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In Vain

In Vain

     We understand the word “vain”, by definition is: 1) having or showing an excessively high opinion of one's appearance, abilities, or worth. 2) producing no result; useless. This first definition falls more in line with the concept of vanity, and carries with it the synonyms – conceit, arrogance, or narcissism. This is certainly a problem as no one is the center of all things, regardless of what they may think.   The second definition is the focus of this article.  
     The first occurrence of the word “vain” in the Bible is in Exodus 5:9 and is uttered by the Pharoah regarding the “types of words” to which the Israelites might be tempted to listen.   Just as defined, these words would be useless and, at the same time, were also contrary to the command of Pharoah that the Israelites make more bricks for his building projects.
     The third of the Ten Commandments, given to Israel in Exodus 20:3, not long after the children of God were released from Egyptian bondage also employs this word. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.   True to its definition, this Commandment was they were to NOT use the Lord’s name in a useless manner.   Unfortunately, some in that day and many in this day do that very thing.  
     But the use of words is not the only way in which one can be vain. We can find the second occurrence of “vain” in the Gospels in Matthew 15:9.   This is the first record of the Lord’s use of this word.   But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. It is obvious that the Lord was teaching that the doctrines and commandments of men (those which originate with man) are useless (vain) in regard to the worship of God. This was prophesied by Isaiah as provided by the Spirit.   Jesus repeated this and in so doing was showing the hypocrisy of these Pharisees as well as the vanity of their minds.  
      1Corinthians 15:1-2 supports the idea that one can also “believe” in vain. The Spirit had Paul write to remind these brethren of the gospel which he had faithfully preached to them.   Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. Then we see in verses 3-4 what Paul, by the direction of the Spirit, had proclaimed to them. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: If one does not believe in Christ and that He was raised from the dead, their belief is in vain.  
        If one’s belief is vain or useless, their efforts are useless as well. The Spirit had Paul remind the brethren in Ephesians 5:6-7 of the fallacy of being led away by belief in the vain words of others.   Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.   There is also the admonition of Colossians 2:8 to warn the brethren there.   Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. We also know from Romans 1:21-22, that those who once “knew God” and failed to believe in Him and glorify Him are recognized as unthankful, fools, dark-hearted and vain in their imaginations. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, The verses that follow this clearly show the despicable activities in which these participated.  
       Those whose efforts to be righteous by the Law of Moses after that Law had been “nailed to the cross”, were also in vain.   The Spirit had Paul teach the churches in Galatia this very thing in Galatians 2:21.   I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.   Christ, in His death on the cross fulfilled that Law and “took it out of the way. Then in Galatians 3:1-2 these brethren were challenged to answer who it was that had “tricked” them. How was it they knew of Christ, the Spirit and the promise of life except by the Word of God (hearing of faith)?   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? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
      It is equally vain to deny that God is.   Psalm 14:1 is where the Spirit had the psalmist write this.   The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.  If God is not (does not exist), then life itself is vain and any and all efforts in life are vain as well.   In Deuteronomy 10:17 Israel was reminded of God and why they should serve Him. For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: Don’t deny God or serve Him in vain. Seek Him in His Word. Then serve Him in accordance to it as John 4:24 directs. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Freedom - It's That Important!

Freedom – It’s That Important!

       No doubt there is a great deal of discussion about freedom, liberty, and rights among Americans this week.   This is in part because of the holiday that is set aside to celebrate our country gaining its independence from a nation that would oppress the citizenry of this great land.   Others are talking about these things as some have a difference of opinion as to what freedom means, what liberty entails, and how far one’s rights allow them to go.
     About fifty years ago, Janis Joplin immortalized a line from a song written by Kris Kristofferson entitled “Me and Bobby McGee”. This line contained a rather distorted view of freedom. That line is: “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” I ask, if you have nothing left to lose, are you free? By the same token, if we have everything the world has to offer, are we free? The obvious answer per Luke 9:25 is provided by the Lord. He said: For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?   Or, as this is stated in Mark 8:36 - For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
      From a civil standpoint, freedom is important, and so far, our government has guaranteed this to the citizens of our great nation. Documents are in place that clearly state the rights which guarantee our freedom.   These can be read in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and its Amendments.   Some of these Amendments have been added through the years as our understanding of issues have increased to provide freedom for all the nation’s citizens. These must be followed if we are to remain free.
       There are efforts underway on the part of some to undermine, restrict, or remove these rights from others.   Those who would do so also have a warped concept of freedom. Evidence of this is very apparent when these folks’ “perceived” rights are challenged.   They want what they call “their freedom” but have no qualms about quashing the freedoms of others.  
       However, there is one freedom which God offers and no man can take it from another. It is the freedom one has “in Christ”.   In John 18:36 our Lord made this proclamation two ways. Pilate was in the process of asking Christ a series of questions.   These questions were, in part, because of an accusation of sedition against Christ by the Jews.   Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.   Christ’s kingdom is not “earthly” nor can its Laws be dictated by an earthly government.   Those who would become “citizens” of the kingdom of heaven (the church) through obedience to God’s Word have that “freedom in Christ” and no earthly government can take it from Christians.  
      I think it important at this point to focus on a commonality of freedom in the realm of earthly as well as spiritual.   In a society, there are laws which must be followed in order for one to have the promised freedoms under that body of laws which govern them.   In a civil society, (and if things are handled properly), if one “breaks the law”, they lose certain freedoms, at least for a period of time as stated in the law. For example, the law of our land states that one who murders another, and is convicted in a court of law, is to lose his or her freedom (be imprisoned) for the period determined by the court. (As I stated – “if things are handled properly”).  
       The same can be stated about the Law of God to man today.   Man, through following God’s Law can have freedom from sin as is clearly stated in Romans 6:22.  But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. God has promised through His Word (His Law) that one needn’t “die” spiritually, but can be rewarded with freedom (& life eternal).   However, just as in a civil society, the Laws that govern, (God’s Written Law) must be followed to have that freedom and to be rewarded.   A huge difference in man’s law and God’s Law is that God Will handle things properly!   2Peter 3:9 assures us of this. It states that God is “giving man time” to accept the “freedom” He offers “in Christ”. 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.
     But, to have and to enjoy the freedom God offers, one MUST follow God’s Law all the way. Freedom is important! So is following the Word of God! Even in the days when God only had a written Law to Israel this was the case. The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7   Today, through His Word, God is calling all to freedom. That freedom is “in Christ”. 2Corinthians 5:17 reminds us that one “in Christ” must be a new creature.   Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  To follow God’s Law is to be made free.  
   This is what Jesus was saying in John 8:36 to the Jews which believed in Him. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. Why not seek the freedom that is in Christ today? We can help you by showing you what God has said to do from His Word. We want you to be free.   What do you have to lose?   Just your soul. If you give up your soul and have nothing left to lose, are you free?   I don’t think so. Freedom – It’s that Important!

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Afraid, Who Me?

Afraid, Who Me?

      Who of us have not been afraid? Of course, this “emotion” is “inborn” and none can say they have never been afraid.   I am told that infants fear two things. They are 1) loud noises 2) falling. And because all of us started our lives on earth as “innocent sinless” infants, we have indeed been afraid at some point.   There is also no doubt that as children, and as we began to learn, we found that there were things which we did not understand, and that some things “might” harm us. Of these things, we were likely afraid.  
     Would it surprise you that even the only humans that were NOT BORN also exhibited fear and admitted that he (Adam) was afraid?   Genesis 3:9-10 shows Adam did experience fear. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? 10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.   Now, Adam and Eve were created as adults.   Genesis 2:15 tells us man was placed into a Utopia on Earth called Eden, in which there was nothing to fear. And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. Why then would Adam & Eve have fear?   We saw that Adam’s admission was that he was afraid because he was naked.  
     Why would this cause fear? Were there any other humans than his wife who could see him?   Genesis 2:25 told us they were naked and unashamed. So, how did Adam (& Eve) suddenly become aware of their nakedness?   Were they instantly educated?   If so, by whom?   We know the source of their fear and how they knew of their nakedness. Genesis 3:6-7 tells how they broke the “single” Commandment God had given them. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
      Many years have since passed, and countless infants have been born here on earth.   Interestingly enough, infants are not afraid of nakedness. They are also incapable of sinning, because they are born innocent. But because God gives humans the capacity to learn, these babies begin to do so.     Sadly, those who live long enough to know the difference between right and wrong ultimately sin.   We know this as Romans 3:23 provides this information.   For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
     Just like Adam and Eve, all who sin (break God’s Commandments) have a reason to fear.   In Genesis 2:16-17 we see why those who fail to keep all the Law of God, have reason to fear. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Adam and Eve only had one Law of God to follow.   However, when they broke it – they had reason to fear.  
     It should be obvious that Adam and Eve did not “drop dead” because they had two sons sometime afterward. We know this from Genesis 4:1-2, and then the sin of Cain as he slew Abel and committed the first murder. Neither did Cain “fall dead” because of his sin. Therefore, the statement of God to the first man and woman had to mean something more than physical death.   We see in Ezekiel 18:20 the proclamation of God sent to the prophet to pass on to the nation of Israel.   The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
     Now, how does this apply to us today? Let’s “fast forward” to the time of Jesus Christ. As Christ was preparing His apostles for the work of preaching the gospel of Salvation, in Matthew 10:28, He told them: And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.   This final phrase is the “death” of which God spoke in the Garden to Adam and Eve.   Even today we need not fear man and what he might do to us.   How can we prepare so that we don’t send an eternity in Hell?   This is well within our own power. God provided the answer for us in Galatians 6:7-8. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.  So, we shouldn’t have fear right?   Not so fast! The word “fear” does not always mean: “terror, dread, anxiety, horror, or distress”.  
       Fear is absolutely necessary to please God. Used in this sense, fear means to revere.   Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 shows this and why we are to revere God and do as He directs us in His Word.   Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
       BE AFRAID – BE VERY AFRAID!   This is not said in the sense of “fear” of what man might do to us, but FEAR GOD – Do His Commandments! Serve Him and prepare for eternity with Him in Heaven by being obedient.   Of course, there should be real fear on the part of those who don’t serve Him. Hebrews 10:31 tells us this.   It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

                                                                   Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Who Is Your Father?

Who Is Your Father?

      Often when children are addressed by a stranger they are asked: “Who’s your daddy?” The child can usually respond in pride that they are the son or daughter of their male parent, and provide the name.   Fathers are being honored on this day as our country, and many others have set aside the day for so doing.   It is a shame that many have forgotten the Heavenly Father.
     I find it interesting that in all of the Old Testament, the term “our father” is only applied to Jehovah God four times. These are 1Chronicles 29:10 as David prayed; Isaiah 63:16 (2 times); and Isaiah 64:8. In both cases, Isaiah was also praying.   The Lord Jesus also reminded Israel of the manner in which to pray in Matthew 6:9 and Luke 11:12 and that all prayers are to be directed to God, our Father. In fact, in John 16:23 Jesus told His apostles elect this very thing about the “church age” which would come after His death. He said: “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” There are also multiple references from Romans 1:7 through Philemon verse 3 where Jehovah is identified as “our Father”.  
       Equally interesting is the fact that in the entirety of the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, there is not one mention of “my Father” in reference to God.   There is a plethora of occurrences of “my father” through the Old Testament, but in every case is applied to the one who “brought forth” the one using the term.   It therefore should not be a surprise when Jesus in Matthew 7:21 mentions that Jehovah (in Heaven) is His Father.   There are four occasions in the book of John in which Jesus is called the “only begotten” of God. After the church was established, Christ is also called the “only begotten Son” in Hebrews 11:17 and 1John 4:9.  
     This brings up some interesting questions.   Who is our Father? How did He become our Father?   When did He become our Father?
     I’m not asking this in regard to our earthly male parent as it is obvious that not all are the product of the same union. We have varied ancestors, blood-lines, and such. Because we have differing earthly fathers, the question with which we started this article would have a multiplicity of answers if answered in that vein.   How did our “male parent” become our father?   He begat us. When did he become our father? When we were brought forth in the process of fertilization, gestation and culminating with our delivery. In short, we were born to our parents.  
     But let us consider our “spiritual” Father a moment.   Most will gladly and quickly affirm that God is their spiritual Father. What other option is there spiritually? In Jesus day (and in ours), there is another possibility. In John 8, the Jews of Jesus’ day were quick to point out that Abraham was their father. They were speaking of their earthly ancestor.   In John 8:31 when Christ told them that they did the deeds of their father, they changed their tune. What did they now say? What most all men try to affirm. They said: “We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
     The Lord then, in the 1st part of John 8:42 told them the truth. He said: “If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God;”. Then in John 8:44a we see the source of their actions. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. They were the “spawn” of the devil spiritually because they followed him in rejection of God, the Son of God and the Word of God.   This is very apparent after reading Romans 6:16.   Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?   They had yielded themselves servants of Satan.   Therefore, he had become their spiritual father.  
     How then can Jehovah God become our spiritual Father?   Fatherhood has always come about as a result of birth.   This is true in the physical; so it is in the spiritual realm.   In John 1:12-13 we see this to be the case. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. So, one must be “born of God” before God is his/her Father. But how? Jesus explained this to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews in John 3:5-6 before the church was purchased by the blood of Christ on the cross. He said: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” So, He was speaking of a “spiritual” birth.  
     When does Jehovah God become one’s Heavenly Father? Not until you are “born to Him”.   How does this happen? 1Peter 1:23 provides the answer you seek. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.   One is conceived when God’s Word penetrates the heart (mind) and if/when the seed (the Word) germinates, and if the possessor of that mind obeys, they will be “born of water” (in baptism), in accordance with the Word (brought by the Spirit).
     Will you not be “born of God” today?   Will you not become His child as you obey His Commandments so you can be born again? He will then be your “Heavenly Father”. If not, Who is your spiritual father? You have a choice!

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Leave It "All" On The Field

Leave It “All” On The Field

     We’ve all heard this type of advice. In most cases, this guidance is offered to those in sports. We all know that this means: to commit wholly to, or to try one's best at, a sport or a game.   When this is the case, one is being told to use all their strength and ability to accomplish the desired results if at all possible.   I’m sure when this is applied to work or other areas of life there are other quotes that best fit the particular scenario.  
     One thing is for sure. We have a limited time in which to accomplish what we intend to do in life. This is certain in regard to a ball game or other athletic contests as there is usually a specified period allowed for such contests. The same could be said in regard to life. In fact, the Spirit had the “wise man” pen the Words we find in Ecclesiastes 9:5 that we are to “give it our all” while we occupy this earth. When you think of it, that is the only period in which these things can happen. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. Sounds like we are to put our full efforts into whatever we endeavor to accomplish in life, doesn’t it?
      The Spirit had Solomon follow this verse with the warning we read in the next two verses.   He had him write: I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. 12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. Ecclesiastes 9:11-12.   We only have a limited time in which to do that which we desire to do as we live.   However, we don’t know “how long” we have. We must “leave it all on the field” every day, as each day could be our last.
       Have we ever considered that Jesus Himself was acutely aware of this? He knew exactly why He came and how His earthly existence would end. In John 9:4 He stated: I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. This is clearly indicated in the New Testament in several places. One of the most quoted of these can be found in James 4:13-14. Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
       But, what to do in the meantime? No doubt we have many things which vie for our time. We all have obligations. We have things which we consider to be of great importance for the good of ourselves and for our family. Again, we rely upon the Lord for direction. As Christ delivered the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:31 He reminded those Jews: Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? Are these things not important? Of course, they are. But Jesus was pointing out that there was something that MUST take precedence over these, because in verses 33-34 He tells us what this is.   But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
     To “seek the kingdom of God” first, was direction for the Jews of that day, to whom Jesus was speaking. The kingdom had not yet come at that time. There was a great deal of work that would need to be done once the kingdom came. In John 4:35 as He spoke to His disciples, Jesus said: Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. He was telling them this because there would be so few laborers to do the needed work of evangelism.   In Matthew 9:37 He told them: The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
     This also holds true today. Folks today are to “seek the kingdom”, and are to become part of it through obedience to the gospel. As they do, they too become “laborers” for the Lord.   In 1Corinthians 3:9a, the Spirit had Paul write regarding himself and Apollos: “For we are labourers together with God . . . “. Paul and Apollos “sowed the seed of the kingdom”, in preaching and teaching the Word of God. They “gave their all” to convert sinners to Christ. In other words, they “left it all on the field”.  
     In 2Timothy 4:2, the Spirit had Paul instruct his young protégé about this. He was directed to write: Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. In essence, Timothy was being told: “Leave it all on the field”- “Give it your all”.
     Christians are to do the same today. We are to “leave it all on the field” in service to Him.   We are to give of our absolute best to the Master. Anything less makes us slothful and slovenly.   Did not God give His best when He gave His Son for our benefit? In your service to God, leave it all on the field. Take His message to everyone. Do it while there’s still time! Souls are at stake.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

What Does The Bible Plainly Say?

What Does The Bible Plainly Say?

      Many are very confused as to what the Bible says on a variety of subjects. This is readily evidenced by the myriad of denominational churches and the differing doctrines they espouse. Have you ever wondered where all these things originated?   They are spawned in the minds of men.   What did the Lord say about this?   In Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus was very “plain” when He warned of this very thing.  After calling the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites” He said: This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Could anything be any more plain?
     Why you ask, is this the case?   Why do folks “conjure” up things to do in worship that are not in God’s Word? Why do they alter God’s Word to make commandments which God has not made? The answers are simple. 1) Many do not know God’s Word. It is obvious why they fail to know what God has said. They don’t read, study, or meditate on the Bible. This is why we are told in 2Timothy 2:15 to study. This is why the psalmist in Psalm 1:1-2 was directed to describe the “happy” or blessed man who found his delight in the meditation of God’s Word, day and night.   When folks fail to read, study and meditate on God’s Word, they become as those in 2Peter 3:16, “unlearned and unstable” and as a result, they “wrest” the scriptures to their own destruction.  
     2) Some simply want things “their way” and find someone to teach them what they want to hear. This occurred in the O.T. with the Israelites. We see in Isaiah 30:9-10, God’s own people, the “rebellious people, lying children” requested: “Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things”. This also continued into the N.T. as 2Timothy 4:3 warns of those with “itching ears” which will not “endure sound doctrine”. In Acts 20:30, Paul warned the Ephesian elders that some of them would speak “perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Only those who want things “their way” would ignore God’s Word and what it plainly says.
     Sometime in the early 80’s, my wife’s father wrote the following poem which clearly indicates that God has made His Will known to us through His Word.   What God has said, He has said plainly.   One must be ignorant, or just obstinate to not follow it. As you read this. see how relevant these questions are even today.  

What Does The Bible Say?

What does the Bible say about God’s Will to save?
What does the Bible say about the plan He gave?
What does it say we all must do,
When we have read it’s message true?
What does the Bible plainly say?

 

What does the Bible say about the word immerse?
What is the “mode” described within the inspired verse?
Not to be scripturally baptized,
Forfeits our hope of Paradise.
What does the Bible plainly say?

What does the Bible say about the way to live?
What does the Bible say about the way to give?
What of the first-fruits that we owe?
What of the gifts we should bestow?
What does the Bible plainly say?

What does the Bible say about the feast we spread?
What does the Bible say about the Cup and Bread?
What of the way we should partake?
What if His table we forsake?
What does the Bible plainly say?

What does the Bible say about the name to wear?
What does the Bible say how we His cross should bear?
What of the suffering for His sake?
What of His glory to partake?
What does the Bible plainly say?

O.D. Wilson – deceased

     Do yourself an eternal favor. Read God’s Word. Rightly divide it. Know it and properly follow it. Examine yourself by God’s Word. Then make the needed changes so you can live and worship as He desires. Show your love for God in faithful obedience to His Word.
     Avoid the trap of drawing nigh unto God with your mouth, honoring Him with your lips, while your heart is far from Him by following man’s teaching.
     Look closely, God has plainly said what He wants you to do and how to do it in His Holy Word.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Too Good To Be True?

Too Good To Be True?

     There are those who make the claim: “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is”. We’ve all heard this. Some of us have seen situations that seemed “too good to be true”.   When a person makes an offer that seems too good to be true, there’s bound to be a catch.   This is because most people are looking out for themselves. Usually, when an offer such as this is presented, the obvious question: “What’s in it for me?” is asked. When an offer made by man, seems “too good to be true”, there is usually more in said proposal for the one making the offer than there is for the one to whom the proposition is extended, and because of this, these types of offers should always be refused. However, not all offers are made by man, and not all good things come from man.  
     “Too good to be true” is a very cynical attitude, especially when one takes into consideration the offer Christ has extended to humanity. The “offer” Christ makes to humanity is one that had been in formulation since before the world began.   Christ’s offer is not “too good to be true” nor is it to be refused, because it originated with, and is ordained by God.   It is made quite clear in James 1:17 that all that has been given or provided by God is “good and perfect”. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  It makes no sense for folks to refuse the offer God made through Christ as 2Peter 1:3-4 shows that the offer to become a child of God comes with everything we ever need, as well as great 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: 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.
     However, all who have failed to accept what Jesus Christ has provided for mankind are refusing what God has offered through Christ. Unfortunately, many are refusing what Christ offers through ignorance.   In Matthew 7:7 we find the Lord, in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount offer this advice. He said: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: ” The problem is, when one asks or seeks, they must go to the right source, or the offer may indeed be “too good to be true”.   Man offers several plans that cannot save.   All of man’s plans for Salvation, fall way short of what the Lord would have man do.
     Even some of God’s own O.T. people wanted what God offered, but they wanted it on their terms. This is not the way the plan of God works! The prophet Jeremiah was sent to them and in Jeremiah 6:16 they were told what to “ask for” and how they replied. Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.    Isaiah 30:10 identifies the rebellious children of God: “Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: ”  
       In this, the N.T. age, some claims to want what is clearly offered in the Word of God, but they still want it “their way”. We see in 2Timothy 4:3-4 this often was (and often still is) the case. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.   What kind of fables?   Fables such as: “Salvation is by faith only”.   From whence do such abominable ideas come?   From a total mis-application of a few verses.   We can see this from Acts 16:30-31 in the case of the Philippian jailor.   And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
     This is an enticing offer, and if one applies only these verses, it becomes an offer “too good to be true” and is also a “fable” that many follow.   All one has to do is “believe” and “they’re saved”? Too Good To Be True! Neither God nor Christ has offered this!   James 2:19 also reveals that this cannot be.   Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.    I ask you, are the devils saved?  
       Now, let’s read Acts 16:32-33 - And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. (preached the gospel to them) 33 And he (Paul) took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.    This aligns perfectly with the Words of Jesus Christ in Mark 16:16 - He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.  
       Christ’s offer for Salvation is not “too good to be true”. But it can only be received in accordance to God’s plan.   Hear the Word – Romans 10:17. Believe that Christ is God’s Son – John 8:24. Repent of your sins – Acts 17:30.  Confess before men that Christ is God’s Son – Romans 10:9-10.   You can then be baptized into Christ – 1Peter 3:21.   Then remain faithful through the rest of your life – Rev 2:10.   Too Good To Be True? Not God’s plan. Too hard to follow?   Not God’s plan.   Let us help you.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Can You Hear Me Now?

Can You Hear Me Now?

       Most everyone remembers those Verizon commercials that lasted about nine years. Being heard clearly is very important, especially in the realm of personal communication devices.  It seemed during that timeframe every program on television had at least one spot to draw buyers to this specific brand. As it turned out, this became a very successful method of convincing customers to purchase their products and services.  
     Everyone wants to be heard. We all want to be heard especially when we think we have something to say. For example, have you been in a restaurant lately? All the patrons, involved in conversation, try to “out-talk” everyone else in volume. This is simply because they want to be heard.   Perhaps their actions (volume) were asking “Can You Hear Me Now?”  
       Does God ever have occasion to ask you the question that heads this article? This came to mind when recently, my wife asked me a question. That was: “Have you ever wondered, that of all of God’s creation, man, the only to be created in the image of God, is that which refuses to hear (listen) to Him?” How profound! Honestly, I had never really thought about it. Have you?
      We have ample examples of this within the Word of God. We have the case of creation, when even the elements heard and obeyed as God spoke, and it was so.   There were also the animals of Genesis 6:19-20. Some may think that Noah went and gathered them, but the scriptures show this is not so. How then, did they know to “come to the ark”?   They heard God, and did as He Commanded.   And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. 20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. Their salvation depended upon hearing God and doing as He Commanded. The same went for Noah and his family.   All others of that day perished in the flood. Why? They refused to “hear God”.   All who possess a soul and refuse to hear God and obey Him as He has directed will perish in eternal Hell fire.
      As time passed, God continued to carry out His plan to save the souls of man. He had separated out a people, Israel, provided the means where they could grow to be a great nation, and then delivered them from the bondage they suffered at the hands of the Egyptians. Shortly afterward, He spoke to them through their deliverer, and prophet Moses. Notice what God had Moses tell them as we read Deuteronomy 4:35-36.  Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him. 36 Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire. Did they hear? At times.   Did they obey? Not all the time. Why? Because they refused to hear.  
     Not even the waters and the weather refuse to hear the Lord. We have a great example of this in Matthew 8:26-27 – When Christ was asleep on the ship, and the storm arose. His disciples, many of them, rugged men of the sea, were sorely afraid. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!  Neither the Father, the Son, nor the Holy Ghost has ever had to ask any of God’s creation, with the sole exception of man, “Can You Hear Me Now?”   Ever wonder why this is?
     God has provided this answer in the Words of His Son in regard to that very people, Israel.   Jesus came to “seek and to save that which was lost” as we read in Luke 19:10.   Why then are not all saved?   Because they refuse to hear and obey what God has said.   When Jesus came His message was one of repentance to Israel so they could be saved. But before they could be saved, they had to “hear” Him and obey. He came to call Israel to repentance and then to die on the cross to purchase the church. This was the event in which He gave Himself as the only sacrifice that could bring about the saving of a soul.  In His coming, dying, and resurrection He “fulfilled all righteousness.
     But His death on the cross is without effect on those that will not hear. We also have Jesus’ own Words of Matthew 13:14-15 to tell us why many of the Jews of His day would not be saved when the church came into being on the day of Pentecost. He said: And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. God had said to them, “Can You Hear Me Now?” and they refused. These folks, like many of their ancestors who refused to hear, were lost.
     Even to those “baptized into Christ”, God’s children, has God had to ask Can You Hear Me Now? so they wouldn’t go astray. We have an example of this in Hebrews 3:7-9 to the Hebrews that had been converted to Christ. Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.  They knew the history of their forefathers and knew that some died in the wilderness and never reached the Promised Land.
     God is asking you and I today: “Can You Hear Me Now?”.  Won’t you hear? He speaks through His Word to Christians, and Christians are to take His Holy message of Salvation to all who will hear.   Can you hear Him?   Obey Him.  Let us help you understand God’s message and how to follow it so you too can have the hope of Heaven, that eternal Promised Land. If you refuse to hear Him and obey, you too shall be eternally lost!  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

The Spirit Of Compromise

The Spirit Of Compromise

     The Lord’s people have always been attacked and challenged by those in the world. The undenominational church of the New Testament today continues to be criticized by the denominations of the world. On each occasion when the church is attacked from without, we must be willing and able to defend the “bride of Christ” by using the “sword of the Spirit.” As Jude wrote, we must be willing to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). The soldiers of Christ must be stedfast and unmovable. The attacks from without will do nothing but make the Lord’s people stronger as long as the truth is cherished and defended against these attacks. The greatest danger to the Lord’s church today is the spirit of compromise which seems to be growing in popularity among the ranks of the Lord’s people. Our persevere in the restoration of the New Testament church are not unlike Nehemiah’s efforts to restore the walls of Jerusalem. Several made efforts to stop the rebuilding of the walls. They began by using force; their efforts failed. They then desired Nehemiah to leave the work to meet for discussion. This also failed because Nehemiah saw this invitation as an invitation to compromise. His reply was, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” It is interesting to notice in this regard some words of brother F.G. Allen written in about 1886, which are profoundly important even today. He wrote, While we remain true to the principles on which we started out, there is no earthly power that can impede our progress. But, the day we leave these walls and go out to take counsel with the world will mark the day of our decline. We have nothing to fear from without. Our only danger is from within. This danger lies in the direction of indifference and compromise. While we are true to God in the maintenance of these principles, the divine blessing will rest upon our work. But, should they ever be surrendered, ruin will as certainly follow as that the Bible is true” (Old Path Pulpit, p. 33).    
          Certainly it will not benefit the Lord’s church to invite denominational speakers into our classrooms and pulpits. It will bring only catastrophe to the Lord’s church to encourage meetings with these who have set aside the principles of New Testament Christianity in a spirit of compromise for the sake of “friendship.”
        We must, as Nehemiah, live by the principle, “We made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night.”

Lester Kamp – The Gospel Preceptor – May 6, 2022

       The above article was “borrowed” as it fit well with the a.m. sermon I plan to preach this week.   That sermon is: Faithful Stewards.   One will find that it is not possible to be a “faithful steward” if they ‘compromise’.   There may be areas of life when it may be possible to compromise (in some small way) and still remain faithful to the task at hand.   This is because in these instances the principles by which a task is defined by man and are not immutable. That is, the conditions and rules in such a case are set, and controlled by man, and therefore, changeable.   But when it comes to what God has stated in His Holy Word, there is no compromise. When there is compromise here, there is sin.  
         Compromise in the realm of religion is sin because God, His Word, His Laws, Commands, and Precepts are unchangeable. Psalm 119:144 tells us not only that His Word and His righteousness are everlasting, but also through His Word man can understand what God wants man to do. The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live. Even in this, the New Testament age, we can know what God wants us to do and how to do it.   It MUST be done without compromise that we might receive the promises that He has made in His Word.   In Malachi 3:6, in dealing with the sons of Jacob, God Himself stated that He does not change. For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. He had previously made promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God did not and will not compromise, therefore, so that the promise could be fulfilled, the sons of Jacob would not be consumed. It was through them Christ would come.
       That plan of God is now complete.   It came to fruition in Christ. Christ did not compromise when He came to die on the cross, purchase the church with His precious blood, and ascend to the Father with that blood sacrifice.   Then the Word of God came to the apostles through the Spirit. Because of this uncompromising plan of God, the obedient and faithful can be heirs according to promise. However, if one compromises, they cannot receive the promise of God. This is clearly indicated in Galatians 3:26-29.   For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
         This is what Jesus was saying in John 10:1 while He was on the earth. 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. Why compromise? That way only leads to death and destruction. Let us help you understand that true way – without compromise – to become sons of God?

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Is It Mother's Day, Or The Lord's Day?

Is It Mother’s Day, Or The Lord’s Day?

       Today is the Sunday many have set aside so they might focus on Mother’s Day. Interestingly enough, “Mother’s Day” cannot be found in the Bible. It is also interesting that the term “Lord’s Day” only occurs once, and this is when John was on Patmos to receive the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, (Revelation 1:10).   There are many passages that speak of the Lord, and there are many that reference “Mother”. The word mother is found 320 times within 292 verses in the entire Bible. However, the term “Lord”, in reference to Jesus Christ is found in the New Testament more than 600 times. Why is it we have to take a “Lord’s Day” to honor Mom?  
     The fifth of the ten commandments - Exodus 20:12 deals with the honor one is to have for parents.   Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.   This was part of the decalogue, given specifically to Israel, directing how they were to serve and worship God.   The fourth Commandment, coming before the fifth, surely has more importance. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  
      Now, we know that the Lord’s Day is not the Sabbath day.   We also know that we do not live under the Old Testament Law of God.   It was always the intention of God to have a “new day”, under a “new covenant” wherein man should serve and worship Him. Jeremiah 31:31-32 is one of the many places this is prophesied.   Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: Along with this new covenant was a new day in which man is to worship God.
      The Spirit had many prophets speak of this day. In Isaiah 2:2-3 we find a prophecy of this.   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. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Yet another is found in Zechariah 14:8-9. And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. 9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.
      While Jesus was on earth, He taught His disciples about that kingdom, the church, of which the prophets spoke.   In Matthew 4:17 we are told just after John was imprisoned, Jesus began to preach. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.   Christ also had things to say about mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. In so doing, He also stated that one must put first things first and keep things in their proper priority.   In Matthew 10:37-38 we read: 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.  In Matthew 6:33 as Jesus spoke during the Sermon on the Mount, He told the Jews gathered there of that which is of most importance. He said: But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
        Ephesians 6:2 repeats God’s Commandment regarding the honor to be directed toward parents. This is a part of God’s N.T. Law.   Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)  We all should honor our parents as directed in the Word. Was it not “the Lord”, Christ, who died on the cross?   Was it not the Lord who “gave Himself” for us? We are told in Titus 2:14 that is exactly what He did.   Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
       No doubt mothers make many sacrifices for their offspring.   For this they should be honored. But should not a “greater sacrifice” deserve more honor? The greatest sacrifice a mother can offer, is to “give herself” in service to God and the teaching of her children so they might know how to obey, to serve, to be pleasing to God.   But Christ made the ultimate Sacrifice as His blood is the only Sacrifice that made it possible to take away sins.   We are told that Christ came to do His Father’s Will.   In so doing, He paid the price so that we might be saved.   Then as Hebrews 10:12 shows, He went back to the Father.   But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;  
        It is proper to “honor” Mom for all she does. (Romans 13:7)   She deserves it!   But’s let’s not fail to honor God, His Son and the Spirit first! A godly mother does not desire that she be honored more than God.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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