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What Think Ye?

What Think Ye?

    The capacity to think, reason, and contemplate is something God saw fit to give only to humanity.   While the four-footed beasts may very well be trained, or seem to understand as owners/masters give commands and such, not one of them can reason.   Whatever “selections” these animals make as situations occur will not change their state after the breath of life exits their bodies for the final time. Much of what they do in life is dictated by instinct.  

     This is one all-important difference between us and our “dear furry friends”. Our choices have eternal consequences. We are sometimes asked to “opine” or give our opinion on religion or various other subjects. But does our opinion ever really matter?   We all have an “opinion” of ourselves, but we are cautioned in Rom 12:3 as The Spirit had Paul write that we are not to think of ourselves improperly. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.  This should help us see that the Word of God is the standard, and not our opinion or what we think.

     Christ, while living on earth, used the phrase “what think ye?” to solicit a response from those whom He taught.   In Matthew 21:28 He asked the people to reason as He presented a situation to get them to reveal their thinking openly after they asked Him by what authority He did things.   But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.  If they had really given thought to their answer, they would have realized that what Christ had done was to expose their hypocrisy.

     Unfortunately, like many today, they failed to grasp the idea the Lord was putting forth. He already knew what they thought and was aware that some of the Jewish leaders would rely on their own thinking about Him as they had done regarding the baptism of John, and as they were doing in regard to the Law of Moses.  While speaking with the Pharisees in Matthew 22:41-42, Jesus used the same phrase “what think ye?” to put an end to the myriad of questions being asked which were designed to trick or ensnare the Lord in His Words. While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.  He asked them what they thought about the messiah.   After their response, and a follow-up question by Jesus, vs 46 tells that none could answer and from that day the questions ceased. And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. 

     As our thoughts come from inside, they reveal how we feel or understand a situation. Often these thoughts are converted to words to express our desires in regard to that being contemplated.   In Matthew chapter 26 following the arrest of the Lord, He was being interrogated by the council, the chief priests and the elders. False witnesses were sought against Jesus so He could be put to death.  Initially none were found, but at last some were found who repeated something Jesus had indeed said, but “twisted” what He had said to make it an accusation, to suit the desires of the Jewish authorities.   When Christ made no response, the high priest asked Him directly if He claimed to be the Son of God. Christ’s answer in Matthew 24:64 caused quite a stir.  Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.  He was speaking of His authority.  

     The response of the Lord here elicited a demonstration from the chief priest that swayed the council to bring formal charges.   The priest tore at his clothes and leveled the charge of blasphemy against the Lord, a charge which under the Law was punishable by death. The chief priest then sought affirmation by the council. We read this in verse 66. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.    Oh, the indignities heaped upon our Lord, the Son of God by that council! The things done to Jesus were not even permitted by the Law of Moses.   The chief priest had gotten the council to “think” like he did and now they thought their desire to put an end to Jesus and His teaching would come to fruition.  

       What they could not know was that even death would not put and end to Jesus or His teaching. Previously in Matthew 16:13-15 Jesus had asked His disciples whom did man say He was and then asked the disciples (apostles elect) whom they said He was. In verse 16 we read of the response of Peter, which the Lord stated in verse 17 had been revealed by God. Then in verse 18 Jesus proclaimed death would not “end” Him, but following His death the long-awaited kingdom (the church) would come. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 

     Then in Matthew 28:18-20 following Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, He met with the eleven, told them of His authority, and commanded them to teach and observe all He had taught them. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.    Now, the question for you is: “What think ye” of Jesus?   Will you submit to His authority and be obedient to the gospel and then live for Him faithfully until death? Remember, your choices have eternal consequences.  

                                                                                                     

                                                                                         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Disciples Indeed?

Disciples Indeed?

   When Jesus went about speaking and teaching, He made disciples. This means that there were many who believed in Him as well as many who decided to follow Him. There are 30 or so passages that reference folks who followed Jesus.  Some did so because of the miracles, some for other reasons. Some did so because they heard Jesus and accepted His message. These followers became His disciples.  Some were affected in other ways in what Jesus said and how He said it.    We read about this in John 7:45-46 when officers were sent to arrest Jesus, but could not.   Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? 46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this manThese officers did not become disciples of the Lord, even though they were affected by His Words. 

    The difference between these folks and His disciples per John 8:31 is explained by Jesus while speaking to some who believed on Him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;  Then He told them in the next verse what benefit this would provide for them.  John 8:32  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.   Notice that “continuing therein” is a condition given by Jesus whereby those who became His disciples could remain so.  This is how one is a “disciple indeed”. This means reading, studying and living that Word.  We read of this not only in John 8:31 (above), but also after the church was established the Spirit had Paul write in 1Timothy 4:15-16 to Timothy.   He had become a disciple by obeying and following the Word of God.   Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.  He could only be a “disciple indeed” if he kept following and remained obedient to the Word.   The same is true for us even today.  

     There are those who begin being disciples and then fail to continue.  Why is this?  These surely are not “disciples indeed”.  When one questions what the Lord said, or what He had delivered to us through His Word, or begins to choose which Commandments to follow, can they continue to be disciples?   Jesus experienced this while He was still on earth.   In John 6:60 after hearing Words of Jesus that offended them, some began to question if they could remain His disciples, not considering the “spiritual” application of which Jesus spoke.  Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?    Note also that when people begin to question the Word, this is when their discipleship begins to become unstable.  

    We read that even after the explanation Jesus offered, many still could not see that He was speaking of the spiritual nature of His kingdom.  In John 6:63-65 He again told them that which was given by the Father (the Word) was what would make (and keep) them disciples.     It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.  It is only through the Word that one can find the formula for being a disciple.  The Word is what calls us to Christ as we read in 2Thessalonians 2:14. Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. But alas, in John 6:66 we see that some could not remain “disciples indeed”. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 

    Then, as we read on through John 6:67, we find the question that Jesus asked of His closest disciples in that day, and that all disciples need to ask themselves.  Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?      As this is being pondered, we should always consider the inspired response of Simon Peter which is found in vss 68-69.    Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.    The fact that Christ is God’s Son is the very beginning of becoming a disciple indeed.  But, it takes more than just believing that Jesus is the Christ.      Jesus Himself addressed this in Mark 16:15-16 when He taught the eleven after His resurrection.   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.

     When we read of another account of the Great Commission, we find that the Lord, in Matthew 28:18-20, told the eleven what “disciples indeed” were to do after the Lord returned to His Father and the promised Comforter came.  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.    Go, teach the truth, baptize, and teach is what disciples indeed will do.  Living according to the Word of God makes one a disciple indeed.   Is that what you are doing as a disciple?             

                                       Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

In The Fullness of Time

In the Fullness of Time

     It is certain that none of us like to wait. Our society has been so indoctrinated with all things instant that many have seemingly lost the art of waiting. Impatience is evident in nearly all aspects of life.   But have we ever considered that waiting has always been included in God’s plan? (Isaiah 40:31)

     It is obvious from Genesis 1:4 that God did not intend that everything happen at the same time. If God did not intend that man abide within the constraints of time, why did He divide the day from the night, and create time and its divisions? And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

   Cain had to wait for the harvest before he could offer his offering unto the Lord. We can see this from Genesis 4:3-5, as well as the fact that Cain’s offering was not accepted.   And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

     God had a plan for humanity from before the foundation of the world.  That plan included the sending of His Son. God chose a people through Abraham. Even Abraham had to wait for the child of Promise. Genesis 17:17 shows that he and Sarah had to wait for God’s timeframe for this to happen. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?  In the “fullness of God’s time” God’s promise was fulfilled.

     We also know from 1Peter 1:18-20, God’s plan for humanity was in place from before the creation. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,  Man had to wait until redemption was available till he could be a beneficiary of the plan.

     The question now is: “Why are not more people obedient to the gospel?” One no longer has to wait. The gospel plan is now in place. The “fullness of time” has arrived and one can now be saved.   In Galatians 4:4 we see that when the time was right, God sent His Son to fulfill God’s plan to save those who will obey the gospel plan. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,.  When Christ had died on the cross, had been buried and arose, He ascended to the Father. Shortly after that the final plan of God was offered to man. We are told in Romans 13:11 that it is now “high time” to awake out of sleep, and be faithful to God. This is even apparent in verse 12. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. 

    Mankind, now only has one thing for which to wait, and that is the second coming of Christ, and following this will be the judgment.  The judgment will also happen in accordance to God’s timeframe. When Jesus spoke in Matthew 24:36 the times of the events of which He spake were only known by the Father. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

     The other thing we need to address is the fact that we don’t know how much time we have remaining.   Job 14:1 is one passage that speaks of the brevity of life. Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.  As we look to James 4:14 in the New Testament, we are again reminded that our time here is not guaranteed.   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.    Ecclesiastes 3:1 is very clear in that there is a time for all things.   To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  Now, since we see that salvation is available and we don’t know how much time we have remaining, why not seek salvation now? Paul was directed by the Spirit in 2Corinthians 6:2 to tell those brethren that the “fullness of time” for salvation is now.     (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.   Why wait?   Now is the fullness of time.       

                                  Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

How Can Any Doubt the Promises of God?

How Can Any Doubt the Promises of God?

One needs only look to the third chapter of Genesis to read the promise God made to the man and woman He created and placed in the Garden.   It is quite interesting that God had provided them with all they needed, as well as the choice of obedience or disobedience and the penalty for not being obedient. Temptation was offered by the serpent – the manifestation of Satan. In Genesis 3:1-4 we read of this first promise of God to man, and the lie that caused the woman to doubt. Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely dieBecause of their sin, they were separated from God; exiled from the Garden. This separation from God is “spiritual” death.

   The first time the word “promise” is used in the KJV is Numbers 14:34 and is God’s punishment to His people Israel for murmuring when God had been so gracious to them. After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise. He had freed them from Egyptian bondage.  He had showed them the Promised Land through the twelve spies.   Yet, because of the “doubt” of ten of the spies, Israel refused to believe in God’s Promise and His Power to deliver the inhabitants into their hands so they could possess the land and live for God.   From this we should see that God’s Promises have positive and negative aspects.   If one follows God and His Word, positive results occur, but if not, God’s wrath is promised.

   The “promise” of God in the N.T. age was first declared in the book of Acts. We know that the Jews in Jerusalem on Pentecost, AD 33 were told in Acts 2:39 that the “promise” of God was going to be offered to all humanity, the Jews having the honor to receive it first. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.  Many are confused as to what this promise is. 1John 2:25 tells us what God has promised to all who follow His Word.  And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.  None would deny that this is a promise with a positive outcome.

     God has also told us in His Word we can be recipients of this promise. The Spirit had the apostle Paul write in 2Thessalonians 2:14 how we are “called” to become beneficiaries of this wonderful promise. Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  However, He has also warned us previously in this same letter, the failure to “answer” that call will result in a devasting outcome. 2Thessalonians 1:8-9 is where this is found.  In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;    I don’t know of anyone that willingly wishes to be a recipient of this promise of God.

     We must be aware if any of God’s promises are true, they all are. All of God’s Commandments are also true. This means that all God’s Promises in the N.T. age apply to us as well.   We cannot “pick and choose” which commandments we can follow. But we do have the option to choose which promises of God we will receive. It is likely those who doubt the promises of God do so because they don’t know the commandments of God.  In Titus 1:2-3 we see how God made His promises known to mankind. This is also how the Commandments are made known. In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; 3 But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; 

     These N.T. Commandments and Promises of God are given so we can be informed what God has provided for those who will become His children and what is in store for us, if we will be obedient and faithful to Him. Just because we have been obedient does not guarantee us a home in heaven. Continued fidelity in this life is required. In 2Corinthians 5:10 we are told that we must be judged for how we’ve lived 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.  Where does this leave those outside of the body of Christ? 1Peter 4:17 provides this answer. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? Those who doubt the promises and ignore the Commandments of God will be lost. Can you afford to doubt it?    

                                                           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Do You Have The Time?

Do You Have The Time?

   How many times have you heard this question?   This used to be asked of those wearing a watch by those who were without one and unaware of the time of day. This situation is highly unlikely today as even folks who don’t wear a watch carry a mobile phone and we all know – there’s an app for that!   At the same time there are many, whether they wear a watch or not, that often complain they don’t have time for many things that are needed in their lives.   Often enough, these same folks are the ones that also claim there is not enough hours in the day.

   The first account of a day in the Bible is found in Genesis 1:5 and refers to the first day as created by God. The latter part of that verse reads: And the evening and the morning were the first day.  The phrase “evening and the morning” is used again five more times in Genesis chapter one, and references five other days as they were created. Genesis 1:14 shows that God created, and then separated the lights to mark time. And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: This indicates that all days are of the same length. Every day has the same number of hours, so the claim that there are not enough hours in the day is not a valid one.  

     Perhaps more important than how much time one has each day, is what one does with their time. It is true that time seems to “get away from us”. We need to focus on what we do in the course of a day, or week, or even a month. In Matthew 6:33-34 we can see that Jesus taught to put first things first today and that tomorrow can be addressed when it becomes today. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

     This should remind us that “today” is all we have. We are not ever guaranteed a tomorrow.   James 4:14 reminds us that the present time is all we have.   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.  The brevity of life also was addressed in the Old Testament in Job 14:1-2, so none today can claim to not know.   Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. 2 He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.  For us to worry about time, and what we are going to do with what time we have often directs our focus away from that which is most important.

   Do we “take the time” to read and study the Bible? Have we taken the time to “seek first” the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Are we interested in taking care of that which is most important?   In Matthew 16:26 Jesus pointed out that the soul is the most important possession man has. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  Why then do we not use what little time we have to make sure our soul will spend eternity with God? Should this not be the most important thing for us? Those things which are of the most importance to us are those things we will “spend time” doing.   If our soul and its eternal destiny is important to us, we will not only spend time on protecting our soul, but we will also put forth whatever effort is necessary to ready it for eternity.

   God has repeatedly informed His people (Christians) in His New Testament Word that one must not only take the time to get ready, but they must also stay ready. In Rom 13:11, written to the Christians in Rome - folks who had already obeyed the gospel and were children of God - needed to “wake up” and used their time wisely. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  We can then look to Ephesians 5:16 we see why we are to use our remining time properly. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.    Does this not tie right in with what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:34 in the Sermon on the Mount? (scripture above) The sermon on the Mount was full of “Pentecost Pointers”.   The teaching there was to the Jews to remind them the “time” was soon coming in which they, and ultimately all of mankind would have access to the kingdom, which is the church, purchased with the blood of Christ.

   On the day of Pentecost, AD 33, the doors of the kingdom were opened to all the Jews gathered in Jerusalem that would be obedient.   Those that “took the time” to listen, hear, believe and obey were granted entrance to the kingdom. We know from Acts 2:41 about 3,000 obeyed. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  We also know that many others in Jerusalem were like many folks today.    Many today don’t have time for Jesus and His saving blood. 2Corinthians 6:2 tells us the time to obey is now. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)    Do You Have the Time?

                          

                               Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Happiness Is . . . . .

Happiness is . . .

   What is happiness?   Happiness is something defined in various ways by different people. That is because different things make them “happy”, or at least think they do. Happiness is a feeling, and feelings are subjective. In my research I found that some of the chemicals released in the brain that produce that “euphoric” feeling in response to happiness are: endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin. The problem with this is that different things cause the release of these chemicals in different brains.

   Suffice it to say that happiness is an “inner” quality. If your mind is at peace, though you have nothing else, you can still be happy.     If you have everything the world can give – pleasure, possessions, power – but lack peace of mind, you can never be happy. I suppose the key is: what gives one “peace of mind”?   Again, this could be different things to different people, but what does God, the “creator” of the mind have to say about happiness and what brings it to man?

   The only way to know this is to go to God’s Word and read it. In Proverbs 29:18 we are told that keeping God’s Law produces happiness, but those who can’t “see” it are destined to perish.  Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. Another way the Bible says one is “happy” is to say they are “blessed”.  One place that says it this way is Psalms 112:1, and this verse also speaks of the “joy” we should find in the commandments of God. Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.

   One who “fears” the Lord, delights in His Commandments and finds pleasure in following the Law of the Lord, obviously trusts in the Lord. Jeremiah 17:7 affirms this. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. While this is speaking of Israel, the same is true of us under the N.T. Law of God.  For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Colossians 1:5

     So, what makes you happy?  I don’t mean the fleeting elation one might feel when some pleasant surprise comes our way, but what brings us lasting happiness. That which can be taken away from us by others cannot possibly provide enduring delight. As Paul was directed by the Spirit in Romans 8:38-39 to write to those brethren, he was to tell them that which God has offered cannot be removed from us by anything or by anybody.   For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

     But, we should be cautioned lest we allow ourselves to forget that we can forfeit the “blessings” and happiness we have in Christ.   In preparation for the kingdom when Jesus was preaching in the Sermon on the Mount, He warned the Jews which were present of the fallacy of holding the material things of the earth in higher regard than their service to God.  In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus gave them a solemn warning.   He said: Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  The way in which one lives and the things to which they gravitate shows what they “think” makes them happy.  

     The Lord has always wanted His creation to be happy. It is also a fact that man has always had to face hardship on this earth since the time Adam and Eve sinned when the serpent deceived them with the prospect of carnal happiness. After man faces trial and tribulation, he should be happy, especially if he has passed the test.   If any ever had the opportunity to be unhappy it was Job. None would say he did not truly suffer.   In James 5:11 we are reminded of this as well as the “patience of Job.”   Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.  Surely Job was happy after his ordeal was over, and the mercy of God was such that Job received much more after his troubles because he remained faithful to God. No doubt Job’s true happiness was exhibited in his refusal to curse God for the calamity that came upon him.

   Those who use the quest for happiness as an excuse to live in sin, or to continue in conduct not conducive to true Christianity have shortchanged themselves. Unlike Moses in Hebrews 11:24-26, they want to “be happy” in sin in the “here and now” and in so doing, lose focus on the reward God has promised to those that love Him.   By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 

   Ask yourself - What is the “reward” in that which you think brings you happiness? Does it last beyond this life?   If not, that happiness will die when you die.  As Paul wrote in 1Corinthians 15:19, If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.  Won’t you seek true happiness today? Obey God’s Word.                         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Being Unaware Does Not Equal Safety

Being Unaware Does Not Equal Safety

   Many people have an aversion to having their ignorance pointed out as this tends to hurt feelings. Perhaps a proper understanding of what ignorance is would help the situation. By definition, ignorance is a lack of knowledge, education or awareness.   While some seem to be offended by having their ignorance identified and exposed, others seem to think ignorance provides them some insulation from obvious responsibility.

   These are much like the lemming of the North, who, unaware of the danger associated with great falls from a cliff charge boldly toward and over it in migratory frenzy. This is not some sort of mass suicide as many suppose, but many of them die as a result. Does the lack of knowledge (ignorance) provide safety in this instance?   Some claim that the ostrich, who most think is an “ignorant” animal, buries their head in the ground in an attempt to hide from danger.   This is a myth as well, as it would not negate the danger and would likely suffocate the animal that participated in such activity.  All of God’s creation instinctively knows that danger cannot be ignored.   Danger in the wild must be faced and some die during the confrontation. This is just the way of nature.

   Why then does man seem to think that being unaware of something shields them from responsibility? Are we any less susceptible to harm by not knowing, or being unaware of it? Can we not, as Jesus told the Sadducees, be in error by not knowing the scriptures? Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. (Matthew 22:29)

Did they even dare think they could escape the wrath of God in their disobedience, let alone “trick” the “Word” Himself?    There was no safety in their position and their ignorance did not excuse it. They had been in possession of the same Word with which they challenged the Lord for many years, in fact, all their lives – yet they were unaware.

   Today, it is the same.   Even those self-styled “experts of the Word of God fail to acknowledge the proper “divisions” in God’s revelation to man and the resulting problem is denominations. Many adhere to the teaching of their denomination (or faction) and feel secure in that false hope that it brings.   There is no excuse for misunderstanding the Word of God.   When rightly divided, His Commandments are clear, His promises certain, and His reward is waiting for those who become and remain obedient to it.    

     Perhaps that was the “mindset” of my Father In-Law when he wrote the poem below.   Read, study and strive to understand the Word of God, then follow it. Don’t allow your ignorance of the Word of God and His instructions to man in this age cost you your soul’s salvation.    Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ.

   

                       Understanding the Word

I’m attempting a thing that is hard to do,

And that’s writing this poem for people like you.

Don’t misunderstand the things I shall say,

Everything in the Bible’s not for us today.

While personal pronouns appear in their places,

The context decides their “use” in such cases.

The apostles and prophets have some special spots,

Which some never knew and others forgot.

The “permanent” and “temporary” are valuable too,

While screening the evidence for what to do.

It’s true these are there in the Sacred Text,

With the temporary first and the permanent next.

To whom, about what, is often ignored,

While some certain passages and underscored.

“Generics” and “specifics” we know aren’t the same,

And the literal and figurative are seldom explained.

When “rightly divided” God’s message is plain,

He gave the commands, the expedients we name.

The “mystery’s” revealed, but, Ah, have we learned?

The question I ask: “Are we really concerned?”

So let us “divide” by the dispensations,

Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian equations.

Re-trace the “boundaries”, re-build the “fences”,

And the Word will require no further defenses.

                   O.D. Wilson – deceased

Virtual Worship?

Virtual Worship?

   What is this world coming to? A recent Fox News article is entitled: “Church as we know it is over. Here’s what’s next.”   The article begins by pointing out that “church” as we know it is based on physical attendance and that it is “location-centric”. Then, time is taken up in the article to decry the fact that “church leaders” have had to take time weekly to “encourage, invite, and plead” with people to come to a specific place on a specific time on Sundays.   Finally, the article concedes that “forward thinking churches realized that people no longer engaged with organizations just physically, so they developed online platforms that streamed services parallel to the physical church.”   Additionally, the article states that when social media entered the scene, those “forward thinking” churches adjusted again, creating multi-channel strategies that allow people to access some content physically, some on line and some on the church’s social media platforms. They bought in to the “virtual reality” worship idea.

   Now, before some think that I am a luddite, (one who is opposed to technological change) let me say that I have totally embraced technology. I use e-mail, research on-line, use a computer for many things, including uploading sermons and articles to our website. I even own and operate a smart phone. I do draw the line with certain social media – I don’t tweet, facebook, snapchat and such.   That is not to say that all these are wrong or evil. However, I firmly believe the idea of “virtual worship”, or that which allows folks to choose when to worship, rather than to gather with God’s people is an abomination to God.   The above mentioned article likens its multi-media options to a pool with no lane buoys – “everyone is able to explore any part of the pool in their own time.”   Have you ever been to a pool without lane buoys? TOTAL CONFUSION1Corinthians 14:33 makes it crystal clear that such a concept is foreign to God. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.  Why would God set up New Testament worship, organize the church and command attendance if it is not important?

     Jesus, in John 4:24, while talking with the Samarian woman at the well, stated a fact that cannot be denied. He said: God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. This is a requirement because there are many who “ignorantly” worship.     One such case is found in Acts 17:22-23 which offered the apostle Paul a wonderful opportunity to preach the gospel to those people. Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.23For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.  Certainly this declaration was made “face to face” as vs 33 tells us that after Paul has finished speaking the Words the Spirit gave him, Paul departed from among them.

   This idea of “virtual worship” is a cop-out for those who find it inconvenient to do as God has commanded. Hebrews 10:25 instructs the Hebrews Christians of the fallacy of “forsaking” what God commands. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.  Let me pose some scenarios to see if they can be “simulated” and still be effective.   1) Can one “virtually” partake of the Lord’s Supper? In 1Corinthians 11:33 after receiving correction regarding the Lord’s Supper, notice where they were to be when eating it, as well as they were to wait for one another.   Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.  Acts 20:7 tells us when they were to “come together” to break bread, which is another way of saying – to partake of the Lord’s Supper. This is to be done “every first day of every week.”   And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.  The Supper is a privilege as well as a command. The preaching till midnight is optional. 2) Can singing in worship be done “virtually”? In Hebrews 2:12 the Spirit had the penman direct the minds of the Christians regarding this avenue of worship. Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.  Let me point out that the building is not the church, but the church meets in the building. 3) Giving to the Lord is commanded in 1Corinthians 16:2. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. This particular “offering” was to be gathered for the benefit of the beleaguered saints in Jerusalem during the famine. The precedent for our giving is set here. Some congregations have embraced the idea of “on-line” giving.   They claim it makes it easier on folks to “support” the work. Why not “give” while “gathered” with the church?   I wonder how these churches would feel if we sent them our “virtual” wealth. I assure they want our “actual” monies as they cannot spent funds that don’t really exist.  

   Finally, let me ask? What if God “virtually” sent His Son to die on the cross? The blood of Christ would not have “really” been shed. If His blood was not “really” shed, it would not have been taken before the Father as the supreme sacrifice that can save a soul. Therefore you could not be saved as you could not contact that blood in baptism.  Also, Heaven and Hell are not virtual. They are very real. You will spend eternity in one of them.   Are you willing to “gamble” your soul on “virtual” worship?            

                                 Dennis S – Mooresville church of Christ

How Comitted Are You To God?

How Committed are You to God ?

     Most all religious people claim to be committed to God.  But what does it really mean to be “committed” to God?   We have numerous examples in God’s Word that show true commitment. In Joshua 1:7 we read where God told Joshua what it takes to be committed.   Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.  When God told him this, He also told him the initial benefit for so doing.   Upon studying the entirety of this book, we find near the end that the commitment of Joshua positively affected the nation of Israel. This is found in Joshua 24:31.  And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel. But, as we study the O. T. and look at the nation of Israel after this time, we must ask: “What happened to their commitment to God?”  

    The answer to the question was the same then as it is now, and it always will be. God has always provided for His people – If His people will accept His instruction, then do what God says to do. This was applicable under the Old Testament Law to Israel and also applies today under the New Testament Law of Christ, written to Christians.   In Hosea 4:6 we read of the condition of most of Israel and the reason they had fallen into such a state.   My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.  When these folks rejected God’s Word they rejected Him and also they stopped teaching God’s Law to their children. In this way the children knew not God and He “forgot” them because they refused Him.  They weren’t committed to God. Christians cannot be uncommitted to God and expect to please Him.

     In Joshua 24:14-15, after God had done as promised and delivered Israel to the Land of Promise, Joshua charged the people to be faithful to God. He also stated the commitment he had to God. But, he also told them that each individual had to decide if they too were going to be committed to God. Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.  We know that Israel immediately made claim that they would always be faithful. Most do when challenged in this way.

    But, what is the proof of such claims? As the saying goes: “The proof is in the pudding”. Originally this was stated: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” and it means that the end product will show the true nature of a thing.   James 2:18 is perfectly clear about how one’s faith is demonstrated.   Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  The same thing applies to one’s “commitment to God”. One would not be out of line to say to another: “Show me your commitment to God without your works, and I will show you my commitment to God by my works.”   Can your commitment to God be shown by your works? Does an hour or so on Sunday constitute works for the Lord?   It doesn’t even qualify as “reasonable service”. Remember Luke 17:10 as Jesus spoke to His disciples? So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. 

    Of course, these “works” with which one could show their commitment to God, have to be in accordance to the Word of God. These “works” would also include the teaching of the Word of God as well as living them. In Psalms 119:10 we read of the degree of commitment the psalmist had toward God and His Word.   With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.  As we read Psalm 101:6 we find the one who does “not wander” from the commandments of God are not only committed, but also are faithful. The “committed” one will also “dwell” with God. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me

    One cannot acceptably serve God without being committed to Him. The idea of commitment is conveyed in the word “walketh” in the above verse.   The eth on this word implies an ongoing and continuous walking in a perfect way. We find the same suffix, “eth” twice in James 1:25.  When these verses are taken together, one must realize that to be “committed” to God, one must “look” into and “walk” continually in the perfect law of liberty. 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.  This verse also indicates that commitment is not just hearing, but doing the work.   Just like Israel, the O.T. people of God, we today, as God’s people – Christians – cannot expect to receive what God has promised in the Law He wrote to the church except we be committed to Him and His Word.  

     How committed are we to God?   Our soul’s eternal destination requires us to be totally committed to Him and His Word.  

                                                                                      Dennis S – Mooresville church of Christ

Lack of Knowledge is Hazardous to Your Health

Lack of Knowledge Is Hazardous to Your Health

   There is a long list of products, substances and actions that are known to cause harm to a person, but “a lack of knowledge” is on none of these lists. That is largely because the primary concern on these lists is all about ones “physical” being. It is important to take care of our bodies, and the knowledge of how to do so is valuable.   We are to take care of our physical bodies as the body is the earthly dwelling place of the soul. We are also to use our bodies in the service of God. This is what the Spirit had Paul tell the Roman brethren in Romans 12:1, but in verse 2 we also see that the body and soul are to work in conjunction in service to God.   I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 

   The idea that lacking knowledge or even hating knowledge causes one to bring difficulties to themselves is not new.   In Proverbs 1:28-32 we are told of the fate of those under the Old Testament Law of God willing to endanger themselves by spurning the Word of God. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: 30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. 31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. 32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.  Notice that the individual is to bear the blame when God’s counsel is ignored and it is the individual that makes the choice that brings destruction upon himself.

   Hosea 4:6-7 is perhaps a much more well-known Old Testament passage that shows that what one does not know is harmful to them. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.  But there is also a very important New Testament passage; Romans 1:28-32, which shows us in this age, that “lack of knowledge” of God’s Word leads to all sorts of despicable acts and makes one worthy of death – spiritual death.   And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. 

   The very fact that a “lack of knowledge is hazardous to your health” is evidence that knowledge can indeed be quite beneficial. In 2Peter 1:3-4 we find that through “knowledge” of Christ and His plan we have access to the “great and precious promises” made in the Word of God. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  Notice also that we first have to escape the corruption that is in the world.  

 Knowledge of this is important because we do have choices. As we live this life we are actually choosing where we will spend eternity. 1John 2:15-17 tells us of our choices. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  Then, when we read 2Corinthians 5:10 we see why knowledge is so important as we make our choices as none can escape the judgement 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.  Aren’t you glad that you now know?  

                           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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