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How Hard Are You Trying?

How Hard Are You Trying?

      As we endeavor to do something, the determination shown and the energy put forth is in direct correlation to how much we want whatever it is.  When someone does not try very hard, it is likely that they either don’t want, or figure they cannot do or attain to something.   Another reason some don’t put forth the necessary effort into achieving something is that they think it will be given them, even though they have not exerted themselves to reach the goal.  

     Every “soul” should have going to heaven as a goal.   Not all seem to have this “goal” as many feel that serving God as God has put forth in His Word is too “restrictive”. Galatians 5:1 tells us that the Law of God in the N. T. age is not restrictive, but liberating.  Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.   Those who do not understand this would rather live the life they wish to live and then “hope” that God will be merciful to them in the end.  

    In short, they are not trying very hard to go to heaven. On the other hand, James 1:25 informs that those who understand and begin and continue to put forth the “effort” God requires can look forward to an eternal blessing.  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.  Those who are counting on leniency on the part of God after this life are going to be sadly disappointed.  They will then wish they had tried hard to obey God and remain faithful until death.    

     At that point, it will be too late.   The time for doing what God requires of us is in this life.   This was well known even in the O.T. times when Israel was the chosen people of God.  In Ecclesiastes 9:10, the preacher was directed by the Spirit to tell them this fact.  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.  This same thing is still true today in the New Testament age as Paul wrote in 2Corinthians 6:2.  The Spirit had Paul tell these brethren that “now” was the time to put forth the effort to be saved.    (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.)

    Many also don’t realize that we have a part in our salvation. The Salvation that God has offered to man is not something God just “showers” upon us.  If that were the case all would be saved.  2Peter 3:9 informs us that it is the Will of God for people to be saved. God wants all to repent and come to Him.   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 we are also told in Acts 10:34-35 when God had Peter preach the gospel to the Gentiles, the Spirit had Peter proclaim that God is not a respecter of persons, and also told who would be accepted of God.    Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.   “Worketh” sounds like “putting forth effort” to me. 

       We have to “work out our own salvation” as Philippians 2:12 told those folks in that day.  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.   We are to have absolute respect for God and His Word (fear), and all should tremble at the thought that we might not do as God says, and then be rejected at that day.   For those who do not try hard, or try at all, there awaits eternal destruction.  This is plainly shown in 2Thessalonians 1:8-9.   In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ

Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

      How hard are you trying?   If you have not begun, you’re not trying at all. The power to become God’s child is yours according to John 1:12, and the way is given in verse 13 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.   The “birth” is explained by Jesus in John 3:5 as Jesus spoke with Nicodemus.   Jesus answered, 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.   The kingdom is the church.   One must be “born” into it by obedience, which includes baptism for the remission of sins. 

     The time to start is now!  Then we must continue to put forth the effort to remain in a proper covenant relation with God.  As Paul wrote Timothy:  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life . . . (1Timothy 6:12)     Begin today! – Obey the gospel – then remain faithful to God and His Word till the end of your life.   If you love God and want to be with Him forever, you will try hard.        Your eternity depends upon it.  

            Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Who's In Control?

Who’s In Control?

     The question of “control” is one that is faced in all aspects and phases of life. This was learned as children (or should have been) as parents exhibited their God-given right to correct and guide their children and help them navigate the path through childhood, adolescence, and toward adulthood.    Most of us have also faced the question of “control” in the job situation. The “boss” always thinks he or she is in control.   The amount of “control” in all of these scenarios varies some as participants as well as situations vary.

     But there is one area of your life in which you have total control. That is in your mind. Whom or what you follow, and what you do, is completely up to you!     The fact is that you and I, and everyone will follow someone, or something. But there is a catch, as one can only follow one “master” at a time. In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:24, Jesus said: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

     You and I will serve one or the other. We can’t just wish or desire for things to happen and expect them to come to pass.   For instance: You want to go to Heaven after this life and the judgment, don’t you?   Of course, you do!   Who doesn’t?   But one cannot simply desire to go to heaven, or just “believe” they will go to Heaven and make it so.   God has a plan which must be followed for that to happen. God is in control of His plan. He will not deviate from that plan. His Son died on Calvary’s cross to make sure that plan would come to fruition. Then the Holy Spirit was sent as promised to deliver the Word of God so that all of humanity could make informed choices as to the eternal destination of their souls.

     The beauty of God’s plan is that you have full control of whether or not you believe God’s Word, whom you will serve, as well as what you do. The Spirit had the apostle Paul address this in Romans 6:16 as he wrote to the saints in Rome. 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?  These folks had become brethren when they took control of the choice before them. As we read verses 17-18 we see these brethren not only had once served sin, but also what they did as they took control of their soul’s destiny. But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.  The “form of doctrine” which they obeyed was the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, in which one participates when they die to sin, are buried in baptism and rise to walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

      But, how is one to remain in control of themselves (of their minds) after they have become Christians?   This is an important question, as it is a fact that one can fall from grace as Galatians 5:4 points out.   Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.  But you don’t have to fall from grace. You have control of this as well. The Spirit had Paul write in 1Corinthians 9:27 that he was in control of his situation. We are told what Paul did and why he did it. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.  The Word of God is what guides us as we choose to control our minds and bodies.

     Life and eternity really come down to choices. Whether we realize it, or are aware of it, we are all in control of our choices. We certainly have control of the choice as to where we will spend eternity. We have to make these choices while in this life.   In Joshua 24:15 we see that the Lord had Joshua inform Israel that they had the control of their choices.   But notice what choice Joshua had already made. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.   

     As we again return to the title of this article: “who’s in control?”, know that you are!  From Romans 6:12-13 we can see that we have a choice and we are also in control of what we choose. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

   Obedience is also a choice, and you are in control of that choice.   If you choose not to obey, 2Thessalonians 1:8-9 tells what will be your eternal fate.   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;   Win the battle for your mind! Take the control! Obey the gospel and then continue to faithfully serve God in accordance to His Word. That is God’s plan that saves.   This is His only plan.   It’s your choice. You have the control.      

         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Encourage Me!

Encourage Me

     As we read the Bible, or any other book in which the characters stand out for some reason, we no doubt remember people for certain characteristics. This should certainly be the case with Barnabas, a Christian from very early on in the history of God’s kingdom, the church.  Barnabas could possibly be remembered for a number of things as he is mentioned 29 times in 28 verses of the New Testament.  

   It was Barnabas, in Acts 9:26-28 who took Saul, who once persecuted the church, to the apostles following his conversion. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. 

     It was also Barnabas, in Acts 11:22-23, who was sent by the apostles to see what was being preached by men of Cyprus and Cyrene after the church was scattered following the stoning of Stephen, to make sure those doing the teaching were not false teachers. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch23 Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the LordIt appears that even the apostles were aware of Barnabas’ fidelity.

     Barnabas realized how much opportunity was in Antioch, and we see in Acts 11:25-26 that Barnabas sought and found Saul and for a year they worked together diligently there with great results.   Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.  Then, when a great famine was foretold by the Spirit through Agabus, guess who it was that was chosen to take part in delivering the relief for the saints in Jerusalem?   That’s right, brother Barnabas! (Acts 11:30)

     Much more could be said about the accounts of the things in the life of Barnabas, but these will suffice, along with the first mention of his name in the Bible.   In Acts 4:36 we see that name “Barnabas” was given by the apostles as the name means “son of consolation”.   And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,.  Synonyms of “consolation” are: comfort; solace; relief; and support.     Another word, more familiar to us that fits here is: “encouragement”.

     Now to the point! How did Barnabas “encourage” so many people? Did he just say nice and flattering things to them? Did he just “build them up” with words? NO! His opening “action” was to give of his possessions to the work of the kingdom, and for the benefit of the church.   His further actions were finding another zealous, fellow-Christian and getting involved in the work of preaching and teaching the Word of God, (Acts 9:27) & (Acts 11:25). Then he remained involved in that work of the church in that location.   Later, he (and Paul) traveled about and “planted” churches in various cities.   Still later, he and Mark went to other places while Pail and Silas re-visited the congregations previously started and many folks heard the preaching and teaching of the gospel and many souls were saved.

     It was not just the words Barnabas spoke that showed he was one to encourage others. It was also the things which he did and the way in which he did them.   His unselfishness and willingness to “give of himself” for the cause of Christ was very encouraging. This also can be true of congregations

as 2Corinthians 8:3-5 tells us of the churches (congregations) of Macedonia.

For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.

     Oh, the encouragement to be had when fellow Christians not only have zeal, but strive to have that zeal according to knowledge of the Word of God.   Israel, in the days of Paul had zeal, yet without knowledge. They were not saved as a result per Romans 10:1-2. Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 

   Encourage me! Learn, Obey, and Follow God’s Word. Let’s all give ourselves wholly to the work God left for us to do.    Reach out with His Word. Encourage folks to be obedient. Let us help souls be saved and let us “build up” the church.        NOW, THAT’S ENCOURAGING!

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Double Vision?

                                                               Double Vision? 

         Many of us know the difficulty in dealing with vision issues.   We wear the required devices (accoutrements), also known as glasses or contacts, so that we might see as we should when our sight is altered by age, disease, or just the simple fact that we have eyes that don’t work as effectively as they once did.     We probably all as children, have crossed our eyes in order to see double.   This seems innocent enough because as soon as we allow our eyes to return to normal, our double vision dissipates.  This all is something that takes place with our physical being.    
      But, have we ever considered one can have “double vision” spiritually?  It is not something the Lord sanctions.   In the physical and spiritual realm, one must have light for vision to occur.   In Luke 11:33-36 Jesus spoke of both light and sight.  
No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. 34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. 35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. 36 If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.  The light of which Jesus spoke at this point was a candle.  The vision to which He referred was “single”.  He was contrasting the “single” eye with the “evil” eye.  He then pointed out that the “light” is necessary to keep the evil at bay.   The one who lacks the light – the proper kind of light – are the ones that suffer from “spiritual” double-vision.   Those who have 20/20 spiritual vision are those who keep the “light of the world” in them. 
      In John 8:12, Jesus said:  I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.  He was speaking to the Pharisees following the episode in which the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman supposedly caught in the act of adultery to test the Lord.  Then we also have the record of the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew.  Just following the Beatitudes, in Matthew 5:14-16 we find the Lord stating that His disciples were the “light of the world”.    Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 
     This is not double-talk as in both of these passages, Jesus is speaking of the same light and the same source of light.   As long as Jesus was on earth, He was (is) the light of the world.  When He finished what His Father sent Him to earth to do, His disciples were to be the light.   We know this is true because in Acts 13:47 Paul and Barnabas were “light” to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.   Then we see in the following verse what this “light” is. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 
      God is the source of light.  He sent His Son to earth to shine the light. The Lord sent the Spirit to deliver that light to the apostles to deliver to all men. In John 16:13 Jesus promised them the Comforter to “guide them into all truth”.   Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.     We also know from Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus commissioned the apostles to begin to preach the message of truth.    Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.  This was to continue with all the Lord’s disciples in the church. 
      If His Word is truth, and the truth is light, then His Word is light.  If we will walk in the light we shall have “single” vision.   Our focus will be on seeing as God would have us see.   This is the message of 1John 1:5-7. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 
        Get your “spiritual vision” checked today.   Walk in the light – Walk in His Word.   Obey His Word.   Don’t walk in the darkness of sin – Don’t suffer with spiritual double vision.   See things as God would have you see them. 
                                          Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

There Is A Way

There is a way

    As we arrive on this earth, we begin a journey. Each has to walk the path of his or her own choosing. The problem is that there are many different “opinions” as to the “way” one is to go.   Some think their way is the best, but the Spirit had Solomon the wise man, in Proverbs 14:12, tell us that not all “ways” are the same and not all lead to the same place. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.   The Spirit also had the suffering servant Job, in Job 24:13, describe those that walk not as God would have them, and why they lived as they did. They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof.  To live in this way certainly leads to spiritual death.

   Those who “rebel against the light” are evil men, described by the Spirit through the pen of Solomon in Proverbs 2:13-15. These are men that are “wicked”, “froward” and “crooked”. Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; 14 Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; 15 Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths:  These are much like those of God’s own people, Israel, who when admonished by Jeremiah and given the Commandment of God in Jeremiah 6:16-17, refused to heed it. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD. 16 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 therein17 Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.

       But God, in His infinite wisdom saw to it that there was a remnant of Israel saved. There were those that loved God and followed Him. God’s plan was carried out. We are reminded of this in Romans 9:27, where the Spirit had Paul write of this to the Romans. Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:  This is because God had a plan – a way – that was set up before the world was created.   That plan was that His Son was to come through the lineage of Abraham as promised in Genesis 22:18.

And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. 

   The fulfilment of that plan -the way- is explained in Galatians 3:16 which shows that Christ is the means for the Salvation God provided for humanity.  Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. This also helps us understand what Jesus told Thomas about Him going to the Father in John 14:6, and that we also could “come to the Father”. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

     Notice how specific this way is. Jesus said: I am “the” way. This means there is only one way. This was not new in the days of Jesus. As mentioned earlier, this was always part of the plan of God. The Spirit directed Isaiah to inform Israel of this in Isaiah 35:8.   There we also see that this “way” is not so difficult that we cannot find or follow it.   And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. The meaning of this is provided by Foy E. Wallace in Number One Gospel sermons, page 101. The wayfaring man is the man who fares by the way, and is not acquainted with the territory through which he is passing. Therefore, he must have someone to inform him, to instruct him, and to guide him. In being truly guided he will not be in the way of error--he will not err in that way; because he will have received the instruction that would lead him right; therefore he would be in the way of truth and not in the way of error. The fool and the wayfarer here are the same man.

       The singular nature of this “one way” which is provided in Jesus is again taught in Ephesians 4:4-6.   There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 

One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  Those today who refuse the “one way” offered by God, are traveling their own way, or man’s way.   Man’s way is not the way of holiness. Only in Christ, can one have “spiritual blessings”- Ephesians 1:3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 

   Your journey is not complete. There is “existence” beyond this life. You’ve not been there before.   Won’t you seek the one way?   Obey the gospel today.            

                                                                                                   Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Are You Happy?

Are You Happy?

      What is happiness anyway?   Upon looking up happiness, one will find several definitions and examples.  Happiness is a mental or emotional state of a positive nature.   The definition is: “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.”  The problem with such a definition is that it is subjective.  One must determine for themselves what it is that makes them happy, content, or from what they derive pleasure.  

     Other ways of understanding the idea of happiness are found in the way the idea of “happy” is used.  It could mean having a sense of confidence in, or satisfaction with a person, arrangement, or situation.  It can also mean being satisfied with the quality or standard of something.  Or, willing (happy to) to do something, etc.  So, the question should be: “What is it that makes you happy?”     What is it that will provide you the long-lasting contentment, pleasure or feeling you so desire?  

      Thus, the quest begins.  Many seek happiness in the things of this world or the things of a physical nature.   These can only bring “temporary” pleasure or a fleeting feeling of contentment. The Spirit had the wise preacher, Solomon, the son of David, write in Ecclesiastes 1:14 so that all could know the fallacy of seeking happiness in the “works” of the hands of man (the things of the world).  I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Vanity and vexation of spirit does not fit the definition or examples of happiness at all, do they?    

     Many seek happiness throughout life, and when the initial feeling of euphoria or contentment of their present quest passes, they move on to something else.  They are seeking and never finding that which can and will make them happy in this life and the one to come.  As we read Proverbs 28:14 we can see that true and lasting happiness only comes from serving God.   Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.  “Feareth” here means a continual respect for God and His Word and following it.   Those who do not, are not happy.  They will “fall into mischief” while seeking true happiness elsewhere.

      While speaking to His disciples (apostles elect) and teaching them a valuable lesson in humility in John 13:17, Jesus said: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”   All of the teaching of Jesus and all that was sent to messengers by the Spirit (the Bible) is designed to produce happiness in the adherents thereof.  Another way to say “happy” is to say “blessed”.  We know this as the same Greek word (makarios) pronounced mak-ar’-ee-os, is used for both happy and blessed here in all the translations of the Bible.   There is another Greek word translated “blessed” (eulogetos) yoo-log-ay-tos’, found in places such as Ephesians 1:3 which means “adored”.    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

     This fact being established, we look to the “beatitude” of Matthew 5:6 to see what the Lord stated in these “Pentecost Pointers”, which would cause one to be happy or blessed. Blessed (happy - makarios) are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.   As we seek true happiness, we can only find it in righteousness.  The word righteousness means justification. It is so used in Romans 1:16 and 17: “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. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.” The righteousness of God is that justification which God imparts to man through obedience to the gospel. (Number One Gospel sermons – Foy E. Wallace, page 105).       Therefore, for one to be truly happy (blessed) one is to seek righteousness.    This means to obey the gospel and continue in it.   

    This is what Jesus was saying in Matthew 6:33, still in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount.  He was teaching the Jews that would listen about the coming of the promised kingdom; that which was to begin at Pentecost A.D. 33, therefore pointing to Pentecost.     But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; (justification – which is only in Christ) and all these things shall be added unto you.  Jesus wanted all the Jews to be “happy” or “blessed”.    He wants us to be happy as well.  He wants us to be obedient and remain so, and because of that we will have happiness here on earth, and if we remain faithful, we will have happiness for eternity.  

     In John 2:5, we have an inspired record of some very sound advice given by the Lord’s mother that leads to happiness.  Jesus had arrived at the marriage in Cana of Galilee and His mother made the observation that the beverage for the marriage feast had been depleted.  Then as the servants awaited direction, Mary gave this sage advice: Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.   If we would make “doing what” the Lord has said in His Word an integral part of our lives, we will truly be happy. 

     Still, we are the only one that can make the choice regarding what makes us happy.  Additional advice to Christians was issued by the Spirit and penned by the beloved apostle John in 1John 2:15-17.   This will help us avoid seeking the world’s happiness and keep us on the path to true happiness for eternity with God.  Love not the world, (sin) neither the things that are in the world. (sinful things) If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  Are You Happy? You can be!       Be obedient today, remain faithful and prepare yourselves for eternal happiness.     

                              Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

What Are You Doing?

What Are You Doing?

     This question has been asked many times over the years. The answer to this question has varied at times based on the situations in the life of those of whom it was asked. If you are asked this question relative to your service to God, what would your answer be? Often when this question is asked in a generic sense, the answer is likely to be: “nothing”. If asked specifically: “what are you doing for God?”   What would your honest answer be? Would we say: “nothing”? If we were required to make a list of the things we do in service to God, would the list be very long?  

   I am afraid that many in the church today have become much like the rich man of Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:16-21. These “Christians” indeed are busy, but in what?   Some were “busy” in the Lord’s Work for some time, but have now decided to “take their ease”. This is when they begin DOING NOTHING! How did that work out for the man in the parable? And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 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?  21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. 

Indeed, this man in the parable was busy for a time. He worked hard, but at what? For whom was he working? He labored to gain worldly goods. He was of a mind that these goods would sustain him through all of life. While it is true that one must have certain material things to live in this life, to do so without the spiritual needs being fulfilled is not life at all, and leads to the second death. (Revelation 21:8)

       One must look to God’s Word and do what it says. One cannot sit back and “Do Nothing” spiritually and still be pleasing to God.   Matthew 6:33 points out that we are to put first things first.   Believe it or not, there will always be time for all else that is required for life in these bodies. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.    Christianity is also not like our jobs in this life.   We can never “retire” from our service to God. We are to “retire” spiritually when we “expire”. We cannot “work” 20, or 30, or even 40 years, and then sit back and “draw our pension”. That pension only begins when we finally have completed the whole journey. Notice how the Spirit had Paul address this in 2Timothy 4:6-8 as he was drawing close to the end of his time here on 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.  Paul had “continually” labored since his conversion, and would do so till his death. Notice also, only then is the “crown of life” laid up for him. He will not receive it until the Lord disperses these “crowns” at the judgment.   Those who retire in place, from the service of God while here on earth needn’t even expect that crown of life, nor the rest that comes from the end of this life till the trumpet sounds.

    Christians that have “retired” from service to God while in this life should heed the warning God provided for His O.T. people through the prophet Amos. It is here that God’s people came to believe they had “done enough”.   They were, after all, “God’s people”. He would love them and provide for them, wouldn’t He?   All they had to do was set back and receive.   In Amos 6:1 this solemn charge is offered to break them from their complacency. Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!  God did love them.    He also instructed and warned them in His Word. Those who failed to heed that warning paid the price.   Need we be reminded again what the Spirit had Paul write to the Roman brethren in Romans 15:4 so they would have an example to follow, albeit it under a previous Law of God?   For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. They are written! We are warned!

     What are you doing?   You might say: “I do my part”, but what is “your part”?   Who determines what your part is?   You? Can you provide for your spiritual needs? Can you provide the “reward” or “retirement” at the end of this life?   I dare say: “None of us can”.   What does God say our part is?   Romans 12:1-2 is a great place to start. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.  It sounds to me that God expects us to give Him our all.

      In Luke 17:10 Jesus told His closest disciples – the “apostles elect” – that the bear minimum is not acceptable. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.    Does what you are doing consist of the minimum?   Are you putting God, and His kingdom first in your life?   What Are You Doing?      

                                                                            Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Where Are You Headed?

Where Are You Headed?  

     The question with which this article is titled, is one that has a great deal to do with the context in which the question is asked.   For example, if one is walking along the highway and another pulls up in his or her vehicle, and asks this question, they are doing so to solicit information to determine if they can be of assistance. There are many other scenarios which could be offered, but this one will suffice.  

     Fact is, we are all “headed” somewhere.   In Genesis 37:28 after Joseph was put in a pit, rather than kill him, his brethren “sold” their brother to some folks who were “headed somewhere”. Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt. 

     Even Satan has “places to go”. In Job 2:1-2 Satan even came among the sons of God, who came before God.   Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.  And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it1Peter 5:8 tells us what Satan desired to do, therefore where he was headed.   It also tells us what we are to do because of what Satan sought to do.   Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour

     Jesus was “headed” somewhere, even when He came to Earth to do the Will of His Father and carry out His plan to provide Salvation to humanity. In the prayer of Jesus in John 17:12-14, Jesus, soon to be crucified, buried and to be resurrected said He was coming to the Father. He was praying for His apostles. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.  13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 

     We know where He was “headed” as Acts 1:9-11 shows, and also provides the promise of His glorious return to receive His own. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. 

     Christ had paid the price; purchased the church, and set the conditions whereby we can choose where we are headed. We are all headed somewhere! The Spirit had Solomon; son of David pen the Words found in Ecclesiastes 12:7 that show that we are all headed to the realm beyond the one on this mundane sphere.  Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.    This does not mean that all will spend eternity with God.   We are clearly taught in 2Thessalonians 2:7-9 that some will be punished forever. And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;  Why is there a Hell if no one is to go there?

       Every soul will spend eternity somewhere. But, Luke 16:22-23 makes it clear that 1) the soul of one that dies does not go straight to Heaven or Hell.  2) Souls go to an intermediate place to await judgment.    In these verses two men died. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom (Paradise) : the rich man also died, and was buried23 And in hell (Hades) he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  They went to a place like unto where they will spend eternity to wait until death is no longer.   1Corinthians 15:24-26 makes it clear when the end is. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.    Hebrews 9:27 also provides information regarding this.    And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:  When death has ceased – The Judgment will occur.  

     But, where will you ultimately go?   Where Are You Headed?   Are you, like the rich man, going to be tormented after your death, and then be forever separated from God?   Or, will you do as God Commands in His Word, be obedient to Him, and be as Lazarus – comforted from your death until you enter into heaven with all the redeemed?  Where you are headed for eternity depends on what you do now. You Need Divine Direction!  Obey God’s Word.   Start today, before it is everlastingly too late.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

You Make Me Sick!

YOU MAKE ME SICK!

     No doubt we have all heard this at some point in our lives. This statement is often used by children (and sometimes by adults) when someone has done something they deem repulsive. The statement is usually understood to be taken figuratively in most situations. It is a way to tell others of the disgust they have caused.

     We also understand that “sick” can mean physically impaired in some way, as there are about 80 or so verses in the Bible that indicate such a condition. As the fame of Jesus spread around Syria, Matthew 4:24 tells us the friends and relatives of those that were ailing brought their loved ones to Jesus to be healed. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.  The proof that people don’t want to be sick is evidenced by the fact that in the next verse, people followed Jesus from all over, no doubt to be healed and to hear Him teach.   4:25  And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan We know this as Matthew 5:1-2 begins the Sermon on the Mount as the disciples (followers) had come to Him.   And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

     But, one can also have the spiritual condition of “sickness” if they have not, or will not follow the Word of God.   This is what Jesus indicated in Mark 2:17 when the Pharisees and scribes questioned with whom Jesus shared a meal. When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  Those who are spiritually sick are sick inside and out.  

       While Jesus did much healing while He lived here on earth, and even raised the dead on several occasions, that was not the main purpose of His coming. The Jews, in John 5:18 wanted to kill Jesus after they had accused Him of blasphemy as well as breaking the Sabbath when He had healed the infirm man on that day. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.  Then, as we move down to John 5:39-40 we find that Jesus, in His defense, told them His real purpose for coming to earth as well as why they should have known this. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

       In Isaiah 1:4-5 we see how sick Israel had allowed themselves to become long before Christ, the Messiah was sent as prophesied. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. 5 Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  As we can see here, the spiritual sickness that is depicted here, was of their own doing. NOTE: The sinner is not what “sickens” God, but what the sinner does. We can also see that this spiritual sickness continued into the days of the church.   As Paul spoke to the chief of the Jews in Rome in Acts 28:27, the Spirit had him remind them of what else Isaiah had been inspired to say about Israel. For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 

       Because it was always God’s plan for redemption to be offered to all, the Spirit also had Paul to tell these spiritually sick Jews that there were those who would readily receive the “healing” Words of the gospel in Acts 28:28.   Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it

     But have we ever thought how a Christian’s infidelity affects God?   When one becomes a Christian, they are not guaranteed to be free from “spiritual illness”. When a child of God sins, and fails to repent, it definitely produces a reaction from God. At times when we are “sick” we throw up.   The church of Laodicea sickened God by their lackadaisical attitude.     Revelation 3:15-16 shows the reaction this would produce if the attitude and actions on the part of that congregation did not change.

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouthThey were being duly warned.  

       Do we ever think that we, in this day and time, could possibly make God feel the way He did toward the church at Laodicea?   This must be addressed now lest we suffer the ultimate fate of the spiritually sick who seek no healing. Matthew 25:41 is where we see this fate. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels

     Even today, we need to do what God says in His Word that we do not “sicken” Him. One can’t be “lukewarm” if they do as Paul directed the “Christians” in Philippi as guided by the Spirit in Philippians 2:12.   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

     Don’t give God reason to “spew” you out of His mouth. If we sicken God it is our own fault.   If we are “cursed” it is we who will have caused it to happen.  

                             Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

MEMORIALS

Memorials

     Memorials, worthy of remembering, demand a certain reverence and profound respect. The words “remember”, “remembrance”, “memory”, “memorials”, are closely related and their meanings often overlap, but each has a “hot-line” to the prestigious past and the “Hall of Memory,” that repository of our dearest treasures, laid up in the enamored archives of a sacred antiquity.

     Some “memorials” are “established” memorials, that is, they appear in the pages of both profane and inspired history. They are “marked” on the calendar of Time and are remembered nationally, internationally, legally and scripturally, and no red-blooded, American patriot would dare despoil their sanctity either by the slightest gesture of silent, or expressed irreverence.   Such disgrace is intolerant to the individual whose personal pride and each heartbeat concurs, with the raising of Old Glory and the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, and each Christian, on the first day of every week, as he bows in prayer and thanksgiving to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in remembrance of His only Son, who freely died that all men might live.   Thank God for memorials with such inestimable values to which we have become “rightful” heirs.

     We know that this great nation of ours did not come about through perchance or accident, and, that human intellect and nature are so designed that tangible memorials are indispensable to the practice and preservation of the Causes they represent, nevertheless, July the fourth is never observed by thousands of otherwise loyal Americans who consider it “just another day”, or a “day off from the job”, and many who celebrate the fourth, do so with a “fifth”.   Our “founding fathers” kept it on their knees in prayer and thanksgiving to God for His Providential support and leadership.   The Declaration of Independence is an unquestioned master-piece, which gave to this “nation under God”, a government of Democracy, the epitome of fairness and freedom to all of its citizens, because brave, and committed men gave their very blood to make it all possible.   If we would “remember” the price that has always been paid for freedom, and keep these “memorials” properly, it would strengthen us, eliminate the “Leftists”, and those “on the fence” would take a decisive stand for the right. Thank God for such a day of memory.  

                                    O. D. Wilson – deceased

   The above “excerpt” is from a booklet printed by my Father-in-Law, around 1973.    I think it is suited to the time in which we now live as well as the present “holiday” weekend.   Mentioned in the article, is the most important memorial God ever gave man – the Lord’s Supper.  It should be to a Christian, an honor and a privilege, to remember the Lord as we gather around the table to keep the commandment on the first day of the week.   This also gives the Christian the chance to keep the request made by our Lord, “This Do In Remembrance Of Me”.  

    Memorials are important reminders for many aspects of life. Man has made or

created many things by which to remember.   God has also given us memorials so we aren’t likely to forget.   He also provided that man be reminded weekly by use of words. This is to be done in preaching. If done properly, folks will be reminded of all that God would have us know. 1Timothy 4:6 is where Paul was directed to tell Timothy how to be a good minister.   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.   

     Let’s not forget the Memorial God gave us to Remember His Son, and the death suffered on the cruel cross of Calvary.   As we partake of the bread and the fruit of the vine -every Lord’s Day – Remember – and take it reverently. That is why this “feast” was given.

                             Dennis Strickland -- Mooresville church of Christ

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