Mooresville church of Christ

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How's Your Heart?

How’s Your Heart?

      Sounds like a question your doctor might ask, doesn’t it?   Or maybe one that would be asked by a concerned friend or family member after one in has a bout with chest pain or even after heart surgery or something of that nature.  When such a question is asked, the organ of interest is the blood pump; that which must function properly to convey the oxygen rich blood to the various parts of the body and the depleted blood back to the heart and lungs to be revitalized.  

     But in the realm of the spiritual, the “heart” is the mind. Our question is one that also is applicable in this realm. The Bible is full of references to the heart that shows this to be the case.   In fact, the first case of the use of the word “heart” in scripture gives us a clue as to what is meant. As we read of the events leading up to the building of the ark and the destruction of the world by flood, God revealed in Genesis 6:5 that the word “heart” can mean the mind.   This is because we all know we think with our brains (minds) and not the blood pump. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  Man’s heart (mind) was evil, hence his deeds were evil.    The following verse (Genesis 6:6) gives an equally intriguing clue as God, being a Spirit, has no need of a blood pump. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

   John 4:24 is where Jesus spoke of this characteristic of God while He spoke to the woman at the well. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  While it is important that when we gather before God in worship that we do so in these bodies with the blood pump that makes the body work; we are also told here that we cannot come before Him acceptably unless we do so with the Bible heart, the mind, fully engaged and in accordance to the Word of God.

   Now that we have established that the bible heart is the mind, and that the mind is used to think and reason, how’s your heart?   If you have heart disease of a spiritual nature you will not worship God acceptably, nor will you serve Him. The wicked man of Proverbs 6:12-15 help us see what will happen when one has “heart disease”. A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth. 13 He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers; 14 Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord. 15Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy. 

     That sounds like a heart attack of the worst kind to me. But not all heart attacks are fatal. According to a recent study, approximately 90% of people who suffer a heart attack survive. In fact, the vast majority of heart attacks of a physical nature have warning signs weeks or months in advance.   Only when the warning signs are disregarded and ignored does the potential for a physical disaster of this nature occur.   The same thing exists in the spiritual heart (the mind) of man. People are not born evil, nor are wicked thoughts a part of their makeup when they enter this world.   Therefore, wickedness and evil are things that are taught and learned.

       When Jesus was questioned in Matthew 18:1 about who was to be the greatest in the kingdom, notice what He did before He worded His response to the question. And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heavenWhosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.(Matthew 18:2-4)   The Lord called the child because the mind of a child has yet to be tainted with the wickedness of the world.   That child’s heart had not been diseased by the evil and sin that affects the minds of many adults.

     Those who become tainted by the world and the things of the world are in danger, because they have severe “heart disease”.   Their damage will require surgery – spiritual surgery.   The Spirit had Paul write of the spiritual surgery that takes place when one is “born” into the kingdom in baptism in Colossians 2:11-12. In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

       But what about those that are part of the kingdom, who may have some spiritual “heart disease”, Christians who have slipped and fallen. They are in danger of having a fatal heart attack spiritually. In 2Peter 2:20 we are told of the heart condition these have and how they will end up if they don’t do what is needed. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.   Take care of your heart – both of them. The physical heart is important and needs to work so our bodies can work. Our spiritual heart (mind) also must work properly so we can serve God and prepare to spend eternity with Him.  

                                                            Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Will Your Anchor Hold?

Will Your Anchor Hold? 

     As we continue through life, we all utilize metaphors to describe various aspects of, or things in our lives.   Those who seem to be “out of their natural element” are often described as a “duck out of water”.   So, when asked if your anchor will hold, one need not look for a tangible (or actual) device to accomplish this.    An anchor defined is: a heavy object attached to a rope or chain and used to moor a vessel to the sea bottom, typically one having a metal shank with a ring at one end for the rope and a pair of curved and/or barbed flukes at the otherWhen this question is asked, we should look to see what it is that fulfills the deeper meaning of the anchor - security, stability, and being grounded

     What is it that provides the needed “security”, “stability”, and grounding one needs spiritually?    The answer to this question should be easy, but too many seem to fail to be properly “anchored”.   Hope in God’s Word is the answer as Colossians 1:23 declares.  If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 

    Yet, many look to other sources for their hope.    The things of the world cannot provide the stability needed, nor the promise of life beyond this one.   2Peter 3:10 tells us the physical things of the world will be destroyed when the trumpet sounds.   But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.           Also, as the Spirit had Paul write in 1Corinthians 3:19, that even the intangible things of this world are ineffective as an anchor for the soul.   For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.  The world’s wisdom will also be destroyed with the world.

        The Word of God is that in which we are to be anchored.  1Peter 1:25 points out that God’s Word will last forever.  But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.  Now that we have established in what we are to be anchored, let us make sure we understand that each of us have responsibility in this. 

     Since the Word is sure, steadfast and unfailing, if our anchor does not hold, who’s fault is it?    It has to be ours.  If we are in a boat, and toss the anchor out on smooth solid rock, it won’t catch, let alone hold.  That is why it is so important to be anchored in the gospel, the Word of God.   Once our anchor is in the Word of God, the only one that can release it is us!  

     Having spent some time on the water, I know that the anchor rope has to become “slack” before the anchor can be released.   As long as the vessel or boat maintains the “pull” on the anchor, if it is properly seated, the anchor will not release.  Apply this spiritually and we should see that we (the vessel) must maintain the proper tightness on the anchor, that which keeps us properly “moored” or connected to God.    When we become “slack” or fail to do as we should, we allow our anchor to slip.   When that happens, we drift just as a vessel on the water does.   This could be devastating.   From a spiritual standpoint, it is eternally disastrous.   Perhaps this is why we have so many passages warning Christians to hold fast, or to stand fast.   Is this not what a properly engaged anchor does, hold fast?  

      In Philippians 1:27 the Spirit had Paul write to these brethren so they would remain properly anchored.   Only let your conversation (manner of life) be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, (the Word of God) with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;  The same applies to us.   This same idea was directed toward the brethren in Corinth in 1Corintians 16:13.   It reads:  Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.  The word “quit” here means they should act, or conduct themselves as men.   The point is that if they stand fast in the faith, they can remain strong.   In fact, 1Thessalonians 3:8 tells us we are “alive” (spiritually) if we stand fast in Christ.    For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.

      The elders (bishops) are also to have the characteristic of “stability” as they “hold fast” the Word of God.  Titus 1:9 tells us this and also tells us how the elders (and all others) can defend the Word of God if they hold it fast.   Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.   Then there are the israelite Christians in Hebrews 10:23 who were exhorted to remain anchored in their profession.   Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)  Many more places could be cited, but these should be sufficient to show that we have full control of our stability.  

      “Will your anchor hold in the storms of life, When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?”  Don’t become slack and let your anchor drift.   The result of doing so is becoming separated from the Lord.    If you are not anchored in Christ, obey the gospel today and then remain connected to the Lord.   Seek the strength and stability in His Word so you can always be faithful. 

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Every Christian's Job

Every Christian’s Job

      When a person becomes a Christian, he or she makes a commitment to God.  That commitment is to do the job of a Christian. Unfortunately, not all Christians understand what their “job” is.  This is not to say they have not been instructed as to how to become a Christian, just that they haven’t received the proper training needed to understand what God expects of them afterward. 

     The place to begin is with the Great Commission.  In Matthew 28:18-20 while talking to His apostles, Jesus said:  All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.  This passage has been taught many times, and more often than not, the focus is on initial teaching and baptizing, and not the teaching that is to follow baptism.   This initial teaching is where the instruction to “become a Christian” comes in.  The first area of teaching is important as one must become before they can be.       Following this, a “babe” in Christ is to be taught; fed and nourished with the Word of God.   This is so they can grow as a Christian.  (1Peter 2:2) As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:  One who has been born into the kingdom should certainly want to be fruitful in the kingdom.  

     Those in the kingdom (the church) who aren’t properly instructed in the Word cannot be fruitful – cannot win souls for Christ.  This is why the second teaching of the Commission is so important.   Go! Teach! Baptize! & Teach! To fulfill part of the Commission and leave off the latter part is to leave part of the “job” undone.     Some know how that would affect our relationship with our earthly employer.   What does this do to us spiritually?

      Every Christian is to be a teacher and an evangelist.   In 1Timothy 4:11 Paul was directed to write to this young preacher: These things command and teach.   However, what one teaches others is of utmost importance.   The “job” every Christian has is that of a teacher and an evangelist, but if they are not properly taught, they cannot teach others as they should.  Previously in the first letter to Timothy, it was pointed out in 1Timothy 1:3 that “what is taught” is very important.   As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,    To not teach, or to teach the wrong things is detrimental to the soul of the teacher and the student. 

      One of the things every Christian is to be taught is that he or she is the one that is responsible for their soul’s eternal destination.   No one can be lost or save for you and no one can do your work for you. That includes your study, or your evangelism.   This is perhaps why the Spirit had the apostle Paul, in Philippians 2:12 warn them that they had a solemn responsibility toward God and for their own benefit.   Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  This is in direct opposition to the “toiling” done by those of 2Thessalonians 3:11, and many even today.   These spend a lot of effort involved in gossip, busywork, and other activities that does them, and those with whom they come in contact, no good whatsoever.    For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

     The job of the Christian was what Jesus stated in Luke 19:10 while talking to Zacchaeus.   He said: For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.  We must understand that we as Christians can save no one.  But, we can teach them, and by so doing, lead them to salvation.    We can only do this through the scriptures.  In 2Timothy 3:15 we are told how the young preacher Timothy had been led to salvation.   And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. This was done through the efforts of two Christians, his mother and grandmother.  When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.  (2Timothy 1:5)

      It is also the “job” of every Christian to “work at” looking out for their own souls.   This also can only be accomplished by looking into, doing, and continuing to do what God says in His Word, as James 1:25 tells us.  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.  Those who don’t do this will not be blessed or saved.

      How are you doing at your job as a Christian?  Are you in danger of being separated from God because of your lack of performance?    Isn’t it about time to get serious about our work as the children of God?  Our soul’s eternal salvation depends upon it.    Help someone see the truth!  Teach them how to become a Christian!  Your life will be richer for it, and so will theirs.    Time to go to work!               

                                         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Respect For The Word Of God

Respect For the Word of God

    God has written two sets of Laws.  In both cases, God wrote to those who were His people.  The Old Testament Law of God to Israel was specifically to them, to direct their lives in accordance to the Will of God.  God had chosen a people; those descendants of Abraham to fulfill His plan to bring His Son to the world.  This people needed a Law. God gave them one.  However, not all the Jews in the day of Jesus had respect or reverence for the Word of God.   In Mark 7:13 we read what Jesus told the Pharisees as they put their tradition ahead of God’s Law.   Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.   Their actions showed they lacked respect for God and His Word. 

     But this is not the first occasion of God’s people under that Law to show a lack of respect for the Law of God contained in His Word, nor would it be the last.  Even a king, one hand-picked by God made the choice to disregard God’s Commandments.    We know the specific command God gave Saul regarding Amalek is found in 1Samuel 15:3.    Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.  This was very clear.     Then following Saul’s failure to do as God ordered, and admitting to his “sin”, Saul was told of his punishment for his lack of respect for the Word of God in 1Samuel 15:26.   There are always consequences for not having respect to God and His Word.  And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.      Saul, and all of God’s people should be ashamed when they lack respect for the Word of God.   In Psalm 119:6 the Spirit had the sweet singer of Israel pen the Words showing how we need not be ashamed. Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.

      Just following this, the Spirit had the Psalmist write in Psalm 119:9-16 to give us the formula whereby 1) all can be clean, 2) how diligently we need to seek God and His Word, 3) what we are to do with God’s Word, and 4) what benefit is ours when the Word of God is our delight and joy.    Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee12 Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. 13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.   If one will do these things, then they are clearly showing respect for the Word of God.

     Following the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, God issued His second written Law to man.   This one is known as the New Testament.   It is so known because the first – Old Testament - written Law of God was fulfilled by Christ.     The Lord Himself stated this in Matthew 5:17-18 in the Sermon on the Mount. Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 

      In Hebrews 10:9 the penman of the Hebrews letter was directed by the Spirit to inform the Hebrews Christians not to follow that “fulfilled” O.T. Law, but to continue to have respect to God’s second written Law to man.   Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.   That second Law of God was established that man could have the hope of Salvation.     All who live this side of the cross should be grateful they live in this New Testament age.   Christ made this possible. We are to have respect unto His Law and show it by following His Word. 

    The church at Colossae was told they must “continue in the faith”, which is another way to say they were to “respect” and “do” what was preached by Paul.  That which Paul preached was the Word of God, given him by the Spirit.   If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; (Colossians 1:23)

    Jesus Himself in Luke 6:46 asks a question which is directed to those that did not have respect for the Word of God in Jesus day, as well as now.  And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?   All who have respect for the Word of God will do “all” the Lord says to do.  They will not seek another way, as there is but one way.     Jesus told Thomas this in John 14:6.   Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.   Those who do not respect the Lord and His Word will not do what the Lord says to do.   Won’t you show respect to God and His Word and be obedient to the gospel today?  Failure to do so is to reject God and His plan to save the soul of man.  

             Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Just a Passin' Through

Just a Passin’ Through

   We sing the song, but do we live as though we believe it?   “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up some-where beyond the blue;”. . .    Are these just words of a song, or are they the guiding mantra of one truly looking for something beyond this life?  

   As we live here, we put a great deal of effort into the things of this life and to handle our responsibilities in this world.     In Hebrews 11:13 we see the Spirit had the penman point out what was of greatest importance to those listed; those who are a part of the “honor roll of the faithful”.   These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth

    Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:19-21, warned those listening to Him that man’s true treasure is not here on earth. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also

     Then, in Acts 7:6-7 when the high priest had asked Stephen if the things of which he was accused of saying was true, part of the answer the Spirit gave Steven was: And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. 7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.  He was speaking of Abraham, the Friend of God, whose descendants would live in Jerusalem and should have served God as though they would go to be with Him after this life.

     However, not all the Jews of Jesus day were faithful to God.   These who were descendants of Abraham, were also supposed to heed the Word of God and follow it. As children of God, they should have worshiped, served and lived as those who had “treasure” awaiting them and would strive to receive it.    But as Jesus pointed out in John 8:41-44 those who don’t serve God are not the children of God. He said: Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.  42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.  43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.  44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. 

   These to whom Jesus spoke were those under the O.T. Law of Moses and should have long been acquainted to the Word of God.   The Words of Jesus are the Words of God as Jesus is God.    Jesus came preaching the need for Israel to repent and prepare for the kingdom for which Jesus would die.   Those who are part of that kingdom, the church of Christ, are also to be sojourners as we look for a home beyond this life.  The Spirit had Paul write the brethren in Corinth to remind them of this fact in 1Corinthians 15:19 during this, the N.T. period of time. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.  They, like we, were to be “passin’ through” this life while serving God faithfully in accordance to His Word.

     Truth is, all humans are “just passin through”.   We will all spend eternity somewhere.   In John 5:28-29 Jesus Himself told those seeking to kill Him that there are only two places where souls will exist forever. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnationEach individual must make the choice for themselves.   This is what the Spirit had Paul tell the brethren in Romans 6:16-17 as he wrote to the congregation of the Lord’s church that met in Rome. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

     This is the key to being able to “pass through” this life and being able to make the preparation for eternity.   In the latter part of John 10:10, Jesus also said: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  He paid the price. He purchased the church in His death and returned to His Father with His precious blood.    Then He went to prepare a place for that eternity.   He told His apostles this in John 14:2-3. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.       Where are you headed as you “pass through” this life?   It’s your choice.    Make the right one.        

                     Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Loyalty To God?

Loyalty to God?

      The word loyalty and loyal are not found within the Word of God, but the idea of loyalty to God is found throughout the pages of inspiration.   As one looks up loyalty, they find that loyal defined is: giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution.   Synonyms for loyal include: faithful, true, devoted, steadfast, unwavering, dedicated and committed. 

     It is readily apparent that many are not loyal to God as they do not show faithfulness to God by doing the things that He says for them to do in His Word.    Jesus is Lord and God, and many call Him Lord, yet they will not be obedient to what He wants us to do.   In Luke 6:46 Jesus Himself asked His disciples: And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?   One cannot be loyal to God and not do the things the Lord wants us to do.

     One also cannot be loyal to God without knowing God’s Word.  The Word is how God communicates His Will to us in this age.  In Hebrews 1:1-2 we read of this.   God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;    Since God now speaks to us through His Son, why don’t we do what He says?   God’s Word is also where we read of His inspired Word to the Psalmist in Psalms 119:38.   Here the psalmist wants to know God’s Word because he is devoted to respect and loyalty to the Lord.  Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear.

     The Word “fear” here means respect and reverence. This is what we read what the Spirit had David pen in Psalm 119:4-6.   Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. 5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.  Then we read in vss 9-16, the inspired means to stability, faithfulness and fidelity, which means “loyalty”.    Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.  10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.  11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.  12 Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.  13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.  14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. 16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. 

    But, where does God indicate to us today that He Commands and expects loyalty?   As pointed out earlier, loyalty to God is indicated by faithfulness, dedication and commitment.  In Galatians 5:1, Paul was directed to write: Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  The “yoke of bondage” is when one is in sin. To be “bound” in sin is to die eternally.   The Spirit had Paul in 1Thessalonians 3:8 tell these folks how important it was to be loyal to God.   For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.  To be disloyal to God is to die.  

      We could also look to Hebrews 10:23 and see that God is faithful, as He is committed to His promises to us.  Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)   God will not waver from His promises.  Colossians 3:24 is one of many places where we can read that God will indeed reward the faithful and loyal.  Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.   Then we read in the verse following that God is also just.  All who are not loyal to Him and His Word will receive a “just reward”.   But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. (Colossians 3:25)

     Space will not permit the full examination of this need to be loyal to God in this article.   It should be enough to know that God Will justly reward for obedience and fidelity, and that He will justly punish for disobedience and failure to remain loyal to Him, once you’ve committed to Him.   The Spirit had John in 2John vs 8 warn the brethren so they not lose their reward.  Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.If they were not “loyal to God”, they would lose their reward.  However, loyalty to God and His Word brings a full reward.  

      Where is the evidence of your respect for and loyalty to God?  Have you followed the plan of salvation?   If not, you do not yet belong to God and cannot be loyal to Him.  You need to obey the gospel today.  Let us help you.    If you have obeyed the gospel, how do you show your loyalty?   Are you being loyal to God when you are absent from services, fail to read and study, or fail to give monies to the work as the Lord has prospered you?   If you need to make changes, make them before it is too late.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

     

How Hard Are You Trying?

How Hard Are You Trying?

      As we endeavor to do something, the determination shown and the energy put forth is in direct correlation to how much we want whatever it is.  When someone does not try very hard, it is likely that they either don’t want, or figure they cannot do or attain to something.   Another reason some don’t put forth the necessary effort into achieving something is that they think it will be given them, even though they have not exerted themselves to reach the goal.  

     Every “soul” should have going to heaven as a goal.   Not all seem to have this “goal” as many feel that serving God as God has put forth in His Word is too “restrictive”. Galatians 5:1 tells us that the Law of God in the N. T. age is not restrictive, but liberating.  Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.   Those who do not understand this would rather live the life they wish to live and then “hope” that God will be merciful to them in the end.  

    In short, they are not trying very hard to go to heaven. On the other hand, James 1:25 informs that those who understand and begin and continue to put forth the “effort” God requires can look forward to an eternal blessing.  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.  Those who are counting on leniency on the part of God after this life are going to be sadly disappointed.  They will then wish they had tried hard to obey God and remain faithful until death.    

     At that point, it will be too late.   The time for doing what God requires of us is in this life.   This was well known even in the O.T. times when Israel was the chosen people of God.  In Ecclesiastes 9:10, the preacher was directed by the Spirit to tell them this fact.  Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.  This same thing is still true today in the New Testament age as Paul wrote in 2Corinthians 6:2.  The Spirit had Paul tell these brethren that “now” was the time to put forth the effort to be saved.    (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

    Many also don’t realize that we have a part in our salvation. The Salvation that God has offered to man is not something God just “showers” upon us.  If that were the case all would be saved.  2Peter 3:9 informs us that it is the Will of God for people to be saved. God wants all to repent and come to Him.   The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.   But we are also told in Acts 10:34-35 when God had Peter preach the gospel to the Gentiles, the Spirit had Peter proclaim that God is not a respecter of persons, and also told who would be accepted of God.    Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.   “Worketh” sounds like “putting forth effort” to me. 

       We have to “work out our own salvation” as Philippians 2:12 told those folks in that day.  Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.   We are to have absolute respect for God and His Word (fear), and all should tremble at the thought that we might not do as God says, and then be rejected at that day.   For those who do not try hard, or try at all, there awaits eternal destruction.  This is plainly shown in 2Thessalonians 1:8-9.   In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ

Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

      How hard are you trying?   If you have not begun, you’re not trying at all. The power to become God’s child is yours according to John 1:12, and the way is given in verse 13 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.   The “birth” is explained by Jesus in John 3:5 as Jesus spoke with Nicodemus.   Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.   The kingdom is the church.   One must be “born” into it by obedience, which includes baptism for the remission of sins. 

     The time to start is now!  Then we must continue to put forth the effort to remain in a proper covenant relation with God.  As Paul wrote Timothy:  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life . . . (1Timothy 6:12)     Begin today! – Obey the gospel – then remain faithful to God and His Word till the end of your life.   If you love God and want to be with Him forever, you will try hard.        Your eternity depends upon it.  

            Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Who's In Control?

Who’s In Control?

     The question of “control” is one that is faced in all aspects and phases of life. This was learned as children (or should have been) as parents exhibited their God-given right to correct and guide their children and help them navigate the path through childhood, adolescence, and toward adulthood.    Most of us have also faced the question of “control” in the job situation. The “boss” always thinks he or she is in control.   The amount of “control” in all of these scenarios varies some as participants as well as situations vary.

     But there is one area of your life in which you have total control. That is in your mind. Whom or what you follow, and what you do, is completely up to you!     The fact is that you and I, and everyone will follow someone, or something. But there is a catch, as one can only follow one “master” at a time. In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:24, Jesus said: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

     You and I will serve one or the other. We can’t just wish or desire for things to happen and expect them to come to pass.   For instance: You want to go to Heaven after this life and the judgment, don’t you?   Of course, you do!   Who doesn’t?   But one cannot simply desire to go to heaven, or just “believe” they will go to Heaven and make it so.   God has a plan which must be followed for that to happen. God is in control of His plan. He will not deviate from that plan. His Son died on Calvary’s cross to make sure that plan would come to fruition. Then the Holy Spirit was sent as promised to deliver the Word of God so that all of humanity could make informed choices as to the eternal destination of their souls.

     The beauty of God’s plan is that you have full control of whether or not you believe God’s Word, whom you will serve, as well as what you do. The Spirit had the apostle Paul address this in Romans 6:16 as he wrote to the saints in Rome. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?  These folks had become brethren when they took control of the choice before them. As we read verses 17-18 we see these brethren not only had once served sin, but also what they did as they took control of their soul’s destiny. But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.  The “form of doctrine” which they obeyed was the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, in which one participates when they die to sin, are buried in baptism and rise to walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

      But, how is one to remain in control of themselves (of their minds) after they have become Christians?   This is an important question, as it is a fact that one can fall from grace as Galatians 5:4 points out.   Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.  But you don’t have to fall from grace. You have control of this as well. The Spirit had Paul write in 1Corinthians 9:27 that he was in control of his situation. We are told what Paul did and why he did it. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.  The Word of God is what guides us as we choose to control our minds and bodies.

     Life and eternity really come down to choices. Whether we realize it, or are aware of it, we are all in control of our choices. We certainly have control of the choice as to where we will spend eternity. We have to make these choices while in this life.   In Joshua 24:15 we see that the Lord had Joshua inform Israel that they had the control of their choices.   But notice what choice Joshua had already made. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.   

     As we again return to the title of this article: “who’s in control?”, know that you are!  From Romans 6:12-13 we can see that we have a choice and we are also in control of what we choose. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

   Obedience is also a choice, and you are in control of that choice.   If you choose not to obey, 2Thessalonians 1:8-9 tells what will be your eternal fate.   In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;   Win the battle for your mind! Take the control! Obey the gospel and then continue to faithfully serve God in accordance to His Word. That is God’s plan that saves.   This is His only plan.   It’s your choice. You have the control.      

         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Encourage Me!

Encourage Me

     As we read the Bible, or any other book in which the characters stand out for some reason, we no doubt remember people for certain characteristics. This should certainly be the case with Barnabas, a Christian from very early on in the history of God’s kingdom, the church.  Barnabas could possibly be remembered for a number of things as he is mentioned 29 times in 28 verses of the New Testament.  

   It was Barnabas, in Acts 9:26-28 who took Saul, who once persecuted the church, to the apostles following his conversion. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. 

     It was also Barnabas, in Acts 11:22-23, who was sent by the apostles to see what was being preached by men of Cyprus and Cyrene after the church was scattered following the stoning of Stephen, to make sure those doing the teaching were not false teachers. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the LordIt appears that even the apostles were aware of Barnabas’ fidelity.

     Barnabas realized how much opportunity was in Antioch, and we see in Acts 11:25-26 that Barnabas sought and found Saul and for a year they worked together diligently there with great results.   Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.  Then, when a great famine was foretold by the Spirit through Agabus, guess who it was that was chosen to take part in delivering the relief for the saints in Jerusalem?   That’s right, brother Barnabas! (Acts 11:30)

     Much more could be said about the accounts of the things in the life of Barnabas, but these will suffice, along with the first mention of his name in the Bible.   In Acts 4:36 we see that name “Barnabas” was given by the apostles as the name means “son of consolation”.   And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,.  Synonyms of “consolation” are: comfort; solace; relief; and support.     Another word, more familiar to us that fits here is: “encouragement”.

     Now to the point! How did Barnabas “encourage” so many people? Did he just say nice and flattering things to them? Did he just “build them up” with words? NO! His opening “action” was to give of his possessions to the work of the kingdom, and for the benefit of the church.   His further actions were finding another zealous, fellow-Christian and getting involved in the work of preaching and teaching the Word of God, (Acts 9:27) & (Acts 11:25). Then he remained involved in that work of the church in that location.   Later, he (and Paul) traveled about and “planted” churches in various cities.   Still later, he and Mark went to other places while Pail and Silas re-visited the congregations previously started and many folks heard the preaching and teaching of the gospel and many souls were saved.

     It was not just the words Barnabas spoke that showed he was one to encourage others. It was also the things which he did and the way in which he did them.   His unselfishness and willingness to “give of himself” for the cause of Christ was very encouraging. This also can be true of congregations

as 2Corinthians 8:3-5 tells us of the churches (congregations) of Macedonia.

For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.

     Oh, the encouragement to be had when fellow Christians not only have zeal, but strive to have that zeal according to knowledge of the Word of God.   Israel, in the days of Paul had zeal, yet without knowledge. They were not saved as a result per Romans 10:1-2. Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 

   Encourage me! Learn, Obey, and Follow God’s Word. Let’s all give ourselves wholly to the work God left for us to do.    Reach out with His Word. Encourage folks to be obedient. Let us help souls be saved and let us “build up” the church.        NOW, THAT’S ENCOURAGING!

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Double Vision?

                                                               Double Vision? 

         Many of us know the difficulty in dealing with vision issues.   We wear the required devices (accoutrements), also known as glasses or contacts, so that we might see as we should when our sight is altered by age, disease, or just the simple fact that we have eyes that don’t work as effectively as they once did.     We probably all as children, have crossed our eyes in order to see double.   This seems innocent enough because as soon as we allow our eyes to return to normal, our double vision dissipates.  This all is something that takes place with our physical being.    
      But, have we ever considered one can have “double vision” spiritually?  It is not something the Lord sanctions.   In the physical and spiritual realm, one must have light for vision to occur.   In Luke 11:33-36 Jesus spoke of both light and sight.  
No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. 34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. 35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. 36 If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.  The light of which Jesus spoke at this point was a candle.  The vision to which He referred was “single”.  He was contrasting the “single” eye with the “evil” eye.  He then pointed out that the “light” is necessary to keep the evil at bay.   The one who lacks the light – the proper kind of light – are the ones that suffer from “spiritual” double-vision.   Those who have 20/20 spiritual vision are those who keep the “light of the world” in them. 
      In John 8:12, Jesus said:  I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.  He was speaking to the Pharisees following the episode in which the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman supposedly caught in the act of adultery to test the Lord.  Then we also have the record of the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew.  Just following the Beatitudes, in Matthew 5:14-16 we find the Lord stating that His disciples were the “light of the world”.    Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 
     This is not double-talk as in both of these passages, Jesus is speaking of the same light and the same source of light.   As long as Jesus was on earth, He was (is) the light of the world.  When He finished what His Father sent Him to earth to do, His disciples were to be the light.   We know this is true because in Acts 13:47 Paul and Barnabas were “light” to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.   Then we see in the following verse what this “light” is. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 
      God is the source of light.  He sent His Son to earth to shine the light. The Lord sent the Spirit to deliver that light to the apostles to deliver to all men. In John 16:13 Jesus promised them the Comforter to “guide them into all truth”.   Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.     We also know from Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus commissioned the apostles to begin to preach the message of truth.    Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.  This was to continue with all the Lord’s disciples in the church. 
      If His Word is truth, and the truth is light, then His Word is light.  If we will walk in the light we shall have “single” vision.   Our focus will be on seeing as God would have us see.   This is the message of 1John 1:5-7. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 
        Get your “spiritual vision” checked today.   Walk in the light – Walk in His Word.   Obey His Word.   Don’t walk in the darkness of sin – Don’t suffer with spiritual double vision.   See things as God would have you see them. 
                                          Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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