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Too Different From the World?

Too Different From The World?

      As one goes out among the public these days, one cannot but notice the vast difference there is among people. Of course, we are all people.  But we may have different heights, weights, skin color, accents to our voice etc. but that is not what I am observing as I come in contact with humanity.   We are all, in part, a product of our environment in some way.    For instance, if we grew up in the North of France, we will not likely have the same accent as one who was reared in North Carolina.   Nor will we possibly dress the same as our culture has been different during our time on this planet. 

      These types of differences are of no concern as these will not determine the eternal abode of the soul that abides within that body, regardless of the place we grew up or the cultural influences in our lives.   Sure, we are all different, but we share much also.  That which we share is important.   This is what must be taught and “molded” and guided to a point in which we can become different from the world.   The difference that separates one from the world is the status of one’s soul, the internal being of a person. 

      Do we not think the Spirit had good reason to write the instructions in 2Corinthians 6:17 to the people of God in Corinth?   Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,  They had previously “come out” of the world, when they were baptized into Christ.   However, all Christians are to be careful to not “be conformed” to the world as the brethren in Rome were instructed in Romans 12:2.   And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.   This is what makes the faithful within the church different from the world.    It is what we put into our minds that makes us who we are.   That makes us different!  

       But, does this make us “too different” from the world?   One can most certainly be too much “like the world”.   All we need to do is to look into the history of God’s people of the O.T., Israel to see this to be the case.   When we read 1Samuel 8:4-7 we can see that God was being rejected in favor of the ways of the world.  Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.  But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over themCan we afford to be as Israel was?   Do we want to share their fate?    

     Of course, we must always strive to put the right things into our minds so we can remain separate from the world and will live according to the right standard.    In Jeremiah 10:23 the Spirit directed the pen of that prophet as he warned Israel to seek to follow the standard God set.  O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his stepsAll mankind, whether those that are Christians, or those of the world, seek a standard to follow.   If we make ourselves the standard, have we not then become “as the world” and not different from the world? 

       From 2Corinthians 10:12we see some N.T. inspired words that caution Christians about aligning themselves with the world or those in the church who do not remain true to God’s Word.  For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wiseTo do this is to follow our own standard and not the standard of God.   This is not wise at all.  This is perhaps the same concept as is being taught in the O.T. in Proverbs 23:7aabout one who is focused on the wrong things.  For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:   If we are focused on the world, the things of the world and being like the world, will not we be as the world and not at all different from them?  

     Perhaps this is why, from the mount, Jesus preached to HIs people and issued direction to His disciples as He prepared them for the soon to come kingdom.  In Matthew 6:33 we find: But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Jesus had just spoken of the things the Gentiles (the world) sought.  He did not want His disciples to be like the world, or to be concerned of the things of the world.    This is much like the teaching found in 1John 2:15-17 that should make us want to be very different from the world.   Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.    Do we want to be like the world and perish?   I’d rather be “too different” than be like the world!             

                                       Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Unshakable Faith

Unshakable Faith

     Much is said about faith in God’s Word. We understand this because Romans 10:17 teaches that faith is a product of the Word of God. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  We all need faith as we cannot be pleasing to God per Hebrews 11:6. Those Hebrews Christians were being reminded that they were to follow God’s N.T. Law. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.  But this is true in all ages. God directed man through “Words” in the Garden of Eden, the Patriarchal age, the O.T. times and even now.

    It is also evident today that some have faith that wavers, as some quit the church, are lax in attendance, fail to give as prospered, refuse to sing praises to God and many other things. This was also true of the Hebrews in the early church as the Spirit, in Hebrews 10:23, had the penman write: Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)  What was the Spirit saying?   He was stating that the kind of faith all Christians should possess is that which is unshakeable.  

     This type of faith, that which is based on, and taught within the Word of God is not new to the New Testament times.   Israel was God’s people in the Old Testament.   He had written them a Law – the O.T. Law of Moses, and had given it to them to guide them.   Their faith was to come from that Law.   In Deuteronomy 32:16 we see how some of Israel had abandoned that Law.   They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger.And, in vs 20 we see why. It was because they were not keeping God’s Word.   Their faith had faltered. And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. 

     If we allow ourselves to “waver”, whose fault is it?   Whose fault was it as the people of God of the O.T. wavered and became unfaithful to God.   It is solely our own fault.   The Spirit had James address the “twelve tribes” that were scattered abroad (the church) in James 1:5-7 about this very thing. He wrote:   If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.    Even when we ask God for something, the asking must be of faith. That means it must be in accordance with the Word of God.  

     We know from passages such as Romans 10:8 that the Word of God is the source of faith as it is what is preached.   But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;    We also know from Romans 1:8 that the Christians there were well known for their faith.   Would this be the case if their faith was one that wavered when tried? First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.  There are others faithful as well, but many needed the admonition to be faithful, in the early church an many need it today.

   Another way of saying “be unshakable” is to say “stand fast”. This type of admonition can be found in 1Corinthians 16:13 - Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Also – Galatians 5:1 - Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. And there are others. Those with a shakable faith are those who become entangled again.  There is no reason our faith should be shaken, or waver. Remember that God’s Word is secure and cannot be shaken, and those on that foundation needn’t waver either. This is what 2Timothy 2:19 tell us and how we will strive to live our lives if we are “in Christ”. Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. The only way to remain “unshaken” in faith is to follow the inspired advice from the pen of Paul in the second letter to those in Thessalonica. This is sound counsel still.   Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

     This “Word” – the epistles – are the covenant of God to those who will be led by it. It is based in His Son and it is everlasting as God is everlasting. This was foretold by David and fulfilled in Christ, just as God said it would be.   It is a promise from God and He is faithful in all His promises. We read this in Psalm 89:27-28  Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. 28 My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.  If we remain “unshaken” and faithful, life (spiritual life) is ours. This we are told in 1Thessalonians 3:8  For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. Read His Word – Do His Word – Obey the gospel and stand fast.   Have “unshakable” faith!

                                  Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

That Your Joy May Be Full

That Your Joy May Be Full

    During this, the “holiday” season, many are seeking joy.  We began this in the recent Thanksgiving holiday while many of us sought “joy” as we gathered around our respective tables with family and friends to “feast” on the traditional delicacies till we’ve had “more than enough”.  Then we move on to the “gift season” and expect to have a “joyous time” in the giving and receiving of gifts.   Still, after the “festivities” have all passed, the presents exchanged, some gifts returned, and all has been restored to “normal”, the “joy” of the holidays dissipates.

      Should we not have joy throughout the year?   What is it that might be in the way of us having true joy?    I am not speaking of the fleeting happiness that comes our way in the form of new gadgets, family events or even the “brief excitement” of holidays and such.     In 1Jno 1:3-4 the Spirit had John write about this “true joy”; the source of true joy; and the fact that our joy can be complete “in Him” who died for us.   That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

      But what of those who cannot seem to have the joy that comes from being a child of God?    What is it that prevents them from experiencing and continuing in that true happiness that ultimately leads to eternity with God?      Is there some barrier, perhaps even self-imposed, that limits their own happiness?    It cannot be God’s fault, as He has done His part.   We read in 2Peter 1:3-4 that God has indeed provided all we need for this life, including instructions how that we, if we do our part, can prepare to be with Him, and be happy in the doing of it.   According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 

     Therefore, the issue with some folk’s lack of “joy” lies within themselves. The Hebrews brethren were warned in Hebrews 12:1 that they needed to “lay aside” all that gets in their way so that they might be able to reach forward to that “final joy” that awaited them.  It awaits us too.    Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,   When God forgives us, we must also forgive ourselves.  Perhaps that is the “weight” that limits our joy. My Father-in-Law wrote the poem below many years ago.  I think it contains sage advice.   There is true joy in forgiveness.  

You Must Forgive Yourself, First

(1)

Has the Lord forgiven you of every sin?

Do you fell clean and new inside;

Is there now a “new life” that is growing within;

In your heart, are you satisfied?

(2)

Now, you’re not the one to say that you’re free,

God has given His plan from above.

To obey this plan, from the heart, you see,

Brings pardon through His wondrous love.

(3)

Are You blaming yourself for something you’ve done?

This may not be “classified” as a sin.

That does not concern you, and no other one. 

Is this why you’re unable to win?

(4)

If it’s not a “blame” maybe it’s a doubt,

That “poses” a question, back there.

What ever it is, you must bring it all out,

Do it now, and “clear” the air.

(5)

Forgetting the things that are now behind,

And pressing on to what is before,

At the “end of the trail” you’ll surely find,

The “prize” on that far away shore.

(6)

Forgive yourself first, brush it from your mind.

Don’t “wrestle” with a “shadow” or ghost,

Rejoice, be happy, you’ll live longer, you’ll find,

A “new creature” to the uttermost.

                                                 O. D. Wilson – deceased

     May your joy be full, not just during this holiday season, but throughout the year.   It will be if you will obey God & do His Will.  Then God will forgive you. Will you forgive yourself?   Find your joy; let your joy be full. 

                        Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Are We Thankful Enough?

Are We Thankful Enough?

      We are about to enter into the “Thanksgiving” holiday season.  Many are thinking about travel, food, spending time with family and such.  Often while gathered, some families discuss their good fortune for the year and some will even “count their blessings” during this festive season.   But what about the rest of the year?   What about Christians?  Are we thankful enough?

     The Christians in Rome were warned about the wrath of God toward those who were not thankful.   In Romans 1:18-22 we read that being “unthankful” causes all sorts of problems.  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

        On the other hand, in Colossians 3:12-15 the brethren there were told how they as Christians were to be toward one another as well as how the peace of God would benefit them as they were thankful.   Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 

      The Spirit had Paul write to Timothy in 2Timothy 3:1-5 about some bad times that were to come, and these “perilous times” were identified in part by the fact that some would be unthankful.   There is also the stern warning to avoid such people.   This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholyWithout natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

     As we ask ourselves if we are thankful enough, shouldn’t we be reminded what Colossians 3:17 teaches us?   And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.  Then as we read Ephesians 5:20-21 we can see how frequently we are to be thankful.  Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.  If we are not always thankful, we are not thankful enough.  

     But how are we to show our gratitude to God?   Hebrews 13:15 tells us one way to do so is to verbally express it to Him.   By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.   The brethren in Colossae were told this in a more direct manner in Colossians 4:2.  Can’t prayer be a verbal expression toward God as we thank Him and praise His name?   Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;   How about when we gather as a body of believers and sing?   As we sing praises to God, are we not showing how thankful we are to God?   Hebrews 2:12 says when we gather with the church, we are to praise Him.    Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

     Of course, there are so many things for which Christians can and should be thankful that space in this article will not permit the listing of them.   This information alone should make all Christians aware that we are without excuse if we fail to be thankful.   2Corinthians 4:15 is one place where this is divinely summed up.   For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.   We should be grateful for all the wonderful works of God.   All these works are for the benefit of those that love, and obey the Lord.  

    The greatest “work” God did was send His Son to die on Calvary’s cross to shed His blood so we could have “abundant life” as Jesus Himself stated in John 10:10bI am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.   We also know He gave us the “power to become the sons of God” per John 1:12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:   For that, all should be thankful.  

    What is hard to understand is why so many are not “thankful enough” to be obedient to God and His Word and access that “power” to become the sons of God.  This was His plan from the start.   Are you Thankful enough?

                                Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Becoming Changed

Becoming Changed

       As we contemplate the idea of “change” perhaps we need to be reminded that from our very conception we have been changing.   What started out as a sperm cell united with an egg has “transformed” through the process God initiated which culminates in the process called birth.   Following this, if we receive the proper nutrition and sustenance for life, change continues.  

    This is readily apparent, especially for those who have known each other over the years, as the physical change due to growth, age, weight gain, loss of hair etc. is evident during the time we have together here on earth.  Cells continue to function and divide; some slower or faster than others and as various stimuli is applied to these cells, the speed of change is affected.  All of this is physical, and there is only so much we can do to slow down, speed up or alter these changes.  In other words, we didn’t, or don’t have absolute control or choice in this situation.

    However, there is another kind of change that can occur.  It is one that is of utmost importance.  It is also one in which we have full control over and in which we can make choice to participate or not.   That is the “spiritualchange that all need to have occur before they can have true hope.   God does not initiate that change, but has provided the means for it if one will but seek it.   This is evidenced in Joshua 24:14-15 when Israel was given the choice to change.   Notice that their change was fully dependent upon their choice.  Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. 15 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.   This shows that Joshua had already been changed, as he had made his choice.  

      But how does this apply to us today, in this age?   Well, let’s compare the physical and the Spiritual a bit.  Perhaps then we might understand better.  In birth (physically) we had not choice.   Yet from a spiritual standpoint we have full choice.   In John 3:5-7 Jesus told Nicodemus of a choice that brings about a change in all who participate.  Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 

      Then, after we have become changed by the blood of Christ in baptism and have become Christians, we still have choices to make.  In Romans 12:2, written to Christians, is the warning to continue to properly choose so as to affect the proper change.    And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.To not conform to the world is a choice.   So is renewing the mind.   Our minds only respond to what we allow to be put into them.    In fact, in 1John 2:15-17 we (Christians) are commanded to maintain the “change” that occurred within each of us when we were baptized into Christ.    Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

    Those who have not obeyed the gospel may very well have undergone some change, as all undergo physical change throughout their lives.  But one who has not been obedient to God and His Word have not participated in a “spiritual change”.    They may have made some efforts toward becoming a better person, or even done some of the things required in obeying, but if they have not done all, they have not been changed.   For instance, we read in Romans 10:10 that confession is “unto” salvation.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  If one has: heard, believed, repented, and confessed, they have not been changed.   It is not until one is baptized “into” Christ that the change occurs spiritually as Galatians 3:27 directs our minds.   For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 

     Another passage, 2Corinthians 5:17, shows the impact of this spiritual change which takes place when one is “born again”.  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  Then in the 18th verse we read it is “through Christ” that we are reconciled to God.    And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;   Doesn’t it make sense that one must be “in Christ” to be reconciled (restored) to God? 

    Jesus paid the price so we could be restored to God after we have allowed ourselves to be separated from God because of sin.   Don’t go “unchanged” into eternity.   To do so means you always will be separated from God.   Seek His Word for the change you need to make, and make it before it is too late.                                            Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Worth Fighting For?

Worth Fighting For?

    We all have much that is dear to us.  There are so many who spend their time focused on the material things of life and what it takes to attain these.  Many are fiercely devoted to things such as jobs, or financial or social status, but few, if any of these things are lasting and therefore, not worth fighting for.    2Peter 3:10 informs us that the things of this world are going to end when the world ends and cannot be carried into eternity.   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. 
     
However, there is something we all have that will exist beyond the time of this earth and all that God has created.  That is our soul. The soul of man is worth fighting for.  Jesus knew that many would not fight for their souls, and some would even trade their souls rather than follow Him.   As Jesus spoke to His disciples in Matthew 16:26 He pointed this out.   He said: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

     When something is worth fighting for, it is worth giving one’s all; 100% of one’s effort to keep it safe and protect it.   Perhaps this is why God gave us all the commandments that are designed to help us fight for our souls.    In Matthew 22:37 when asked what the great commandment was, Jesus reply was:  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.   This sounds like one putting all they have into serving God and doing His Will for their own benefit.   We also may need to be reminded that what God has commanded us to do is not too hard, and if we truly love Him, we will do all of them.   The Spirit had the apostle John write this to the church in 1John 5:3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

       We must also remain aware that we each must always continue to fight as there are many things which could possibly cost one their soul.  This is the warning of 2Corinthians 2:11 the Spirit had Paul give the church in Corinth.  Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.  One such device is temptations.  As we all face these, we should be reminded that we are not alone in temptation.   These same brethren had been told this in 1Corinthians 10:13-14, the first letter the Spirit had Paul write to them.  And, they were also told what they could accomplish with this assistance from God.    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.14 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.   Idolatry is a sin.   Sin is transgression of God’s Law.  Any sin not repented of will cost one their soul. 

      Because the soul is worth fighting for, the Spirit had Peter warn the church in 1Peter 2:11 so all the members would continue to fight to keep their souls pure.  Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;    One of the best ways to abstain from “fleshly lusts” is to take the inspired advice delivered to young Timothy in 2Timothy 2:3-5.    Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.   If we are going to fight for our souls and expect to be victorious, we must fight in accordance to the Law of God. 

     To be knowledgeable in the Law of God is to be prepared or armed for the battles which we must fight to protect our souls.   This is perhaps why the Spirit had Peter in 2Peter 3:18, close out his final letter with the admonition to know all God’s Word we can.   But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever.   We can be fully prepared to fight for our souls.   It is this knowledge that God has given us which enables us to fight for our souls.  2Peter 1:3-4 shows that God has provided us with all we need to fight.  These verses also tell us of the great and precious promises God has for those willing to fight for their souls. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 

     Is your soul worth fighting for?    The most precious thing God created was a soul in man.   It means so much to Him, Romans 5:8 tells us He sent His Son to die on the cross of Calvary to purchase the church.    But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.   He’s done His part – Are you ready to do yours?    Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life (1Timothy 6:12).  Obey the gospel today and never give up.   Your soul is worth fighting for. 

      Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Let Me Check My Schedule

Let Me Check My Schedule

   How many times have we uttered the words which make up the title of this week’s article?  Are there not things which “compete” for the time that is allowed each day of a given week?   How often are we forced to quickly prioritize because of the demands for our attention? How often is God and His Word relegated to a lesser position than are some other things in life?     These are good questions, and should be asked lest we begin to falter in our commitment to God. Do we forget that when we obeyed the gospel, we made a promise to God that we would always love, honor, serve, and obey Him? Is this not much like the “vow” one makes when entering into a marriage?  I suppose the Bible is where these marriage vows originated.  The church is the bride of Christ. Do we ever have to “check our schedule” to see if we have the time to love, honor or obey our earthly spouses?  

     One’s allotment of time toward something is in direct correlation to the amount of commitment one has for that thing. This was seen even before the start of the church.   In the Luke 14:18 parable the Lord told of those bidden to the great supper, we are told “And they all with one consent began to make excuse.” All their schedules were full with other things.

   We then see in the early part of the church the apostles saw the need to continue in the Word, in Acts 6:1-2 rather than “waiting tables” for the widows. And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.  2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.  Then in vs 4 of the same chapter, the Spirit had the apostles state their commitment.   But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the wordThese apostles were hand-picked by the Lord to receive the “keys of the kingdom”.  They were serious about the commitment they made to God and used their time making sure all who were willing to listen, heard the glorious gospel message of the Christ and how His precious blood could be contacted, so souls could be saved.    

     In addition to this great work, the apostles were also passing on the Word to the church so the church would remain faithful to God in accordance to His Word. Much time was and is needed to fulfill that commitment.   The ministry of the Word in the previous verse was actually the carrying out of the Great Commission which Jesus spoke to them in Matthew 28:18-20. Nowhere can I read that this Commission is limited by our “lack of time” or “schedules”.   And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, 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 they were doing, and putting forth their full efforts in so doing.   They were: 1) teaching folks, 2) Baptizing them into Christ, and 3) teaching those that have been baptized.  This is an endeavor, even today, that will indeed take up much time and with which we should fill our schedules.

     The Bible also provides us examples of those whose schedules were full because they involved themselves in less than worthwhile pursuits.  One such example is found in Acts 17:21-23, and we know the Spirit had Paul give them a very new thing about which to talk.   (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) 22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.    Paul didn’t have to “consult his schedule” to see if he had the time.   There were lost souls at stake!

     Another example involves Christians, albeit those who had “cast off their first faith” in 1Timothy 5:13. The pursuits in which they “wasted their time” were not worthwhile nor profitable.   And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.  When these types of activities make up our lives, we become “too busy” to serve the Lord. If or when an activity prohibits or hinders our service to God, or if it cannot be moved way down in priority, it needs to be abandoned.  

     This is perhaps why, in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:33, Christ admonished His listeners to prioritize properly.  Remember, the kingdom had yet to appear, but it soon would come. And these folks needed to adjust their “schedules” to make this first in their lives. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.   The “all these things” here were the necessities of life. The Lord has long provided them to those that follow Him. Again, in all the “versions” that I have read, nothing is said here about: “if you have time”, or “if this fits your schedule”.   What’s your schedule?   Try this on – Hear the Word and obey it. To do so is to become a Christian – Then serve God first in all areas of life while learning, growing, and showing others the way.   In short – use your time to prepare for eternity, for after you die, time and schedules mean nothing.  

                                                                  Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

One Is Not The Loneliest Number

One Is Not The Loneliest Number

  

    The band Three Dog Night recorded this Harry Nilsson song entitled “One” in 1967 and it was released in 1968.   You may remember this song better by some of its well-known lyrics.   They are: One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.  Two can be as bad as one.  It’s the loneliest number since the number one.   This is the first verse.   Nilsson wrote this song after calling someone and getting a busy signal.

     Of course, this song was written about the sentiment of being alone.  As this is being contemplated, let us be reminded that the Bible informs that “one” is not always singular, nor does in indicate being alone.   The meaning is determined by the way in which the phrase is used.  For instance, when used to show unity “one” can mean a multiplicity of beings.   1John 5:7 is an excellent Bible example of this.  For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one This shows that each in the Godhead are in full agreement in all things.    As they are three, yet are one, they are not alone.

    Christian laborers also are to be one.  In 1Corinthians 3:6-9 we see where the Spirit had Paul write about the unity that is to exist among the laborers in the kingdom.   I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.   All Christians are to be doing God’s Work with whatever ability they have.   Some are able to plant, while others come afterward and water.   Both are to be “one” in the labor that brings lost souls to Christ. This is also explained in 1Corinthians 12:12-14 where we read that while we are individuals as members, those who are “in Christ” are one body.   We can see in this sense “one” is not a lonely number.  For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many.  This is then explained in vss 15 -19 as we read that while each of us have various parts; all these parts make up one body.  This concluded in vs 20 with: “But now are they many members, yet but one body.”  

     Contrary to a popular religious belief, man-made churches are not a part of that one body.  In John 15:5-6 Jesus speak of the vine and branches.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  Many in the denominational world teach that the branches are the multiplicity of churches that has sprung up over the past 2,000 years.    The branches are the members of the “one body” just as the various parts of our bodies make up our one body.    

    There are a number of passages that show how it can be determined if one is of that “one body”.   In Acts 4:32 during the early days of the church, we see how these that were of the one body could be identified.  And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.   When we read they were of one heart, we understand this to mean they believed the same thing.  This shows the “oneness” of the group.   Not a lonely situation at all.     This is further supported by Romans 15:5-6 where we read that we are to be of “one mind”.  This means thinking (believing and following) the same things.   Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.   If we are a part of that “one body” we will not be lonely either but will glorify God with the other members of the one body.    

      We have already pointed out how one becomes a part of that one body. In 1Corinthians 12:13 (above) we see one is to “be baptized” into Christ.  In Galatians 3:26-28 this is confirmed as well as the fact that one becomes a child of God (part of God’s family) when baptized into Christ, and become a part of that one body, which is the church.   That is the only way to become a part of that “one body”.   For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.   Those who are a part of the body are not alone, nor are we lonely.  

     In the end, only those who are a part of that one body and are faithful to the Lord and His Word will hear those most welcoming words: Well done, thou good and faithful servant.   What is keeping you from obeying the gospel and becoming a part of that “one body”?    Not doing so will cause you to be eternally separated from God.   Now, that’s lonely!

                           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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

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