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Hard Hearted?

Hard Hearted?

       The Bible uses the term “heart” in a number of different ways. We can see the “heart” defined in context as the “center” in Exodus 15:8 as the great joy of the delivered Israelites burst forth in song. And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. Later, when the Holy garments of the high priest were being described in Exodus 28:30, the Urim and the Thummin was to be worn “upon Aaron’s heart”, indicating above the physical heart. And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually. There may be other ways in which the Word of God utilizes the term heart.
     However, in most cases, the “heart” in the Bible refers to the mind. This is never more clear than in the first use of the word heart in the Bible. As man began to increase on earth, Genesis 6:5 shows that man’s “heart” (mind) had become obsessed with malevolence. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. We find that heart means mind through the remainder of the Holy scriptures.   There is the willing heart, sorrowful heart, discouraged heart, upright heart, astonished heart, joyful and glad heart, trembling heart, foolish heart and more.   All of these things begin in the mind.  
       Many other words are used to describe the thoughts, ideas, and emotions of the mind of man which bring about his actions.   Perhaps the saddest of these is the hard hearted.   Most would think that the “hard hearted” people would be those like the wicked folks of Noah’s day which perished in the flood. Those hearts were indeed “hard”, but they are not the only ones. Some of God’s own people were guilty of this.  
     In Ezekiel 3:4-7 it is clear that God, in speaking to the prophet, was telling him to go to God’s people, Israel.   God Himself identified His people as those suffering from hardness of heart. And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. 5 For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; 6 Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. 7 But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.
      It is important to note that not every Israelite was hard-hearted. Down through Israel’s history, there were always some who were diligent in their service and dedication to God. Solomon was very aware that his father David was faithful to God and he started out that way. In 1Kings 3:6 we read what Solomon said to the Lord in his dream about his father which proved that the heart of David was not “hard”. This also explains the opposite of hardness of heart.   And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.   Shortly afterward, we see that Solomon himself (at that time) did not possess a hard heart because of what he asked in verse 9. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?   This pleased the Lord. Unfortunately, even Solomon allowed his heart to become hardened when he followed his wives instead of God.  
     After Christ had been resurrected, (still O.T. times), He reproached His apostles for allowing disbelief to harden their hearts. In Mark 16:14 we have this record. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. Just after this, He presented the “Great Commission”, which applied to them as well as to us, and cannot be carried out by those with hardened hearts. If the apostles of Jesus Christ, His ambassadors, could be afflicted by this human condition, how can we not think we too could suffer this?   They had seen and been with the Christ.   Remember what Jesus said to Thomas in John 20:29 when he didn’t believe? Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
       Even Christians must protect themselves from this malady. The Spirit had Paul write in Romans 2:5-9 to tell the outcome of hard heartedness as well as obedience. But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
       Hardness of heart will bring the “wrath of God” upon your soul.   On the other hand, “patient continuance in well doing” (obedience) yields eternal life.     How’s your heart?   Is it hardened?  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Make The Crossing

Make The Crossing

       “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath delivered us INTO the kingdom of His dear Son . . . “ (Col. 1:13).
        “For as many of you as have been baptized INTO Christ HAVE PUT ON Christ.”   (Gal. 3:27).
      We have previously pointed out that men must walk by faith in order to please God; that faith cometh by hearing the Word of God, and that whatever are God’s Commands to us are ACTS OF FAITH.   God has commanded alien sinners to BELIEVE, REPENT OF SINS, CONFESS FAITH IN CHRIST, and BE BAPTIZED IN WATER FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS (Acts 2:39).   As the sinner obeys these commands, he is walking by faith. As he walks by faith, God gives him pardon and Salvation from sin.
       Satan is the author of sin. He has a kingdom.   It is strong and powerful. Its citizens are those who OBEY his commands. These are they for whom Jesus died. He loves them so dearly and wants every one of them to live with Him in Heaven someday, but they are blinded and deceived by Satan’s false promises. They refuse to let Jesus save them. They are bound by chains of sin.   They need deliverance.
       The devil is aware of Jesus’ love. He loves nobody. It is a matter of revenge or vengeance with him. He knows that eternal Hell awaits him and he is striving to take everybody there with him.   There is no limit to his efforts to destroy mankind.   He hates man because man is made in the image of God. It is such a pity that man can’t see this.  

       Satan is a LIAR and the father of it. (John 8:44). He tells men: “You are good enough as you are.” This one is real popular. It appeals to the ego and soothes the conscience.   It eliminates the need for change, responsibility, spiritual adjustment. It blinds man to his sins. If he can’t see his mistakes and feel his guilt he is hopelessly lost. It must not be forgotten that there are many honest, sincere, moral and respectable citizens in Satan’s kingdom. He perhaps, is more proud of them than many of his vile ones. They are a “front” for him.
       Then Satan comes up with another false statement: “The Bible says it, but it doesn’t mean it.”   The serious thinker would ask, “Then why does it say it?” You’d think this “gimmick” would have little appeal to men but it is extremely effective. It destroys respect, confidence, and a definite need to rely on what God has said. It opens the door for speculation, human wisdom, tradition. Many preachers (?) use this gimmick.
      Satan is not too concerned if a man believing what God says IF believing is as far as it goes.   “The devils also BELIEVE and tremble.” (Jas 2:19). The devil is not too unhappy when a sinner repents, if this is the extent of it, because this only means that he is inactive.   He is still in the ranks of Satan at this point.   However, Satan begins to get nervous and uneasy when a believing, penitent sinner walks down the aisle to confess FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. This step brings him TOO CLOSE to the CROSSING.   Satan knows that only ONE STEP MORE will release this servant from the BONDAGE of sin. One step more, baptism in water, and the work is done.   Translated “out of the kingdom of darkness and INTO the kingdom of His dear Son.” (Col. 1:13).  
         Satan knows that baptism in water for the remission of sins is where the TRANSITION is made – where the crossing takes place. He must not permit this to happen. If so, he loses a disciple, a servant. He summons help from some of his ministers, his most influential citizens.   The fight is on.   He offers fame, money, power, threats, anything and everything at his command. He ridicules the followers of Christ, the church, showing how few in number they are compared with the number in his camp. As per usual, he does not tell the truth, that “. . . strait is the gate, and narrow the way which leadeth unto life, and FEW THERE BE THAT FIND IT.” (Matt 7:13:14)
         Don’t forget, SALVATION is IN CHRIST. (2 Tim. 2:10).   Redemption, forgiveness of sins is IN Christ. (Eph. 1:7). A sinner is a NEW CREATURE “in Christ.” (2 Cor 5:17). One must be “baptized” INTO Christ in order to “get in Christ”.”   We read: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were “baptized into Christ” were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:3).   It follows then, there is no other way into Christ except by baptism.   It is the LAST step. In baptism, the “crossing is made” from sin to salvation, from darkness to light. This is God’s way.   It must be right.  
        Friend, don’t let Satan keep you from making “the crossing”. Don’t let him make you believe that you have made the crossing UNTIL you have satisfied God’s demands.   Go all the way with God.   Take no chance on your soul.  

     The above article was written March 6, 1966 by O. D. Wilson. “Truth” is still “truth” today, yesterday when my Father-in-Law preached, and when it began in A. D. 33 when the church was born. (John 8:32). One CANNOT be TAUGHT WRONG in denominationalism, and be baptized in accordance to God’s plan to receive Salvation. One MUST MAKE THAT CROSSING in full compliance with the Commandments of God, or they are not citizens and cannot have the benefits or promises granted to citizens. For example, there are many “crossing illegally” into our country today seeking a “shortcut” to citizenship. There is a “legal” way to citizenship, but no “shortcut.  

            The same is true of becoming a child of God in His kingdom (the church). God’s Commands MUST be obeyed for one to become a citizen (Christian).   There is no “shortcut” into Christ. (Eph. 2:13 & 19)

     Why would anyone refuse to “make the crossing” legally and scripturally in order to prepare for eternity?   Let us help you learn what God says to do, so you too can make that most important crossing.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

The Second Most Important Resurrection

The Second Most Important Resurrection

     If one were to ask you: “What is the most important resurrection the world has known?” What would you say?   It is likely, if you believe in God and have some knowledge of His Holy Word, you would answer: “The resurrection of Christ from the dead!” Well done! This would be the correct answer.   But if they were to be permitted a follow-up, and inquire: “What is the second most important resurrection?” Would your answer be correct? Most would not.
       I state this because most true “believers” would respond that the final resurrection, that which is to take place at the end of the world, is the second most important resurrection of humanity.   However, this would NOT be a correct answer to that question.   There is absolutely no doubt that this cataclysmic event will indeed be the finality of humanity in its present form. We are provided an inspired description of this event as well as a solemn warning in 2Peter 3:10-12 to become and remain prepared as we know not when this final event on earth might occur. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 
        This final event of humanity is indeed important, and it will occur because God has made promise through His Word that it will. All that He promises has, or will come to pass. This final event will occur, but not every soul can “look forward” to the “Second Coming” and the Judgment that will follow. Those who are not “in Christ” will not be resurrected to be with Him forever. To them, this won’t be the second most important resurrection. 
       I submit that the second most important resurrection is that resurrection which places one “in Christ”. Resurrection by definition is: the concept of coming back to life after death. In John 11:25,   Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: The term “believeth” here means more than to just believe or to affirm that Christ is.   It indicates obedience.   We see a similar phrase to indicate the same thing in Ephesians 5:14 to the Christians living in Ephesus. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. We know these folks were Christians, because Ephesians 2:1 shows this to be the case. And you hath he quickened, (made alive) who were dead in trespasses and sins;
         If this is not enough to call one to obedience, perhaps Romans 6:13 will convince. 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. If one cannot “yield themselves” to God in obedience, they cannot be “born again” or made alive in the spiritual sense. In John 3:5-6, Jesus was speaking of one being obedient in baptism, and being “resurrected to life”.   Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, (be baptized) he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. This “new birth”, or coming forth from the dead to be “in Christ” is the second most important resurrection because it places one in Christ and makes one prepared for that final resurrection.
      1Thessalonians 4:13-18 was written to the church (those in Christ), who worshipped in Thessalonica, and clearly indicates that there are those which “have no hope”.   But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, (the dead) that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
   Those who are “in Christ” (and are faithful) have that hope and can indeed look forward to the Second Coming and the Judgment.  
        Much attention is directed toward the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and so it should be as this is the most important resurrection.   All other resurrections depend on His resurrection.   None could be “born again” or be resurrected from the dead and have their sins remitted had Christ not died and then come forth from the grave to die no more.   He did this so you too could be resurrected on that last day.   John 1:12-13 clearly shows this. 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. Won’t you be baptized into Christ and take part in this second most important resurrection?

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

How Short Is Too Short?

How Short Is Too Short?

       Much has been said in God’s Word about “length”. The first mention is in regard to the ark God Commanded Noah to build. In Genesis 6:15, God said to Noah: And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. Here, God addressed the length, width, and the height of the vessel in which humanity would be saved from the flood.   Any “less” dimensions utilized by Noah would be “too short” in length and height, and “too narrow” to accomplish what God Commanded.
      There are a great number of things which could be listed for which we need to be cautioned so they be not “too short”.   Garments are one thing. They are designed to “cover”. If too short, they don’t adequately cover.   God has addressed this in 1Timothy 2:9 where Christians were told how to “adorn” themselves in “ . . . modest apparel”. In Isaiah 28:20, God also used a “short bed” and a narrow blanket to describe the inadequacy of Israel’s adherence to His Law.   For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.
         As we contemplate “short” here, let’s focus on something that applies to all humanity that “draws breath”.   That thing is time.   Upon being conceived, we begin a journey. That journey is from “life” on this earth to eternity.   God has constantly reminded man of this journey, and how it will “end” on the earth. In Psalm 89:47-48, the Holy Spirit had the psalmist pen these Words: Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? 48 What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?   Can we not see from this single passage that God has granted “time” so that we can “choose” to adhere to His Word and make the changes needed so we can spend eternity with Him?   If we can see this, why do we delay to make the needed changes?
       Time means nothing to God who is eternal. In 2Peter 3:8-9 we are told this as well as the reason God “created” time for our use. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 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. God has always been, and will forever be.   To Him, time means nothing.   We can see this in Romans 9:28. The Spirit gave this to the apostle Paul to write over 1,900 years ago. For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.   That “work” is the work of Salvation. To us, this has been a “very long time”. To God, it is not.
          We don’t know how long (or short) our life will be. This was adequately declared by the Spirit through the pen of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:11-12. There, we are not only told we don’t know how long we have, but also, we don’t know how our death might occur.   I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. 12 For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.
         Armed with this information, again I ask, why do people delay to make the needed changes and prepare themselves for eternity? At what point does “short” become “too short” in regard to life?   It becomes too short when one: 1) refuses to hear and obey God’s plan of Salvation, or, 2) abandons “that way”, having once “laid hold” on the promise of eternal life.   Anyone whose life comes to an end, who is “accountable”, and has refused or rejected God, has lived a “life too short” because after this life, there is no opportunity to make any changes.   The warning Words of 2Thessalonians 1:8-10 provide a vivid description of the fate that awaits those whose life becomes “too short” and when that fate will take place.   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; 10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
         The “wise man” Solomon was given the Words of Ecclesiastes 3:17 to pen as he was “moved” by the Holy Spirit.   I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. We are also told from the pen of Paul, (from the same source), in 2Corinthians 5:10, what we do with our time, while in our bodies, will determine our eternity. 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.
            Your life is not “too short” if you act now.   2Corinthians 6:2 clearly shows this.   (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.)   Don’t let time run out for you.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Don't Be Fooled

Don’t Be Fooled

     We recently experienced another “April Fool’s” Day. We have one every year. Some folks look forward to these days so they can trick, “punk” or fool someone, or attempt to make them feel foolish.   These pranks are “harmless” according to those doing the pranking or fooling. However, those who are “fooled” or pranked in these so-called “innocent” episodes are anything but harmless.   Some often go way “too far” in their tricks.  
          The origin of “April Fool’s Day” is disputed in history. Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. In the Julian Calendar the new year began with the spring equinox around April 1.   Those who failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it on April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes and were called “April fools.”
           Interestingly, the word “fooled” is not found in the Bible, although the term “fool” occurs 73 times.   This doesn’t mean that the idea of being fooled isn’t in the Word of God.   We also don’t see the word “fooled” or “deceived” in the account of the Serpent’s deception of Eve in the Garden.   But reference to what happened there is found in 1Timothy 2:14. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. She then gave the forbidden fruit to her husband, and he ate it.  
        God’s plan from before the beginning of the world was to save the human soul. We are told in the following verse, 1Timothy 2:15, how this was to be accomplished.   Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. This means there is no reason for anyone to be fooled as 2Peter 3:9 shows. 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.
        God’s plan to save human souls included childbearing in that Mary, the virgin wife of Joseph, would give birth to the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Isaiah 7:14 prophesied this. Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.   This was fulfilled in Luke 2:11-12 and was announced to the shepherds in the field.   For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
       Christ, as that promised Savior, was confirmed by the apostles as they stood before the council in Acts 5:30-32. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.   Again, there is no plausible reason one should be fooled or deceived. 1Timothy 2:3-4 makes it abundantly clear that God desires Salvation for all, and has provided the means for this to happen.   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.
        The New Testament is filled with warnings about being fooled or deceived.  Listed here, are just three. 1Corinthians 6:9-10 shows that those who do evil are “fooled” if they think they can do these things and be part of the kingdom for which Christ died.   Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 1Corinthians 15:33 reminds us not to be “fooled”, by those with whom we associate. We need to strive to be wise in all areas of life. Poor choice of companions is foolish. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.   In Galatians 6:7 we are also told that each will be “rewarded” for the things done in this life.   Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
      There is a great reason for these, and all other Biblical admonitions of this nature.   2Timothy 3:13 tells us that there will be many who will do much to seduce and deceive others.   But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.  Along with this, Timothy was told in verse 14 how he could continue to avoid being seduced to follow evil. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;  
      This advice to Timothy also applies to us today. There is no reason that we should be fooled or deceived. God, through His providence, has given us His Holy Word.   This Word is full of warnings, promises, instruction and direction. 2Timothy 3:16-17 shows that God’s Word is provided so we need not be deceived.   All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good work. 
        Don’t be fooled! The world cannot offer your soul Salvation. God’s Word is the answer to all life’s problems.   Study it, obey it, and follow it.   Failure to do so is to be fooled. To be fooled in this way has eternal consequences.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Whom Will You Obey?

Whom Will You Obey?

        As we live our lives, we have no doubt had times in our lives in which we have not obeyed as we should.   This “trait” of humanity began in the Garden of Eden when the woman, in Genesis 3:6 decided to disobey God’s Command regarding the forbidden fruit.   And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. This trait continued with the first son of the first earthly parents.   In Genesis 4:7 we read of a conversation that occurred between Cain and the Lord after Cain had disobeyed.   If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
      Interestingly, the word “disobey” in that form, doesn’t exist in the Bible. The word “disobeyed” occurs once. This is found in 1Kings 13:21, where the old prophet who had deceived the “man of God”, informed him of his error and also defined disobedience.   And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee,. The disobedient prophet died as a result.
        The Word “disobedient” occurs 13 times, and “disobedience” is found 6 times in God’s Written Communication to man.   Even without these, there are still plenty of passages which indicate the penalty that must be paid for going against God and His Word.   In Jude vs 7, the Spirit had a New Testament penman, provide an Old Testament example to remind Christians of the end result of disobedience to God. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
        The Spirit had the apostle Peter “stir up” the minds of the recipients of the letter in 2Peter 3:1-2, so they would continue to obey. This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: 2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: We can see in 2Peter 3:17 why the warning was given. 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.    This is important as all will serve someone or some-thing as Romans 6:16 clearly shows. 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. 

         Perhaps, many years ago when my wife’s dad, O.D. Wilson wrote the poem below, he was trying to “stir up” some minds.  

The Kingdom Will Not Pass Away

Stand up, shout it out to the nations,
The Cause of the Lord will survive,
The world is offered Salvation,
Because that the church is alive.
There are “seven thousand” dear brother,
Who’ve not bowed their knees unto Baal.
But within the ranks the unfaithful,
Are working that it might fail,
  

When Daniel unfolded his vision,
Daniel chapter two, forty-four,
He promised that God up in Heaven,
Would build One to stand evermore.
The kingdoms of men come and go friend,
But Christ set His church on the Rock.
The Word is the seed of the kingdom,
And faith is the key to the lock.

 

Some day when the trumpet is blowing,
And time on this earth then is past,
The Body of Christ will be going,
The triumphant church, Home at last.
Eternity then will be waiting,
The heavens and earth passed away.
The faithful will be celebrating,
The message is for us today.

O.D. Wilson – deceased

     Whom do you serve? Are you serving and following Satan? His kingdom is “of this world”. It will pass away per 2Peter 3:10. . . . the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  The church, the body of Christ will exist with God forever. Make your choice as to whom you will serve.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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

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