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You Complete Me

You Complete Me

     Some will no doubt remember this phrase, delivered by Tom Cruise from the 1996 film “Jerry McGuire”. Probably better remembered from that same movie is: “Show me the money”.   The truth is that many feel they are only complete if and when they have money.   This is evidenced by the importance of gain in this world in which we live.  

       Another word for complete is “whole”.   In John chapter five we are told of the belief of the Jews of that day, in the miraculous power of the “troubled water” at the pool of Bethesda, in which one could be “made complete” or “whole” or if they could be first in the water after the troubling of the water. In John 5:6, upon seeing a man infirm for thirty-eight years, who could not get in the water, Jesus asked: “Wilt thou be made whole?”     Then in John 5:8 Jesus simply Commanded: “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”   Then we read that the man was immediately made whole.  

       The man in the above account was “infirm” in that he was unable to convey himself from place to place.   He was lacking that which would allow him to do so. Jesus supplied that need and made him “whole” or “complete” in a physical sense. When the Jews ask the man why he carried his bed on the Sabbath, the answer is given in John 5:11. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.

     The Jews were not thrilled that one of their own was healed, and could not rejoice in that the man who had suffered an infirmity for thirty-eight years was made “complete”. Rather, they used the episode to find fault with Jesus as He performed a miracle, and then told the man to do that which was contrary to their traditions.   I am afraid that many today allow their “spiritual traditions” to prevent them from becoming “complete” or “whole” in the spiritual sense as they refuse to do all the Word of God Commands that their infirmity of the soul can be healed.

       The word “complete” only occurs two times in the KJV New Testament. It is first found in Colossians 2:10. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:  The second place is Colossians 4:12. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.  In both of the occurrences, Christ is the catalyst that makes one whole or complete.   The first is obvious as one must be “in Christ” to be complete.   The second occurrence speaks of the “will of God”.   In John 5:30, Jesus’ response to the Jews following the healing of the infirm man shows He came to do the Will of God. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.  Therefore, it is God’s Will that we be “complete”, and only “in Christ” can we be that way.  

       Since it is God’s Will that we be complete, and one must be in Christ and remain in Christ to be complete, God has provided the instruction in His Word so we can become complete. We can see from Jesus’ reply in Mark 2:17 that He came to provide the means for one to become “complete” spiritually. They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  God has also promised the reward of eternal heaven to all who become “complete” in Christ, and remain faithfully committed (COMPLETE) for the duration of their life. In 2Peter 3:9 we are told that God desires that all would become “whole”. 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.

      So that those who have become “complete” in Christ can remain “whole” the Spirit gave Paul words to write to the church in Rome in Romans 12:2. These Words apply to Christians today as well.   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.  This clearly indicates that the world and the things of the world cannot make one whole or complete.   This is also supported by 1John 2:15-17, as the Spirit had John write to the church. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.   

     Compare that with what the Spirit had Paul write to Titus in Titus 1:14 and it is clear that the commandments of men and the truth are not the same things. Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.  Couple this with what Jesus stated in John 8:32 and we can see that only by faithfully doing what God has given in His Word can one be complete. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  Isn’t it time for you to allow Christ to “complete” you? You cannot spend eternity with God unless or until you are “in Christ”. You are not “complete” or “whole” or in Christ until you have obeyed the gospel. Obey the gospel today! Then remain whole by reading and studying His Holy Word and living as it directs.

                           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Almost Faithful?

Almost Faithful?

       Have you ever looked up the word “almost” in the Bible?   Would you be surprised to know it only exists eleven times in God’s Word, and is never associated with faithfulness?   Of the nineteen times “faithfulness” is found in the KJV Bible, eleven times God’s faithfulness is referenced.   Salvation is also not something one can “almost” attain.    Acts 26:28-29 is the closest this ever came to be as the apostle Paul stood before king Agrippa. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. 29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. 

     One cannot be “almost saved” any more than they can be “almost faithful”.   I am afraid that some Christians seem to think they can be altogether saved, yet remain “almost faithful”.   That is not a Bible concept at all!   The first mention of “faithful” in the Bible is in Numbers 12:7 and is speaking of Moses, the one God chose to deliver Israel from the Egyptians. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.   However, we are also aware of when Moses became “almost faithful” and was not “altogether” faithful in Numbers 20:11. God had told him to “speak to the rock”. And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 

       Then in Deuteronomy 34:4 we see the penalty Moses had to pay for not being all the way faithful. And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.  There is always a price to pay when man is not faithful to God.  We saw it in the Garden of Eden and at the end of the life of Moses. This also will be the case for us if we are not faithful.  

       We are told we may suffer for being faithful. But there is also a reward waiting for all who are faithful to the Lord. And there is a penalty we must pay if we are not faithful.   In 2Timothy 2:12 we are told of the reward to be given the faithful as well as the penalty for the “almost” faithful and the disobedient. If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: Then, in 2Timothy 2:13 we are informed that God Will always continue in faithfulness.  If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.    This means if there is any unfaithfulness, it is on man’s part and not on the part of God.

       To better understand the idea being conveyed in the title of the article, let’s ask some questions about our daily lives, and see how this looks. Can we be expected to accept “almost” in the service of those with whom we interact?   Are we to accept medical services from a Doctor who is “almost” educated in the field of medicine?  Should we take our automobiles to mechanics who are “almost” certified?   Would you reward and pay the roofer who “almost” finished your roof?   How would we feel about the services of the Dentist who “almost” fixed a broken tooth?   Get the point?  

     God also pointed this out to His O.T. people, Israel shortly before the pen of inspiration was laid down until the N.T. times began. In Malachi 1:7-8 the Spirit had Malachi write: “Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. 8 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.”  Sadly, some of them did not get the point either.  

       In being “almost faithful”, Israel was robbing God.   When we today in our service to God, give “almost” what we should give in our time, service, monies, dedication, and adoration, we are “robbing God”. Israel was also told of this by the Spirit, through the same prophet. Malachi 3:8-10 tells Israel how they “robbed” God and also how bountifully God will bless if they did as commanded. Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 

     The church in Smyrna was not told to be “almost faithful”. They were soon to face severe persecution, but Revelation 2:10 tells them to be all the way faithful to receive that crown of life. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. What about you?   Are you willing to gamble your soul by being “almost” faithful or almost obedient?   That’s a choice you have to make – and a price your soul will have to pay for eternity.                

                                   Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

That Grand Old Book

That Grand Old Book

Thy Written Word is here to believe,

It speaks for Thee Lord, why won’t they hear?

When there’s a question, just take a look.

It’s all in writing, found in the book.

Jesus the person, Jesus the Word

Are alienated by finite man,

Christ bore it all, our punishment took.

It’s all in writing, found in the book.

Jesus says nothing but thru’ the Word.

“Tangible” truth’s the pattern today.

Angels can’t change it, they too must look.

It’s all in writing, found in the book. 

That grand Holy book,

every page turn and look.

The same every day.

Until you change it Lord,

It’s the Way.  

      The above poem (song) was written by my wife’s father, O.D. Wilson around 1982 and can be sung to the tune “When I see the blood”, the last verse being sung as the chorus.  He’s passed on now, but his words live on and still resonate in our minds.  The idea of “tangible truth” is popular today as the modern idea is to “customize” truth to fit one’s personal situation.  This won’t work as everyone’s situation is not the same.

          Many today look for “truth” in many places and in various ways.   In so doing, man has come up with ideas such as “relativism”.  This means they change truth “relative” to their specific circumstances.    This is a convenient way to “skirt” for one to get around truth when it convicts them.       Upon looking up the word “truth” in the dictionary, you will find the following definitions:  1) the quality or state of being true.   2)  that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.   3)  a fact or belief that is accepted as true.   

      The first two definitions are good ones.  The final one is unacceptable as much which is “believed” to be true is not.  Take religion for instance.  If you were to ask religious people if their doctrine is true, most would say it is.   The question then becomes: “Is your doctrine in accordance to the Word of God, or is it “man’s tradition”?”   Ah, this is where debates come from.   We are told in Hebrews 13:8Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”   We can also read in John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Since the Lord is always the same and “unchanging”, and He is the Word, does it not stand to reason that the Word also does not and has not changed? 

     The prophet, sent to Israel in Ezekiel 2:7 was directed what to speak to the defiant people of God in the O.T.  And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.   Ezekiel was told in the verse prior, not to be afraid of the people, nor of their words.  This also has application in the N.T. as the Spirit had the apostle Paul instruct the young evangelist in 2Timothy 4:2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. Then in verses 3-4, The Spirit had Paul tell young man Timothy why the “Grand Old Book” was to be declared in the ears of all who will listen.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

      When man deviates from the Bible (that Grand Old Book) which has not and will not change, then problems await.   All Bible students are familiar with Jesus’ proclamation of John 8:32. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.   Can we possibly be so blind as to think that “our version” of truth will make us free?  The Lord was speaking of becoming free from sin by doing as instructed in the unchanging Word of God.  Is there any way to have hope if we don’t know, or refuse to follow the Word? 

      Our eternal destiny is directly tied to following the Word of God and the instruction found therein.   If we study and “rightly divide” the Word, as we are told in 2Timothy 2:15, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth., and do as we are directed, our names will be written in the “book of life” per Revelation 20:12.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  Follow that “Grand Old Book” and obey the gospel today, and have your name written in the Lamb’s book of life.  

                            Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

The Unchanging In a Changing World

The Unchanging In A Changing World

   As we continue through life, isn’t it amazing how much things change? But there are things that are unchanging.   The day has always been 24 hours long, and time has continued since created by God in the beginning.  We are told in Psalm 90:2 that God has always been.   Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God

     Since God has always been, folks seem to expect God to have changed over the years.  This is a fallacy man has developed because they don’t read God’s Word.   Isaiah 46:5 shows God asking Israel: “To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?  Malachi 3:6 clearly tells us that God is unchanging. For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.  Even when God’s people Israel persisted in sin, God did not destroy them when they should have perished. There is a great reason for this. The Spirit had the psalmist write in Psalm 89:34 “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.”  God had a plan from before the beginning of time as we know it.   He keeps His Word.

     God had chosen the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, also known as the nation of Israel through whom God’s Salvation would come to man. The latter part of Isaiah 46:11 tells us how unchanging God’s plan is. . . .yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” God has not changed. He did as He promised. He performed this in accordance to His schedule. Galatians 4:4 - But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,  God’s unchanging plan brought together all who will be obedient . Ephesians 1:10 - That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: This was the plan of God from before the world was created.  It hasn’t changed.  

    In Daniel 2:44, we read of the foretelling of the kingdom which God would establish on earth when His Son came to earth. He also told exactly when this was to occur.  And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.  These “kings” were the Roman kings (Caesars), and it was in the days of those kings that Jesus was born, died, was resurrected and ascended. It was also when God sent “power from on high” to His apostles as promised.    This was when the gospel was first preached (A.D. 33 on Pentecost) and souls were saved as the people were baptized into Christ. They were added to that unending kingdom as they were obedient. Acts 2:47b - . . . And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. 

     This should give us reason to rejoice, even as many things continue to change in our present world. God does not change. God’s plan for Salvation has not changed, nor will it. God’s love for man has not changed. He has shown His love man from the beginning. This was part of God’s plan. 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.     This too has never changed. It is very sad that many “misinterpret” the unchanging message from God.   Verse 17 shows Christ didn’t come to condemn, but to save. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved

     God has also provided (providentially) all things that man has ever needed. 2Peter 1:3 is where we can read this. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:  This also is unchanging as Jesus told in the Sermon on the Mount about God’s provision toward all humanity in Matthew 5:45b. . . for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” The same is true spiritually as we are told in 2Thessalonians 2:14 how God “calls” people to Salvation through the preaching of His Word.  Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our part is to obey that Word!

       As God has provided all we need, and the gospel to tell us how to be saved, we also have a guarantee from God that is as “unchangeable” as God is.   We can read it in the latter part of Hebrews 13:5 . . . for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  From this, we should understand that if anyone “changes”, it is us and not God.   We, who are subject to change and change of minds, are to strive to serve God in accordance to His Word regardless of the changes that occur in our circumstances and situations.   Things had changed in the lives of the Hebrews Christians in the first century.   The “old things” had been removed so the final (N.T. Law), the unchanging Law of God could be put in place. Hebrews 12:27-28  And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:  Are you following that unchanging Law?   Obey the gospel today.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Tests, Trials, and Tribulations

Tests, Trials and Tribulations

     The word “challenge”, nor any form of it, can be found in the KJV Bible.  But the idea is definitely found in God’s Word!   We often speak of the challenges we face in this life.  Challenge has several definitions.    One definition of “challenge” is: a call or summons to engage in any contest.   

      We know that according to 2Thessalonians 2:14, we have been called by the gospel.  Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.   This is our “summons” from God to become His child. This has to be our choice, and He has also warned in His Word that, when we become a part of the kingdom, if we are faithful, that suffering (tribulation, or trials) are part of what we can expect.  The Spirit had the apostle Paul write this to Timothy in 2Timothy 3:12.   Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution

      Persecution is a type of challenge as well.  Tests, trials and tribulations are some of the ways in which we are persecuted.   Natural disasters, sicknesses (viruses and such), also present challenges.     However, if and when we bring difficulties upon ourselves, we cannot call these “tribulations” or persecutions.   This is just our suffering as evildoers as 1Peter 4:15 tells us.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.   However, suffering for the cause of Christ is reason to glorify God as the following verse informs.  Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.   (1Peter 4:16)

      It’s what we do when, in the face of tests, trials and tribulations that will affect our eternal destiny.   1Peter 4:19 is where we learn that we are to “commit” the keeping of our souls to God as we suffer for the cause for which Christ died on the cross.   Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

        Our faith is often tried.   This happens when temptations abound.  As we commit our souls to God, we must avail ourselves of what God offers us in His Word.   The “scattered abroad” were told in James 1:2-5 to use the tests, trials, and tribulations of this life to our benefit.   My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patienceBut let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

      The same type of “inspired” advice is offered to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, as the Spirit guided the pen of Peter in 1Peter 1:6-9.  It was sound advice then, and is sound today. This too, shows that our soul depends on our heeding the Word of God.  Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:  Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 

       God’s people have always had to face difficulties, but God has also always given assurance that He will remember the promises He has made.   God’s Old Testament people Israel, were given this assurance in Deuteronomy 4:30-31.

When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice31 (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them. 

      God’s covenant with Israel was for the purpose of bringing Christ to the world to provide the means for Salvation to whosoever will.     This means those who become a part of the kingdom for which Jesus died needn’t fear life’s trials, tribulations, or anything of that nature.    In Hebrews 13:5, those Christians (and Christians today) are given a divine guarantee, as well as instruction as to how to live their 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

      We also have the assurance in Romans 8:35-39 that all the challenges of life are not sufficient to remove us from Christ’s love if we don’t allow it.   We can’t afford to allow tests, trials and tribulation to cause us to lose our soul.    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.        

                                       Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ          

In Whatsoever State I Am

In Whatsoever State I Am

       You may recognize the title of the article as a phrase from Philippians 4:11, in which the Spirit had the apostle Paul write to the brethren in Philippi.   Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  Continuing to read, we see the inspired explanation of what “state” means here.  Then in verse 13 we also read of the source of our contentment.   I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.(Philippians 4:12-13)

      The key to our contentment is what it is which “makes us happy”, and that is something over which we have full control.     In Hebrews 13:5 the Christians of Jewish nationality were warned against being covetous.   This was to be the manner of their lives, and it should also be the manner of all Christians. Let your conversation (manner of life) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.   What could make a person more happy or contented?  

       Now, as we examine these passages, can we not see that as long as we are in a proper relationship with God, we have every reason to be content?   To be in a proper association with God certainly could not cause us discontentment. Hebrews 13:6 tells us we are to have no fear of man, if we are indeed the faithful children of God.    So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

       If we look into the life of the apostle Paul following his conversion, we see that he, of all people, had reason to be upset, downtrodden, or unhappy, from a physical standpoint.    We are extremely fortunate that we don’t live in the time of, or presently live in a nation in which we, like Paul, are subject to the same persecutions or the amount of suffering Paul endured for the cause of Christ. 

       In 2Corinthians 11:23-27 we get a glimpse of the turmoil in the life of Paul as he served God.   The Spirit had Paul write to the Corinthians to show the type of suffering one could face, yet still be happy in Christ.   Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness If Paul could be in these “states” or face all these things and still be content, why can’t we remain happy?  

     The Spirit had the apostle Peter write to the brethren “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” to tell them the reasons that they should be happy and content as well as what to do in that happiness.  We find this in 1Peter 3:12-15.  For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 13 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; 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:  

       Of course, if our present “state” is brought upon ourselves because of our sins, we won’t be content or happy.   But, if and when we suffer for the cause of Christ, we should remain content.   This too, is stated in God’s Holy Word.   In 1Peter 2:20 the Holy Spirit had Peter write:  For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.   Then, the Spirit, through Peter’s pen, in 1Peter 4:15-16 tells us that there can definitely be a difference in the source of our suffering.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

     It is a certainty that the faithful followers of Christ are going to be persecuted for living a godly life.  We are told this in 2Timothy 3:12.   Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.   Again, if the persecution we suffer is “self-inflicted, or is for a cause less worthy of the cross, the end result will not be eternal happiness or contentment at the present.   The apostle Paul was directed to write in 1Corinthians 4:11-12 that persecution comes in various forms, yet he remained content.  Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; 12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:   And in 2Corinthians 4:9,  Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;  

     We have so much more than this.   Why are we so unhappy and discontent?  If one is “in Christ”, in whatever state they find themselves, they’re content.  

                                                      Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Getting The Devil Out

Getting the Devil Out

      As we travel the paths of life, we are often tempted and tried.  One who is struggling while facing these sorts of things, are often said to be “facing their demons”.  Some seek help and are successful.  Others succumb and allow them-selves to be led astray.   We need only the help of God as we bravely fight that “good fight of faith” and strive to win the battle.  

      It is clearly indicated in God’s Word, the method we are to use to overcome the evil one. In James 4:7 we are told that this is within the power of each of us.  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.   And, we read in Ephesians 4:27 that we also are not to allow the tempter a chance to trip us up.  Neither give place to the devil.  

     We are also directed, as were the brethren at Corinth, that we are to always be on guard so that the devil cannot get us.    2Corinthians 2:11 is where the Spirit had the apostle Paul warn us all.  Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. Then, in 2Corinthians 11:14 we are told of one of these evil devices.  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

     God has also given us the means to defeat the demon that so desires to keep our souls for eternity.   In Ephesians 6:11 we are told what God has provided so we can win the fight, if we will but use it.  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  And we are also told in 1John 3:8 how those who don’t “get the devil out” can be identified, as well as why Christ was made known.   He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

     Perhaps my wife’s father was thinking of these scriptures in the early 1980’s when he wrote the following poem that bears the same title as this article.  We are all to do all we can to “get the devil out” while we can and before it is eternally too late.  

Getting The Devil Out

There are things about me that I don’t like,

And I’d be the first to say,

That it’s never been easy for me to do right,

And be what I should each day.

But I have some good features, somewhere, no doubt,

The devil knows this, you bet.

‘Cause he never stops trying to “root me out”,

But he hasn’t succeeded yet.

He can put bad thoughts inside of my heart,

And he knows all of my weak places.

When I don’t obey him, pretty soon he departs,

But returns in other forms and faces.

That “two-edged” Sword, that he knows so well,

Is the only weapon I need.

To believe and obey, it keeps souls from Hell,

Yes, there’s power in the gospel indeed. 

Friends, I don’t know a trick that the devil won’t try,

Nor one that he’s never used,

When it comes to Truth, he’s the father of a lie,

Which explains why so many are confused.

When you look at “beauty”, it may be him that you see,

Or, when you hear what the preacher just said,

When tears fall down, is this sincerity,

Or, just to make a point, instead?

Please remember dear one, you are being “disarmed”,

Like the story of the spider and the fly,

For, with no armor on, soldiers suffer great harm.

And victory won’t be by and by. 

Resist the devil and then watch him flee,
“It is written” are the words he should hear.

Insured and assured every Christian can be

Delivered from danger and fear.  

O.D. Wilson – deceased

     As we read the poem above can we “see ourselves” in some of these words?  Let us all diligently seek counsel in God’s Word and then follow that Word as if our eternal soul depends upon it, because it does.   One cannot succeed in defeating the enemy, Satan, unless the Word of God is followed.   As Jesus said in John 8:32: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 

    Don’t allow yourselves to become a servant to the devil.   Remember what we read in Romans 6:16. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”    Yield yourselves to God today.   Serve Him.

                               Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Our Excellent God

Our Excellent God

    The eighth Psalm is unique, not in that it is the shortest Psalm, as there are several that are shorter.  Neither is it the longest.   One unique thing about the eighth Psalm is that the first and last phrase in that Psalm is exactly the same.  That phrase is:  O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!  This occurs in the beginning of verse 1 and comprises the entirety of verse 8.  

    What a wonderful expression to describe our God!   Excellence by definition is: “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good”.  One need only to look into the account of creation to see how “excellent” God is.   We know the first verse of Genesis tells us that God “created” the heaven and the earth, but we can surely see the excellence of His power when we read how God created.  In Genesis 1:3 we read: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”  

    As we continue to read the creation account, we see in verses 4, 10, 12, 18, 21 and 25 that God saw that what He had created was good.  Then, in verse 31 we read of the end of creation and “behold, it was very good”.  All of this “work of God” was accomplished in six days.  I don’t see how anyone could describe this in any way other than excellent.  In fact, in the prophecy of Isaiah, the Spirit had the prophet remind Israel in Isaiah 28:29 that all that comes from the Lord is wonderful and excellent.    This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.

     The Spirit previously had the Psalmist in Psalm 73:1 tell us that God had been good to Israel.  It is also written that those of a good heart could know the goodness of God.  Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.   God surely was good to Israel.   He provided for them when there was no corn in Canaan with the excellent plan God had to sustain His people, the descendants of Abraham.   Gen 42:2 shows that Jacob took advantage of God’s providence for his family, although he did not know at the time it was God who had done it.  And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.

       After his brethren made a couple of trips to Egypt to buy corn to sustain the family, Joseph, whom they had sold into bondage, revealed himself to them.  He did so without malice, but to show them the excellency of God.  Genesis 45:4-7 gives us this record and tells why the events transpired as they did.  And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. 5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

      God had separated out the Jews as His People and had given them a Law.  The purpose was to bring His Son into the world to carry out that plan to save souls from sin.  Much later, after Israel had been delivered from Egypt through God’s plan, Israel forgot how excellent God is and as a result of their sinful ways, were again in bondage.  Our excellent God had a plan, and no one was going to prevent that plan from being fulfilled.   God’s excellent plan to save the Jews for this purpose was to be carried out by Esther while Israel was again in bondage.   Mordecai advised Esther in Esther 4:13-14 that her presence in the palace was part of God’s excellent plan for the nation.    Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. 14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?   The nation was spared, and God’s plan moved forward.  

     And move forward it did.  In Gal 4:4-5 we see that God’s excellent plan had come to fruition.    But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.   We know that the gospel was first preached in Jerusalem as prophesied, when the Spirit came on the apostles on the first Pentecost after Jesus ascended back to the Father after His death, burial and resurrection.   We are also told in Romans 1:16 that 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.  Therefore, whosever will obey the gospel will become a child of God.   This is the reaction we see of those Jews gathered for Pentecost in Acts 2:41 after they heard the gospel.   Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  According to Acts 2:47, these who were baptized were added to the church by God Himself.   How excellent! 

     Our excellent Savior brought man the excellent plan of Salvation as He did His Father’s Will. Our excellent God has preserved that plan for us in His Holy Word.  In Ephesians 1:8-9 we read how God has demonstrated His excellence and His Providence for all humanity.  Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  You can obey God’s excellent plan today.   Let us help you save your soul. 

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Fear

Fear

      Much is happening in our world today that has caused fear among many people.   The news agencies seem to only promote stories that produce fear and unrest.   This is a problem.  Fear then becomes our “ruler”, meaning we become “bound by fear”.  

   This is especially harmful to a Christian. When a Christian allows themselves to be bound by, or controlled by fear, they have “submitted” to fear. We are told in Romans 6:16-18 that we are not to “yield ourselves servants” to that which is detrimental to our eternal soul.   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. 

   However, not all “fear” is the same. Fear can be a positive thing, and fear can be negative. Solomon was directed by the Spirit, in Ecclesiastes 12:13 to write the conclusion of the whole matter. “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” This is very positive. This type of fear is the reverence one is to have for God.   If this type of fear exists in your life, you will subject yourselves to God and His Word. And, if you do this, you’ll not need to fear where your soul will spend eternity.   Jesus alluded to this in speaking to His disciples in Matthew 10:28 when He described two fears. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

     Below is a poem Linda’s dad wrote for her to use when she was leading a ladies class on fear when we lived in Florida.    It took him about forty-five minutes to write this little poem, and since then He has departed this life to await the judgment, but the message in it is important and much needed today.

Fear

The fear of God, is at reverence for Him,

which leads men to obey,

and access the values of right and wrong,

no matter what others say.

Such awareness motivates the trusting heart

To walk where we fear to tread,

And to cast out fear along the way,

for all will be well just ahead.

“There is nothing to fear, but fear itself”,

the inevitable will surely be,

and a well-founded faith will buoy us up

as we wrestle the storms of the sea.

“Oh, ye of little faith, why are ye afraid”?

we hear the captain say.

“This ship won’t sink in this troubled sea,

I sail this way every day.”  

And yes, when we walk thru the valley of death

we won’t be traveling alone.

We’ll have no fear, for our captain is near,

to safely guide us home.

Fear God and keep His Commandments we’re told,

This is the whole duty of man.

For from where we are, it may not be far.

‘til we enter the PROMISED LAND!

written 8/28/1994

O.D. Wilson deceased

     One of our past presidents, many of whom are being vilified in the news by many who are featured in the news of late, in his first inaugural address stated: “There is nothing to fear, but fear itself”. (F.D.R. 1933)   He went on to say that fear was: “a nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”   This is the type of fear the Christian cannot afford to have in his or her life.   When one is “paralyzed” with fear, they cannot be “galvanized” to do the work of the Lord. This work is very much needed in the societies that makes our world today.  

     One may fear rattlesnakes, alligators and other outdoor creatures (and for good reason), yet one does not refuse himself the pleasure of enjoying nature God gave us! We simply use the appropriate caution, and means for protection so we can enjoy these things.   The same should be said of the joy and pleasure we derive from gathering to serve and worship God as He has directed in His Word. Use caution, prevention, and common sense as needed in this physical realm. But most of all, use the “spiritual armor” God has provided in His Word.   We’ll all need it to be ready to face the inevitable, as we make that final journey to await our final abode.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

God's Great Providence

God’s Great Providence

     Isn’t it amazing that the only time the word “providence” is found in the entirety of the Bible, it is applied to a civil ruler, Felix and not to God, who is the creator of all things?   In Acts 24:2, a certain orator named Tertullus, on behalf of the high priest, “buttered up” this civil ruler. He did so to besmirch a faithful soldier of the cross; an advocate of truth, the apostle Paul. And when he was called forth, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence,  Then in vs 3 this governor was offered gratitude and was given honor for doing what was his job to do in the first place.   We accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.    I think it goes without saying that if that governor’s actions were contrary to what these people wanted, they would not be so grateful.   Such is the way of man.  

     Man will invariably live in the present, and so long as things are going well for him and his, will be grateful to someone for it, although that gratitude is often left unspoken. However, when things don’t “go so well” for someone, they are most likely to forget previous provisions, or blessings and seek a place or person on which to “hang the blame” for their wretched situation or condition.   Often, just like nation of Israel in Bible times, many fail to understand that despite the great providence of God, their own actions, or sins bring about their present state. In Isaiah 59:1-4 we see it was Israel’s fault it had become the way it was. Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.  None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.

     Even in situations beyond our control, we often fail to realize that God has a plan for mankind and that the actions of men cannot thwart His providence or plan. Israel demanded a king. God “provided” them one. God even chose the one to rule over them per 1Samuel 9:17. And when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my peopleSaul was made king, and later made some very unwise choices.  The choices Saul made led to his own destruction, and yet did not prevent God’s providence for Israel. Samuel was not responsible for Saul’s actions, but Samuel was deeply troubled for Saul’s actions. This likely prevented him from seeing the providence of God at work for Israel and for the carrying out of God’s plan to save the souls of men. In 1Samuel 16:1 we read God’s message to Samuel about this.   And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.   God also provided for Israel in many ways down through the years, so that God’s plan to send His Son would come to fruition.

     And come to fruition it has.   In Acts 2:36 the Spirit had the apostles declare to Israel how God’s providence had benefited them spiritually, if they would only listen and obey. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and ChristThis obviously affected them, as Acts 2:37-38 tells of their reaction to this as well as instructions how to be recipients of this great providence of God. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Then vs 41 tells us which ones of that multitude benefitted from God’s providence at that time.  Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  God’s great plan had been fully realized, and souls were saved from sin.   This friend, is God’s great providence for man. 

     True, God’s Providence in the general realm is extended to all. In the great Sermon on the Mount, in the latter part of Matthew 5:45, Jesus said: “for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.“ This has been true since the beginning of time and is something that has never changed. God’s love for man is evident in all that He has given to man in the “earthly” or physical realm. God’s Providence extends beyond the physical and into the spiritual realm. As Jesus directed those who heard Him in Matthew 6:33, He directed that all should look for the “spiritual” blessings and that God has taken care of the physical. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

     We are quite blessed in that we live in the New Testament age. This means that the church has been established, and that Salvation to all men is available to “whosoever will”.   1Timothy 2:4 tells us what God’s Will is. Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.  Will you not seek the kingdom, and receive Salvation according to God’s Providence? His Word directs all how to do this.   Let us help you become God’s child.

                                                          Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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