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Are You Ready?

Are You Ready?

       How many times have you been asked this question? I am sure over the course of our lives this question has been asked of us countless numbers of time.   Each time this is asked, it has reference to the subject at hand. If we were preparing to go to an event, being ready would entail being properly attired, or having at hand the items needed for such an occasion.   Most of the time when we have “gotten ready” for something there was a set schedule, an itinerary, or something of that nature.   We also, depending on the particular event, knew what preparation needed to have been made.  
     How often do we fail to remember there is an all-important event coming although we don’t know the exact time it shall happen?   The second coming of our Lord is an event, about which much speculation abounds.   This is despite the fact that the Lord Himself stated in Mark 13:32, even He had not been told while He was on the earth when this was to occur. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.   However, we have been granted ample time to make the appropriate preparation.   The failure to make ready is to live in vain because, if not ready, all that remains for eternity is condemnation.    
       The apostle Paul, in 2Corinthians 6:1-2, was directed by the Spirit to warn the church in Corinth to “get ready” & “stay ready” because no one knows how much time remains before the Lord returns and “time” is no more.   We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) Another passage that warns of the fallacy of not being ready is Romans 13:11. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
      Another reason to be ready, is so we can properly serve the Lord as He has directed in His Word, and as opportunities present themselves.   We read in 2Timothy 2:21 that part of being ready is to “shun” certain things that we might be suitable for service to God.     If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.  We are also to be ready to explain our hope in Christ to all who ask, per 1Peter 3:15. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:   With such warnings as these, why would anyone delay in getting ready and remaining so? Procrastination is a tool of Satan to prevent the Christian from faithful service to God.  
       Upon being asked if one is ready, often excuses abound when one has not made proper preparations, or are focused on other things.   Our Lord made allusion to this in Luke 14:16-20 as Christ taught on the kingdom that was then coming, but now is. We see that the folks in this lesson rejected the kingdom, and made excuses.   Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: 17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. 18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. 19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. 20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
      The same seems to be the case today, when the kingdom, (the church) is now, and has been in existence for many years. We know that this was the case in the time of the writing of the Roman letter. Some opine that this letter was penned around A.D. 57-58, a scant 13 or 14 years from the start of the Lord’s church.   In Romans 1:18-21 we clearly see that excuses aren’t going to be accepted. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 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.
      2Thessalonians 1:8-9 informs us that this “wrath of God” is going to be unleashed on all who fail to make ready, and on all who fail to stay ready, when the Lord returns. 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;
        Can we not see the need to warn others to get ready and stay ready as well as to make sure that we are ready?   Why wait until time runs out? It will then be too late! Why not obey the gospel today, and then strive to be faithful in reading, studying, meditating on and living the Word?   Are You Ready?          

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Salvation Is Not By Chance

Salvation Is Not By Chance

        Ever flipped a coin to make an important decision? What are the odds of making the right decision by doing so?   Most folks would say it is 50/50. But research has proven that a coin has a 51 percent chance of landing on the side it started from. So, if heads is up to start with, there's a slightly bigger chance that a coin will land heads rather than tails.   This means that the result is not totally random.   Some folks seem to be “flipping a coin” regarding their eternal soul.   These folks go through life taking a chance by not making proper preparation, gambling with their souls in the process.
      Consider a coin with Heaven as heads, and Hell as tails. Are you willing to “flip” this coin to determine your eternity? If such a coin existed with such an outcome, I suspect that some would try it. They would “hope” that the coin at the start of the flip was on heads (Heaven) and that it would land that way at the end of the flip. No coin lands with neither heads nor tails. Of course, no such coin exists, and this was not God’s plan for the determination for the eternal home of the souls of humanity.  
      Eternity is not a gamble or a “flip of a coin”, as God desires all to be saved as is stated in 1Timothy 2:3-4. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.   He has also delivered a plan whereby man can have the salvation of his soul.   Romans 10:13 provides the means through which this can occur. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  Of course, this is not simply a verbal “calling out” to the Lord. This is to submit to the authority of the Lord.   In Acts 11:14, Cornelius was told the Lord was sending Peter “Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.”   This means that Peter was bringing the Lord’s “instruction” as to how Cornelius and those who heard those Words could be saved.   This proves that action is required.
        If heads on the coin is “saved” and leads to Heaven, the other side is “lost” and leads to Hell.   If action, (Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess Jesus as the Son of God, be Baptized “into Christ”, and then Remain Faithful) leads ultimately to Heaven, we can surely grasp that failure to obey and inactivity (no action) is to be lost.   Perhaps this is the idea being conveyed in 1Peter 4:17-18 as those to whom the Spirit had Peter write were being encouraged.   For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? The ungodly and the sinner will be utterly lost.
       Would this not be why Peter and the eleven, on the day of Pentecost were given Words to direct the lost into the kingdom?   Acts 2:40 shows this to be the case. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. The following verse shows how those that believed and received the Words responded and what benefit they gained 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, according to verse 47, “added to the church”.   They didn’t take a “chance”. They took action according to the Word.
        This requirement for action is not just applied to the lost. Those who have been saved by the blood of Christ in baptism, also are required to continue the “work” to remain ready for eternity. The Spirit had Paul remind the folks in Philippians 2:12 of this great need. 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. Then, the Corinthian brethren in 2Corinthians 5:9 are told this. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. In verse 10 we see why all need an awareness of this.   For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
       In Matthew 18:11, as Jesus was teaching His disciples the parable of the lost sheep, Christ states His purpose for leaving Heaven and coming to live in human flesh. He said: “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.”   And we are well aware of the great love on the part of God in sending His Son to die on Calvary’s cross from 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.   But some don’t seem to be aware that when Jesus died on that cross, was buried in that borrowed tomb, and when He ascended back to the Father to die no more, no one was saved at that point.   But He had indeed provided the means for Salvation.  
          Jesus told Thomas in John 14:6: I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. In Matthew 11:28 we find the Words of Christ for all the lost.   Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.   No, Salvation is not a coin toss, nor is it a happening of chance. One of two outcomes will occur, and this outcome is up to you.   One will be saved if they do what God teaches through His Word. If not, they will be lost for eternity.   Make your choice today and do what God requires.   The Salvation of your soul is not left to chance.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

I Owe You

I Owe You

            All are debtors in some capacity.   A debtor is a legal entity that owes a debt to another entity. The entity may be an individual, a firm, a government, a company or other legal person.    As a teen, I once heard an adult singing the catchy tune of a song from the Disney classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. The words he sang were: “I Owe, I Owe, So off to work I Go . . . ”   It made perfect sense to me as in this life, when one “owes” he or she has to “go to work” to pay that debt.   But there are some debts that cannot be repaid.   We know that God’s favor toward man in offering His Son cannot be quantified, therefore, there is no possible way in which man can do anything to recompense God.   To keep God’s Commandments is not to repay Him, as we cannot “earn” Salvation, or a home in heaven.
            God’s Promise to Israel was a “home in Canaan”.   They could do nothing to earn it, but could definitely fail to receive it.   In Deuteronomy 10:12-13, God had Moses explain this to Israel. And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13 To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?
            This requirement was not “repayment”, but a way to show their love for God and for all the blessings He had richly bestowed on His people. We can read of the “choice” they had in Deuteronomy 30:19-20.   I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: 20 That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
           God’s Promise to man in this, the New Testament age, which is the final dispensation of time, consists of spiritual promises. We find this promise in act and in fact, first stated in Acts 2:39 as Peter and the eleven delivered the Words of the gospel in Jerusalem, AD 33. 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. This great promise was offered first to the Jews present, (you), then to their descendants, (your children), and finally to the Gentiles, (all that are afar off) through the preaching of the gospel.   As we contemplate this, consider the physical blessings God has richly bestowed on all humanity.   For these, no amount of repayment could suffice.   The same can also be said of the “spiritual blessings”, which are only bestowed upon those who are “in Christ”, as Ephesians 1:3 states.   Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
            As the blessings of God, physical and spiritual, are considered, there is no doubt whatsoever that we “owe” God exponentially.   James 1:17 makes this abundantly clear as all “good and perfect gifts” come from Him.   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.  But how could I possibly owe you, some of whom I do not know, have not met, and may never meet in this life?   Romans 13:8 can be of assistance as we attempt to answer this question. It states: Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.   This passage is in the context of “paying taxes”, as verses 6 & 7 show. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
            Sure, I owe those with whom I have contracted for various goods and services performed, and yes, my taxes, and these debts have to be paid. But these concern this realm only.     The “debt” I owe you and every soul is to help all see the need they have in this realm, that when filled, will see them safely into the eternal realm of rest with the Lord.   Every Christian “owes” all souls the love of which Romans 13:8 (above) speaks.   It is the same love expressed by Almighty God 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.
           God loves, and sent His Son. Christ loves, and died on the cross to provide the only Sacrifice that can remit sin. In His love, He also sent the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) as promised, who through the Word, shows His love as the New Testament gospel per Romans 1:16 is God’s power to save.   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.
          I owe you, because I love you.  Your soul is precious to me, and I want that soul to be saved.   I can’t save it for you, but I can present the gospel so you can “choose life”. You can’t earn Salvation, but you can certainly forfeit it through refusal or disobedience.   Only Christ can fill the need your soul has.     Allow me to “pay my debt” to you, and so fulfill the law.   Won’t you hear His Word today, obey the gospel, and then . . . serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and keep the commandments of the LORD?  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Emotion

Emotion

         A real part of life is emotion. Emotion is exhibited in every part of our lives. Those afflicted in some way in which they lack all emotions is a somewhat rare, but real thing.   The medical term for this is Alexithymia, and is defined as the inability to recognize emotions and their subtleties and textures.   Alexithymia throws a monkey wrench into a person's ability to know their own self-experience or understand the intricacies of what others feel and think.  Those few that are so affected, miss out on all the positive “feelings” of life such as happiness.
      Whether or not people participate in, or realize it, religion is indeed a part of life. The term religion, as defined by Miriam Webster is: (1) a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. (2a) the service and worship of God or the supernatural. (2b) commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance. (3) a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.
        Because religion is part of life, and emotions are a part of life, emotion is also a part of religion.   The Bible, God’s Written Communication to man to direct man, contains many words, such as happy, sad, afraid, glad, confident, and careful (meaning anxious), among others, that indicate emotions.
       Worship, in definition and in fact, is also part of religion. Therefore, we are aware that emotions will be exhibited as we gather to worship God. But this does not mean that we can allow our emotions to control our worship.   God has clearly defined true worship in His Word, as Jesus stated in John 4:23-24. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The “spirit” is the mind, and “in truth” is in accordance to the Word of God. Jesus, in His prayer of John 17:17 said: Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.   We must worship as His Word directs.
        So, how are we, in accordance to God’s Word, to properly utilize our God-given emotions in Worship to Him?   We must “control” our emotions so as to not allow them to overcome us and direct us.   However, there are some God-given emotions that are permitted and expected in the realm of “true” worship to Him. In Psalm 100:2 we find the Spirit having the sweet singer of Israel write: Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Singing takes place inward (in the mind), as well as outward with the mouth.   Outward gladness manifests happiness, and often produces song. Gladness defined is: experiencing pleasure, joy, or delight.  
       We can clearly see from Psalm 1:1-2, in what our delight should rest. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.   Then we see from verse three, the benefit of so doing.   And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
        This “delight” transcends worship, and is to carry over into the rest of our lives as well.   This is the idea conveyed in Philippians 4:4 as the Spirit had Paul write to the Christians in that city. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.    We do know that all of life is not “delightful”, as we all are subject to pain, discomfort and suffering. However, 1Peter 3:13-14 clearly shows we still can have happiness during times of difficulty. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
        Should not every Christian “delight” in being able to help others find the joy that comes from obeying and serving God as He has directed in His Word? Christians are commanded in 1Peter 3:15: But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:   The only way to be able to answer those who seek the truth is to know God’s Word. The Psalmist was also directed by the Spirit in Psalm 112:1 to remind God’s people where happiness for the follower of God originates. Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.
       Emotions are manifested (made known) by our actions. One way in which the Christian can show his/her happiness is singing.   Hebrews 2:12 shows this to be the case.   Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.   Also, James 5:13, reminds us of different reactions to the “feelings” we have as we live, and while we worship. Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.  Our emotions are ours to control, as are our actions.   They are a part of the “inward man” in 2Corinthians 4:16 of which the Spirit had Paul speak, because they come from within. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.   This also helps us see that we are to work on controlling our emotions daily, including the day of worship God set up for the New Testament.
        Let’s properly show our happiness and joy in our faithful service and worship to God.

                                                              Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Are We Willing To Give It Our All?

Are We Willing To Give It Our All?

                As a part of our lives in this realm, at some point, we begin to purchase and possess.   We begin to learn the value of items, and the means by which we might “hold” these things for a while. Surely, we understand the material goods of this life, although sometimes expensive, are temporary at best.   This is very well demonstrated in the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:16-21.   Here we read of one who truly believed he had all that he needed to sustain him through the remainder of his existence. How mistaken can one be? We can see in Luke 12:20 he would have no need of material goods where he was going. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
         This man had been truly blessed, but he failed to realize the value of the intangible. He had labored only for the “goods of this world”. Luke 12:21 gives the point of the parable.   So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.  Christ, in Matthew 16:26, addressed the value of the soul, and asked a question similar to the title of the poem below, written by my wife’s father over 45 years ago.   The Lord said: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?   What would you give for your soul?
          How valuable is your soul to you today?   Can we not realize the great importance placed upon the soul in God’s dealing with mankind? Are we not willing to sacrifice now to ensure that our soul is saved when it departs from our bodies?   In Luke 9:23, Jesus explained what “giving it your all” entailed as He spoke to the Jews of His day who would see the kingdom come.   And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  God gave His all, and Christ gave His all so we could have this great opportunity.   In the latter part of Romans 5:8 we are told: “. . . while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

What Would You Give?

What would you give, ever to live,
Free from a world of suff’ring and pain,
Where there’s no heartaches, wrongs to forgive,
No sad partings again?

What would you give to have a true friend,
When you cross the Jordan so wide,
One on whom you can ever depend,
When you must cross the dark tide?
Jesus is that friend, Who will ever be true,
Land you safely over the foam.
All that you need He’ll give unto you,
Then you can live in that Home.

If you are lost, think of the cost,
That the Lord paid for us on that day,
Gave His own life to save us from Hell,
When we like sheep were astray.
Think of such love, sent from above,
Now is the time to prepare.
Better obey the gospel today,
So He will welcome you there.

O.D. Wilson – deceased

         Perhaps, you’ve never stopped to consider that we too, have a price to pay to inhabit that eternal home.   Yes, God gave His all, and Christ gave His all, but is that the only cost?   While discussing the cost of discipleship, the Lord, in Luke 14:28-30 used the example of building a tower without counting the cost to show the fallacy of beginning and not finishing.   For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.   If we have begun our journey to heaven, having obeyed the gospel, and have laid hold on the promise of eternal life, have we truly counted the cost? Are we willing to “give it our all” to ensure that we make it to heaven?  
         We have a fine Bible example in Paul, of one willing to do his part while here on the earth, and also what reward was expected in 2Timothy 4:6-8. He paid dearly while laboring on the earth.   For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.  Don’t you want that crown?
     If you have not obeyed the gospel, you can’t expect that “crown” the Lord will give to the obedient and faithful.   What are you willing to do to partake of that eternal heavenly home?   Are you willing to sacrifice now, and “give it your all”?   What Are You Willing To Give?   Obey the gospel today!

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Strength In Christ

Strength In Christ

     Throughout our lives, and in various areas, we all become aware of the weaknesses we possess.   In the physical contests of our youth, we likely were “bested” by some of our childhood competitors.   Some seek to be “stronger, better, or faster”, by incorporating strength training into their regimen. As some grow up, they still continue to worry about physical weaknesses and inabilities, and some even turn to certain drugs or other synthetic substances to “enhance” their performance.
     Unfortunately, there are many who are unaware that spiritual strength is of greater importance than physical strength. The Spirit had the apostle write in Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.   But, before one can be strengthened by Christ, one must be “in Christ”.   When one is “baptized into” Christ, they become “in Christ”.   We are told this is when spiritual life begins in 2Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
       We are aware that physical strength diminishes when muscles aren’t used. This type of strength also is reduced with age in most cases. This is where the differences between physical and spiritual strength becomes obvious.   We do need to be mindful that strength in Christ must be maintained, or we can lose it as 2John 1:8 admonishes. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.    However, our spiritual strength need not diminish with age. It is true, we can become “spiritual weaklings” if we allow it, but Ephesians 3:16 does remind us we can remain strong spiritually. That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;   We are also told this in the latter part of 2Corinthians 4:16. . . . but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
         We shouldn’t have to be told that just because someone builds a gym near our house, it won’t benefit us if we don’t go in and exercise.   However, it seems that some Christians have to be reminded that just because they own a Bible, or just because they happen to attend services occasionally, this is not a guarantee of spiritual strength.   The “spiritual muscle”, the mind, must be exercised in order to remain strong.  In 2Timothy 2:1-2, the Spirit had Paul tell Timothy how to maintain his spiritual strength. Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.   The same applies to us today.
        We are taught in Titus 2:11-12 what the grace of God is, and what benefit we can derive from it. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;   From these verses, it should be obvious that God’s Word is what is meant by the grace of God. It is God’s Word that teaches, if we will take it in and learn from it.   In 1Timothy 4:7-8 the Spirit had Paul direct Timothy (and us) in the way in which is most important to “exercise” and also showed the difference in physical and spiritual fitness.   But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
        The Christians of Jewish nationality were reminded in Hebrews 5:12-14 that they were expected to grow and mature. Rather, some of them had not and were in danger of becoming apostate.   For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.  Some of them had not participated in the “spiritual exercise” that promotes growth and strength in Christ.  
       To ignore the need to exercise results in muscle atrophy and weakness. This is true in both the physical and spiritual part of man. If, and when we are weakened because of inactivity, we are much more likely to fall, and become injured. It seems the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” can apply in both realms of life. Physically, through proper exercise, we can perhaps avoid injury and maintain health. Spiritually, we can best avoid apostasy, and also maintain our strength in Christ through the exercise of reading, studying, meditating in, and living by the Holy Word of God.  
        The Spirit had the apostle Peter write this to Christians in 2Peter 3:17-18, and it is equally applicable today.   Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 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.   Christians, now’s the best time to start that spiritual exercise program and maintain spiritual strength.   Then we can also lead the lost to Christ, and help the erring to find their way back to the fold. Let’s all strive to be “strong in the Lord”.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

We Are Christians

We Are Christians

     Throughout the world, there are many claiming to be Christians. This is because of a misunderstanding of what a Christian is, and how one becomes a child of God. Various denominations declare several different ways in which one is entitled to wear this most honored name.   A perusal of a dictionary to determine what a Christian is, or how to become one is futile. There, one finds only the “generally accepted” definition or meaning of the term. The adjective form of the word is: relating to or professing Christianity or its teachings. As a noun, we find: a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Christianity.   These are quite misleading as the terminology of many “self- described”, so-called Christians bears out. Many of these claim to be a "born-again Christian".   One who is a Christian is “born again”.
       We know this to be a reference to John 3:3 as Jesus expressed the soon to be revealed plan of God for Salvation. 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.  Nicodemus didn’t understand it then, and many fail to do, even today.   This is most apparent when some claim to be Christians and are still looking for a future kingdom.   Didn’t Jesus Himself say that the Kingdom was imminent in Matthew 4:17?   From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
        We also know that the kingdom has indeed arrived, as Colossians 1:13 shows that those who had been “born again” were in the kingdom. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:   Acts 2:47b also tells us where God placed these “born again” people.   And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. This has to mean that those who are “translated into the kingdom” are in the church. So, when one is “born again” he/she, is added to the church for which Christ died, and are become citizens in the kingdom of God.
        The question that must be answered is “how” is this accomplished.   We read in 1Peter 1:23 what produces a Christian.   Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.   Only when one follows the Word of God, and does what is directed can one be “born again”.   Perhaps this is what was on the mind of my wife’s father, many years ago when he wrote the song below. In it, he properly warns that the present is the time to obey the gospel, as well in song format, lays out God’s plan for saving the soul of man.  

We Are Christians

We are Christians, and there is just one reason,
It is because we have obeyed God’s Word.
No more or less, can guarantee finesse,
When the final verdict has been heard.
No need to ponder about that home up yonder,
Unless you’re sure you’re on the narrow way.
So, open up God’s Book, and do more than take a look.
Be sure that you are saved today.

Do not delay. This is the day, to make things right with God.
Believe in Christ, repent of sins, forsake the way you’ve trod.
And with the mouth confess the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord.
And be baptized, remit your sins according to His Word.
He’ll make you whole, and save your soul,
And you can sing this song.

We are Christians, and there is just one reason,
It is because we have obeyed God’s Word.
No more or less, can guarantee finesse,
When the final verdict has been heard.
No need to ponder about that home up yonder,
Unless you’re sure you’re on the narrow way.
So, open up God’s Book, and do more than take a look.
Be sure that you are saved today.

O.D. Wilson – deceased

       We are told in John 1:12 that those who “receive” the Lord are given the “power” to become sons of God (be born of God). 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: Then in Romans 1:16 we read what that “power” is. 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.   Will you not obey the gospel today?   You can be a child of God, be a part of the kingdom, and a member of the church for which Christ died and a soldier of the cross.   All these terms mean the same thing.  
       If you’ve not done these things, you’re not “born again”, and have not become a Christian.   Let us help you become as God desires you to be. Let us show you in Gods’ Word what He says to do.   Don’t gamble your soul’s eternity, you’ll lose.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Free To Choose

Free To Choose

       As we arrived on this earth (were born), we were free. This means we were free of sin, as we are born innocent. When Adam and Eve were created, they were without sin. Genesis 3:5 clearly indicates that the serpent knew of Eve’s innocence, because he told her, 1) she would not die if they disobeyed God. 2) That if she ate of the forbidden fruit, she would then know the difference between good and evil. He also knew that man was created with the freedom to choose. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Satan had placed temptation before Eve, because he knew she was free to choose. From that time forward, Satan has used temptation against man, because it worked so well against the first man and woman. This temptation placed before Eve, brought about sin because she made poor choice.                    The eldest son of Adam and Eve also made poor choice. Cain chose to bring an offering contrary to what God had Commanded. We read of Cain’s first recorded sin in Genesis 4:3-5. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.    Then in Genesis 4:7a, we see where God told Cain how man’s choices lead one of two ways. If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.   We see that Cain didn’t learn, as he let his anger rule over him, and as a result in Genesis 4:8 Cain killed his brother. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.   This choice also caused Cain to “depart from God’s presence” and make his own way in the world. He chose to not follow God.
      When God delivered the nation of Israel, His Old Testament people, from Egyptian bondage, they also were given the same choice.   Because they failed to serve God faithfully, they were sentenced to wandering in the wilderness for forty years.   All those above the age of twenty when they departed Egypt, except for Joshua and Caleb, died in that wilderness because of their choice. The faithful servant Moses led Israel as the Lord directed, all the way to the edge of the Promised Land, and had also delivered them God’s Law. We can read in Deuteronomy 30:15-16, not long before Moses died, God had him tell Israel how they could benefit from making the correct choice. See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; 16 In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. Then, in Deuteronomy 30:19 the Spirit had Moses tell them what their choices were. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:  
         This same choice is available today, in this, the final dispensation of time.   Christ came and died on Calvary’s cross, that we might have life. This is shown clearly in John 10:10b by the Lord Himself. He said: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. However, before anyone can have that life that Jesus promised and died for, one must make the right choice. In Matthew 11:28, we again read the Words of Jesus as He extended the invitation. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. This “rest” that the Lord offers is only available if we choose properly.   One can have the Salvation Christ promised, but only if they obey the gospel, and then continue to remain faithful to God in accordance with His New Testament Word. This is clear from Romans 1:16. 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. The simple fact that Salvation is offered to “everyone” proves each is free to choose.  
     John 3:16 is another well-known passage declaring that all have choice.   It is frequently misquoted, and often misapplied. 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. It is also stated in 1John 4:9 that one may have this life “through Him”.   In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.  In John 3:5, before the great Sacrifice of Christ’s blood on Calvary’s cross was offered, Jesus told Nicodemus how one can be “born free” spiritually. 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.
       Make choice – the right choice today – be “born free” in water and the Spirit, (be baptized), and then faithfully serve so you can remain free. We read in Romans 6:16 that choice of whom we serve, leads to a destination. 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? Be born free, and then continue to follow the Word to remain free.    

                        Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Am I Become Your Enemy?

Am I Become Your Enemy?

     Who is a true friend?   Would it not be someone who has your best interest at heart?   I am certain that one who is a friend will do all he/she can for the good of the ones they consider friends.   The same is true of God as He dealt with Israel and guided them toward the Promised Land.   This can be clearly seen as God made promise to them in Exodus 23:20-22 and also gave them the conditions of the promise.   Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. 21 Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. 22 But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. God was clearly their friend and He is ours as well.

     Can anyone be an enemy, while at the same time providing everything one needs to be successful in this life and also that which will prepare them for their eternity beyond this life?   Through His infinite Wisdom and Mercy, God has indeed provided these things for His children. 2Peter 1:2-3 is one passage that springs to mind.   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.

     In Galatians 4:16, the Holy Spirit had the apostle Paul ask the brethren in this region if because he told them the truth, was he no longer their friend? He was directed to write: Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? Should not one be considered a friend rather than an enemy simply “because” they tell you the truth for the good of your soul?  

     God has provided for this in a number of ways.   Before the New Testament was completed, the Holy Spirit was sent to give the inspired Word to men to record it and distribute it orally and in written form.   This is never so clear as it is in 2Peter 1:13-15 as the Spirit had the apostle write to the scattered brethren in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; 14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. 15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.

     This is accomplished through the gospel, and the preaching of it. The Holy Spirit had Paul direct his young protégé thusly in 1Timothy 4:6. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.   Again, in the second letter to this preacher, we find out how this is possible in 2Timothy 2:14-15, even in this present day after inspiration has ceased. Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

       When the Word is studied, preparation is made and the message is to be declared. The admonition of 2Tim 4:2-3 was given to tell what to preach and why. Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 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;   Then verse 4 states what happens that makes others consider the preachers and teachers of the gospel enemies rather than friends.   And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

     If indeed we study, learn, meditate on, and preach and teach the Word of God as well as live by it, should we not be considered as friends rather than enemies as we take this Word to others?   It is a fact that one cannot truly be a friend and an enemy at the same time. This is well demonstrated by the Lord Himself in His Words we read in Matthew 6:24, which is still under the Old Testament Law of God to Israel. 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.

   One New Testament application of this is found in James 4:4 as this was written to the church that was scattered abroad. God has never been an enemy to mankind. He sent His Son to die so we could have life. Will we not be a friend to Him and to Jesus? Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.   Don’t call the one who delivers God’s message an enemy.   They are trying to help you see what God has stated within His Word that you might save your soul from eternal condemnation.   Will you not consider God’s Message of Salvation, the gospel today? As Romans 1:16 states: “. . . for it is the power of God unto salvation . . . ”     He who sent it and He who delivers it are indeed your friends.

                         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

How Does Your Diary Read?

How Does Your Diary Read?

        I know, I know, a diary is often kept by young girls, and perhaps mothers, and only sometimes by the males of the species. Perhaps the guys think the keeping of a diary makes them less masculine.   I suppose that’s why the ones who do, call their record of happenings a “journal”.   Whatever one calls the written evidence of their doings, it will likely be read by others at some point.  
        But, isn’t life itself a “diary”? God sees all and knows all.   We are assured of this in Psalm 33:13-14 as the Spirit guided the pen. The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. 14 From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.    We are also informed of this by what the Lord said to Samuel in 1Samuel 16:7b, as a king was chosen by God, at the insistence of Israel. . . . for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
        Even the Old Testament’s suffering servant was aware that the Lord knows everything that occurs here on this mundane sphere.   In Job 16:19, as he was in the midst of myriad tribulations, compounded by the stern rebuke of his so-called friends, he made this profound statement. Also now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high. This is also supported in the New Testament in 1Timothy 5:24 which shows that either here, or in the hereafter, the record of one’s sins will be exposed. Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.
       Recently, I stumbled upon an anonymous article about a Bible’s diary.   We know a book can’t keep a diary. You might not even keep a diary. But, if you do, how does your diary read?   If your Bible kept a diary, how would it read? Would you be ashamed if someone read your diary?   Would you be ashamed if your Bible could keep a diary and someone read it?   Hopefully, it would not read like the one in the rest of this article.

Diary Of A Bible

JANUARY:
A busy time for me. Most of the family decided to read me through this year.
They kept me busy for the first two weeks, but they have forgotten me now.

FEBRUARY:
Clean-up time. I was dusted yesterday and put in my place. My owner did use me for a few minutes last week.
He had been in an argument and was looking up some references to prove he was right.

MARCH:
Had a busy day first of the month. My owner was elected president of the
PTA & used me to prepare a speech.

APRIL:
Grandpa visited us this month. He kept me on his lap for an hour reading

from 1Peter 5:5-7. He seems to think more of me than do some people in my own household.

MAY:
I have a few green stains on my pages. Some spring flowers were pressed in my pages.

JUNE:
I look like a scrapbook. They have stuffed me full of newspaper clippings - one of the girls got married.

JULY:
They put me in a suitcase today. I guess we are off on vacation. I wish I could stay home;
I know I'll be closed up in this thing for at least two weeks.

AUGUST:
Still in the suitcase.

SEPTEMBER:
Back home at last and in my old familiar place. I have a lot of company.
Two women's magazines and four comic books are stacked on top of me. I wish I could be read as much as they are.

OCTOBER:
They read me a little bit today. One of them is very sick. Right now, I am sitting in the center of the coffee table.
I think the Preacher is coming by 
for a visit.

NOVEMBER:
Back in my old place. Somebody asked today if I were a scrapbook.

DECEMBER:
The family is busy getting ready for the holidays. I guess I'll be covered
up under wrapping paper & packages again...just as I am every Christmas.

Author Unknown

     The Bible is a valuable tool the Lord has provided for His people. Use it as He intended that it be used. Don’t let it tell a story about you that reveals how little you read, study and meditate upon its contents.   Remember what Jesus said in John 12:48 about His Words? He said: He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.  Your life is a diary. Live it in full accordance with God’s Holy Word.   How Does Your Diary Read?  
Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

 

    

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