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How Hard Are You Working?

How Hard Are You Working?

       Work has been around since before man. In Genesis 2:2 we find the first biblical reference to work, as God completed creation, so work preceded man.   Man also knew work before his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. We know this from Genesis 2:15 as it was the God-given duty of man to “dress and keep” this Garden Paradise. Some sort of effort must have been needed to carry out this responsibility.  

       Something obviously changed regarding “work” after expulsion from the Garden. We must consider that what we now know as work, labor, toil, and exertion came as a direct result of punishment because of man’s sin in the Garden.   Genesis 3:19 tells us Adam would eat bread by the sweat of his brow from that time forward until he returned to the dust from which he was taken.   We see in Genesis 3:23 that Adam was ejected from the Garden and his physical punishment was to “till the ground” to produce food to eat. Such is the fate of all mankind.   This is called work.

       There is no doubt that man “works” today, and many work hard trying to get out of work. Many have exhausted much time trying to figure how to “get more” and “work less”.   From these efforts have come motivational slogans such as “Work Smarter – Not Harder”.   A coach once told his players: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Maya Angelou is credited to have said: “Nothing will work unless you do.” And Simon Sinek, the British-American author wrote: “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress: Working hard for something we love is called passion.

     While all these, and many others are designed to get more out of people or to motivate them, most of these sayings are applied to the physical labor in which we participate to earn for the earthly benefit of ourselves and our families. But there are far more important things for which we must work. There is a real need to labor as we prepare for eternity.

     Jesus stated in John 4:34, in response to His disciples’ request about food for physical sustenance: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” His remark indicated there was labor involved in carrying out the Will of God for the Salvation of souls that would obey God’s Word. In John 9:4, the Christ also informed us there is a limited amount of time in which to accomplish what which needs to be done. The Lord’s Words: “the night cometh when no man can work” is clearly speaking of death.   That there is no work in the grave was also proclaimed in Ecclesiastes 9:10.   After we cross the threshold of death, there is no more work for us, as our lives on earth are over. Any work we do in preparation for eternity must be done in this life.

       Therefore, we need to address the question which forms the title of this article with our eternal destination in mind.   How Hard Are You Working? We do want to spend eternity with God, don’t we? Are we not willing to do as the Spirit had the apostle Paul tell the brethren in Philippians 2:12? He told them to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This is the same reason 1Corinthians 15:58 instructs those brethren to be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”, and why they were reminded that their “labor” in the Lord was not in vain.  

       Some might ignorantly claim no work is required for one to have Salvation because we read in Ephesians 2:8 that one is saved through faith as a gift of God.   Others erroneously believe since Romans 6:23 states that God’s “gift” to man is eternal life, there is nothing required of man except to believe. May I ask if the “devils” are going to be saved?   James 2:19 clearly shows that the devils believe “there is one God” and even “tremble” as a result. One might say the devils have faith in God.   However, James 2:20 shows without doubt that faith absent of works is dead.   The devils, while believing, are not saved because they refused to do “works meet for repentance” such as the Spirit had Paul preach in Acts 26:20. Although Salvation through Christ is indeed a great gift from God, there are conditions that must be met to receive and to retain such a gift.  

       One of these conditions is obedience to the gospel. In Romans 1:16, Paul made it clear that the gospel of Christ is the “power of God unto salvation” to all who believe. To prove that “action: must accompany that faith, one need only to read Romans 16:25-26 to see that the gospel is “made known to all nations for the obedience of faith”. It takes work for one to be obedient and to remain faithful to the Lord. This is why, in Acts 2:40, after preaching the first gospel sermon in the New Testament age with the other eleven apostles, Peter said: “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.“ The people who “gladly received his Word were baptized”.

       Why would they do such a thing? 2Corinthians 5:9 tells us they labored so they “may be accepted of him”. Colossians 1:10 shows that “being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” is to walk worthy of the Lord and please Him.   Why not get to work today, learning what God would have you do in accordance with His Word, and then do it? If you claim to have obeyed, and that you do work, How Hard Are You Working? Are you working hard enough to be pleasing to God?   Are you willing to bet your soul’s eternity on it?   Think about it.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville


Having The Time Of Our Life

Having The Time Of Our life

     Usually the idea of “having the time of our life” is associated with a period of fun, gaiety, intense enjoyment, or something of that nature.   Sadly, many who claim to be having the “time of their lives” are spending their lives with a focus on the physical.   In Ephesians 2:3 the Spirit directed the apostle Paul to remind those brethren their past consisted of “fulfilling the desires of the flesh”, and during that time, they were “by nature the children of wrath”. Is such an existence to be considered the “time of our life”? How will this end?

   Another group that had a sordid past was the church in Corinth. We read in 1Corinthians 6:9-11a that the past lives of the brethren there were lived in an effort to fulfill various lusts of the flesh. In that same passage, they were told that those who have such a focus “shall not inherit the kingdom of God”. Thankfully, the recipients of that letter had been “washed” (baptized into Christ), and when they did so, were “sanctified” (set apart), and “justified” (be rendered innocent) by the blood of Christ.  

     All Christians should be regularly reminded that everyone lived “according to the flesh” prior to obeying the gospel. This is true regardless of the degree of the sin in the life of the individual. Romans 8:5-13 makes this abundantly clear. In this life, one either lives “after the flesh” or “after the Spirit”. There is no middle ground. Romans 8:6 shows the eternal outcome of living each type of life.   Also, one need not be a “vile sinner” to be lost.   James 4:17 tells us that if we know what is “good” to do, and fail, or refuse to do it, we have sinned.   Sin separates man from God, so man should do all he can to not sin.

     But this does not mean Christians must live a less that enjoyable life. One who is a faithful member of the body of Christ truly enjoys a life in service to God. The “time of their life” is spent preparing for what follows this life. Perhaps if more people would consider where the “time of their lives” as the world defines it leads, they might begin to question what this life is all about.  

     What is life truly about? Why are we granted “time” in this realm? This is the greatest question of life. We need to be reminded that our time on this earth is temporary. It is not our entire existence.   Even Methuselah, who according to Genesis 5:24, lived nine hundred-sixty-nine years, had a limited time on earth. Many others also lived a long life, but even these lives were not permanent. This was when man was populating the whole earth.   We are then told in Genesis 6:3 that the average lifespan was reduced to about a hundred and twenty years. After this, in Psalm 90:10, we see that number condensed to “threescore years and ten”, or seventy years. Even here we are told that though we may exceed this span, life “is soon cut off, and we fly away.” In James 4:14, the New Testament reminds us of the brevity of life as life is described as a “vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

     So, what are we to do with our “brief” stint on earth? In James 4:13, just before being warned that life is fleeting, we are told our time here is not only about earthly increase.   1Timothy 6:6-7 tells us that that true gain is about godliness, and that none of the things we amass while we sojourn here can be taken with us beyond this life.   For some, the “time of their life” is all about narcissism, or self-admiration in one form or another. Surely this is not to be our purpose in life, as Jesus taught in Matthew 16:24 all are to deny self, take up their cross, and follow Him. We are also taught in Matthew 6:5 this life is not for the goal of being noticed by others. In fact, He said that those who make it their function in life to be seen by men have already received their reward. Therefore, the purpose of our time here must be to address our spiritual needs. God has provided for this if we will follow His Word.

     The “time of our lives” should be about preparing for our existence after our period of existence in this realm. This does not mean we must abandon our pursuit of “good days”.   1Peter 3:10-11 informs that loving life and good days will cause one to control their lips and tongue, shun evil, and follow after peace. In Hebrews 12:14, the recipients of that letter were reminded of the life-time commitment they made to God upon their obedience to the gospel. If they wanted to “see the Lord” they were to “follow peace and holiness” with all men.   This applies to all “children of God” as Romans 14:17-18 shows. All who follow these things in this life are “acceptable to God and approved of men.” To “follow peace” is not to “just get along”, but to obey the gospel and faithfully serve God in this life.   Why is this so important?

      This is of utmost importance because Hebrews 9:27, says everyone granted time on this earth has an appointment with death. At the conclusion of all things, per 2Thessalonians 1:8, God will take vengeance in flaming fire on all that know not God, and obey not the gospel.   The “time of our life” is given so we might have the chance to obey as God has commanded. In every dispensation of time, God has granted man time to make the choice as to how to spend the “time of their life”. Perhaps the best way to describe the way one is to “have the time of their life” is expressed by God Himself in the Words given to Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:13: If we “fear God and Keep His Commandments”, Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says we can have the time of our lives here as we prepare to spend eternity with Him over there. “enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matthew 25:21b

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

     From 1968 through 2001, an educational children's television series called “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood aired in the United States. The series was aimed primarily at preschool children ages 2 through 5, but the show has been determined as appropriate for all ages.   The message of the show was designed to reach the malleable minds of young children. It was intended to assist them in becoming competent, compassionate and caring adults.

     There’s no doubt that “neighbors” have existed since Genesis chapter four when the descendants of Adam and Eve spread out into communities as they continued to multiply. However, the word neighbor cannot be found in the Bible until Exodus 3:21-22 when the captive Jewish women were instructed to borrow from their “neighbor”, jewels of silver, gold, and raiment.   This was God’s plan to give “Israel favor in the sight of the Egyptians” and the spoiling of them. In this case, the Hebrew Word used is shâkên (shaw-kane’), meaning a resident, or inhabitant or fellow citizen. Another Hebrew Word used for neighbor in the Old Testament conveys the idea of: an associate, brother, companion, fellow, or friend.   In other passages, we find a word for neighbor that implies kinfolk, or those of close affinity.  

     As we move into the Gospels, neighbor first occurs in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:43. The Greek Word used by the Lord here is “plēsion” (play-see’-on), and conveys the idea of one close by, a countryman, friend, or fellowman.   Incidentally, this same word is used throughout the New Testament for neighbor.   Matthew 19:19 provides the second occurrence of this Word and is identified as part of the Ten Commandments. This was the Law under which both the Lord and the man asking the question lived.   As we contemplate the Lord’s Words here, we understand that we are to love our neighbors to the same degree we are to love ourselves.

     The first question then is: How much do we love ourselves?   Is our love for ourselves enough that we will seek to save our own souls? Perhaps this is the idea behind the Words of Jesus in Matthew 16:26 as the question of what man loves most is presented. Obviously, folks who are willing to “take something” in exchange for their souls are either indifferent, ignorant, or have a total lack of concern for the eternal abode of their own souls, not believing God’s Promises of destruction for the disobedient.  

     On the other hand, the evidence is abundant that some loved themselves and loved their souls enough to do as Commanded. The first case of this can be found in Acts 2:14-39 as Peter and the eleven were honored to preach the initial gospel sermon in the “last days” on the day of Pentecost, A.D. 33. Then in Acts 2:40 with “many other Words” given them by the Spirit, the Jews there were exhorted to “save yourselves”. We see how this was accomplished when in Acts 2:41-49, as those who “gladly received” the proclaimed Word of God were baptized into Christ, and were added to the church. So, those who love themselves and love God, will obey His Word.

       The same soul saving message which was delivered at Pentecost was also proclaimed by apostles and others, as moved by the Holy Spirit. As Paul was directed to write to the church at Rome, we see in Romans 1:16 the refusal to be ashamed of the gospel and the reason why. The gospel “is the power of God unto salvation” to all who believe.   James, the half-brother of the Lord was directed in James 1:21 to pen inspired Words to warn the brethren to “lay apart” evilness (even the appearance of such), and rather, “receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” Note also that it’s not enough to “love God” in initial obedience, but that it is to be an on-going effort. This is why in Philippians 2:12, the Spirit had Paul tell those Christians to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

     The second question is: How much do I love my neighbor?   Is his/her soul important to me?   And then, why should it be?   If we apply Matthew 19:19 as it should be applied, we should have the same love for our neighbor’s souls as for our own. If we strive to know, understand and follow the Word of God for the benefit and salvation of our own souls, and if we love our “neighbor” as ourselves, doesn’t it stand to reason that we should do all we can to help our neighbor also to be saved? I can see it no other way, and neither could the Lord.

     In John 14:21, while Jesus was on earth, He told His apostles: He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father.   Our obedience to God should not be solely to “save our own souls”, but because we love God, His Son, and His Word.   If we love God and His Word, we will do what He Commands, including take that soul saving message to our neighbors. Was this not the idea behind the Great Commission, given by Christ in Matthew 28:19-20?

     Now, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?   Allow me to help you see the love of God and the plan for which His Son willingly died on Calvary. Unless or until you obey God’s soul saving plan found in His Word, there’s no way you can “lay hold” on eternal life. If you love God, you’ll obey Him and help your neighbor be saved as well.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Almost or Altogether?

Almost or Altogether? 

     Most students of the Bible readily recognize the Words which comprise this article’s title as those spoken by the apostle Paul as he stood before king Agrippa in Acts 26:28.   We might also recall that just prior to this, Paul had been accused by Governor Festus of having too much learning and being mad.   We also can be reasonably sure that neither Festus, Agrippa, nor any of those gathered there had obeyed the gospel, because Paul’s statement indicates as much. There is also no doubt as to why the Spirit had Paul make such a strong proclamation before these men who literally had Paul’s life in their hands.   The only other thing Paul desired at that time was that those who heard him would not be subjected to being bound as he was.

     We have another time in which the Spirit had Paul express his desire for the Salvation of others in Romans 10:1.   At this occasion, Paul made it known that he even prayed that Israel be saved. The primary difference between the Jews of which Paul spoke here and the Gentile king and governor was that the Jews had a zeal of God.   While there were also several other things that divided these Jews and the Gentile rulers, they shared commonality in at least two things. 1) They were not saved, and 2) they lacked the knowledge they needed to become Christians.

     Herein lies the problem with many a people today. There are many who have been deceived by various denominational doctrines and beguiled into a false belief that they are saved. Why do some not have proper knowledge of God’s plan to save the souls of men? In Romans 10:3, the Spirit had Paul reveal the source of the problem.   Zeal without knowledge causes man to rely upon himself rather than upon God and His Word.   As this occurs, men commend themselves. 2Corinthians 10:18 clearly teaches such an one is far from being approved of God. Because of a lack of, or a refusal to receive proper knowledge, they are not “almost”, but altogether lost in sin.

       This is of utmost importance because one can’t be “almost” lost or saved.

King Agrippa, while being “almost” persuaded, was still altogether lost.   God does not desire that any be lost. In 1Timothy 2:3-4 we are told this, as well as God’s desire that all learn, or come to the knowledge of the truth. Was it not the Lord Himself in John 8:32 who told the Jews that believed on Him that they would “know the truth”, and thereby be made free? From what would they be freed? Romans 6:3-7 clearly reveals the answer to this question. Would they be “almost freed”, or altogether freed from sin? Acts 2:47 provides this answer, as God added the ones who had learned the truth and obeyed the gospel to the church daily.

     We are also reminded in 2Peter 3:9 that it is not God’s desire that any perish (their souls be lost), but rather that all would come to repentance. The Spirit also had the apostle remind those recipients of that second letter in 2Peter 1:3 that the knowledge of truth of which Jesus spoke, the Word of God, provides all that man needs for “life and godliness”. That which God has provided and clearly shows one how to be “altogether saved” is the gospel.   Additionally, 1Corinthians 1:18 makes it clear that the “preaching of the cross” is the “power of God”. This is also affirmed in Romans 1:16 in the letter to those brethren.   It was that same power of God that Paul proclaimed before Agrippa, Festus, those gathered there as well as all who would receive that soul saving message.  

     According to Acts 26:16-18, this was the purpose Paul was a chosen vessel unto the Lord. As such, Paul would testify of what he had seen, what the Lord delivered unto him, and be delivered from the persecuting Jews and Gentiles. His message would shine the light of the gospel before them that they “may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance”.   It appears very certain that the sins God would “remember no more” in Hebrews 10:17 were not “almost” forgotten, but altogether forgotten.   These (past) sins were taken away and no longer remembered (brought up year after year).  

   Christians must then make sure that they do their absolute best to remain as free from sin as is possible so they can continue to be “altogether saved”. This does not mean that we will not sin, because we are told in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.   But each child of God will examine him/her self as 2Corinthians 13:5 directs to ensure they are still “in the faith”.   Are we, as children of God, almost, or altogether following His Holy Word?   This is what will make the difference in whether or not we will be spared condemnation at the judgment.  

     Can one “almost” or partially do God’s Will and be pleasing to Him?   Such is not possible. Can the child of God “almost” evangelize?   Can one almost follow the Lord?   Is not this the point the Lord was making in Matthew 7:22 in regard to those who said unto Him, “Lord, Lord?   As the next verse in that great Sermon on the Mount shows, He will say unto those who “almost” serve Him, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

     Don’t be as Agrippa of old. Don’t be “almost” persuaded and altogether lost! Be fully obedient to that soul saving gospel message. That is the only way one can be “in Christ”. Faithfully serve in accordance as God has directed in His New Testament Word.   Only then it can be said of you, as was said of the brethren in Colossians 2:10, that “ye are complete in Him”.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

If It Ain't Broke . . .

If It Ain’t Broke . . .

     We’ve all heard the above phrase, and know the ending: . . . don’t fix it!   We surely understand that this means: “If something is working as designed, and as it is supposed to, why bother it?   Other ways of saying this might be: leave well enough alone, or never change a running system. This saying has been around since the early 1970’s. Isn’t it ironic that it was popularized in 1977 by T. Bert Lance of the Jimmy Carter administration?  
       It is indisputable that God’s Word and God’s plan for the Salvation of souls is without flaw and God’s part in that plan is faultless.   Every part of the God-Head, and the plan They put in place is absolutely perfect, and will result in the saving of souls if followed correctly. Romans 12:1-2 supports this as the brethren there were told how to live as Christians. 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.
       An additional passage for support of the fact that God’s Word is all that is needed for sinful man is James 1:25.   This also provides an admonition to all who claim to follow the Lord. 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.   Notice if you will, that God’s Law here is called the “perfect Law of liberty”. Per this verse, one must continue to look into the Word, remain in it, and keep “doing” (which means follow it), as His Holy Word directs. This perhaps is why in Philippians 2:12 the Spirit had Paul write: 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.
       Christ provided the only Sacrifice (His blood) that can cleanse a soul, and the Holy Spirit delivered God’s Holy Word to the church through inspiration so we can know how to access that blood.   Additionally, we are provided the   direction within God’s Word to live while here on this earth so that we can ultimately spend eternity with Him. 2Peter 1:3-4 informs us God has given all we need and promises looking forward. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  Since that plan & everything about it is perfect, and “not broken”, why does man try to “fix it”?  
         Could it be possible that those trying to “fix” God’s plan for Salvation don’t truly know that plan? Are they trying to “obtain” Salvation in other ways than prescribed by God in His Word? Remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 10:1? He said: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. Those who are foolish enough to try “fixing” the perfect plan of Salvation are surely in that category. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
        What about Christians, those who have once obeyed the gospel, are some of them guilty of trying to “fix” God’s plan?   Some are, because as far back as Galatians 3:1 there were some who were seeking to “alter” God’s plan and deceive folks. O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?   Were they not warned in the first part of that same letter in what we have as Galatians 1:6-8?   I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Let us not be deceived or bewitched that God’s plan has changed. It has not, and therefore does not need fixing!
         God produced the plan and the means for us to attain Salvation. That plan is perfect, unbroken and needs not to be “fixed”. That plan was delivered and promises given beginning in Acts 2:38-39. The promise was the gift of the Holy Ghost which is eternal life. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 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. 1John 2:25 shows that we “hath” it in promise. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
       Since we have not yet received that final reward, rather than try to fix something that is unbroken, why not follow that perfect plan?   The Spirit has Paul put it this way in Philippians 3:13-14. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The plan of God ain’t broke! Don’t try to fix it – follow it, it will save your soul.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Who Do You Love?

Who Do You Love?

     By asking the question which is the title of this week’s bulletin article, it is apparent that we have choice of whom or to what we will show our deepest affection. One biblical way of asking this question was utilized by our Lord in John 21:16-17 following His coming forth from the dead as He appeared to His apostles. He asked: “lovest thou me?”. In both of these verses, Christ directed the question specifically to Peter.   The response from Peter each time was “thou knowest that I love thee.”   In verse 17, Peter affirmed that the Lord “knowest all things”. As Christ is God, we also know this to be so.

     In this same book and chapter, we have a question from the Lord which indicates that one can love someone in varying degrees, or that one can love one more than another. We have this inquiry of Christ in verse 15: “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” As Peter was with the other disciples (apostles), it is clear that our Lord was asking Peter whom he loved the most, the Christ Who died to provide Salvation, or his fellow apostles.   Once, following Peter’s response, the Lord Commanded: “Feed my lambs”, and twice He Commanded: “Feed my sheep”.   Because of their love for the souls of man, all the apostles would all participate in carrying out this Command and in so doing, show their great love for Christ and God.

     The “job” for which the Lord prepared the apostles included teaching the gospel message of love. Christ’s response in John 14:23-24 to the question of Judas (not Iscariot), indicates this very thing.   Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.  We then see from verse 26 how the apostles were to receive that saving message and on-going instruction after the Lord’s ascension.   But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

     Our Lord never taught that one must love Him exclusively.   He indicated this clearly in Matthew 10:37-38 as He taught that we are to love Him more than even our own family.   He said: “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. ” We are to understand from this that we are all to love father, mother, sons, daughters and siblings, but our love for the Lord is to be greater. This was taught while the O.T. Law of Moses was in effect, and aligns perfectly with Luke 9:23-24 which also shows how often His followers are to show that love. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

     Love for God and love of one another is also taught in the N.T. Law of Christ.   In 1John 1:8-11 we find these Words, provided by the Spirit and penned by that beloved apostle John.   He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.  Husbands are also to love their wives as Christ gave us example per Ephesians 5:25. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;   Another great example is shown in 1John 4:19, and shows that love originated with God. We love him, because he first loved us.

     Of course, no discussion of God’s Love for man can be complete without pointing out John 3:16-17.   So many “hang” their Salvation on these verses, yet fail to follow the Commandments of God. 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. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  I fail to understand why man cannot see that God’s Love alone will not save the soul of man without man doing something.   If that were the case, Jesus needn’t have died on Calvary’s cruel cross. 1John 5:3 gives every indication that each individual also has responsibility in the Salvation of their souls. Keeping God’s Commandments is also how we show our love for Him. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

     This is also supported by 1John 2:5 . But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.   The “Him” here is Christ. Titus 2:14 shows what Christ did for man. Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Considering all God and Christ has done for mankind, perhaps the question should be: “Who Do You Love Most?”   Keep His Commandments; obey the gospel, continue to keep them.   Show your love for God and prepare for eternity.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Man's Greatest Concern

Man’s Greatest Concern

     The story is told of a preacher who preached a very graphic and descriptive sermon on sin. After the sermon one “well-meaning” and prominent church member approached the preacher with the following advice. The person said, “We don’t want you to talk so plainly about sin, because if our children hear you talking so much about sin they will more easily become sinners. Call it a mistake if you will, but don’t speak so plainly about sin.” Shortly thereafter the “well-meaning” member was visiting in the preacher’s home. The preacher presented a bottle of strychnine marked “Poison” to his visitor. Reminding the “well-meaning” member of the earlier advice given to the preacher, the preacher then said to his visitor: “I see now what you meant in your recent advice. You want me to change the label. But suppose I take off this label marked ‘Poison’ and put on some mild label, such as ‘Oil of Anise,’ can’t you see what happens?

     “The milder you make the label, the more dangerous you make the poison.” Our Lord did not place a “mild label” on sin. He made it clear that sin is man’s greatest concern.   It is the responsibility of the church (Gospel preachers in particular) to make sin as real and abhorrent to people as possible, if there is to be any hope of convicting anyone of sin and thereby truly converting them to Christ.

       First, we must realize that God is the only one who can evaluate sin properly. Let us, therefore, strive to see sin as God sees it. Second, God defines sin to be “the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). Sin separates men from God (Isa. 59:2; Col. 2:13). Hence, to die in sin is to be lost eternally in a devil’s hell (Gal. 5:19-24; Rev. 21:8; Mat. 25:41-46). Third, one should notice how God moves people to come out of a life of sin. Jesus had more to say about hell than anyone else we read of in the Bible, and the reason why is that He does not want anyone to go to that terrible place (Mat. 25; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; 2 Pet. 3:9-13; Rev. 22:17).

       Is it not obvious that one of the ways to understand just how God views sin is to understand the place that God has prepared for those who die in sin? Do we try to get people to see the eternal consequences of their sinful lives (Rom. 2:3)?   God’s great love for sinful man is the other factor that helps us see sin as God sees it (2:4). “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8; John 3:16). To study in the Bible the loving, sinless life of Christ and to meditate on His agonizing and shameful death is a great motivating factor for man. In so doing, one realizes that Christ freely left Heaven and the form of God to take upon Himself the form of man whereby He allowed Himself to be tempted as all men are tempted, yet without sin (Phi. 2:5-8; Heb. 4:15). Surely, few people meditate on what God has done for them that they never could do for themselves!

     If the consequences of a devil’s hell for the sinner and the love of God to redeem sinful man will not move one to turn to God in penitence and obedience to the Gospel, nothing else is available to turn the sinner from his eternal appointment with the fires of hell!

       People who take the Lord’s name in vain, commit adultery, and other immoral acts, who lie, cheat, gossip, steal, teach false doctrine, etc., are going to burn in hell eternally. The unfaithful members of the Lord’s church who have ceased to worship according to the Bible, who do not study the Bible, who are covetous, who murmur and complain, who are immoral, who repudiate Bible authority, who are hypocrites, and who hate their brethren who love and obey the truth will also suffer the torment of the raging fires of “the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). Assuredly, the elders and preachers who see a lost world and sinful members and do not try to confront boldly such sinful people with God’s Truth, will occupy one of the hotter and lower pits of hell. If precious souls are to escape the horrors of hell, we must do our part as Christians to get men to see what sin is. Let us not mince words as we expose sin. Neither, let us forget to set forth the Christ who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  

Written by: Lester Kamp – Piedmont church of Christ

(Emphasis added by Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ)

Think About It

Think About It

       From the time we entered this world, we have had things to think about. I have no recollection of my thoughts as a newborn, nor any idea what an infant “considers” as it sees, hears, and feels things never yet experienced by them.   I suppose the reasons a baby cries are myriad.   They perhaps have fear before they know what fear is. They react to the stimuli around them, and thereby learn to think.  Some have told me when a baby smiles in sleep, they “are talking with the angels.”   I suspect that is not the case, but babies are precious nonetheless.   Truth is: we do not know what babies think.  

       But as we grow and our brains develop some, we learn to put names to our various “feelings” and come to recognize when we are “thinking about” something. This is part of human development and part of what God “built” into us when He created man. It was René Descartes, the French Philosopher, in the 1600’s that stated: “I think, therefore I am.” In other words, the only evidence you have that you exist as a self-aware being is your conscious experience of thinking about your existence. Man is blessed with the ability to reason, consider, ponder, meditate, and choose.   These are all part of thinking, and when we choose, we see the result of thinking.  

     The fact that we can choose, proves that we can think. Perhaps one of the best recalled Scriptures on choice is that found in Joshua 24:15. The very fact that Israel was given choice is evidence that they could think. 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.

     Within the context of commitment and fidelity to God, hear what the Spirit had Paul write in 2Timothy 2:7.  Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. If we “ponder” the inspired instruction and the divine directives from God’s Word, we are required to “think”.   Another verse which supports this is 2Corinthians 13:5. Can one honestly “examine himself” without contemplating what might be amiss? Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? Is it even possible for one to examine themselves, or any other thing without thinking? Can one investigate “their faith” and determine upon what that faith stands, and not think?   Doing so without thinking is impossible!

   Philippians 4:8 contains eight different things on which the brethren at Philippi were told to “think on”.  Of course, all these things will keep a person on the track God wants everyone to travel. 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.  In the verse immediately following this, the Spirit had the apostle Paul remind them by what means they had come to know these things as well as what would result. 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.(Philippians 4:9)

     Everyone thinks, but on what do they think?   Well, that is up to them. The verses in Proverbs 23:6-7a clearly shows the way a person thinks determines his or her actions. Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:  For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:   It is equally clear from 1Corinthians 10:12 that one’s thoughts, or failure to think properly can lead to disastrous results. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. This is why it is so important to search the Scriptures daily.   Did not Jesus Himself direct His detractors to search the Word of God to correctly guide their thoughts in John 5:39? He said: Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

     The Spirit had Paul remind Timothy of what he should continue to think, and why he should do so in 2Timothy 3:14-15. The same applies to us as well if we have learned the right things, and can show them through rightly divided scripture. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Do we check what we have been taught, believe, think on and practice against the Word of God?  Are we thinking properly?   Where will our thinking lead us?  

     Improper thinking can lead folks (even God’s own people) away from God as Isaiah 1:2-4 teaches.  Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward On what do we think?   Where, and which way are we going? Think about it! Do something about it.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Lo, I Am With You Alway

Lo, I Am With You Alway

     Some Scriptures or portions of passages “stick” in your memory for various reasons.   This one sticks in my mind for two reasons. 1) a friend and brother in Christ said this was his dad’s justification for not flying – “Low”- I am with you alway”.   2) Most importantly, this is assurance from the Lord Himself that He would never “leave” those who love Him, and continue to follow Him. This was said directly to His apostles. The same applies to faithful Christians today.

     Most will readily recognize the title of this article as the Words of Jesus in the final conversation He had with His apostles at the close of the gospel of Matthew. I think few have truly considered the “how” of this statement.   As we read of the ministry of Christ, surely, we are aware that He was with those of His day in the flesh. In Luke 22:44 we read Jesus’ Words. These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. We also know from John 7:33, He told the Pharisees: “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. ” How could Jesus be “with them alway”, and at the same time go to the Father “that sent Him”?

     From the Word of God, this is easily explained. While Jesus was with these apostles, He had been their “Comforter”.   He had taught them, instructed them and had given them much of what they would need after His departure.   There were also some things He did not teach them at that time, as they were not yet ready to receive them as John 16:12 shows.   I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. But, in John 14:16 we see how the Lord would provide them the needed information at the appropriate time.   And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;     This was not to take place until after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.   We know from Acts chapter two that this indeed occurred just as Christ promised.

   As we return to John chapter 16, we can see from verse 13, the manner in which the Christ, as well as the Spirit would “alway” abide. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.   These “Words” which the Spirit brought are the Words of God.   These we have with us “alway”, and are provided for our benefit.   From John 6:63, we know that even the “hard sayings” put forth by the Lord are designed to provide “spiritual life”. He said: It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

   The Lord was with them alway, as the Spirit guided them. In John 14:26 we again read the Words of Christ to His apostles. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.   And NOW, we come to the HOW He is with us alway. We read in Hebrews 1:1-2 how God has spoken to man down through time. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;   God once spoke to man directly, then sent His Son. The Son lived, served God without fault under that Law, died, was buried and resurrected, and ascended back to the Father.   The Christ then, as promised, sent the Spirit, the Comforter, to the apostles. They “penned” the inspired Words of God as they were given, and sent them to the church in various places.    

     In this way, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are with us “alway”. The apostle’s minds were “stirred up” to remember as the Spirit brought all things the Lord had taught them to their remembrance. Now, we have the Written Word of God. We also need to be stirred up. The Spirit had the apostle write of this need, and how he would do this in 2Peter 1:13. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;.   Through the Spirit, God was “speaking” to them and Christ was “alway” with them.   He is now “alway” available to all through the written Word.

     Today, we have that complete written Word of God. He sent it through the Spirit as promised.   Then why is there such a “disconnect” between many people and God today?   It is because they are not “listening” to His Word. If one will not read, study and meditate on God’s Word, they are not “hearing”. Neither is the Lord “with them”. John 1:1-2 are familiar verses to many. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. Christ, before coming to earth as the Son of God was known simply as “the Word”.  

     Man, and his words will fail and perish. 1Peter 1:25 tells us: 1) The Word of the Lord will last forever. 2) That “Word” is proclaimed as the gospel is preached. But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.  The Lord is now among mankind “alway” through His Holy Word.   In that Word He calls all to obedience.   One cannot be “in Christ” or belong to God, unless or until they obey the gospel. Why not prepare now to be with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit “alway” and for eternity? Obey the gospel, then faithfully serve God the rest of this life.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

On The Road

On The Road

     All of humanity is on a journey. From Genesis chapter twenty-four to the sixth verse of Third John, the word journey is found sixty times. The term is used in a variety of scenarios, but in all, the sense is that one is travelling from one place to another.   A number of people have “picked up” on this and some have capitalized on the idea.   For instance, Ralph Waldo Emerson is given credit for the quote: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” This is true, as life is indeed a journey to a destination.   Therefore, we are all “on the road” to somewhere.   Where there is, and how we get there, is the journey.

     As Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a eloquently points out, a person’s life is contained in the period of time between birth and death. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die;   Let it also be noted that none knows how much time is allotted to a particular life. In Job 14:1 The Holy Spirit had the suffering servant point this out. Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. This is also addressed in the N.T. in James 4:14. 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.

     It is also important to establish that after we depart this earth, we do not simply disappear.   Our bodies are disposed of, but the “inner” man goes to a place to await that final day. Two passages spring to mind. In Job 16:22 we are reminded of this. When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return. This is also apparent in 2Samuel 12:22-23 when king David understood that his infant child had died.   And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? 23 But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.  

     That waiting place, & the eternal destination is in most cases, determined by how the life is lived on earth. “Most cases” is stated because in the death of an infant, life was very short and that infant had no sin. The congregation in Corinth was reminded in 1Cornthians 5:10 that each of them would be held accountable for their time on earth, and be judged as to how they had lived. 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.  

     I would be remiss at this point if I failed to remind of the fates of the rich man and Lazarus of Luke 16.   Verses 19-31 tells the whole story, but here I’ll call attention to Luke 16:22-23. 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; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Each had a different outcome to their life.   Why was this? They took different roads through life.

     Some want to point out that there are many “roads” in life.   True, but God in His Infinite Wisdom had The Spirit direct the prophet to write of this, as it was part of the plan of God from before time.   In Isaiah 35:8 the prophet was declaring to Israel that which was yet future. It was the “road” which God wants all to walk.   And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

     God’s “Way” is seemingly not the way man naturally chooses. The promise of God to not again curse the ground is because “the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth” per Genesis 8:21. This ties in directly to the Words of Proverbs 14:12, penned by Solomon as guided by the Holy Spirit. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. This is also the idea behind the inspired Words of Moses in Deuteronomy 30:19-20a. Of course, this was addressed to Israel following their departure from Egypt and before entering the Promised Land. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: 20 That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life,.   Indeed, the “road” we take on earth is a matter of spiritual “life or death”.  

     There is no doubt this is what was behind the teaching of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:13-14. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Clearly, in the Words spoken, there is the idea of choice. God has not determined where man will spend eternity. God offers Salvation. His Son paid the price so that Salvation, (the remission of sins) could be offered to all. Those who refuse to follow that plan have chosen to “walk the road” that leads to destruction.  

     You, my friend, are on a journey.   Don’t take the wrong road.   Don’t take the path that leads to eternal condemnation. God has shown us the Way in His Holy Word. Look into His Word and get on the right road today before it is everlastingly too late.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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