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Who Do You Love?

Who Do You Love?

    Many will recognize the title of this week’s article as a song written in 1956 by Bo Diddley and recorded by a number of folks down through the years.   I thought this to be an appropriate title for this week’s article as many are beginning to focus on the up-coming holiday, Valentine’s Day.

   According to “legend” there was an early Roman Catholic bishop by the name of Valentinus who was reportedly imprisoned in Rome because he was performing weddings for soldiers, who were forbidden to marry, and ministering to those “Christians” persecuted under the Roman empire. The legend states that this man wrote a letter, just prior to his execution, to the blind daughter of his judge, and he signed it “Your Valentine” as a farewell.   Of course the Catholics later made him a “saint” and the course of a holiday was charted. Then in the 14th century, the English poet, Geoffrey Chauser wrote of the day in terms of romantic love and by the 18th century, a flourishing business had developed as “courtly love” was expressed with flowers, confectionery (candy) and greeting cards. The cards became known as (you guessed it) valentines. The season is upon us and many are spending much to express their love in various ways. A whole industry has developed as a result.

   There is much said about love in the Word of God and has none of these have to do with cards, or other expressive ways man has invented to deal with this God given emotion.  With love, man has (as he has done with most things that God has given) focused on one aspect, and not necessarily what was intended. In fact, in the King James Bible, there are 311 occurrences of the word “love”. In each place this word is found, the context needs to be consulted to determine the type or kind of love being referenced. Also the context is necessary to see the object of the love being referenced.

     The first reference to love in the Bible is found in Genesis 27:4 and the object of love here is the “savoury meat, such as I love”. This “love” was expressed by Isaac in his advanced age as he prepared to bless Esau. And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.  The first reference to “romantic love” is in Genesis 29:20 when the days seemed but few as Jacob labored under Laban for the hand of Rachael, the younger daughter.   And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. This is the kind of love all young woman likely desires that their man had for them.  

     But there are “loves” that are by for more important than either of these which have been previously mentioned in this article.   One of these is that which God has shown for all humanity in the sending of His Son to die on the cross.   John 3:16 is a passage familiar to many, yet the depth of the meaning is lost on most. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.    Some even suffer the delusion that simply because God gave Jesus, they have eternal life. For this to be the case, God would have to authorize “unrequited love”. We know from a study of the Word, that God expects His people to love each other and to love Him.  

     When God had separated out a people (Israel) through whom He would carry out His plan for the redemption of souls, He gave them a Law.   In Leviticus 19:18 we find in that Law, that love for one’s neighbor as one loved himself was required. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. God also required His people to love Him, as is evidenced by Deuteronomy 6:5. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. But then in vss 6-7 of the same book and chapter we see how this love was to be carried out and taught.   And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 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. 

     Then as we examine the latter part of the New Testament, 1John 2:9-10 shows that loving one’s brother is also a commandment of God under this dispensation. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.  Then in 1Thessalonians 4:9 the Spirit had Paul write to these brethren on the same vein.   But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. 

     We also have the teaching of Christ in Matthew 10:37-38 showing that love and devotion to even our parents and family is not as important as love to the Lord. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.   Now, who do you Love?  How do you show it?   Who, or what you love is evident in your actions. It’s something to think about.        

                                     Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Are You On The Winning Team?

Are You on the Winning Team?

   Excitement was high among many this past week as the two top teams in the NFL for this year were making preparation to face each other for the distinction of being the best team in the league. I have noticed some folks in my area wearing jerseys so others will know which team they desire to win. Now, I know that not everyone that lives in North Carolina was born here.  Some have moved here with their families for employment, or while in the military or whatever. But I feel sure that the majority of these people did not move here from New England or Los Angeles. So, why are so many people here wearing jerseys from these two teams?  The answer is quite simple – They want to be associated for the “winning team”.  

     We see this each sports season. When the NBA season nears the championship games, folks “choose” sides and root for their team. The same for Baseball, Soccer, and maybe even Hockey.   Often you can tell who is “in the playoffs” in a particular sport, and what season is drawing to a close by the jerseys worn in your town. This is done for the same reason; all want to be identified with the winning team.

     Believe it or not, in religion there is more confusion than there is in sports. Why is this you ask?   Well, most folks are aware that in sports, only the team that has the best score at the end of the game is the winner. Yet, it seems that most think that all groups within religion are going to win. How do they figure that?  Well, many teach that whatever one believes, so long as they are sincere, will be winners when the Lord hands out the reward.    Ask most anyone if they think they are going to heaven and they will say something like: “Of course I am, I am saved or I have been born again.”   Then, ask them to which church they belong, and many will give you the name of the denomination where they are enrolled.   Isn’t it interesting that man knows in sports, only the winning team gets the trophy, ring or prize, but when it comes to religion, many think that everyone is going to receive eternal life?

    Another interesting thing is that folks seem to know most all the rules about their favorite sports and many can quote much of the rulebook.    But, when it comes to religion, the ultimate rulebook, the Word of God is rarely consulted, let alone quoted or remembered by most “religious” people.   Most know just enough to “justify” their specific ideas about salvation.   For instance, in John 5:24 we see what Jesus said to the Jews who sought to kill Him.   Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.  Many try to “bend” this rule to their benefit. They teach that all one has to do to have everlasting life is to believe. Even the devils believe in God and tremble per James 2:19. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.    Are they on the winning team?   You know the answer to that!

   These “belief only” people are the same folks claim to be disciples of the Lord, and as far as they are concerned are part of the “winning team”, but what did Jesus have to say about it?  In John 8:31-32 Jesus spoke to some Jews who already believed in Him. He said: If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  This should show us that believing alone will not suffice.   It also points out that one who does not continue in the Word (follow the rule book) is not a disciple. Then, as we look to 2Timothy 2:5 we find another place that proves that the rules have to be followed or one cannot receive the prize. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.  The rules have to be followed.

   Now the big question. On whose team are you; and will you win? God’s team is always going to win. In the O.T. we see Joshua was on the Lord’s side. We find the Spirit having him tell Israel in Joshua 24:15 to choose wisely, and also have their response in vs 16. 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. 16 And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;  He followed God’s rules under that dispensation and received the reward God had promised.

     Then as we come to the N.T. we find that Jesus gave “rules” to become part of His Winning team in this dispensation. Jesus tells us in Mark 16:15-16 how the “recruiters” were to find those who would become God’s “team members” and that by believing alone one cannot be a part of the team. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.     If you are on a team that does not have these requirements, or the others stated in the New Testament, you are not on the winning team. Everyone wants to be on the team that wins.   When it comes to your soul’s eternal destiny, you cannot afford to be on the teams that will lose and be condemned forever.  

   Follow God’s rules, Obey the gospel, and become part of God’s Winning team.

                              Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Get In The Fight

Get In The Fight

1

The war is on brother, join in the fight.

How can you wait, when at stake is the right?

Are you afraid? Put the whole armor on.

No need to pray when the banner is gone.

2

We are out-numbered but God’s in command.

He’s not a loser, do you understand?

Battle’s aren’t won when the soldiers retreat,

What you could do, might mean Satan’s defeat.

3

For what you’ve done brother, there’s no respect,

What good are you, if from Truth you defect?

They want somebody today, they can use,

What is your record, from which they can choose?

4

Get in the fight, brother. Give it your best,

You may be wounded, but so may be the rest,

What good’s a soldier, who won’t stand and fight?

Give all you’ve got for the Cause that is right.

                                                                              O. D. Wilson - deceased

   The preceding poem was written many years ago by a faithful gospel preacher, my Father-in-Law, O.D. Wilson. Even then, there were “soldiers of the cross” that were giving up the fight for the cause of Christ. Thank God that there are always some who recognize this problem and warn others of the danger of doing the same.   Ever known anyone who has given up?   Of course, you say. “Everyone has given up on something haven’t they?”   But we’re not talking about giving up bad habits, or giving up on something that can hurt oneself or others. We are not discussing the soldiers that have gone AWOL, or have become deserters in some man’s or country’s Armed forces.    Some desert these “armies” because they no longer agree with, or support the cause for which they are to be fighting.   Some quit, because they don’t like the “rules and regulations” that hinder them from doing what they want and in the manner in which they desire to do it.  

   This article, and the poem offered here are speaking of those that “Give Up” on God and the cause for which His Son came to die. Man’s rules and laws are subject to change, but not so with God. Psalm 119:89 shows this to be the case. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.   Since God’s Word does not change, neither has His promises to those that serve and follow Him. The Spirit had Paul write in Philippians 1:27 to encourage the brethren there to stay in the fight and never give up. One can only do this if they stay in the Word and follow it completely. It will guide their entire life, if they will let it. Only let your conversation 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, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

    Quitting is not an option. We made the commitment to follow and serve God when we were baptized into Christ. That was to be a lifetime commitment! Those who quit have forsaken that commitment. In 1Thessalonians 5:21 we are told: Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. We can prove all things (test them) according to the Word of God.   This verse also tells the Christian to “hold fast”. To show that to which one is to “hold fast”, the Spirit had Paul write Timothy in 1Timothy 1:13. Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. These Words were supplied by the Spirit – so, they were the Words of God, delivered by Paul through inspiration.  

   Getting in the fight is important. One does this upon obedience to the gospel and the Great Commission is where we are told to go and teach others. But staying in the fight is just as important.   One will not receive the “prize” unless they remain in the fight.   In 2Timothy 4:6-8 we see what the prize is, and what one must do to be a recipient of that prize.   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. 

   If you are not a Christian, you’re not in the fight and condemnation awaits. If you are a Christian, don’t quit.  Keep serving faithfully.   The reward awaits.

                                                                         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ    

Ain't Skeered

Ain’t Skeered !

   While driving around in recent months, I have been seeing stickers on the back windows of trucks that say: “Ain’t Skeered!” It is not very difficult to determine what this means. To one speaking properly, the phrase would be: “I’m not afraid.” There have been many in various situations that have made the claim they were not afraid. When I looked up “ain’t skeered” on the internet I was only a little surprised to find out there was actually a song with this title on YouTube. There is not a lot of other information available on this phrase.

   It has been my experience that those who usually make the boast that they are not afraid, are the ones that are terrified of that thing or action which is being contemplated. For instance, the child that proclaims they are not afraid to sleep with the light off is likely to be the one afraid of “monsters” under their beds. The same is true of adults, in that often a “grownup” will sometime feign braveness of something when they are really horrified of it.  

   Fear has been a part of the makeup of man since man was in the Garden of Eden. It is interesting to me that of all the things in the Garden, none caused Adam any fear until he had sinned against God. When Adam and his wife, Eve sinned, by eating the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened, they became aware that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together to hide themselves. In Genesis 3:9-10 we see that the first man and women vainly sought to hide themselves from God because of that fear. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?10  And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. Also, we should notice that it was not God Himself of whom they were afraid, but appearing before God in the knowledge of their nakedness.   They tried to hide from God out of fear.    

   The Bible is full of examples of things people have done out of fear. Sarah lied in Genesis 18:15 and said she didn’t laugh, when God promised her a son in her old age. Jacob, in Genesis 31:31, told Laban he stole away in the night with his wives and children because he feared his Father-in-Law would take them by force. Later in Genesis 32:27, while returning home, Jacob was afraid of what his brother Esau might do, and divided his family and flocks into two bands so part of them could escape if needed.   Moses, in Exodus 3:6, when confronted with the burning bush, “hid his face for he was afraid to look upon God.”     Upon hearing the thunder and rumbling from the mountain, the children of Israel were afraid to come before God and implored that Moses meet with God and then tell them what they were to do.

     Space in this article will not permit the listing of all the occasions in the Bible where man was afraid, nor of that of which man has feared. But, it needs to be noted that not every time the word “fear” is mentioned is it a bad thing, nor should we expect “fear” to always have the same meaning each time it is used.   In Ecclesiastes 12:13 the Spirit had Solomon write: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. None would think to “be afraid” of God would be a duty of man. “Fear” in this place obviously means something else. Fear in this passage carries the idea to revere, or to stand in awe of God, and this verse also teaches that the duty of man is to keep, (obey fully) the commandments of God. This reverence or “fear” for God is what is needed in the life of all who claim to serve God.

Still, even today, fear is used as an excuse, even when service to God is being contemplated. Many a Christian man will not participate in public worship because of fear. Of what are they afraid, making a mistake?   God knows that man is prone to mistakes and how many among us ever accomplished anything without a mistake or two along the way?   Those who do nothing out of fear, are those who accomplish nothing. Another way of saying this is that those who do not serve God because they are afraid, are not serving God. That’s hard for many to accept, but it is true nonetheless.   This world is full of many who do not have reverence for God and His Word. This is evidenced by the evil that is all around us, and the many that participate in it.

 Matthew 10:28 is where Jesus said something which defines some fear as dread. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  We are to have no dread (fear) of those that can kill the body, yet have no control of what happens with our soul.   On the other hand, we are to have dread about what God will do with a soul that is disobedient.

   Ain’t Skeered?   There are two ways in which all are to “fear” God.   1) Hold Him in reverence and do His Will as outlined in His Word.   2) Fear the fate of all that are disobedient.   The latter part of Romans 12:19 tells us: Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.  He will repay at the end of time.

Think about it!          Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

He Ain't Heavy - He's My Brother

He Ain’t Heavy – He’s My Brother

  

   Many will likely recognize the title of this week’s article as a song from 1969 by the Hollies, and Neil Diamond and the Osmond’s in 1970. This song has been recorded by many different artists over the years.   But have you ever wondered about how the title came to be?   According to Wikipedia, in 1884, James Wells wrote a book about the parables of Jesus. In that book, he tells the story of a little girl carrying a big baby boy.   When asked if she wasn’t tired, she was surprised and replied. “No, he’s not heavy, he’s my brother.   Then in 1918, Ralph Waldo Trine wrote a publication entitled The Higher Powers of Mind and Spirit in which he relates the same situation as an anecdote. As it involved a Scottish girl, the reply was: “He’s na heavy. He’s mi brither.”     And, in 1924 Row Fulkerson, the first editor of the Kiwanis magazine published an article with the title: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, which was the first use of the phrase exactly as it is rendered in the song title. Finally, in the 1940’s, Edward Flannigan, the priest that started the famed “Boys Town” children’s home adopted as a slogan: “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother”. So we can see that the phrase has been well used over the years.   But have we as Christians stopped to think how the phrase applies to us and our brethren?  

   Everyone that has been baptized into Christ becomes a (Spiritual)“brother in Christ”. We have many passages addressed to “brethren” or brothers, as the Spirit directed the various letters to be written to the early church in the N.T., but the idea of brotherhood extends way back into the O.T.    The first brother (physically) was the second child of Adam and Eve. As we read Genesis 4:2 we see his name was Abel.   Then in Genesis 4:9 after Cain had killed Abel, we find the Lord’s question to Cain and the improper attitude Cain had and response he made because of his sin against his brother. He lied to the Lord.   And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?

   In Genesis 13:8-9 we find that Abraham, the one who became known as the “Friend of God” was shown to have the right attitude as his herds and those of Lot’s had become more than the land could support.   Choices needed to be made and the first choice was that there be no strife between them. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.  As these two were “brethren” they sought to work out differences and “get along”.

   We also know that Lot’s choice in land was based on appearances and not on how he and his family would be affected by his choice. Then, as Sodom, which was where Lot abode was to be destroyed because of its great wickedness and sin, Abraham again showed he was a brother.   In Genesis 18, for the sake of Lot, Abraham communed with the Lord and asked Him to not destroy the City if even ten righteous could be found.   Ten were not found. We see the mercy of God as He sent angels to deliver Lot and his family. But evil had pervaded that family because of their closeness with the wicked people of Sodom. Perhaps if Lot would have stayed closer to faithful brethren, things would have been different for him.

   What about God’s people in this day and age? As previously pointed out, we who are Christians are brethren.   What is our responsibility toward our brethren in Christ? Are we, like Cain going to ask: “Am I my brother’s keeper”? Are we to forget what the Spirit had Paul write to the Galatian churches in Galatians 6:2?   He wrote: Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.  Then again, when one looks to Philippians 2:4-5 Paul was directed to write: Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  This does not mean that each does not have responsibility to make every effort to serve God faithfully in according to His Word.   None can allow his or her brother to shoulder their load all the way to eternity.   Galatians 6:4-5 shows this to be the case. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden.    Then in 2Corinthians 5:10 we also have the teaching that shows each soul will be judged separately. 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.

   While we all will be judged according to what we do in this life, there are none of us that can make it on our own. We have the help of the Lord, through His Word. But if we have encouragement and help from our brother, would not the journey through this life be more tolerable.   The Spirit had Amos write a question in Amos 3:3 that all who are “brothers” need to ask themselves.   Can two walk together, except they be agreed? That which all “brothers” are to agree upon is the Word of God. If it is followed faithfully it leads to heaven.   What do you do when your brother needs help or encouragement?   Will we let him enter eternity unprepared because he has some difficulty bearing his burden.   Remember – Help him.   He ain’t heavy – He’s my brother.           

                      Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Ready, Set, Go

Ready, Set, Go!

     It was pointed out in last week’s bulletin that everything has a start as well as an end. This is true of every race, every transaction, every covenant and every year. We have now started a new year. This past week was the beginning of this year. It was a time celebrated by many as the beginning of hope yet again.

   When man and woman were created and placed in the Garden, it was just the start for humanity. But, it was also the start of God’s plan for humanity. God announced His plan first in Genesis 3:15 as He spoke to the serpent following the serpent lying to Eve, deceiving and tempting her to sin. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Adam’s sin was listening to and following the voice of his wife, and then partaking of the forbidden fruit. This was the start of man’s problems.  

   Because of mankind’s sin, man now needed a Savior. That need continues as all that have been born have entered a world that is tainted with sin. Man is not born in sin, but is soon introduced to sin and all become tainted by sin. God began His plan to save those who would be obedient to His Will as He separated out a people through a Law for them alone, within which time the Promised Savior was to come. Galatians 4:4 tells us of this truth.   But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

   Shortly after Christ came, started His ministry, died, was buried, was resurrected, He ascended to His Father in Heaven. Then the plan that God had formulated from the beginning to save the soul of man was possible for all who would obey His Word. That plan had for a long time been a mystery, but no more.   Romans 16:26 tells us it is now made known.  But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: 

     In 1Corinthians 6:9-10 we find a long list of despicable sins which identify those that are unrighteous. We are told they “shall not inherit” with those who obey. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  But verse 11 of the same book and chapter shows clearly that the Corinthians which had obeyed the gospel were no longer in that group.   And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 

   This means that they had made a “new start”. They made ready when they obeyed the gospel. They, like Paul in Philippians 1:17 were to remain “set for the defense of the gospel”, and we, like they are to go.   We are to go, taking the message of salvation to the lost and the erring as Jesus directed in Mark 16:15. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 

   However, one made ready by baptism for remission of sins is not automatically equipped to be set for the defense of the gospel, and therefore cannot go without the right preparation. 1Peter 3:15 admonishes all Christians to be able to provide reason for our hope. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:  One also does not become instantly ready upon becoming a child of God. It takes work on their part. 2Timothy 2:15 is a passage that informs as to how one can be prepared. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 

Ready, Set, Go seems to be applicable as in 1Corinthians 9:24-25 the Spirit had Paul use the idea of a race in writing to the Corinthian brethren.   There he also told them the prize that was at the end.   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 incorruptible.  The only other place the analogy of a race is referenced in the New Testament is in Hebrews 12:1-2 being advice that every Christian would do well to heed.   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, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

   If you are not ready, you need to be so. Obey the Word of God and become His child. If you are a child of God, but not set; well, time’s a wasting. Study, learn and apply the Word of God and make the proper preparations to go.   Then go – go and teach the gospel. Take it to all that will hear it. Help them understand how to obey it and in so doing, serve God acceptably. Anything less . . . You will lose your race ! Ready – Set – Go!   What better time than at the start of this new year?      

               Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Then Cometh the End

Then Cometh the End

     We are quickly approaching the end of the current year. As each year draws to an end, we all probably look back on the past twelve months to consider our victories, accomplishments, achievements, and even our failures. The goals we had set for the passing year are contemplated and sometimes, because we didn’t reach a specific goal this year, we might even set that goal to be attained in the coming year.

     All of life on earth has a beginning and has an end. Each start carries with it a feeling of joy as Proverbs 23:25 indicates. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.    Then the end of a life brings sorrow to those who remain on earth to finish their time here.   Even the death of the unrighteous does not give the Lord any pleasure as Ezekiel 18:32 points out. For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye. He wants all to come to repentance.   We are told this in 2Peter 3:9 which also indicates that there is also a real purpose for our being here. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  This is why there is a beginning to life. Genesis 1:1 tells us what God did to provide us a place for our beginning here. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  Then in Genesis 2:7 we are told of mankind’s beginning. And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 

   We also know that we shall not live on this earth forever.   Ecclesiastes 9:5 tells us this is a well-known thing by all. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Following the creation of Adam and Eve, all of us had our beginning by birth.   Our end on earth is called death.

       But even the end of our lives here on earth is really a beginning. It is, for each of us, the beginning of eternity.   Some may surmise that eternity is an end, but life or death is dependent upon the individual and what they do with that limited period which is called life.   This is where the Bible comes in. The Bible is the record of God’s plan and communication to man, as well as how that plan came to be and what it can do for us. In 1John 5:11-13 we find Words the Spirit provided to John to write so we can know eternal life.   And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.    This is what Jesus was speaking of in the last part of John 10:10 while He was here on earth and fulfilling His part of bringing about the plan of God for man. He said: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 

     Just because Jesus came and died does not mean that you or I will enjoy that eternal life with Him. We have to make the choice as to where we will spend eternity, and then live to have that abundant life.    The Spirit had the apostle Paul write to Timothy in 1Timothy 6:19, warning to the rich of the world so they would use the material goods with which they had been blessed properly in preparation for the end.   Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.    But one has to “work” to lay hold on eternal life.   This is why in Acts 2:40, Peter was given the Words to speak as he testified and exhorted the hearers that day.   And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.  This “saving” of oneself and “laying up in store” for eternity has its beginning in our obedience to the gospel, our continuance in faithfulness and its fulfillment in our receipt of the promise of God to all the obedient. Romans 6:16-17 points out the choice each must make as we continue through life toward our end on this earth.   This is true for all spend time on this sphere. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 

   There is an end to all life on earth and God has told us how it will occur. The earth and its works will be burned up per 2Peter 3:10. This verse also tells us we cannot know when this will happen.   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.  Then 1Corinthians 15:24-26  tells us what happens in the end. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26  The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.      Get ready for the end before it is too late.                    

       Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Can You Find Real Joy or Peace?

Can You Find Real Joy or Peace?

     Many are looking for joy, especially during this, the holiday season. Much effort is put forth to find and retain joy.   Peace and Joy are also themes for many gatherings during this time of year.   Many are devoted to seeking happiness and look for it in various ways.   While they seek what they deem happiness or joy, they do so based on their own definition of happiness or joy. The questions that needs to be asked is: “What is it that makes you happy?” or “What brings you joy?” and “Why do these things bring you joy, or make you happy?”

   The things that make you happy, or brings you joy, are those things which are of the most importance to you.    When these things happen as you desire them to happen, it causes within you a feeling of contentment or bliss.   When the things you participate in to find peace or joy do not go as you desire, the opposite effect occurs. Perhaps if you look to the start of the season of a particular sporting event, and if the beginning of the season is delayed, or if at the end of the season, your “team” doesn’t win, sadness or dissatisfaction becomes the “feeling” of the moment.

   In Psalm 122:1 we see what it was that made David happy. I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.  This is the same direction the Spirit had the psalmist write in Psalm 32:11 so the people of Israel could find their happiness in what the Lord had provided for those that love Him. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. The same is found in Habakkuk 3:18 where the prophet is praying to the God of heaven. God had provided Israel with strength through His Word.   This should have caused all of Israel to praise God and have joy in their hearts.   It did for Habakkuk. Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  

     But one cannot, in any dispensation, have the joy of the Lord, unless His Word is taken in and applied. The Spirit had Jeremiah express it this way in Jeremiah 15:16. Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts. 

     God’s people today are known as Christians.   He has provided much more for mankind in this, the final dispensation of time than ever before. The purpose of the other dispensations of time was to bring about joy through redemption. The Spirit had the apostle Paul write in Romans 5:10-11 that reconciliation to God, and to be the recipients of the atonement Christ died for is attainable.   It is also this reconciliation that should bring “joy” and “peace” to the Christian. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. 

     Those who are Christians who have lost that joy, or no longer realize the peace that comes by being in Christ need to request as did the psalmist in Psalm 51:12 that their joy be restored.   Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. However, none will find the joy, or be restored to peace unless they work toward it.   This is perhaps why the Spirit in Philippians 2:12 had Paul write what he did to those brethren.   Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  We all have to work to maintain our joy in Christ and the peace of God.

       There are many who put forth a great deal of time, money and effort in whatever endeavors they undertake while seeking joy or happiness.   Often times folks will put off all the other things of life to pursue happiness. More often than not, these types of pursuits don’t deliver the happiness the person desired. Also, those seeking joy or peace from various sources are not usually inclined to take advice from others.  

       But, one seeking the peace and joy God offers will readily and gladly receive the advice God sent through the Spirit.   In 1John 1:3-4 we find that what was delivered (the Word of God) was given that men might be in fellowship with God and that they would have abundant joy. 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. 

     One way that a Christian’s joy can remain full is if their fellow Christians, especially our own children, and other loved ones remain faithful and continue to grow and learn as they mature in the faith. In 3John verse 4 we find Words to this effect the Spirit gave John to write in the last general epistle that bears his name. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.    So, for the Christian, joy can be had by following what has been written as well as when others do it. In fact, joy is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, and we know that God desires that we produce fruit.   But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.  

     Let’s all seek to find that real joy and peace, in the Word of God, not only during this holiday season, but throughout the entire year.   If we do what God says to do in His Word we will have joy, peace and the promise of salvation.   Jesus depicted this in Matthew 25:21. Read and study and rightly divide His Word.   Do what is directed in His Word and that joy prepared for the obedient and faithful can be yours. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.                     

                                                                                  Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Is There Peace In Your Life?

Is There Peace In Your Life?

     Peace is something that represents various things to different people. Quite a few years ago, “peace” was a slogan to many and was often signified by a pendant worn around the neck or emblazoned on shirts, jackets or embroidered on patches to add to garments as needed to make a statement. Those who embraced this sort of peace were the ones that were rising up “against the establishment” in opposition to all they thought to be oppressive or controversial. These same folks often would greet one another with the index and middle fingers raised in “V” formation and say something like “peace man” regardless of the gender of the person being regarded.  

     In 1961, around the time of the “peace” movement, there was a program started named the “Peace Corps”.   This is a volunteer program run by the U.S. government. Its official mission per its website is: to provide social and economic development abroad through technical assistance, while promoting mutual understanding between Americans and populations served. The organization promotes “world peace” by striving to fulfill three goals: 1) To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.   2) To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served. 3) To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

     It sounds to me that the idea of the “peace movement” of the 60’s as well as the formation of the Peace Corps, was an effort on the part of many to simply get along.   It is also true that getting along is directly proportionate to the lack of friction.   This is perhaps why many have sought to “go along to get along”. That is why many seem willing to sacrifice the truth in an effort to get along with others.    But, this is not the idea conveyed in the Scriptures, nor is it the reason for which Christ died. Getting along is important, but forsaking truth to do so is not what God intended when He sent His Son or when He sent His Word through the Spirit.  

     All the Greek words translated “peace” in the New Testament carry with them the idea of a calmness, stillness or quietness.   In Matthew 10:13, Jesus having sent His disciples out on the Limited Commission, directed them to bring peace to Israel by preaching Christ and the upcoming kingdom.   Then in vs 14 He also instructed them as to how to respond when that Word was rejected. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 

   Then in the same chapter, in Matthew 10:34-35, Jesus also let them know that the peace that He offers is not simply that of an outward nature, or of that just on the surface. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.  He said this because not all are willing to accept His Word, His teaching, or His direction. Those that will not accept the Word of God and submit to it are not going to find the peace that is found only in Christ.   In Romans 3:17-18 the Spirit had Paul write of this so that the Roman Christians could identify those without the same desire which they had.     And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

   Those looking for the “surface” peace the world has to offer are much like the duck smoothly traversing a placid pond.   On the surface all seems smooth and calm, but underneath or inside there is a great deal of turmoil.  Under the surface those little webbed feet are churning to propel the animal toward its intended destination.   We also have a destination, but turmoil, strife and confusion are not going to get us there.

The feet of the Christian are also to be prepared.   Ephesians 6:15 tells us what part of the armor of God goes there. And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;   The peace of God is spiritual. One that is seeking peace is to be spiritually minded as Romans 8:6 informs. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

     The Spirit, through Paul, was closing his second and final letter to these brethren, in 2Corinthians 13:11, and they are instructed to be “complete” in Christ as they continue in “one mind” because this would bring them peace. Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.  Then in the 4th chapter, verses 8-9 of the Philippian letter, the Spirit has Paul tell these brethren how this peace can be attained.   Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.   If we do those things, our hearts and minds will abide in the peace that is in Christ. Philippians 4:7 points this out to those brethren as well as to us. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  

     If we don’t have peace in our lives, we must first look to God and His Word; do the things taught there and be baptized into Christ. Then remain faithful. We can all be of one mind, teach the same things and dwell in unity and peace in Christ.  

                                           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Our Time on Earth, What is it For?

Our Time on Earth, What is it For?

     Have you ever wondered why you were put on this earth? What is your purpose while you are here?   Many think it is to see how far you can go in life.   Some think it is to see what they can accomplish or what they can attain. Such thinking shows that most folks do not know the Word of God. Jesus, in Luke 12:15 addressed this when one asked Him to intervene with his earthly inheritance.   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.  Afterward, He spoke a parable about a man whose whole focus was on earthly gain. That man’s foolishness in this area of life becomes apparent when in vs 20 we see how God referred to Him, and told the man his time had run out.   But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?    After our time on earth is completed, someone else will have control of whatever it is that we have amassed while we were here.

     Most folks also don’t give a great deal of thought to the fact that our time on earth is somewhat limited.   The Spirit had James deal with this in James 4:13-15. Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 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. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.  This is why it is necessary to look into the perfect Law of Liberty to see what the Will of God is.   James 1:25 tells us to receive the blessings of God one must look into the Word and continue in it. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 

     However, the blessings of God do not exist in just the temporal realm.   True, God has blessed us with life, and all the good things of life. He has given good things to all of humanity.   In the Sermon on the Mount in the latter part of Matthew 5:45, did not Jesus indicate this? He said: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  But, His blessings for man will continue beyond this life for all who are obedient and remain faithful to His Word.   In 1Corinthians 15:19 the Holy Spirit had the apostle Paul tell those brethren that our time spent on this earth is not all there is.   If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 

     Our time on this earth is to prepare for what lies beyond this life. This is because we do not cease to exist when life on this earth is over.   In Hebrews 9:27 we are taught that all mankind has an appointment, and that there is also something else after that.    And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:  Since we don’t cease to exist upon departure from this life, does it not seem that we ought to make preparation for that which lies beyond? Jesus told us in Luke 16:22-23 in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, of the two places where one will await that judgment.   And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  The reason each was in the place they were, was because of the way in which they spent their time while on earth.   The whole story can be better understood by reading the entire account of Luke 16:19-31.

     The two men of the story were both children of God as both were descendants of Abraham and lived under the Law of Moses.   This should help us know that even the children of God in this, the last dispensation of time must make preparation for our existence beyond our time in this life. Jesus, in the latter part of John 10:10 spoke of the life beyond this one. He said: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. Those of us who have been obedient to the gospel are also the children of God, but we can miss what God has promised if we leave this life unprepared.   The Spirit had Paul, in 1Timothy 6:18-19, speak to those of the church (children of God) that had been blessed with the riches of the world so that they would know how to prepare for that time. That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.    These preparations not only bring us to the promise of eternal life, but continuance in the teachings of the Word of God helps us to remain prepared for that which lies beyond this life.  

     But, we cannot do this alone.   In John 15:5 Jesus told His disciple this. 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.  He came and died so we could prepare for eternity.   But, just because He came doesn’t mean that we automatically will be granted entrance into that heavenly home.   He gave His blood as the Supreme Sacrifice.   Jesus has done His part; now we must do ours. One place the Spirit told us how we can begin to prepare for eternity while we spend our time here on earth is 1Peter 5:6.   Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:  The way we humble ourselves before God is to be obedient to His Word.   If we do what God has commanded, He will exalt us when His Son returns and the judgment occurs.     Can you think of any better way, or for any better cause on which to spend our time?   Think about it !    

                       Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

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