him and His Word while in this life.   Then in John 12:47 He stated His “purpose” for coming to earth and in vs 48 why having the right attitude toward His Word is so important. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.    Knowing that Jesus came to be light to man so that man could be saved may help us to understand the “position” Christ took for our benefit as Philippians 2:7-8 tells us. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.   Christ had the right attitude as He came to do the Will of His Father in heaven. He also set the example for us and we are instructed in Philippians 2:5 to have this same attitude or “mind”. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 

     This admonition is important because not all have the proper attitude toward the Lord and the purpose for which He died.   One excellent example of this is presented to us in Acts 26:9-11 in the life of Saul before his conversion. I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. 

11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. 

     But one that has an “honest” heart, upon hearing the truth, will be obedient to it and their life will change. Then their attitude toward the Bible should change and be as God would have it.   In 2Timothy 3:10 we see the change that was made in Saul (Paul) after he was taught the truth and was obedient to it. His attitude regarding Jesus changed and he then became a diligent supporter and preacher of truth.   But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,. This too was an example for all to follow that knew Paul.

     God would have all to have the same attitude toward truth. The Spirit has given a number of scriptures that show that all should follow God and Christ.  Ephesians 5:1 reminds those brethren they were also “dear children” so they were to follow God. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; This means they were to have the right attitude. One cannot follow God and have a wrong attitude toward truth. In 1Thessalonians 1:6, the Thessalonian brethren became followers because they “received the word” even though it may not have been in the best of circumstances. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:   There is also the inspired direction to the Corinthian Christians in the first letter the Spirit gave to Paul to write. In 1Corinthians 11:1 we see that they were also given an example in Paul the apostle. Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. That means that all should have the same attitude toward the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word.

   In Jesus prayer to the Father in John 17:17 He prayed that the apostles be “sanctified” (set apart) by the Word. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  Even the apostles and all disciples or (followers) of Christ could not be sanctified through the truth if they did not maintain the proper attitude toward His Word, the Bible. If a right attitude, and obedience toward the Word is maintained, we shall all be blessed, now and when Christ returns.  

                         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Stewardship

Stewardship

   Often, when the topic of stewardship comes up, folks tend to focus upon how well they handle the money with which they have been entrusted. The word “steward” is found only in two books of the New Testament portion of the Bible. Luke contains the word or title “steward” five times and in each of these as Jesus was speaking, He spoke regarding the handling of the material blessings with which God has richly blessed. Jesus used the idea of stewardship to help those He taught (Israel) see that everything God has provided should always be used as God intended that it be used.  

   When Jesus was here and taught these lessons, He did so that Israel might learn to properly use all with which God had blessed them. They were so taught that they might also be beneficiaries in the “Christian” age which would soon be ushered in following Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and His ascension to the Father.  It is true that monies, and all other physical blessings given us of God are to be used properly, but God has “delivered” spiritual things to man as well.

   The only other New Testament occurrence of “steward” is found in Titus 1:7 and conveys a deeper meaning than just properly looking out for the physical things of this life.  In this passage we see part of the qualifications of an “elder” (bishop) in the church addressed. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;  Notice here that an elder, serving God in that capacity, with other elders within a congregation of the Lord’s church, have a very serious obligation and responsibility toward the souls they “oversee”. They are to truly be “stewards of God” regarding God’s people - Christians.

     In Hebrews 13:17 we find the Spirit having the penman instruct the Hebrew Christians to submit to those “elders” that watch for their souls. Those elders in the congregations of the Hebrew Christians had the solemn responsibility of “stewardship” over those whom God made them overseers. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.   This idea of being overseers and the stewardship of this office is also conveyed in Acts 20:28 where the Spirit had Paul address the Ephesians elders.   Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.    Indeed, all elders, in every congregation are to be stewards.

     But, lest we shirk our own responsibilities, we need to be reminded that all of God’s people are also “charged” to be good stewards.   This includes all the material substance with which we are entrusted, but it also includes being good stewards of the Word of God. In 2Timothy 2:15 we read of an admonition given to Timothy, but is also applicable to all Christians.   Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  Study is required by all, but if we are to be “good stewards” we must also “rightly divide” or handle the Word rightly.

   In the Philippian letter, the Spirit had Paul speak of the defense of the gospel. This is part of handling it aright.     In Philippians 1:7 Paul was “set for the defense” of it. I don’t think any could honestly say that Paul was not a good steward of God. Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. 

   Part of “defending” the gospel is to “stand up” against all who are against the gospel of God, which is His Word.   Jude, through inspiration, was directed to exhort us (all Christians) to “earnestly contend for the faith”. (Jude vs 3) Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.  To do so is being a good steward of the Word of God, which in itself is a blessing and a treasure.   He was also to tell us why this is necessary.   It is because some are not good stewards of God’s Word and even deny the Son of God. (vs 4) For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 

     Let’s strive to be good stewards of all God has entrusted to us. The material blessings only last through this life, but the Word endures forever. Take care of both while living here.           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Self Examination

Self Examination

   Much is being said these days regarding self-examination, but most of it is of a medical nature.   Warnings abound this time of year about the adverse effects of the Sun in receiving too much exposure. In addition to this we all participate in a bit of self-examination from a health standpoint (if we are wise) as we inspect our gums, teeth, etc. in our efforts to maintain good dental hygiene. Other areas of our health are equally important and there are benefits of self-examination to find any lumps, bumps, or previously unseen oddities and such that could be indicators of areas of concern or disease that may have appeared.  

   Now, we all (whether we like to admit it or not) take an appraising look in the mirror occasionally to determine how our clothes look, or if we think we have added a pound or two, and how this affects our appearance. Many a person has set aside, or even discarded a garment for the time being based on how they made him, or her look.   I too have done this.  

   But how many of us follow the Bible directive found in 2Corinthians 13:15 and really take a hard look at ourselves in regard to how well we follow the Word of God? Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?  Surely we are familiar with 1Corinthians 11:28 where we are told that self-examination is indeed part of our partaking of the Lord’s Supper. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  According to vs 27, failure to perform a proper, and honest self-examination before we partake and eat the bread and drink the cup unworthily renders us guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. None should desire this.

   We cannot “look” inside ourselves with a device as we do this.   Physically, the Doctor can view “inside” us with a myriad of scopes, devices and tools and even take pictures and images to see if some-thing is amiss, but this is not what the Spirit was alluding to when He had Paul write to the Corinthian brethren. A self-examination of our mind is what The Spirit had Paul say is required.   We can only accomplish a successful internal self-examination if we are honest.

   The Bible speaks of the mind as the “heart” of man. This is because what the body does is controlled by the mind of the man that possesses that body. In the Old Testament, the first part of Proverbs 23:7 tells us this. For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: We can also clearly see this from Matthew after Jesus healed the man on a bed, sick of the palsy, having uttered the Words in Matthew 9:2: Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.  Following this in vs 3 the “scribes said within themselves” that Jesus had blasphemed in saying this. As we read vs 4 we find Jesus reply and what Jesus also knew. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?  It is the mind with which one thinks, and not the “heart” or blood pump.   Leave the examination of the physical heart (pump) to the physician.    

   Then the question becomes: “How may I do a self-examination of my mind, the spiritual heart?” To do this one must look “introspectively” or inside to examine themselves and compare what is inside with what is found in the Word of God. We should also want to look good in the “inner man” and should make frequent and honest self-examinations to ensure that we remain ”in the faith.” We then need to make the needed adjustments according to the Word. Hebews 4:12  points out for us that the Word of God is the “instrument” by which this self-examination is to occur.. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.   This is most important as the Word will also be that by which we are to be judged.  

   Perhaps another way of looking at “examining ourselves” is to “take heed” unto ourselves. In 1Timothy 4:16 this is what Timothy was told by Paul, and is equally applicable to us today. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. Then there is Hebrews 3:12 which tells us what a lack of “spiritual self-examination brings. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. We cannot afford to NOT do these spiritual self-examinations, do them honestly, and make the needed changes.    

                                               Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

God Friended Me - REALLY?

God Friended Me – REALLY?

     I was sitting in my living room the other evening and a commercial came on about an upcoming Fall 2018 CBS sitcom named “God Friended Me”. My first thought was, and how I still feel, is that such is ridiculous. I decided to look into this upcoming series to see what its premise is. (I will not be watching)

     What I found was about what I expected. From Wikipedia, I found the following.   It was ordered to series on May 11,2018. (And so is now in production.) It is described as a humorous, uplifting series, that explores questions of faith, existence and science.  It centers on an outspoken atheist “Miles”, whose life is turned upside down when he is friended by God on Facebook.   Unwittingly, he becomes an agent of change in the lives and destinies of others around him. Another character “Cara” is a leading writer for a leading online magazine who is under pressure for her next big story. Her life takes an interesting turn when she meets the main character “Miles” get this-  thanks to God’s friend suggestion.  

     I have seen and heard blasphemy presented in many different ways, but this is a new package entirely.   This irreverence for God is a work of the devil. He started his work in the Garden of Eden and all these years later man is still falling for it and indeed – embracing it. To speak of, or speak to God as if He were “one of us” is indeed blasphemy.   God is not the “man upstairs” nor is He the “big guy” or any other such nonsense.   From Psalm 111:9 we read that even the name of God is set apart. . . . “holy and reverend is his name.”   Even those who aspire to wear the name or title of “reverend” are participating in this same type of irreverence.   Those who do so are not showing wisdom at all. Wisdom is not doing what we want or being called as we wish to be called. If we continue reading in Psalm 111:10 one can readily see that there is to be a fear of God and also where wisdom begins. Fear in this sense means utmost respect, awe and reverence. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.   Those who do participate in such irreverence and blasphemy are much like those depicted in Romans 1:28 where we also see that God will allow them to make whatever decision they want and persist in whatever activity they so desire. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 

     Israel, having just seen the power and glory of God in His great deliverance of them from the Egyptians, sang a song in Exodus 15.     In verse 11 we find a proclamation that many have forgotten. Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?  Exodus 15:11   From this, one would think that the people of God would remain faithful and always serve God as He commanded.  But, we can see from Isaiah 55:6-9 that irreverence and disobedience also affected Israel.   God sent Isaiah to call Israel back to God and reminded them that He is not like we are. Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:  Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

   No, God does not have a Facebook account! He does not “Tweet”! He is not a “social media” God!         He does not speak directly to us, nor communicate to us in any way except through His Word.   It has been this way since the miraculous ended with the completion of God’s Revelation to man.    He will not contact us by telephone, e-mail, fax or through any of the modern means of communication that have likely consumed way too much of our time.        

   God indeed “friended” all of humanity when He sent His Son to provide the means for salvation.      We are told what God’s power unto salvation is in Romans 1:16. It is the gospel of Christ: . . . for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.     Perhaps we would do well to simply follow the advice of 1Timothy 4:16 where the Spirit had Paul direct Timothy. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.  This is also why the Spirit had Paul instruct Timothy thusly in 2Timothy 4:2.   Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

     While some may think this upcoming show to be cute and some may even be so bold as to say that it will introduce people to God or cause them to think about God, let’s not get caught up in that which relegates God to the position of a mere man.

   Let us know God as He is presented in His Word and seek to serve Him in accordance to His Word lest we be found to have missed the mark for which all Christians should strive.        Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Is Zeal Something You Still Have?

Is Zeal Something You Still Have?

   Upon reading Titus 2:14 one can see that the reasons Christ gave Himself for us are given, and included is zeal.   Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  All seem to want the redemption and the promise of eternal life, but many seem to lose the zeal they had when they were first baptized into Christ.  

   If you are a child of God, think back to when you became a Christian. Do you remember the “fervor” you had – the fire that burned within you to speak with others about God’s Love for us and His plan for saving a soul?   Is that zeal still with you? Do you still have that same enthusiasm you once had? If not, what happened to it?   Where did it go?  

   Zeal defined: Eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something; Fervor.   Synonyms for Zeal are: Enthusiasm, Passion, Ardor, Eagerness or Vehemence.

     While it is important to have and maintain zeal, it is equally important to make sure that one’s zeal is properly directed. In Philippians 3:6 the Spirit directed the apostle Paul write concerning the zeal Paul had when he thought he was serving God under the Law of Moses.   Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.  One can easily see that Saul’s zeal was misdirected at that point. However, when it was properly directed in service to God, his zeal served to guide numerous folks to Christ.   We know this as Acts 9:15 reveals what the Lord said to Ananias in regard to Saul. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 

   Proper zeal, or zeal that is properly directed must also be in accordance to knowledge.   In accordance to Romans 10:1 we are told that Paul’s desire for Israel was that “they might be saved”.   He also affirmed that they had zeal in verse two, but since it was “not according to knowledge” we are told what they failed to do in verse three.   For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 

   Now, since we have established from God’s Word that zeal is only effective if rightly directed and in accordance to teaching from God’s Word, could it be possible that if your zeal has waned that the absence of God’s Word in your life is the cause?   In James 4:7 we are reminded that we are to submit ourselves to God and what will result.   Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.   We then must determine what it takes to submit to God. How can that be done unless one does so in accordance to His Word?   2Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all scripture comes from God and why it was given to humanity.   All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 

   Then as we read 2Timothy 2:15 we are told how that “Word of truth” will cause us to be “throughly furnished”.  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  Even with all the problems the Corinthian church had, the Spirit had Paul commend them for their zeal.   From 2Corinthains 9:1-2 we are told of the love of the Corinthians for those of other congregations and that their zeal provoked many.   For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: 2 For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. 

     Is this saying that zeal is contagious?   These verses certainly indicate that one’s zeal can be a source of encouragement for others.   But one thing I have noticed is that a lack of zeal does seem to contagious. It is like a virus that has afflicted the church of the Lord in many locations.   If the loss of zeal can affect an individual it can certainly affect congregations.   Need we be reminded of the affect a lack of zeal had on the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:15 and what the Lord would do to them as we read in verse 16?   I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  Could this be you?  

   If we have lost our zeal for God or if it has been diminished for any reason we need to rekindle it with knowledge of God’s Word. Your soul depends upon it

                           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Spiritual Adultery

Spiritual Adultery

 It is alarming that some Christians don’t seem to understand what spiritual adultery is or how one might be involved in it.   Some of these are the same people that wouldn’t think of “cheating” on a spouse as this is considered an egregious (flagrant) sin.    A good definition for Adultery is: voluntary sexual relations with a married person other than one’s spouse.  

   There are a number of synonyms for adultery with which we are all familiar. Some of these are: Infidelity, Disloyalty, Betrayal and Faithlessness. Of course when these words are used in regard to a marital relationship, most folks think of physical marriage. Little do some realize that such a thing as “spiritual adultery” does exist, and there may very well be Christians involved in spiritual adultery, while not actually aware that they are.

     We know what Jesus said in Matthew 19:9 regarding adultery. He is speaking of physical marriage in this passage. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.   This is the understanding that most Christians have regarding this passage.    In Deuteronomy 22:22 the Old Testament covenant God had with Israel, the penalty for adultery was death. The keeping of the Law of God in this case, was to put the evil away from Israel. If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. God has never condoned the breaking of vows. The vows a man and woman make in marriage are important.   Should we think the vow we made with God is of any less importance?  

   In Jeremiah 3:14 we find that Israel was married to God. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:  Then we find in Malachi 2:11 that after the kingdom of Israel was divided, Judah committed spiritual adultery.   Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.   They were not walking honestly before God. They were unfaithful.

   In the New Testament, we find in Romans 7:2 the Law of God relative to marriage.   When one spouse dies, the other is free to be married to another. For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.  Then we see in Romans 7:4 we see to whom Christians are spiritually wed and that the Law (Old Testament) no longer bound the Jews to God.   Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.  And we might also consider the language of 2Corinthians 11:2 in which the Spirit had Paul explain the relationship all Christians are to have with Christ. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, (Christ) that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 

   Therefore, if we as Christians, attend services in religious organizations that are not the body of Christ, or participate with them in functions they authorize we are indeed committing spiritual adultery.   By participating with them, we are also bidding them God speed. 2John 1:9-11 tells us that if we receive one that comes unto us and they “abide not in the doctrine of Christ” we are bidding them God speed.  The same is true if we go to those who abide not in the doctrine of Christ.  Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. Those of these other religious organizations are not married to Christ, and if we bid them God speed, or participate with them, we become partakers of their evil deeds.

   This is also why in 2Corinthians 6:17 the Spirit had Paul tell the Corinthian brethren it was wrong to participate in the deeds of the world, those that falsely serve God, and those that serve false gods and what to do about it. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

   As faithful Christians, let’s honor the vow we made with God, and remain truly faithful as part of the bride of Christ.  

                                         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

How Converted Are You?

How Converted Are You?

   You must be thinking “What kind of question is that?” The question comes as a result of observations of some who “professed” to be Christians over the years.

    The very definition of “converted” indicates a change has occurred, but one that is a “Christian” and continues in their previous manner of life is not converted at all.   This indicates that the change the gospel should have made in them has not yet happened. We might look to the life of the apostle Paul for an inspired example of conversion and how a life is properly changed by the gospel. In the Acts 26:4-6 account of Paul’s defense before Agrippa, we see his explanation of his training as

a Jew from his youth and how that not only caused him to act as he did prior to his conversion, but also gives us the reason why he was being judged by the Jews on that occasion.   My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 

   Then we see in 2Timothy 3:10-11 the Spirit had Paul remind Timothy that he had observed Paul’s manner of life and that Paul’s manner of life and his persecution was because he had truly been converted.   But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.    The persecutions Paul suffered was because He had been converted – changed – changed by the gospel.   That change was apparent to all with whom he would come in contact, whether brethren or enemies of the cross of Christ.  

     We are also told in 2Timothy 3:12 that if we have been converted we too can fully expect persecution, albeit not necessarily the same type Paul had to endure. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.  To be godly in this world means that one has been converted and is different than the world and therefore will be persecuted by the world in one way or another.    We should also understand that conversion is not a concept that is exclusive to the New Testament. As we look to Psalms 51, we can see in vss 10-13 that one who is converted will then teach others God’s Ways, and will do their best to reach others with God’s Word so they too can be converted.   Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.  13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. 

   In Matthew 13:10 while Jesus was on the earth, His apostles asked why He spoke to the people in parables. Verse 11 is His answer. He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.  Then in Matthew 13:15 He explained why.  For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.  Why would they not be converted?   It was because they would not receive the Words of Jesus.    

      We should be aware that many were converted in A.D. 33 on Pentecost in Jerusalem, but who were they?   Acts 2:41 identifies them for us as those that gladly received the Word.   Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  Only those who gladly receive the Word can be converted and only those that want to remain converted will do so if they continue to stay in the Word.

     It is also important to understand that one cannot be “partially” converted. The apostle Paul, in Acts 26:24-29 in his defense before Festus and king Agrippa desired that Agrippa and all others there were “altogether as he was except his bonds. And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. 25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. 26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. 28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. 29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.  This means that Paul desired that they were “altogether” converted. How converted are you?   If not all the way converted, it is not enough.      Be converted according to God’s Word before it is everlastingly too late.                           

        Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

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