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Let's Spread Some Joy

Let’s Spread Some Joy

   This is the time of year when many people tend to think about joy.   Some do so because they have some sort of joy and others don’t think they do, but wish they did.   If asked what was the source of their joy, or lack thereof, the answers folks would give are many and varied.

The reason why some think that this time of year is “the time” to think about joy is many years ago, someone decided to take a prophesied event and make it more meaningful than any other event.    These that did so had begun to dominate religion and so the holiday known as “Christmas” came to be. That event to which they placed so much importance is the first advent of Christ.

     But, if you will “Examine the Scriptures” you will find that there is no specific date ascribed to the birth of Christ. Neither is there instruction given to celebrate His birth.  Folks have been improperly taught through the years that “Christmas” is the celebration of the birth of Christ and most accept it without question. The word Christmas is a shortened version of the Words: “Christ Mass” which should give us a clue as to who started this celebration.

     However, the “Joy” associated with the “holiday” (holy day) was from the biblical account of this event found in Matthew chapter 2.   We are told here that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king. If we read vs 3 we see that Herod did not have joy when he heard about it.   When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.   

   The record also tells us there was a star. Wise men from the east followed the star as it went before them and when the star stood over the place where the child was, the wise men rejoiced. Matthew 2:10 tells us how they rejoiced. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joyBut what happens when the “annual” celebration is over and the seasonal time has passed?   From whence does one’s joy come then?  

    Jesus, following His birth, grew and matured and began His earthly ministry. In so doing He called men to follow Him and chose 12 to be His apostles.   As He was telling them of His pending departure and the sending of the Comforter, He also instructed them in John 15:10-11 how to have continual joy. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full

   Then as we continue into the time shortly after the church was established, we find Philip in Acts chapter 8, preaching Christ to the occupants of Samaria.   We are told of their attentiveness and vs 8 tells us: “And there was great joy in that city.”     Then we see in vs 12 the reason why they had such joy.   But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  This is also the concept taught in Romans 15:13 so that we might know that we are to have joy as a result of hearing and following the Word, which was delivered to man by the Holy Ghost.   Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost

   We see that the Thessalonian brethren were recipients of this hope and their fidelity at the time of the writing of the letter was a source of joy to the apostle Paul. The Holy Spirit had him write of it as we find it in 1Thessalonians 2:19-20. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? 20 For ye are our glory and joy.   

     We are then told in 1John 1:3-4 that the preaching of Christ and the things the Spirit caused to be written regarding the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ were so that joy could be realized and be full. 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.     From these scriptures we are to know that knowing and following the Word of God is that which should give us the greatest joy.

   During this season, as well as throughout the year, as we offer folks well wishes, perhaps our focus should be on spreading joy – the greatest joy – the joy that comes from walking in truth.   This is the desire of godly parents for their children and is not to be limited to any particular season or holiday. This was the direction given Deuteronomy 6:7.     And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 

   The Holy Spirit had the apostle John write of this in 3John 1:3-4, his third general epistle. For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truthOf course, these folks were not his biological children, but he had begotten them through the gospel. Let’s spread some joy throughout the year as we teach the truth to any and all who will listen.   But before we do, we must study and fill ourselves with the Holy Ghost (the Word) as did those of Acts 13:52. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.                                                                                                                                       Dennis S – Mooresville

How's Your Focus?

How’s your focus?

   Many thousands of dollars per year are spent in this country as we go to the eye doctors to have our vision checked, our glasses updated and to ensure that when we look at something we have the ability to focus properly.   Sometimes our children are moved to the front of the class to assist them in being able to better see the blackboard or to focus on the teacher so they can keep up with the class and continue to learn.   If this is not enough, then they too get to visit the optometrist.  

  As we continue into adulthood we still sometimes need help to see clearly. But, if we are a bit vain or just don’t like the discomfort of glasses, we perhaps invest in contact lenses. Some even go to the point of seeking laser surgery and all of this is so that we can retain the focus with our eyes.  

  But, do we ever think of our spiritual focus?   Jesus, in Luke 11:34-35 spoke of the need for “spiritual focus”.   He said: 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.    What He was saying here is that we are to be careful regarding that upon which we focus. This is evident in vs 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. 

   We read in John 8:12 that Jesus told the people of His day, that they needed to focus on Him and fill themselves with the light that He offered so that their spiritual focus would be correct.  Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.  Those who follow the Lord in the New Testament age are those who walk in the light.  

   When Saul (Paul) was approached on the road to Damascus he was told by the Lord what was wanted of him.   The Lord appeared to Saul to give him the opportunity to be a minister of the Lord to the Gentiles.   His mission is spelled out in Acts 26:18.  He was to go to them and preach: To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.  In short, he was to direct their focus upon the Savior so they would be properly informed and have the opportunity to obey the gospel.  

   Once one has obeyed the gospel, their focus is to remain on Christ.    The Spirit had John tell the church this in 1John 1:7. 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.     Stay focused.

                                                                             Dennis S. - Mooresville

The Benefit of Real Bible Study

The Benefit of Real Bible Study

 As we begin our “schooling” experience, our teachers are those who try to expose us to information and teach us to properly use that information to our benefit. They call it teaching. We call it learning.    But, the cycle is not complete unless we apply ourselves to the information provided.   This is called “study”.   As we continue our education we better understand this and it seems that the ones who benefit most are those who: 1) learned how to study, 2) developed the love of study.     These are the ones who end up with the best grades and seem to be better equipped to succeed and to come out on top.     Those who “come out on top” in this world are those who succeed in business and are called successful by our society.

   We tend to understand this as adults and try to impress this on our children, but often only in areas of secular studies.   Why can we not see that this has application to the Word of God as well?  The idea of study is defined as: “the act of making an effort to learn by reading, practicing, or memorizing. Or, “a careful investigation or examination of something”. Can we not see that a careful examination and investigation of God’s Word can and will provide us great benefits?   Why then do many not really study it?  

    Many see study of any kind as a bit of a burden, and if a person is not interested in something, they are not likely to put their full effort into it.   The Holy Spirit had Solomon point this out in Ecclesiastes 12:11-14 as well as the conclusion of the matter, and the reason every effort should be put into the study of God’s Word.   The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. 12  And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. 13  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14  For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. 

     The first part of this is that much study can produce “a weariness of the flesh” at times.   But even things that are not the most exciting, when properly understood after putting forth the effort through study, become so important to us.   Then, when we “understand” we see the conclusion.   In this case, it the conclusion of the “whole matter”.   The immediate benefit of Bible study is a deep and abiding respect for God and the desire to keep His Commandments.   However, one cannot know or follow God’s Commandments unless one knows them.   And one cannot know God’s Commandments unless they study and learn them.   One also cannot be approved unto God unless he/she does the things that are directed in His Word.  

   One of the most familiar scriptures relative to this is found in 2Timothy 2:15 in which the Spirit had Paul direct Timothy: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.         Of course, when one studies the Word, they cannot be “approved unto God” unless they “rightly divide” or handle that Word aright.  

       To improperly divide the Word brings us to false conclusions and renders us unacceptable to Him.   It is so important to read, study, and conclude properly as we will be judged by that very Word. Solomon was directed to write of this as we read above in Ecclesiastes 12:14.  This is also something that Jesus said while He was on earth before He died to procure the means of salvation for a lost humanity.   He said in John 12:48: He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day

   Doesn’t it seem it would be beneficial to engage in the study of God’s Word so we can do what it says to do?    How can we possibly truly believe in Christ unless we read and study God’s Word?  Jesus brought this to our attention in John 8:24. He said: I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.  He then gave us Words in John 8:32 that are very beneficial. He said: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.    The question is: “Do you want to be free?” You can be free from sin, but it takes more than believing.   One will need to read and study the Bible, then do what it directs to gain the ultimate benefit.   The ultimate benefit of Bible study if applied, is eternal life.  

     Do what it takes and you can come out on top where it really matters.   Study the Bible daily – Rightly divide it – Then follow it. You will truly benefit.

                                                                               Dennis S - Mooresville

 

Who Is A Mighty Man?

Who Is A Mighty Man ?

     Back in the early to mid-nineteen eighty’s our young son Paul, would charge across the living room; the sleeves of his tee shirt pulled up to expose his biceps; stop, thrust his little fist skyward and proclaim loudly:    “I HAVE THE POWER!”     Those of us who (had small children then) remember the Master of the Universe books and T.V. show and recognize this clarion call as one belonging to He-Man, alter ego of Prince Adam, the defender of right in the kingdom of Eternia.  

   Who doesn’t look up to one who is mighty, one who exudes strength and power? And, everyone wants a “hero” in their lives. Unfortunately, many today look in the wrong places and to the wrong types of individuals for examples of mighty men. The very young, while in their innocence, sometime look to cartoon hero characters as “mighty men” to look up to and imitate.   However, as we grow up and enter the world of reality we must be properly instructed so as to choose the correct role models and those whose lives we seek to emulate.

   The problems arise when we ascribe might and power to the wrong things. If asked who were the most mighty men of the Bible, most folks would readily identify Samson as they recall his mighty strength.   Little do folks realize that the words “mighty” or “might” are not ascribed to Samson until near the end of Samson’s life when he as a prisoner asked God for his strength once more so he could be avenged for his eyes. (Judges 16:28) And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.        But how many remember why his great strength was no longer?   Most will say it was because his seven locks had been shaved off.   This is only part of the equation which is revealed in Judges 16:19   And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.   Then, as we read the next verse (20) we find that he was no longer mighty when “the Lord was departed from him”. And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him.   

   One must go back to Samson’s beginning to see the root of the reason that he lost his great strength. In Judges 13:5 we find the commandments of the Lord regarding the son promised to Manoah and his wife. For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.   When the commandment of the Lord was broken, even the mighty Samson became ordinary.

   How then is one to be mighty for the Lord?   We have some excellent Bible examples of this as well.      The Spirit, in 1Corinthians 11:1 had the great apostle Paul, write to the brethren there: Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.   This is because Paul knew where his strength originated. He was also instructed to write of this in 2Corinthians 12:10 after asking that his thorn in the flesh be removed.   Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 

   The apostle Paul was truly a mighty man. But it was to the Galatians that the Spirit had Paul reveal the source of his strength in Galatians 2:8.   (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)   Paul was also told by the Spirit to reveal to Timothy in 2Timothy 4:6-8 the benefit of using the “might” which comes from following the scriptures to the fullest.  For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing

   Do you want to be a “mighty man”?   You can start by following God’s Law in the New Testament and become His child by hearing, believing, repenting, confessing Christ, and by being baptized into Christ. Then you can have access to real strength. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Philippians 4:13.  

                                                                           Dennis S - Mooresville

 

The Bible Friend

The Bible Friend

   There are a number of Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible for the word “friend”. Most of these carry the meaning of “an associate”. In the Old Testament, one Hebrew word translated “friend” can be used to indicate a brother, companion, fellow, husband, lover, neighbor, or other. All through the first part of the Bible we see the word used in this way.     But, when we get to Psalm 18:24 we find a different word employed. The passage reads ” A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” The Word for friend in this passage indicates one who has affection for, or loves another.  

   The next time we see this particular reference used is Proverbs 27:6 and the context indeed shows that the one referenced is one that truly loves. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.   This is a way to say that only a “true friend” will tell you what you need to hear.   Truly, only one who loves you will tell you (as a friend) words you really need to hear, even if they hurt badly, no matter how carefully delivered.   These types of instructions are for our own good.

   Can we not see the application in Isaiah 41:8 when the reference to a friend is to the father of the nation chosen by God to bring Christ to humanity.   But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.   Abraham loved God and believed God – which means that he did that which God asked of him.   This has to be the meaning of the “Bible friend”.     This cannot be denied as there are many references in God’s Word that testify to this.     One such passage is Genesis 26:5 where the promise was repeated to Jacob that had been made to Abraham and also passed on to Isaac, the father of Jacob.   Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. This was definitely holding Abraham up as an example for Jacob to follow.  

   As we go to the New Testament we see a completely different word for friend. One reason for this is because the New Testament was written in Greek and not in Hebrew. However, the same concept is presented in this new (different) language.   As we read this we may also remember that in James 2:23 we find Abraham identified as one that truly loved God and was loved of God.   And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.    We need not go back and read all the accounts proving Abraham loved of God as he did all God commanded.   This is not to say that Abraham did not make any mistakes or that he did not sin. Galatians 3:22 assures of this.   But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.   But we have also seen that those that “believe” will do what the Lord says to do.

   In the account of Jesus ministry given to the beloved John we read in John 14:15 how we show our love for Christ.    He said to His apostles: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”   Would we not be considered friends of those we love?   We might, but Jesus is a friend to everyone; even those who would do Him harm.   In Matthew 26:50 we find Jesus calling Judas a “friend” even though Judas had come to betray our Lord and turn Him over to those that would take His life. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.   This was necessary so Jesus could fulfill the Will of His Father.  

   Part of that Will was that Jesus be a friend to man. Jesus is indeed a friend to all in that He willingly gave Himself on Calvary’s cross so that mankind could have life and have it more abundantly.   When Jesus was here on earth He was accused of being friends with sinners.   Matthew 11:19 is one place this occurred. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.   But we see in Luke 19:10 that Jesus Himself pointed out that it was the lost (sinners) that He came to save.   For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

     Many in the world sing the song “What a friend we have in Jesus” when in fact they have not accepted His friendship or the benefit of that friendship. They want to retain their friendship with the world and still claim friendship with Christ.   The Bible teaches in James 4:4 that this is not possible. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

   Now, do you want a “Bible friend” or a “friend of the world”?   That is a choice you have to make.   Make the right choice and become a friend of God today by being obedient to His Word, the gospel.

                                                                                          Dennis S – Mooresville

 

Gossip

Gossip

    Often when a preacher preaches on gossip some folks comment that he has stopped preaching and gone to “meddling”. Teaching and preaching the truth is not meddling.   It is likely the ones who participate in this dangerous and sinful practice are those who make such accusations. These accusations indicate that this a real issue among humans, and unfortunately also sometimes exists in the church.

   The Spirit had James deal with sins of the tongue in James 3:10; specifically the sin of using the tongue to curse. “out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” The same phrase at the end of the verse applies to gossip. “these things ought not so to be.”

   There was a comedy T.V. show named “Hee-Haw” that aired from 1969-1971, then ran in syndication for 21 years that treated gossip in a humorous manner. This was done to make a point as to how ridiculous gossip is. The song lyrics are:

"Now, we're not ones to go 'round spreadin' rumors,

Why, really we're just not the gossipy kind,

No, you'll never hear one of us repeating gossip,

So you'd better be sure and listen close the first time!"

   The lyrics of this little “ditty” put forth the idea that to tell something “one time” is not gossip.  But, the accepted definition of “gossip” is:  A rumor or report of an intimate nature.  Nothing is said in this definition about the number of times said rumor or report is repeated.   Also, nothing is said in the definition about the often irreparable damage that is done by gossip and the gossiper.  

   While the King James Bible does not use the word “gossip”, it certainly teaches against it.   Space in this article will not allow the listing of all the passages that speak against this most harmful activity.            

    In Psalm 6:19 we find that the next to last in the list of the seven things that are an abomination to the Lord is “a false witness that speaketh lies”.   This seems a lot like gossip.   We will list a couple more verses, one from the Old Testament and one from the New.   Perhaps these should be remembered when information comes to us and we are tempted to pass it on.   We should consider these passages to see if we are living according to them when such information comes our way.   One of the most relevant passages for this situation is found in Ephesians 4:29.  Ask yourself; does the information delivered to you edify if passed on?  Would it minister grace to the hearers? If not it is corrupt communication.   Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.    In Psalm 34:13 we find a stern warning about using the tongue and lips to express that which is evil.   It reads: Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.    This should be enough to convince us that God never has condoned gossip or any other sin of the tongue.

   The Spirit had Paul, in Romans 6:13 put it this way to show we are to have total control of all of our members. 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.  If we gossip or slander we “yield” our member called the tongue as an instrument of unrighteousness and are therefore sinning.

    Below are words written by my Father-In-Law, O.D. Wilson, that may help us to see that there can be good in us all and it is totally in our power to control our tongues as well .

Bridle the Tongue

                                                          

Love Will help you see, if there’s good in me,

I’m not perfect brother, what of you?

What you need to see, Is dark Calvary,

God’s Sweet Love will always see you through.

Bridle up the tongue, do so while you’re young,

Fire is dangerous out of control.

James has put it well, “Set on fire of Hell”.

God’s Sweet Love will always see you through.

One may judge the tree, by its fruit you see,

But don’t let your motive be condemn,

When a brother falls, listen for his call.

God’s Sweet Love will always see you through.

Love Will help you,

over your members gain control,

Don’t wait, too late,

Put the bridle on and save your soul.

                                                                                        (Dennis S. – Mooresville)

Strangers and Pilgrims

STRANGERS AND PILGRIMS

   As one reads the list of the “faithful” named in Hebrews chapter 11, it is easy to see they knew they were headed somewhere.   This is perhaps why the Spirit had the penman write what we see in vs 13. “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.”       Upon reading the 16th verse it is apparent that these “strangers and pilgrims” were indeed on a journey and were striving to get to that heavenly country prepared by God.  

   The physical example of Abraham is offered as an example for Christians as the promise to Abraham was a physical one with a physical inheritance, but with spiritual implications.   In Hebrews 11:8-9 we are told of this, yet in vss 10 & 16 we see the “spiritual application” of the physical existence.    And, we can see both applications in the final two verses of this great chapter of the letter to the Hebrews. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.  (Hebrews 11:39-40)

   In the 13th chapter of John, Jesus told His apostles that He was going away. He too was a stranger on this earth, but He knew where He was going. He came to provide the means so that all others that are strangers and pilgrims can be made whole and that their destination could be defined and attainable.   In John 14:2-4 He told them what was waiting and that they knew the way to get there.   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.  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. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.     Then in John 14:6 He tells Thomas (and us) that He is the way, and that none can come to the Father, except through Him.   Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

      And, we have many “hints” as to where our journey should take us as we find out where the Father is.   One such place is found in Matthew 6:9, often referred to as the “Lord’s Prayer”, but in fact is part of the Sermon on the Mount.   After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  From this we see that the Father is in Heaven and that is where we all should want to go as we “sojourn” on this earth.

   But, how are we to know the way?   Jesus had told His apostles that He was the way, yet He was going back to the Father.   Just how were they to follow Him after His departure? Well, the Lord took care of this. We see in John 14:16 & 26 that the Lord would send them the Comforter.   In these verses He identifies this comforter and tells not only what He would provide, but also how long He would be with them.   16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;  26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.    The “all things” the Spirit gave and taught them was the gospel.  

   In 2Thessalonians 2:14 we are told that this gospel calls us so that we can go and be where Christ is after we complete our pilgrimage. Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

And we are told that this gospel is the “power of God unto Salvation” which means that through the gospel we can follow the Christ and ultimately be where He is – With our Father in heaven. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  (Romans 1:16)

   -- It stands to reason that since Jesus is the “way, the truth and the life” and that He sent the Spirit to provide the gospel that guides us to where He and the Father are, that we should make heaven our destination as we sojourn in this life.  We are told in Colossians 1:4-5 that it is through the gospel that we learned of this hope that is only in Christ.   Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, 5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; 

        Isn’t it about time that we all embrace the fact that we are all “strangers and pilgrims and our existence extends beyond this life?   Why not obey the gospel and then do as Paul was doing when the Spirit had Paul write to the brethren in Philippi in Philippians 3:14? I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 

Everyone has a destination.   What’s yours?   Where are you going?

                                                                     Dennis S. - Mooresville

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It . . .

Your Mission, should you choose to accept it . . . .

   This is the opening line of a popular television show named “Mission Impossible” that ran from 1966 through 1973 and returned from 1988 to 1990.   In this show, a group of specially trained agents took on missions to overcome evil organizations. They were allowed to refuse the mission if they thought it too dangerous or if it was really an impossible one. Of course, on TV the missions were always accepted, never really impossible, and yes, these agents always triumphed over evil.

   Believe it or not, there are applications to the premise for this show as it relates to the Christian. In other words, there are some similarities as well as differences between Christians and these actors playing their parts in this television series.   One of the main differences is that we as Christians are not to be simply “playing a part”.   Our mission is one of life or death according to 2 Corinthians 5:10, and the final outcome will not be determined until we depart from this life to that which is beyond to be judged according to the things we have done in this life. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. 

   Upon hearing the Gospel we chose the mission when we believe Christ is the Son of God and all that entails, made the choice to repent or turn away from our sins, confessed before men that Christ is the Son of God and were baptized into Christ. As such we became “agents” of the Lord in this mission.

   We too are to be specially trained. God has given us His training manual – The Bible, to equip us and prepare for the mission.    In 2 Peter 3:17-18 we see that we are to continue our training and as we do we are to grow. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever.

     One similarity between the show and the Christian is that once a mission was begun, it had to be seen to its end.   For the show it was the completion of whatever mission was offered. To the Christian there is but one mission. It is faithful service to God in accordance to the New Testament until death.    

   In the show, there were often parts of the mission that had to be carried out so the main mission could be completed.   The same is true in our mission as Christians.   Jesus made it clear in Matthew 28:19-20 what part of our mission is.   He said this to His apostles, but also applies to us today. He said: 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      

   An important aspect of our mission is to know that it could end at any time.   There is always some uncertainty as to how long we will continue on this earth. The Spirit had James write of this in James 4:14 as a warning to us to always put our mission first.   Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.    Another important part of our mission is to know how that we are not to allow the enemy to influence us or to lead us away from the task we have accepted.   Our mission is one of a religious nature. The Holy Spirit also had James address this in James 1:27. God wants us to participate in pure religion and He has told us how.   Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.  Keeping ourselves “unspotted from the world” means we won’t be fraternizing with the enemy.

   It is also true that we cannot participate in the mission on the side of truth and right until we have become agents for the Lord.   God has given us the instructions as how to take part in the mission as well as the guidelines for that mission.   Isn’t it about time to make a choice to serve God and do His Will?  

   To choose this mission one must:  HEAR THE GOSPEL– Romans 10:14;   BELIEVE – Acts 8:37; REPENT – Acts 17:30; CONFESS – Matthew 10:32-33;  BE BAPTIZED – 1 Peter 3:21.     Then we must REMAIN FAITHFUL UNTIL DEATH – 2 Peter 2:21-22.        Having started the mission and then become unfaithful, one can RETURN TO THE MISSION THROUGH REPENTANCE AND PRAYER – Acts 8:22

   The only way this “mission” is impossible for you is if you refuse to be obedient to the gospel and thereby refuse the mission. Philippians 4:13 reminds us: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Christ will support you through this mission all the way – if you will let Him.

                                                                                                                                                          Dennis S. – Mooresville

Getting Out of Your Own Way

Getting Out of Your Own Way

     According to “Psychology Today” the phrase “getting out of your own way” implies somehow putting aside the anxieties and doubts, ego concerns and career pressures, “mental blocks” and “critical inner voices” that stand between you and the effortless flow of work.     And, if you look on www.success.com you can even find a list of “seven ways to get out of your own way and get things done”.   All of these lists are addressing the things that seem to stymie our progress in the secular aspects of life. All such lists are good because they help us keep our focus and reach whatever goals we have set in life.   However, in setting goals in this life, many fail to set the most important goal in life, and this is when they really “get in their own way”.

   When it comes to our religion and our service to God, it is not just these anxieties and doubts, ego concerns, career pressures, “mental blocks” and “critical inner voices” that get in the way, but our failure to “let go” of earthly things we deem so important and put God first.   One of Jesus’ own disciples seemed to be suffering from this in Matthew 8:21 when he wanted to “wait” to follow Jesus until he had buried his father.   The interesting thing about this is that we have no indication that the man’s father was even dead at that point.   What Jesus said in response in verse 22 have caused many to be confused.   He said: Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.   This meant that the “spiritual dead” could be the ones worrying about the “physical dead”.   I say this because the Lord Himself is recorded in John 10:10 stating the purpose for His coming to earth. He said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

     The way in which Christ was to provide that “abundant life” required that He give His life on the cross of Calvary.   Christ knew this when He came. He knew all the things He would suffer, but He also knew He would come forth from the grave victorious.   This is what He told His apostles in Luke 9:22-23 when He also instructed them at that time to not tell anyone He was the Christ.   He said: The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. 23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  

     What Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-33 the Sermon on the Mount shows that He knows what the needs of this life are and also who it is that provides these things. This also indicates that the Lord knows what is required of us if we would take part in that abundant life He offered when He so willingly died to purchase the church on Calvary’s cross.   Notice His Words on that great occasion that also place things in the proper order of importance.   Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

   All the “wisdom of the world” and the so-called psychology and philosophy that is in the mind of man is nothing in comparison to the creator of man, nor can any uninspired list provide the instruction needed to navigate this life and at the same time get ready for that life beyond this earthly life. That is what the Spirit had the apostle Paul write the Corinthians in 1Corinthians 1:19-21. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

 It is most interesting that the preaching of both John the baptizer and Jesus was to call Israel to repentance so they would be ready to receive the kingdom when it came.     Many of the Jews could not “get out of their own way” because they could not embrace the “spiritual” nature of the church, but rather held to the “physical” relationship they once had with God because of Abraham.     This is no different than the issue many folks have today when they cannot get out of their own way because of careers, family, entertainment, recreation and such. There is room for all these in life, but if these are put first, there will be no eternal life.   What do you have to lose in putting Him first, or as Christ asked in Mark 8:37?  Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

                                                                 Dennis S. - Mooresville

The Thrill of Victory

  The Thrill of Victory

   For years the “Wide World of Sports” began with the opening line: “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport... the thrill of victory... and the agony of defeat... the human drama of athletic competition” This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports.   This television program ran from April 29, 1961 to January 3,1998 and for many families this was a favorite program. The simple formula that made this program a favorite is one that is inherent in all of us. We all like to win!   As we participate in sporting events, games, contests and such while we live our lives we want to win whether we will admit it or not.   This is more evident with some than others and those with whom it is most evident are those that are the most competitive.   What this means is that these folks want very much to win or be victorious.

   Some want to win so badly that they are even willing to break the rules to try to come out on top. In 2Timothy 2:5 the Spirit had Paul address this so that all will know that this will not work with God. He wrote: “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.This is to say “You can’t win if you cheat”.   Jesus Himself also addressed the issue in John 10:1 in that the only way in which one can enter the kingdom and participate in the victory that God planned for humanity is to do it lawfully. To try to gain entrance into that kingdom in some other way puts one in a very bad light. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 

     It is amazing that the focus of many is on the “games” or the things of this life and not on that which matters the most.   In 1Corinthians 15:57-58 we read where the Spirit had Paul remind the church in Corinth that the “victory” is in Christ and also how to “stay on top” so that they could win the ultimate prize – Eternal life.   But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. 

   Many are so diligent in their pursuit of victory in this life that they lose focus.   Some have latched onto such slogans as: “He who has the most toys wins” and consider it victory in this life to obtain much while here.   In Luke 12:15 Jesus, in speaking of what is of most importance pointed out the fallacy of such thinking. And he said unto them,

Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.    Folks today that seem so intent on retaining all the “earthly goods” they can are much like the young man of Mark chapter 10 who, by his actions, showed he thought victory was indicated in earthly gain. After the Lord talked to him and told him what to do to set himself up for eternal life – the true victory – He went away from the Lord “grieved” or as Matthew records: “sorrowful”.

Mark 10:22 tells us: And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.  In Matthew 6:33 we are told where the focus of our lives should be and that God is fully aware of our basic needs of life.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  If we can keep our focus on this, we can truly be victorious.

    But before one can expect to obtain the true ‘thrill of victory’, one has to determine what it is that truly makes one victorious. In 1Corinthians 9:24-27 the Spirit had Paul write to those brethren in Corinth so that they would not lose focus and could live their lives with the ultimate thrill of victory of the “incorruptible crown” in mind. Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible26  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:  27 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. 

   This passage also makes a point that all Christians need to keep in mind, and that is that just because we have begun the journey to heaven in becoming children of God, we have not yet experienced the ultimate thrill that God has planned for the faithful. I am afraid that many Christians think just because they have been obedient to the gospel, they have a “lock” on victory and have overcome the world.   We have overcome the world, but only in this life and only if we remain faithful.   We cannot just sit back and wait to be rewarded.   Just because we “occupy a pew” or have our names on the church roll doesn’t guarantee victory or a home in heaven.   We must continue to “strive” to remain faithful throughout our lives. We also need to remember that we only have that victory in promise. 1John 2:25 tell us: And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. To have eternal life “in promise” means we can still lose that victory if we are not careful. Those in Galatia were warned of this in Galatians 5:4.   If they could fall from grace, can we not also fall? To fall from grace is to be denied that “Thrill of Victory” when the race is over.   Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. We must keep pressing on toward true victory as was expressed to the Philippian church in Philippians 3:13-14. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus    Press toward that mark. Strive for the “Thrill of Victory” where it really matters.  

                                                                                        Dennis Strickland - Mooresville

 

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