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On Your Mark . . .

On Your Mark . . .

     One usually hears the above words just before the start of a race. This is to call attention to the contestants to get ready for the start of the event in which they participate, as well as to inform the observers of the beginning of the contest.   This seems apropos as we are all entering a New Year and as such, are all combatants in the “race of life”.   When the call is made to take your marks in a foot race, the course has been laid out, the direction is set, the lanes are indicated and the rules have been established and studied. This ensures that all “play by the rules” or be disqualified.
       Often when races are organized, the length of the race is established and often broken down into “laps”, or trips around the track or course.   Couldn’t we say that each year constitutes a lap in this race called life?   Those who are running this race are at different places on the track and therefore are on different laps, or years.   The analogy of a race is also used in Scripture as the Spirit utilized things from human existence, to guide us spiritually.
        When it comes down to it, the “race” which is of most importance is not a foot race, or some physical contest in this life, but that which determines where one will spend eternity.   The Spirit had the wise man of Israel pen the Words we find in Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 to show that all races, including life will end. 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.   We’re all going to die. We just don’t know when.
         Since we don’t know when our “race” in this life will end, does it not make sense to always remain ready, committed, dedicated, active and working, so we won’t be weighed in the balances and found wanting?  
         But how does one remain ready?   Much in the same way an athlete stays in shape and ready for the physical contests of their particular discipline. The athlete must exercise, work and develop to be able to excel in whatever sport or contest they enter. In the same way, the Christian must remain prepared as the “race” each runs from earth to heaven begins when one is baptized into Christ and ends at the conclusion of life.   Of course, the award ceremony, when the reward is given takes place after the judgment.  
         Man has come up with a number of maxims for life, most of which have their origins from the Word of God. One that seems most fitting for this time of the year is: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”.   In other words: “On Your Mark!” This race begins anew every day.   The Holy Spirit had Paul pen the Words of Philippians 3:13-14 to convey this very idea, and also that we might know for what we should strive. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
          Another passage of note is 1Corinthians 9:24 which should remind us that if we are not on the team (not a Christian), or if we’ve “dropped out”, due to laziness or lack of effort, we needn’t expect to win the prize.   Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.   We must first become a Christian through obedience to the gospel, and then continue to “press” toward the prize. To do this one must remain fit spiritually. This can only happen if the effort is put forth to do so.   2Timothy 2:15 provides the needed formula and routine to keep us in shape for the race.   Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
        Of a truth, the modern or ancient participants in the games do not, or did not just “show up” and soundly defeat all contenders, having had no training or preparation. Nor did they begin preparation the day before the contest.   The Lord, while here on earth, gives us insight as to how often we are to train. In Luke 9:23 we find this admonition. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. In John 9:4, in regard to His own work, Jesus explained why one cannot wait, else time may run out.   I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. (Death)
          Perhaps that is why the Spirit had the apostle Paul write in 1Timothy 4:8 about focusing more on Spiritual fitness than on bodily exercise. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. How can we apply this?   Much like the Christians to which Hebrews 12:1-2a was written. Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; . . .
            Christ spent His entire life on earth pleasing His Heavenly Father by doing His Will.   He set the perfect example before us and made the way to Salvation possible in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.   On which “track” are you running the race of life?   Where does it lead?   Do you need to change the path you are on?   The race is now.   On Your Mark . . .

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

The Way, The Truth, And The Life

The Way, The Truth, And The Life

       Much has been stated over the years about the Christ. Most know only what they have been told by others and have never read the Bible, the only source of truth about Christ, and what Jesus would have people do today.   Additionally, there are those who are embracing the ideas of “his truth”, “her truth” or “their truth” as though truth can be altered to accommodate a mood or situation. This type of allusion to truth is not Bible truth, nor is it the truth about the Christ.
      In John 14:6, we find a recorded passage, spoken by the Lord Himself to convey what He is, as well as His purpose for coming.   When Thomas asked “and how can we know the way?” Jesus replied: I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. It is important to fully understand what this means as each of these describe the Christ, and none can have the blessing of the Father except through the Son of God.
       This was prophesied in Isaiah 35:8, long before the Word became flesh while God was still guiding Israel through the prophets till the Messiah should come. This was the only reason Israel was separated out as a nation. 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. This was necessary as man has never been able to guide himself as Proverbs 14:12 shows. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Therefore, we all need a “way” and Christ is the only way that we can be directed to the Father that we might be saved eternally.
         The Lord also stated that He is “the truth”. In John 8:31-32 we find Jesus speaking to the Jews which believed on Him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Even these were not fully aware of the impact of the statement of Jesus here.  Verse 33 shows their misunderstanding and verse 34 shows unto what they were “bound”. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? 34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. (John 8:33-34).   Considered in conjunction with the Words the Spirit gave Paul in Romans 6:16 shows that we have choice in the matter.   We can choose to sin, or we can be obedient. 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? Obedience to the truth, and it alone, puts one on the right way.
         Jesus also stated that He is the life. Only the way of truth leads one to life. We are aware that we are “alive” now in the flesh. When Christ spoke of being life, He was not speaking of physical, fleshly life, as all of God’s creatures have been granted this.   In John 12:24-26 Jesus explained what true life is and how one is to walk the way of truth to have life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. 
         This is also more fully explained in Romans 8:13-14 as the Spirit had the apostle Paul write. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify (put to death) the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.   We must “put to death” the deeds of the flesh to walk as the Spirit directs in the Word of God.   To be “led of the Spirit”, means to be guided by what the Spirit sent to mankind as promised by the Christ in John 16:13: 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. The Spirit showed the apostles the only way of truth that leads to life.
        The “things to come” at the time of the apostles was the church.   After Christ died, was buried, and resurrected, He ascended back to the Father with His precious blood, the only atoning Sacrifice that was able to give life.   When the Lord was on earth, He told us in the latter part of John 10:10 why He came. He came to show us the way, give us the truth, and provide the means for eternal life. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.   That abundant life is eternal life.
        This is why He spoke the Words we find in John 6:63. This is also why He sent the Spirit to give us the Word. It is the spirit that quickeneth (maketh alive); the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.    I challenge you today to do as Moses directed God’s O.T. people, Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19. 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:  Both you and those who follow you (your seed), can lay hold on that eternal life, if all will just follow the truth and travel the way God has provided through Christ and His Holy Word.   Christ is indeed “the way, the truth, and the life”.   Won’t you obey Him today? Let us help you find the way of truth that leads to abundant and eternal life.

                     Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Are You Compromising Your Soul?

ARE YOU COMPROMISING YOUR SOUL?

   Many, upon being asked such a question will often seek to justify the way they live rather than admit they have compromised. A definition of the word compromise is: “to make a concession”.   Another is: “to accept standards that are lower than desired”.   When one compromises their soul, they have indeed made a concession. They are accepting standards of the world, and these are much lower than those set by God in His Holy Word.
       One point that must be made is that God does not compromise. His Word has not ever, now will ever change.   Psalm 119:89 is where the Spirit had the psalmist assure us of this.   For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. We can also see in Joshua 1:5 that as God did not abandon Moses, neither would He leave this new leader of Israel. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. God has also never compromised on His plan for His Son to come through Abraham’s lineage, then to die on the cross and be resurrected, offering Salvation for all men.   Even when many of Israel compromised and followed their own desires and served other gods, there was still a remnant that believed God’s Word and looked for the Promised Messiah. Some disciples followed the Christ when He came, and some were chosen to be His apostles.  
       The Spirit had the penman of the Hebrew letter inform the Christians of the Jewish nation of the same thing in Hebrews 13:5. This also tells us how we are to live our lives. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Then in verse 6, these same brethren were told that not even fear of what man might do unto them was to cause them to make compromises. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. The Spirit was encouraging them to not compromise their souls in any way.  
       How are some Christians compromising today?   Any, and every time the Word of God is ignored by those who have become children of God, through obedience to the gospel, they have compromised their soul. When the time to bring our offerings come and if we “stingily” give, or offer a pittance out of perceived necessity, we are compromising our souls. The Spirit had Paul address this in 2Corinthians 9:6-7 so those brethren would not compromise. This applies to Christians today as well. But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 
        Some of the Hebrew Christians that were being enticed to return to the Law of Moses were compromising their souls by forsaking the assembly.   In Hebrews 10:25 they were being told not to compromise, but to encourage one another.   Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.   Some Christians today are putting their souls in jeopardy as they forsake the assembly and “sin willfully” because of fear or for any other reason.
      Rather, in Romans 12:2 as the Spirit had the apostle Paul inform the brethren at Rome, all Christians are to avoid compromise in their lives in the same manner. And 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.   To “conform” is to comply with rules, standards, or laws.   In this case, the rules, standards and laws are those of this world.   To be “transformed” is to make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of.   Psalm 19:7 is one place we see how God’s Word “transforms”.   The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The Word of God makes wise he who hears or reads the Bible today and learns the true value of their soul. They will believe and obey the gospel.  
        Because some had obeyed the gospel, they knew what the Spirit had Peter write in 1Peter 1:18-19 to the scattered Christians. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Therefore, they strove to avoid compromise. This is also one reason Christian’s today are to never compromise.  
     James 1:25 tells how this was accomplished by the early Christians, and how it can be achieved even today. 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. Notice this message instructs: (1) Look into God’s Word. (2) Continue in His Word. (3) Do what the Word says to do. (4) Receive blessings in this life and eternally. One who understands this also realizes one of the benefits a child of God receives as a result is the strength needed to not compromise.  
         Don’t compromise your soul. If you haven’t obeyed the gospel, look into God’s Word to see how to do so. Then never compromise. If you are a child of God, don’t compromise.   Your soul’s eternal destination is at stake.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Let's Talk About It

Let’s Talk About it

     All over the world, in many different languages, people are discussing, conversing, engaging in dialogue, exchanging ideas, or chatting about any number of different things.   All these are ways to convey ideas, or debate the differences in ways of thinking, or to educate others to the truth or a certain set of facts.   Some have even come up with fancy ways in which to describe a “one on one” discussion by calling such communication a Tête-à-tête.
     Talking is one way God directed man, and one of the ways mankind has to keep information flowing back and forth among themselves to educate, inform, govern, and guide society to live together in harmony, as much as is possible in this world.   The first recorded account of God speaking to man can be found in Genesis 1:28 following God’s formation of man, where man is told of his initial function as part of God’s creation.   And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
      The second recorded account of God directly speaking to man is found in Genesis 2:16-17, where God had prepared a paradise for man and placed him in that Garden. However, this time, when God “talked” to man, He did so by giving them a commandment to rule them.   Man was not “left to his own devises” or allowed to decide for himself how to exist. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
       The Commandments of God – His inspired directives to man for man’s own good are not subject to question or debate, nor are they too hard to follow as we are informed in 1John 5:3. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.  
      Hebrews 1:1-2 explains that God has “spoken” to man in a variety of ways throughout man’s history.   Again, these directives are for the good of man and for the fulfillment of the plan of God for humanity.   God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;   But just because God once spoke to man directly, and later through the prophets, then by His Son through the Holy Spirit, doesn’t mean that we don’t have some responsibility in the spreading of that Word.  
         God, in His infinite mercy, has within His Word, provided instruction that we are to “talk” about the directives of God to man. The children of Israel, in Deuteronomy 6:6-7 were “Commanded” to do so. This passage also instructs as to the regularity of so doing.   And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.   One is not to “pacify” him, or herself with reading, hearing, or even talking about God’s Word only when gathered to worship.    
        The suffering servant Job, in rebutting his so-called friends who had come to accuse him of wrongdoing, used a different term to describe his thoughts about that which had befallen him.   In Job 13:6-8 the word “reasoning” was employed.   Hear now my reasoning, and hearken to the pleadings of my lips. 7 Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him? 8 Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God? Job’s thoughts were put forth as words to express that which was on his mind.  
       The term “reason” can also be used to indicate “thinking” and “talking” as can be seen in Matthew 16:6-8. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
       This use of the term “reason” is also found in Isaiah 1:18.   The Lord wants us to think on, and talk of His Word and “reason together” as well as take it to those who desperately need it. Within that scripture, we also see that as we reason with others, from and regarding God’s Word, how they and we are to benefit.   Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
       In 1Peter 3:15 we find where the Spirit had that apostle pen the Words so we could know that we are to continue to “reason”, study, teach, preach, and spread the Word of God.   Souls are at stake.   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:
     As we read in Romans 1:16, the gospel is God’s Power “unto Salvation”. 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. Let’s talk about it!   Let’s reason together from the Scriptures and learn them and let’s follow them in all areas of life. 
                                                     Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Might I Suggest . . .

Might I Suggest . . .

       During our lives, there is no doubt a number of suggestions that have been offered by well-meaning friends, family or acquaintances intended for our benefit.   This time of year, especially while shopping for holiday gifts or while involved in other transactions, we might hear the words: “Might I suggest. . . ”   Some have a bit of difficulty choosing in various areas of life. Suggestions are one of many ways to help folks make decisions.  
         The word “suggest”, by definition is: “put forward for consideration”. In the Christian life, one can only “suggest” to others, or put forward for their consideration, the Words of “truth and soberness” that come from God. As the Spirit directed, the apostle Paul used this phrase while standing before king Agrippa and Festus in Acts 26:25.   He said: “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.” These Words of truth and soberness were given Paul by the Spirit.   These same Words were those to which the Lord Himself referred in John 6:63 where He said: It is the spirit that quickeneth; (makes alive) the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
        Even the apostles, who were given these Words of truth, had limits to what they could “command”. They could only “command” what the Spirit gave them. The word command means to “order” or “to direct with specific authority”.   The apostles had been given this authority directly by the Lord.   In Matthew 28:18-20 we see the Commandment of Christ given specifically to the apostles.   And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.  The wording of this commandment makes it perpetual. This means that this duty applies to all Christians even today.
       While Jesus was on earth, He indeed had authority. But He would often make “suggestions” to folks to direct their minds in a certain way. He made use of parables in many cases. In Luke 14:7 we read of this as He observed the lack of humility among many of the Jews. And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them,. He suggested they think on this, and then adjust their actions accordingly. He also gave the reasoning behind the suggestion in Luke 14:11. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.   Christ had the power and authority to Command them to be humble, but can one be humble on command? Isn’t man a free moral agent? God created man with this power of choice. 
          The greatest choice one can make is to become part of the kingdom of God – (the church) and remain faithful to that commitment. The mission of Christ on earth was to teach the Jews of the coming kingdom, then die on the cross to purchase the church. John 3:16-17 not only tells us what God gave, but also why He gave His Son, and what we “might” receive as a result. 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. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
         Christ had chosen His apostles to reveal this kingdom, His church, and Salvation in Christ, after Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension as 1Corinthians 5:20 shows. Now then we (apostles) are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. Today, we (Christians) cannot “command” anyone to do anything.   We can only suggest.   Other ways in which we encourage others to be obedient, then to remain faithful are to plead, extol, preach, teach and admonish.   The “choice” is up to the hearer or reader.  
          Might I use the power of suggestion to direct your minds to what God has Commanded for reconciliation to Him through His Word?   Then you can decide if you want the promise of eternal life, or not.   Choose wisely. In His Word, God has Commanded for one to be saved they must. . . (1) Hear The Word – (Romans 10:17) So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (2) Believe in Jesus – (John 8:24) I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.   (3) Repent of past sins – (Luke 13:3)   I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.   (4) Confess Christ before men – (Acts 8:37) And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (5) Be Baptized into Christ – (Mark 16:16)   He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (6) Remain Faithful unto death – (Rev 2:10) . . . be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.  Also, if one has once “obeyed” the gospel, then has yielded to the suggestions of the world and become “unfaithful” God has provided the means for reconciliation. This is found in Acts 8:22. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee
           The Commandments of God are not suggestions. The decision is yours. Be careful of the “suggestions” you follow.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Goodness and Mercy

Goodness and Mercy

     The terms, goodness and mercy are only once joined together with the conjunctive word “and” in all the Holy Scriptures. This is a very familiar passage as it comes from the 6th and final verse of the 23rd Psalm. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. However, both “goodness” and “mercy” are found throughout the Bible in various passages.   Both of these terms are important as God is good, and God provides mercy to all His people as the Spirit had the psalmist write. Just before this verse, the psalmist penned “my cup runneth over” as directed. This expression is definitely in reference to the goodness and mercy of God.  

     We know that God is good, as Jesus stated this in Matthew 19:16-17 as the rich young ruler approached the Lord with an important question. The Lord also responded to the young man’s request. And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.   The Words of Jesus here, also affirm what the Spirit had the prophet say in Nahum 1:7. The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. Both of these were spoken during the time the Jews were under the Mosaic Law, but this principle applies equally today.  

       In Romans 2:3-4 the Spirit had the apostle Paul write regarding God’s Goodness and what it should cause man to want to do. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

       Most readily accept God’s Goodness and are equally willing and desirous of receiving mercy from God, especially in light of their pending eternity. But the Spirit had Paul address both the virtue and the seriousness of God in Romans 11:21-22 as a warning to those who would NOT fear God and do His Commandments. For if God spared not the natural branches, (unfaithful Jews) take heed lest he also spare not thee. (Gentiles) 22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. This was said of the Jews that once rejected God’s New Testament plan. This also applied to these Gentiles as all humanity is now under the same plan. God’s mercy is liberally applied today as people seek Him through His Word.

     Another word for mercy is compassion as Matthew 20:30 and 34 clearly shows. Verse 30 And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.  Verse 34 So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him. Notice how these men reacted after the Lord had mercy on them – they followed Him.

     We can read in Ephesians 2:1-5 how God’s mercy is shown toward man today.   And you (Christians) hath he quickened, (made alive through His Word) who were dead (spiritually) in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, (Satan) the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

       God has shown His Compassion toward mankind by sending His Son to die on Calvary’s cross to purchase the church.   Christ, as promised to the apostles in John 14:26, sent the Holy Ghost to bring His Word so all could see God’s Goodness and Mercy. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. This gives man the opportunity and the choice to follow the Lord and become recipients of God’s Promise to the obedient and faithful.

     God’s Goodness and Mercy is available if one will follow God’s Plan for salvation. It is hard to understand why some leave the faith. One MUST first obey the gospel to have the promise of life everlasting. Then we are to “work” to maintain that proper relationship to God. Jude verse 21 advises us to do just that. Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. The Word shows the goodness and mercy of God.   Follow God’s plan today.   Obey the gospel. Don’t gamble that God’s Goodness and Mercy will “save you” in the end if you’re not obedient to His Word.   “If You Gamble – You Lose”.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Hearing God

Hearing God

         To “hear God” is of utmost importance. I doubt there are very many who would disagree with this. However, there is much confusion as to how and in what manner one is to do so.   Some today claim that God speaks directly to them as He once did to the ancients.   In the Old Testament portion of the Bible, -- Genesis through Acts chapter one -- the phrase “God spake” can be found eleven times.   In each case it is pointed out, to whom He spoke, as when He told Noah to depart the ark in Genesis 8:15-16. He obviously spoke directly to Noah. And God spake unto Noah, saying, 16 Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. 
        The first eight instances of “God said” is found in Genesis chapter one. In the first seven, God was making proclamations of creation. In the eighth, God the Father is speaking to the Godhead regarding the pending creation of man and the attribute of man, being created in the “image of God”.   The first account of God speaking to man, and man “hearing” God is located in Genesis 1:28 and states one purpose man was created. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
       The final occurrence of “God spake” in His Word is found in 2Peter 1:21 and here declares the way in which God first spoke to man, and the way in which He did to His O.T. messengers is very different. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.  Hebrews 1:1-2 clearly indicates that He now, in “these last days” speaks through Christ. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
         Down through the ages, as the plan of God was being carried out, His mode of speaking and His message has been suited to the phase of the plan. To say that God speaks “through His Son” is not to imply an audible voice to an auditory receiver (the human ear), or to the “heart” of man.   Within the N.T. writings, “hear His voice” is found but three times, and all are in the book of Hebrews. This doesn’t mean that God would speak directly to them as He once did to Adam and Eve.   God’s Word, once audible, has now been delivered in written form, one that is available to all of humankind. 
          Part of God’s plan was for His Son, Jesus the Christ to come to earth and to die on the cross to purchase the church so all could come to Him and be saved.   While here, Christ spoke, and in Luke 8:1 we are told of the message He spoke and what was heard by the Jews of His day. And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,. This was the earthly ministry of the Son of God.   Christ completed the earthly part of His ministry when He had been crucified, buried, arisen and ascended back to His Father in heaven.   The mission did not end there, and God did not cease speaking at that time.
         While Jesus was on earth, He Himself spoke to people. Previous to Christ coming to earth, man “heard” Moses and the prophets, as God’s message was being revealed in accordance to His plan. In Matthew 17:5, on the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus was given all authority, the voice of God was heard by Peter, James, and John. God said: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” 
            But in John 16:17, before returning to His Father, Jesus explained to the twelve apostles how He would continue “speaking” following His time on earth. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.  He then told them in John 16:13 who this Comforter was, what He would do, and the source of that Holy message.   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. That which the “Holy Spirit” brought to the apostles was the Word of God.   We are to “hear” and obey that Word they recorded and which God has preserved in the Bible.  
          Additional proof that the Scriptures are God’s Word, is found in a letter the Spirit had Paul write the young preacher in 2Timothy 3:16. It states: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” Then in verse 17 we are told of the benefit of “hearing” the Word of God. That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.  
          We should all want to “hear” God as we want Him to hear us.   We are told in John 9:31 who God hears. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.   One cannot “speak” to God until they belong to Him as His child.   Hear His Word today. Do His Will.   God’s Will is that none should perish per 2Peter 3:9.   Will you not “hear God” today and be obedient to the gospel and prepare to spend eternity with Him?  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Going My Way?

Going My Way?

     I’m told there was once a time in our country when one could travel from one end of the nation to the other via hitch-hiking.   This was accomplished by the generosity of others who were headed in the same direction. Still, this likely would only take one part of the way.   It seems this practice may be declining in popularity as the danger of harm has increased.
      We are all going someplace. This is evident day to day as traffic is snarled in various locations as folks are making their way to and from.   But there is a much more important journey we are all taking and each has an eternal destination. Where each is going depends on the individual.    
        When folks were hitch-hiking, and now when people travel, they usually have a destination in mind.   From a religious standpoint, there are but two places one will spend eternity.   Many religious people claim to be headed to the same place, and will entice others to “go their way”.   This can be very problematic, especially when they are being improperly led on their journey.   In Luke 6:37, Jesus taught the Jews of His day the fallacy of following others, especially if others cannot clearly see the way. And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?   This is taught so that one will not “blindly” follow another, and in so doing, be led to destruction.   Many of the Jews of Jesus day were being led in a way that would hinder them from recognizing the kingdom when it came in their lifetime, and therefore would refuse to obey.    
       Today, the religious teachers entice others to go with them “their way” as they teach and preach the various denominational doctrines. Mark 7:7 is a clear identification of such. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  The question which needs to be asked is not “Are You Going My Way”, but are you going the “ONE WAY” that leads to life?   Is the way I’m going the way that Jesus provided when He came and died on the cross of Calvary?   That’s important.
         In Matthew 7:13-14, as Christ was concluding His Sermon on the Mount, He gave specific directions as to “the way” to go, and the destination, as well as the way “NOT TO GO” and the penalty for doing so.   He said: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
         All are going to their eternal home someday. Romans 6:16-18 contains the inspired proof that what you do in this life, determines what “home” is to be yours for eternity.   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? 17 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.    Who is it that you serve? 
         Going my way? I’m going where Jesus leads. He leads us through His Word and shows us the way.   As Jesus stated in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” This may have been the passage of which Linda’s dad was thinking all those years ago when he penned the words of this song.  

I’m Going Home Someday 

Sometimes I get tired
As I travel life’s pathway.
Things that I once admired
Try to lead me astray.
But I’m going to a place
Where the flowers are blooming.
By the help of God’s Grace,
I’m going home someday. 

I’m going home someday,
Since Jesus is leading.
He directs me each day.
On His Love I’ll be feeding.
At the end of the trail,
When the mists roll away.
Trusting Him, I’ll not fail.
I’ll be going home someday.

O.D. Wilson – deceased

     We’re all going someplace, and the beauty of God’s plan is that we get to choose where that is.   In John 14:2-3, Jesus comforted His apostles with the Words we read there.   In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. Choose today where you’re going.   Obey the gospel today and remain faithful till you take that final trip to be at peace and rest forever. Going my way? I’m Going Home Someday to be with the Lord forever. I want you to go too.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

The Price We Pay

The Price We Pay

     Everything has a price or a cost associated with it. This even includes the things we may be given. True, the material “gifts” which others may bestow on us might not cost us anything at all, but someone had to bear the cost of them.   We also ought to be made aware that the price of something is often not the same as the cost of it.   We read of this in Acts chapter 5 as Ananias and Sapphira received a fair price for their land, but as they lied to the Holy Ghost in their giving, paid the cost of so doing with their lives.  

     Perhaps they hadn’t heard of the teachings of Jesus in Luke 12:16-21 in regard to the attitude of the rich man. 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.  He was willing to pay to have barns built, but wasn’t aware of the cost of forgetting God.

     What will be the cost of the decisions we make while in this life? Will we be like the man in the above parable and focus only on ourselves and what we can amass in this life?   In 2Corinthians 5:10, those brethren were told that the price one will pay, or the reward one will receive, will be that which is determined by the things they do in the here and now. 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.

       There was indeed a steep price paid for Salvation that we could not pay. The Lord died on Calvary’s cross to shed His blood so we could be saved. He told His apostles in Matthew 20:17-19, when, where and how He would pay the price for the Salvation of a soul.   And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, 18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, 19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.  

     Prior to this event, He told them in John 14:1-4 that because He was to die on the cross, those who would believe on Him and were obedient to His Word would have a place prepared for them and a way laid out for them. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. He paid the price, then following His resurrection went to His Father and is preparing a place where the obedient and faithful will spend eternity.

       But, don’t we not have an obligation in this arrangement?   Do we not also have a price to pay? 1Corinthians 6:20 lets us know that we certainly do. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. Those that are washed in the blood of Christ indeed are to have a part and have responsibility for their salvation.     The Spirit had John, in 2John verse 8, instruct the recipients of that letter how to glorify the Lord in obedience and watchfulness so they would not lose the promised reward. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

       Then, in Philippians 2:12 the Spirit had the apostle Paul write so all will know the “price they must pay” to maintain that Salvation. 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.  Christians need to be reminded that this “price” must continue to be paid as long as we live.     In Philippians 3:12-14 the Spirit had Paul remind the folks there, and us of this.   Our “work of Salvation” doesn’t end until we pass from this life.   Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

     In Matthew 16:24, Jesus told us the cost of true discipleship. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. God the Father, the Spirit and Christ, have all done their part, and paid the price for our Salvation. Are you willing to do your part as God has directed in His Word?   If you don’t pay the price now, the eternal cost is unbearable.   Think about it!

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Thank You For The Valley . . .

Thank You For The Valley . . .

       For as long as man has penned works of his own thoughts, the valley has been considered a metaphor for “low” times.   This idea has been used in poems, songs and in other types of literature.   As discouraging times come upon folks, this is usually when people are least likely to be grateful, or to express thanks for whatever is happening in their lives.  

     In 1966, the song writer Dottie Rambo wrote a song with the title of this week’s article. Now, we know she was a denominationalist, and as such, the words of her songs did not always follow the Word of God. However, there are some that indeed express Bible Principle.   Keep this in mind as you read the words of the two verses and the chorus below.  

Verse 1

THANK YOU FOR THE VALLEY I WALKED THROUGH TODAY

THE DARKER THE VALLEY THE MORE I LEARN TO PRAY

I FOUND YOU WHERE THE LILY’S BLOOMING BY THE WAY

AND I THANK YOU FOR THE VALLEY I WALKED THROUGH TODAY

Verse 2

LIFE CAN’T BE ALL SUNSHINE OR THE FLOWERS WOULD DIE

THE RIVERS WOULD BE DESERT, ALL BARREN AND DRY

LIFE CAN’T BE ALL BLESSINGS OR THERE’D BE NO NEED TO PRAY

SO I THANK YOU FOR THE VALLEY I WALKED THROUGH TODAY

Chorus

THANK YOU FOR EV’RY HILL I’VE CLIMBED

FOR EV’RY TIME THE SUN DIDN’T SHINE

THANK YOU FOR EV’RY LONELY NIGHT

I PRAYED ‘TIL I KNEW EV’RY THING WAS ALRIGHT

AND I THANK YOU FOR THE VALLEY I WALKED THROUGH TODAY

       The term “thanksgiving” is found twenty-eight times in twenty-seven verses of the King James Bible, and not once is this Word associated with a November holiday.   I don’t say this to disagree with, or speak against this holiday, but to show that the term is to have real meaning in the lives of the people of God.

     But how many people are grateful for the “lows” in life.   True, there are times when difficulties occur such as loss of life, loss of employment or the means of providing for family, or other things.   But more often than not, folks will not only be unthankful, but many will blame God during such times.  

     It is a fact that God does not cause these things. James 1:17 tells us that God is the source of all that is good.   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. We should be always thankful to God for all that is good.

       Are the “valleys” good? Is there a benefit in the “low times” of life? Of course there is! These benefits may be hard to see, but it’s there none the less. Romans 1:21 shows clearly why many fail to see the benefit.   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.   This also doesn’t mean that God sends these “low times” or the conditions which produce them.   The good that God provides exposes the bad as Isaiah 45:7 indicates.   I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.  The light God created manifested (made known) the darkness. The peace God provides in His Word manifests evil. The love of God exposes the hate of the world.

     God’s people, should be thankful at all times as Colossians 3:15 directs. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.  Notice from 2Timothy 3:2-4 that the “unthankful” are listed with some very unsavory characteristics. The people of God are not to be like this. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

       We know that 2Timothy 3:12 shows that Christians will indeed have to tread through the “valleys” of life.   Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.   But we also are assured that God will not forget His people as Hebrews 13:5 indicates. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

     Not only are Christians to remain thankful to God, we should also show gratitude for our brethren who help us in our walk for the Lord. Whether to God or our fellow Christians, ingratitude is not good. As my father-in-Law, another song writer, once wrote in a song: “Ingratitude is another sin, that simply costs too much.”   Be thankful, even for the valleys.   God is always there for those who faithfully serve in accordance to His Word.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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