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Birth Is Just The Beginning

                                     Birth Is Just The Beginning 

     When we arrived here as part of our respective families, there was great joy as our parents welcomed us as a new addition to the household.   This was just the beginning of our lives. As we began to be nourished, first with milk and then with solid foods, we continued to grow and learn. This is the normal progression of all things.    All things start at the beginning and then move toward whatever is beyond.

     The same is true from a spiritual standpoint. Even before the church had been purchased by Christ on the cross, Jesus spoke of the kingdom, which is the church, and told how one is to enter it.  Before the church began, Jesus told Nicodemus how all must begin spiritually. This was part of what Jesus did as He called Israel to repentance in preparation for that kingdom. In John 3:3 during that night-time visit, Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Then in John 3:6 He explained that there is a distinct difference in our physical birth and our spiritual birth.   That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

     In a physical birth, the planting of seed is required. This is how one is conceived and in the process of time the birth occurs, and in time, the child is brought forth. In spiritual birth the seed is the Word of God.  The Spirit had Peter explain in 1Peter 1:23 where that spiritual birth originates in the New Testament age.   Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.  In Jesus’ parable of the seed in Matthew 13:23 He explained that one must receive the Word before they can be born into kingdom and then be able to produce fruit. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

     Spiritual birth, just like our physical one has a beginning.   Afterward growth is expected to occur in both realms.      In 1Peter 2:2 the Spirit had Peter remind the church, those scattered saints of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, to be nourished with the Word of God, starting with the milk of the Word so they could grow. As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:  That growth is expected to continue. This is the message the Spirit had the same apostle write in his second general epistle. This is found at the end of the letter in 2Peter 3:18 and still applicable to all Christians today.  But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

     There is a reason for physical growth just as there is a reason for spiritual growth that is expected of Christians. The purpose of growth in our spiritual lives is so we can be pleasing to God and also to prepare ourselves for that which lies beyond this life.   We are told in Colossians 1:10 that in order to be pleasing to God we must increase in knowledge. That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 

     One cannot grow following physical birth without proper nourishment. The same can be said for our spiritual well-being. The nourishment provided by God for the soul’s consumption is His Word.   2Timothy 2:15 is where the Spirit had Paul remind Timothy (and us), how to receive that much needed spiritual food whereby we can increase in knowledge. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  This food is available to all.

     This was the case for all in attendance at Pentecost where Peter and the eleven preached the gospel for the first time in the New Testament age. All the people there heard the gospel, but only those who availed themselves of the soul saving message and were obedient were added to the kingdom. Acts 2:41 shows how they received the Word, and what they did as a result. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.They were born into the kingdom and in the latter part of Acts 2:47 we see to what they were added.   And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.  This is when they obeyed and were born.

     After their spiritual birth, (when they obeyed), they were expected to grow and learn. This is how we “work out” our salvation. This is what the brethren in Philippi were told as the Spirit had Paul write them. 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.  Philippians 2:12   Then as we learn and grow toward spiritual maturity, we are to do as directed in Jude vss 20-21as we move toward that which is beyond for Christians as God has promised, eternal life.     But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, 21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. 

     Obey the gospel now. Be born spiritually, then begin to grow and learn and continue to live faithfully for God. Your eternity awaits.  

                                      Dennis Strickland -Mooresville church of Christ

My Heart

My Heart

      We often observe people laying their hands upon their chests, mostly on the left side as they say “I feel it in my heart” or something of that nature.   Most are actually aware that the “blood pump” is not the source of one’s feelings, beliefs, or thoughts. Yet expressions such as “in my heart of hearts” is used by many to express the very essence of sincerity.    This particular phrase, “heart of hearts” is actually a mis-quote of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.   In that play, Hamlet actually says: “in my heart of heart”, which actually means: in the center of my heart, or from the center of my heart; the most tender part of my inner being. 

      We find the Spirit having Paul in Romans 10:1, write of a desire which was of utmost importance to Paul.   Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.   However, the Spirit also had Paul write to show that “desiring” or “wishing” for a thing doesn’t make it so.    In that case, many of Paul’s nation lacked the knowledge needed from God’s Word that would enable them to become the sons of God.   Also, the Psalmist wrote as directed in Psalm 119:11: Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.    This is the Spirit, through the Psalmist, showing that the “heart” of man, or where the thinking and learning process takes place is the mind. 

      This is readily apparent in the first part of Proverbs 23:7 which tells us: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:”, and is evidenced by passages such as Genesis 6:5 where man’s thoughts were evil continually.   Another case in point are the many occasions where Pharaoh continually “hardened his heart” following his promising to allow God’s people, Israel to leave the land of Egypt as commanded by God.    What actually was taking place was that Pharaoh continually made up his mind that he would not allow God’s people to leave.   He made up his mind to not obey God.  

      To what have we dedicated our heart?   Since the Bible heart is the mind, we can easily ask the question: “To what have we dedicated our minds?”   Our service to God is not something we can approach in a lackadaisical manner.   That to which we have dedicated our minds (hearts) will be that which is of the most importance to us.  This is the same thing the Lord taught His disciples in Luke 12:34-35.  He said:  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;   He was telling them to make preparations, set the right example and keep focused in the right direction.  

     When we allow ourselves to lose focus we will begin to slip and will stray from the path the Lord would have us walk.  Those who have not focused their hearts on the Lord and His Word are putting themselves in danger of having their minds becoming blinded. Since we all have power over our own minds (hearts), if we are blind, we have permitted it.  Satan takes advantage of this to “blind” our hearts.  2Corinthians 4:4 clearly shows this.  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. Satan also uses temptation to accomplish his goals. James 1:14 shows that our temptations also come from within.  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 

      So, how do I guard my heart (mind) from being led away from God?  We must take an active part to protect our hearts.  This is clear as the Spirit had Peter write to the scattered brethren in 1Peter 1:13, Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;   Another useful way in which we protect our hearts (minds) is have someone remind us of the solemn commitment we made to God when we obeyed the Gospel.  This is found in the second epistle of Peter.   This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:  2Peter 3:1

     In addition to being reminded, we have a personal responsibility in taking care of our heart (mind) that God gave us.   The Spirit had the apostle Paul give the Roman brethren advice regarding the mind (heart) which also is to be heeded today.  Romans 12:1-2 also tells us that we are to give our bodies and our minds (hearts) in sacrifice and 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 serviceAnd 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. 

     Are we looking out for our hearts?  In Ephesians 6:11 we are told to: Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.   At the end of the list of the armament in Ephesians 6:18 we are told that prayer also is required if we will persevere.  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;   A mind is a terrible thing to waste.    Prepare your heart (mind) for God. Your eternity awaits! 

                              Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

What's Love Got To Do With It?

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

      You may recognize the title of our article this week as the title of a song released by Tina Turner in 1984.  The song was written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle and was offered to several different singers who declined, and it was finally offered to Tina.   This was the second biggest single of 1984.  Incidentally, this song was Tina’s first and only U.S. number one song.   The song received three awards at the 1985 Grammy Awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

      I won’t print all the lyrics here as space is limited. (They are available in print in many places).   Suffice it to say that the lyrics make it amply clear that this is dealing with “love” of a physical nature. The questions that make up the words of the chorus are enough to show this.  What's love got to do, got to do with it? What's love but a second hand emotion?  What's love got to do, got to do with it? Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?

       For many who are concentrating on the quickly approaching Valentine’s Day holiday, love is indeed based largely in emotion.  This is the reason that some claim that it is possible to “fall out” of love.  If love is just an emotion, such is quite possible as emotions are “fluid” in that they change.  Love that is based on something much deeper never ends.  God’s love to mankind has been manifested in many ways over the years.  His love to us includes the sending of His Son to die on the cross.   This is fully set forth in John 3:16

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.  

      When Jesus died on the cross, He showed His love for us and He also paid the price to purchase the church, also referred to as the kingdom, as He and John the Baptizer preach while the church was in preparation.  Jesus’ message was: Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4:17

      Those of us who are members of the Lord’s church are part of a spiritual kingdom.  We know that Jesus’ response to the question of Pilate in the first part of John 16:36 affirms this.  Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world:  Then, as we read 1Peter 2:5 we see that those “strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” were indeed part of that “spiritual” kingdom, just as present day Christians are.  Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 

      This still does not address the question that is asked in the title of this article.   In the Bible, the first three references to “love” are found in the book of Genesis and dealt with love of food (Genesis 27:4); and the love for a spouse, or a betrothed (Genesis 29:20 & 29:32).   But the first instance of God addressing “love” is during His giving His people Israel a Law following His deliverance of them from Egyptian bondage.   God said in Exodus 20:6 that His mercy being extended was dependent upon His people showing their love to Him by keeping His Commandments.   And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandmentsIt seems to me that love has a lot to do with it.  In fact, in Deuteronomy 6:5-7 they were told to what degree they were to go to show their love for the Father.

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  God’s Law was to be their focus day and night if they loved God.

      We as children of God today (Christians) just like Israel, God’s people under the O.T. are to show our love to Him.  We are informed in John 4:19 that love originated with God and was directed to us.  We love him, because he first loved usThen, just as with the Israelites, we show our love to God by doing as He directs in His Word.  We are told in 1John 5:2-3 how that we can know that we love our brethren in Christ as well as the Biblical definition for love.   We are also told that His Commandments are not a burden to us.   By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievousGod, in His love for man has never asked (or commanded) that man do anything that is too difficult for man to do.   This is true in all dispensations of time.

     Who of us would not do what ever it takes to please the ones we love as we live our lives here on the earth?  Many go to great pains and oftentimes spend a great deal of money to show their affection toward those they love. Why can’t these same folks look into the Word of God and do what God asks all men to do?    The answer is clear.  It is because they do not really love God.   Many want to serve God as they desire rather than how God has put forth in His Holy Word.  This doesn’t track as 1John 2:4 tells what these folks are.   He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.   What’s love got to do with it?  I think it is readily apparent that “love” has everything to do with it.   Love God!  Do His Commandments.         

            Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Putting Love To The Test

Putting Love To The Test

In all honesty, I do love you,

And my associations with you are joy.

I believe that our feelings are true,

And the best in us employ.

We respect each other, as we should,

I’d have it no other way.

With love and respect any difference could

Unite us in Truth someday.

 

I respect your sincere dedication,

Though your “background” is different to mine,

To please God is our aspiration,

And to say “not my will but Thine”.

Each must examine his heart and be honest,

Accept the Bible standard alone.

For the sake of “unity” and the price Jesus paid,

We can all make heaven our Home.


 

I do not question your devotion to God,

But He must be our “common” Lord.

What He says to the one, He says to the other,

So we can walk by faith in full accord.

Our mutual hope invites communication,

Eternity is at stake.

And obedience to God brings salvation,

Minus sect, or creed, for our sakes.

 

So, we’ll be putting love to the test,

Without mental reservation.

Our response shall determine which we love the best,

Can we afford damnation?

Today is the day of salvation,

And judgment is for every man.

God offers us all justification,

Let’s make it as sure as we can.    

                                                                                                          O.D. Wilson – deceased

     The poem above was written many years ago by my Father-in-Law and fully embraces the concept of “true love”.   Many go through life and fail to understand the meaning of true love.     True love to most is some sort of feeling or emotion that is as intangible as a cloud.   They not only know not how to define it, but also are not aware of the source of love and the real benefit to be gained by participating in it.  

     As one goes to the Word of God, the true source of love is revealed and one can also find the instruction of God concerning love. First, let us see the source of love. In 1John 4:16 we are told that God is love and that we have the opportunity to participate in that love.     And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.   Then we can also see in 1John 4:8 that if we don’t have love, we don’t know God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

     If we just back up a few verses, in 1John 4:10 we can also see that love manifested (made known) to mankind. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  This same sentiment is put forth in the “Golden Text” of the Bible, John 3:16. 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.   Previously, in John 15:13, Jesus revealed how God’s plan for man was to come about, and how He, because of His great love for His Father and for us, brought about that fulfillment.   Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 

     While this shows God’s and Christ’s love for us, how are we to show how we love God? That answer also comes from God’s Word.   In 2John 1:6 we read that we have responsibility toward God if we want to receive benefit from what He offers. If we don’t do as instructed, we not only do not love God, but also shouldn’t expect Him to save us. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.  

     Do you love God?   Then why have you not yet submitted to His Will as directed in His Word? To try to receive salvation in any other way is futile as Jesus said in John 10:1. 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. Could any claim that one who is a thief and a robber is motivated by love for God?   Obey God’s Word today and show your love for Him by remaining faithful until your life on earth is over.   Then you will spend eternity with Him.  

                                        Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Our Merciful Father

Our Merciful Father

    When one contemplates the Characteristics of God, mercy must surely come to mind. God has shown His love in various ways to all of mankind since time began and even up to the present.   Therefore, many confuse the mercy of God with His love.   John 3:16 clearly states that God loves the world.   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.  But just because God created the world and loved it so much, He sent His son to die, does not mean that His Mercy is unconditional.

   In Exodus 34:5-6 as God led Israel out of Egyptian bondage and toward the Promised Land, He called Moses to Mount Sinai to receive the tables of stone on which were written the decalogue. God appeared to Moses and told Moses some of His (God’s) attributes.   And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,  Then as we read Deuteronomy 4:31 it is clear that God’s Mercy is directly proportionate to His Law. This was written to God’s O.T. people Israel.   (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.  God’s Covenant is His Law.

     The fact that God’s Mercy is “tied” to His Law is apparent in Exodus 20:6 in the midst of where the Ten Commandments are first stated. God stated the conditions in which His Mercy would be extended to His O.T. people Israel. And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandmentsHis Commandments must be kept.   God’s Covenant with Israel is known as the Old Testament.   That Covenant was only with Israel, and not with the rest of the world.

    Yet, while the O.T. Law was still in effect, the Holy Spirit, through the prophets told of the final dispensation of time and the last Law of God to all mankind.   Isaiah was one of these prophets. In Isaiah 2:2 this was foretold. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.   Notice in this prophecy, God’s covenant in the “Last Days” would be with “all nations”, or applicable to all people.

     We see in Hebrews 1:1-2 that God no longer speaks to man through the prophets, but through His Son.   God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,  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; It is affirmed that Christ “fulfilled” the O.T. Law in His own Words of Matt 5:17.   Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. As He fulfilled the “Old Law”, He instituted the “New”.

     This “New Law” – the New Testament is God’s final instruction to man. In Hebrews 8:8-11 we read why this New Law was given. Also, under this New Law forgiveness of sin is part of God’s Mercy.   For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:  9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. Under this “New Law”, God’s mercy is available to all who will Keep His Commandments and obey His Law.    For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. 

    God is the Father of mercies as 2Corinthians 1:3 tells us, and verse 4 says He comforts us so we will be able to comfort others.   Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.  That comfort comes from God’s own Word. Romans 15:4 shows this as well as the hope we have through the scriptures. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.  It is also through the scriptures we learn how to be forgiven.

     Is there any comfort greater than knowing that sins can be forgiven? Is there any mercy greater than the forgiveness of sins?  Mercy by definition is: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.   God offers mercy, and in 2Peter 2:9 He also promises to punish those who refuse that mercy. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:  Won’t you seek God’s mercy today and be obedient to His Commandments and become His child?  

                                    Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

I'm In The Lord's Army

I’m In The Lord’s Army

     Remember the children’s song with this title? It’s a very good song and it helps teach our young people how important it is to serve God. It is obvious that some are not fully aware what it takes to “enlist” into the army of God.   One cannot just “show up” at the base or to the battlefield, volunteer, grab a weapon and start fighting.   We are all aware of this. A civilian has to actually become a part of the United States Armed Services before being sent to “basic training”.  Afterward, they are able to receive any specialized training needed to be of greater use to the Commander and Chief.  

     How does this work in a spiritual sense?   Well, much the same as it does for those in military service to our country. One must express the desire to become part of this fighting force.   They must also meet the strict entrance requirements as put forth by the “Captain of our Salvation”. It is apparent from Acts 2:47 that only the Lord can “add” any to the church. Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.  The “entrance exam” is found in the Word of God and all who do not “pass” are not enlisted in the Lord’s Army.  

     Those who do fulfill the requirements are added to the “Lamb’s Book of Life”. In John 6:63, while Jesus was here to “recruit” those who would be the first combatants in the kingdom 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. Therefore, we must go to His Word to see how we can “enlist”. His Words are Commandments, and this is why the Spirit had Luke record the Words of Acts 10:42 the Spirit gave Peter to tell Cornelius and those gathered at his home.   And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he (Jesus) which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. Then in Acts 10:48 we see what is to result from the preaching as people obey.   And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.  Once one has passed the entrance exam, (Hear, Believe, Repent, and Confess Jesus), they are “sworn in” (when they are Baptized into Christ). Only then have they enlisted in (been added to) the Lord’s Army.

     After this “Basic Training” is to occur. In Matt 28:19-20 as the Lord spoke the Great Commission, He gave the formula which must be followed if the army of the Lord (the church) will grow and be an effective fighting force.   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. The formula is: Go; Teach; Baptize; and Teach! You start with the “basics” and then move on to the “meatier” portions of the Word to enable the troops as 1Peter 2:2 points out.   As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:  That growth is to continue throughout our service to God, which is to encompass the remainder of our lives as pointed out in 2Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 

     Of course, any army, whether physical or spiritual, is of little use if it does not remain strong nor uses the proper battle gear.   Ephesians 6:10-17 does a great job covering both of these requirements. Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:     Space within this article will not permit the mention of all the passages in the N.T. that admonish Christians to remain strong as there are many, but all are important.

     But what of the “soldier” who goes AWOL (Absent Without Leave)? We should be informed that there are not any “furloughs” or times in which the Christian is to “take time off” from serving God.   Neither are we allowed to retire from Christian service.   As my Father-in-Law stated when asked when he was going to retire from preaching: “I’ll retire when I expire”, and that is exactly how long he preached, till he died. The soldier that goes AWOL in the armed forces gets punished.   The Christian solider that “forsakes” the Lord and neglects his or her “duty” is to expect punishment as well. As the Spirit had Paul state in 2Thessalonians 1:8: In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:  Our “duty” is to remain faithful and obedient. If in the Lord’s Army, let us all fight the good fight of faith.   If not, it’s time to enlist.

                                        Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ  

God's Promises

God’s Promises

   There are many songs, sermons, poems and other pieces of literature that speak of the promises of God. There also have been many sermons on the subject. However, many fail to realize that when God made promises, there are conditions that must be met before the promise is granted. God has never promised to hear the prayer of an alien sinner. Nor has He promised to “bless” those in the Christian age that are outside of Christ. Yet those of the “world” pray, and also give God credit for their good fortune.

   In John 9:31, the former blind man, having no sight from birth, made a great proclamation that many fail to see.   He pointed out the fact that God does not hear “sinners”, then revealed who is heard.   Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.  This man, being a Jew, was a worshipper of God under the Law of Moses. He also had done what was commanded him by Jesus (God in the flesh).   Therefore, because he fulfilled the conditions, his prayer was heard, and he was healed.   Jesus had already shown that neither the man’s, nor his parent’s sins were responsible for the blindness in John 9:3. This was what His disciples had asked Him. Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.  Jesus used an unfortunate existing condition to show the power of God.

   As for the “good fortune” for which people give God the credit – we need only to be aware that God is not a respecter of persons.   In Matthew 5:45, in that great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated that God’s “natural” blessings come to all. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

       Many in the world (those not following God’s Word) actually believe that God, in His mercy will “ignore” the sin in their lives and “save them” at the end.   Such thinking is making a mockery of God’s Love and His Word!  We are clearly told in 2Thessalonians 1:7-9 what God has planned for those who don’t know Him or do not faithfully follow His Word.      If we simply examine what the Spirit directed the apostle Paul to write to those brethren the answer is quite plain.   And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 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;    If this passage is not true, then none of the Bible is true and we are all lost anyway.

    Why does God’s Word even include warnings about Hell and eternal fire if such is not going to be? Far too many people place their hope of salvation on an improper understanding of John 3:16.    Notice the passage states “should not perish” and not “shall not perish”.   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.  When Jesus died on Calvary’s cross, He did not save anyone, He simply provided the means whereby one can be the recipient of the promise of God. This passage also does not teach that all one must do is “believe” to be saved.

     God’s promise for salvation was made before the creation and was not fully revealed to man until the plan was complete. Titus 1:2-3 supports this.  In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began3 But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;  All that occurred from the creation to the ascension of Christ to heaven following His resurrection, and the sending of the promised Comforter to the apostles lead up to the fulfillment of the plan. That plan was first preached in Jerusalem in A.D. 33 at nine o’clock in the morning.

     When the Spirit had Peter and the eleven speak to those Jews gathered from every nation under heaven, He had them state a prophecy from the Law, then show how what was happening was the fulfillment of prophecy culminating with Christ being raised from the dead.   Acts 2:37-39 gives their reaction, their instruction and the promise, as well as how long the promise would be in effect.   Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 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

     2Thessalonians 2:14 shows we are called by the gospel.  Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.    Why not meet the conditions of salvation today and obey the gospel?            Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Have We Resolved?

Have We Resolved?

     We have now entered a new year.  2020 is a reality and many of us have endeavored to participate in the time-honored tradition of making New Years Resolutions.    By definition, a resolution is: “a formal expression of opinion or intention made”, or “the act of resolving or determining upon an action”.    Nowhere in the definitions I found is the word “promise”, but it seems to me that if we have “resolved” to do something, we have made the decision or promise to be “firm in purpose or intent; determined”. 

     In short, when we make a resolution, we have promised ourselves or others that we will do a certain thing.  In the case of New Years Resolutions, we make ourselves the promise to: exercise more, eat better, save more, spend less, etc., all designed to make improvements in our status from the previous year.   The words “resolve”, “resolved” and “resolution” are not to be found in the Word of God.   However, “promise” is found 53 times in 50 verses of the Bible.   The word “promised” is found 48 times in 47 verses.

     In Titus 1:2 we are told that God made a resolution to man.  The actual Word used is “promised”.  He made this promise before man was.   In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;   This passage also tells us what God “promised” or resolved.   But He never “promised” this unconditionally.   In Titus 1:3 we see how God made His conditions known so we could be recipients of that promise.  But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;  God has a plan and that plan is to be carried out per God’s “conditions”.   Those who will not adhere to God’s plan cannot expect to receive God’s promise. 

     That plan of God included the sending of His Son to die on the cross to purchase the church.   Therefore, those who are not willing to follow and abide by the “rightly divided” teaching of the Word of God, aren’t in the church and are not going to receive what God has promised in His Word.  In Matthew 7:21, nearing the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. “  This “will” is found in the Word of God.  

      In Romans 1:16 we learn that God’s power unto Salvation is none other than the gospel.  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Then in 2Peter 1:3-4 we read that the same “power” - the gospel, provides great and precious promises.  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.

    What if God “broke His promise” (resolution) to mankind?  One particular promise springs to the author’s mind.    In Genesis 9:11-13 God made a “promise” to Noah and called it a “covenant”, which also is a covenant (contract) between God and the earth.  And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 

13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.    A “covenant” is indeed a “promise” and God keeps His promises.   If He does not, we are all in danger of being wiped out by another flood that will cover the whole world.  

      We are told in 2Peter 3:9 that God does indeed keep His part of His covenants, or promises.  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.   A covenant is a “contract” and a contract has obligations to be fulfilled by both parties.  God provided the means and conditions for man to be saved.  Man’s part is to be obedient to the gospel (the Word of God), and remain faithful.  This is our part in the contract which is laid out in God’s New Testament Law to man. 

      According to Ephesians 1:3 all spiritual blessings are “in Christ”.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:   And we are informed in Galatians 3:27 that to be “in Christ” one must be “baptized into Christ”. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on ChristThen as we read Romans 6:3 we see how Jesus death is part of that plan of God and when we are “baptized into Christ”, we make a Commitment, promise and a covenant with God.  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

      Have you “resolved” to follow God in 2020?   If not, “promise” to follow Him now in accordance to His plan.   Do it!   Then strive to remain faithful.  God will keep His part of the covenant.   The rest is up to you.

                   Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ            

I Have Decided

I Have Decided . . .

      Often times we have sung the song: “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus”. There are no doubt many who sing this song who have not yet “decided” to do so.  This is perhaps because they sing the song, not truly knowing what it means to follow Him in accordance to His Word.   This same sentiment exists in such songs as “I Am Resolved” and perhaps many others. Maybe we need to examine “decision” and the process of deciding.

    Deciding involves much more than thinking about, or desiring something.   If this were all “deciding” entailed, we would all likely make “snap” decisions and never consider the ramifications of the decision.  To decide something, one must evaluate the “options” available and how these are going to affect them as they move forward in life.   But before we can decide, we must be made aware of the choices available and where each choice leads us.

     This is probably the reasons the “New Year Resolutions” are not kept. As one year closes and another begins, we “decide” or “resolve” to turn over a new leaf. This is perhaps an effort to undo the excess of the previous year, or to avoid some of the pitfalls of the coming year.   Countless folks make the resolution to lose weight or exercise more in the coming year, and fail to consider the “cost” in commitment and the effort this entails and so in short order the resolution is not carried out.   But even then, a decision has been made.   They have decided to quit the resolution.

     In 1Kings 18:21 when Israel was faced with the “decision” of serving God or Baal, the Spirit had Elijah state it this way. How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. Then as we read the final portion of the verse, we see that Israel was “torn” in their minds and had not yet fully committed either way.   And the people answered him not a word.    Indecision is a decision in itself.   To NOT serve God in any way, is actually a decision to serve another.  

    Jesus, in Matthew 6:24, while addressing the Israelites in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount addressed this issue in a very direct manner. He said: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.  Therefore, a decision must be made.   Each will make choice and each will be responsible for that choice.   All should also know that every choice has consequences.  

     Those that have not yet “decided” to obey God, or have put it off fall into the category of those addressed in 2Thessalonians 1:7-9 when the time for decision making has expired. Those that “know not God” are they that have never obeyed the gospel and never became children of God. Those that “obey not the gospel” also includes those who once were obedient, yet have failed to live up to the commitment they made to God and have become disobedient. And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;    As was previously pointed out – every decision, even whether or not we “choose” to serve God has consequences.  

     Some consequences are much more significant than others.   If we fail to follow through on New Year Resolutions, perhaps the impact will be only minimal. But if we fail in our commitment to God and fail to obey or remain faithful, the outcome is disastrous. As we decide in this area of life we must consider where we desire to spend eternity. In 1John 2:15-17 we see the teachings of Jesus from Matthew 6:24 (above) mirrored in this, the New Testament age – after the church was established.   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. 

     What to do?   The Bible provides the answer. It was written to the church at Corinth in 2Corinthians 6:17. They had to decide.   Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.  Those who will not heed this fall into the category of the unfaithful in 2Peter 2:20-21. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

     Have you decided? In one way or the other you have!   Consider where your decision will lead your soul for eternity and make changes now before it is everlastingly too late.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Holiday - or - Holy Day?

Holiday – or – Holy Day?

      You may think there is no difference between to two ideas in our title, but one is actually a derivative of the other. Per Wikipedia the word holiday comes from the Old English word hāligdæg (hālig "holy" + dæg "day"). The word originally referred only to “special” religious days as defined by the “religious leaders of the day”. In modern use, it means any special day of rest or relaxation, as opposed to normal days away from work or school.   In the UK and other parts of Europe, “holiday” means vacation; a time away from work or the regular schedules of life.

       During this “holiday” season, many are mis-taught as to the reason for the holiday. Many are taught “Jesus is the reason for the season”. Just a casual glance at this “holiday” shows it not to be a Holy Day. One single trip to the local shopping center is enough to convince me that “gain” is the sentiment during this and every other “holiday” season.   Man has been duped into believing that “Christmas” is a celebration of the birth of Christ. This was started in the 4th century by the Catholic church.  The month and date of the Lord’s birth is not known. God did not have this recorded so He did not intend that we observe Christ’s birth.  I have provided no scripture as there are none that depicts on which day or date Christ was born.

   God does have a “Holy Day” set aside. That day is not a holiday. It is a day that happens every week.   It is the first day of the week. Christ arose on the first day.   The day of Pentecost was on the first day of the week, and the Spirit, on that Pentecost on AD 33 had the apostles deliver that saving gospel message for the first time in Jerusalem on the first day of the week. The church was established on the first day of the week. The disciples met for worship on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).   And in Hebrews 10:25 the Christians there were warned not to forsake the assembly of the saints in Christian Worship on every “Holy day” - Sunday.

     So, what about the present “holiday” season? Is it wrong to observe many of the “traditions” of the season? NO! Now that we know that this holiday, or any others are not “Holy Days”, could there be any plausible reason for objection to the adorning of our homes, gathering of family and friends, exchanging gifts etc.?   Would it be wrong or improper to feed family, give a gift, or hang an item in your home, (festive or not) any other time of the year? NO! All these things are simply traditions and are subject to change per the whims of man.   Traditions, so long as not in conflict with the Word of God and the service of God are not harmful, nor to be avoided. Perhaps it also of note that while traditions are allowed, and optional, the Inspired Commandments God has given to mankind are not optional.   Think about this: All traditions are of man’s imagination and invention and all the Laws of God are from Him, delivered to man for man’s benefit.  

     Maybe you have never considered the fact that in counting the “major” national holidays one comes up with perhaps 13 or more. New Years Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Independence Day, Easter, Mother’s & Father’s Day, Columbus Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and of course, Christmas, are all “holidays” based on tradition. Many more could be named and I apologize if I left out your favorite holiday. No slight is intended, nor would any harm be done if any or all of these “holidays” were not observed. But it is indeed a HUGE ERROR to hold these holidays and to ascribe a “spiritual” or religious connotation to them as they are not sanctioned or authorized by God in His Word.

    God has provided us with 52 “Holy” Days in that every week has a first day.  Each first day of the week is a special day. That is why it is called the Lord’s Day.  As alluded to earlier in this article, the Lord chose the day. He has directed through scripture and apostolic example, the day and the way in which worship is to be observed and carried out.   As previously pointed out, Acts 20:7 tells us when the early church met. It also tells of some of the “authorized” things this gathering contained.   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 breaking of bread is the “Lord’s Supper” and is therefore commanded upon each “Holy Day”, the first day of the week. We are also told that Paul preached unto them. Therefore, preaching and teaching are also to occur on each “Holy Day”.   The part of Paul preaching till midnight is not a commandment, but rather was expedient in that case as Paul was to depart on the next day, perhaps for the last time.

     We are also instructed to give of our means when gathered on this and every “Holy Day” 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.  The gathering for worship, the praying, singing, teaching, preaching and giving are all commanded of God.

     Let’s all appreciate our holidays and enjoy times with friends and loved ones as we participate in “holiday” traditions that don’t conflict with God’s Word, but let us never forsake or ignore a “Holy Day” and our service to God.             

                     Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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