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Fellowship Is A Matter Of Choice

Fellowship Is A Matter Of Choice

     Many are deeply confused when it comes to fellowship. Perhaps this is due to the vagueness of the term as it is commonly defined.   Upon looking up this word we find fellowship by definition is: friendly association, especially with people who share one's interests: Is it possible I am missing something here?   Association defined: a group of people organized for a joint purpose. Cannot one be “in association with” another person without being in fellowship? For instance, many a man is in friendly association with his barber for the purpose of getting a haircut.   The barber is on one side of this association (to provide the service of cutting hair). The customer (to get his hair cut) is on the other side of the association.   Is this association fellowship?  
     It is indeed true that we are all participants in life together and individually. But we had no choice in this as we were born and ushered into life by actions of others. In fact, it is the nature of humanity to procreate. In Gen. 1:28 God Commanded Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful, and multiply”. This was “passed on” to their offspring, and before long the world was populated.   From this standpoint, all humanity is “in this life together” but not always in fellowship.   All humanity at some point has good times and bad times. We all suffer pain and discomforts, and we all will face the end of life, which is death.  

   However, we must not concede that this life is all there is. Not all will spend eternity together. While we participate in life, we are presented with multiple choices which will alter the trajectory of our lives.   What we choose determines the outcome of our lives. For instance, if we choose to use drugs and alter the natural regulatory function of the brain, we may likely become “enslaved” to the drug and become addicted.   If on the other hand, we treat the body properly for the purpose for which it was designed, we can enjoy the fruits of our own labors which Eccl. 5:18-19 shows to be a gift of God to man in this life.   The choice is ours.
     But there is another purpose for our time here on earth. It is to prepare ourselves for that which is beyond this life. This is where fellowship becomes so important.   Luke 16: 19-31 presents a vivid picture of the outcome of souls.   On the one hand we have a “child of God” under the O.T. Law to the Jews who “fared sumptuously” every day. He was truly blessed with material goods, but failed to serve God. On the other hand, we see Lazarus, a “certain beggar” who, while deprived of the nicer things of life, yet obviously followed the Law and was pleasing to God. Both of these men were under God’s Law. Both “participated in life, and were “associated” in this life, but were not in fellowship with each other. One was not in fellowship with God. This becomes obvious upon reading Luke 16:22-23. Which of these two would you say was in fellowship with God? And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.  
   From this example, we should all readily see that one MUST be in fellowship with God in order to spend eternity with Him. The Spirit had Paul warn the brethren in 1Cor. 1:10 of divisions, and admonish them to “be of the same mind”. He had reminded them in verse 9 they had been called by the gospel into “the fellowship” of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Were Lazarus and the rich man in the above example “of the same mind”?   They obviously were not, as they ended up in different places after death.   In Amos 3:3, we see the Spirit had the prophet ask Israel a question that hinges on fellowship. He asked: Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Israel, because of its sin, was at that point, not in fellowship with God. If they were in fellowship with God, would they not “be agreed” with Him and follow His Word?
     The same is expected of us today in these “Last Days”. We can be known as those who love God’s children and God as directed in 1John 5:2. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. Additionally, we see in 1John 5:3 how we are to show our love for Him.   For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. If we truly love Him, we’ll walk with Him. If we cannot, or will not “walk” with God, in full accordance with His Holy Word, we cannot be in fellowship with Christ or God as 1John 1:6 clearly shows. Therefore, it is equally true per 1John 1:7, those faithful in Christ cannot be in fellowship with those not “in the light”.  
     Rather we are to help others to see the light. This was what Christ was telling the apostles in Matt. 28:18-20 as He gave them the great Commission. Christians are to follow this as well. We are to encourage others to enter into the fellowship God offers. As John was directed by the Spirit to write of the Christ, we read in John 1:4: In him was life; and the life was the light of men. We want to help them see the light so they can choose to be in fellowship with God and with us. 2Cor. 4:6 tells us that light shines in our hearts through the gospel of Jesus Christ. That light shines so that we all might see the glory of God through Christ so all can enjoy that fellowship.
     Won’t you choose to follow the Commandments of God, obey the gospel, and prepare yourself for eternity before it is too late? We want you to be in fellowship with God and with us.   The choice is yours.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ


What Makes You So Special?

What Makes You So Special?

     Everybody wants to be special. By definition, special is: better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual:   Within the world of athletics, the one considered special is one who can outplay all others, or who has a particular, or greater talent for the sport being considered. Those in the realm of medicine who have discovered new treatments, breakthrough medicines, or ways to aid humanity in promoting health and wellness, are often considered special. Other examples could be offered, but these will suffice. 
      Many spend a great deal of time and effort to get others to think of them as special.   Men will often boast about accomplishments, sometime tending to “embellish”, so that others might think them special.   Young men often go to great lengths to impress a young lady in order for him to be her special one and hopefully to “win” her heart. The foolish young man or young lady may even decide to sacrifice their honor to be ‘special’ to their beau. The “special” bond one forges in this way rarely lasts.
     Many in the religious world claim to have a ‘special’ relationship with God or Christ based on certain man-made doctrines, or even how they feel. Some of these even profess to have Jesus Christ as their ‘personal Savior’. What makes them so special for God to do, or provide something for them that He has not, or will not do or provide for others?   Nothing! Yet these are not able to show one single passage in all of God’s Word to substantiate such claims.
     Interestingly, the word “special” only occurs twice in all God’s Holy Word. We find it first in Deut. 7:6 of Israel, the nation descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, through whom the Christ would come. Secondly, the term is used of Paul in Acts 19:11 and the ‘special’ miracles God wrought by Paul’s hands. Israel is no longer special in that Christ has already come, and all miracles, even ‘special ones’ have ceased per 1Cor 13:8-10.   The purpose for both has been fulfilled and therefore are no longer needed.
     What makes one special is not that God loves them, because as is clearly shown in Rom. 5:8, God has shown His great love to all when Christ died that horrific death on Calvary’s cross.   This is affirmed in 1John 4:10. Love is “not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” In fact, just two verses prior, we see “for God is love.” God, being love, and having extended His love to all humanity, prevents any from being ‘special’, as His desire for all is the same. His provision for all for Salvation is the same. God does not have ‘separate plans’ for different folks.   This would make Him a respecter of persons. Rom. 2:11 and other passages denies this in a very direct way.  
     God has the same desire for all, and the same plan to accomplish this. We read in 2Pet. 3:9 that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” This is what His love can provide for all, so it is not available to some and withheld from others. We are also told in 2Pet. 1:3 that God has, through His divine power, “given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:Do we not have a clue what this teaches?   Some don’t as is painfully obvious when they continue to follow man and his teaching. To do so does not make anyone special, just different from others.  
     I am sometimes asked: “what makes you and your church so special?” First, let me point out that this is not one, but two questions. They are: 1) What makes you so special? 2) What makes “your church” so special? Please allow me to address the latter question first.     This is a ridiculous question in that I do not have a church.   Christ gave His blood and died to purchase His church and therefore, “the church” bears His name.   The initial inquiry in this group is “what makes you so special?”   The answer is certainly not because I am better, greater, or otherwise different from others. Also, I have no pedigree that provides an advantage spiritually.   No one does. So, is anyone special? Yes! The Bible clearly indicates one can be.   Titus 2:14 tells us that Christ gave Himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. A true Christian is special as one of these “peculiar” people.
     One cannot claim that to be spiritually special by their own works as we can see from Eph. 2:9, as well as 1Tim. 1:9-10. From this latter reference we understand that the gospel brought ‘life and immortality’ to light.   Obeying the gospel, initially brings one into ‘life” and continually remaining obedient to the gospel ushers one into ‘immortality’ at the close of this life. In short, one is special when they love God and keep His Commandments. We also see from 2John verse 6, that keeping God’s Commandments are how we show our love for Him. We are also instructed here to ‘walk in God’s love”. Of course, many “claim” to love God, yet continue to follow man’s teaching.
     Which of these would you think are “special” to God? Would it be those who keep God’s Commandments, or those that follow’s man’s teaching? We can return to Exo. 19:5 where a ‘principle eternal’ is stated. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:   What makes you so special?   If you haven’t obeyed God’s voice (His Word), and don’t keep His Covenant, you can’t be.   Become ‘special’ today. Obey the gospel, then remain faithful to God throughout life.   That’s Special!

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ


To Believe Or Not To Believe ?. . . That Is The Question

To Believe Or Not To Believe? . . . That Is The Question

     No, that’s not Shakespeare, although it may sound a bit like something he penned many years ago.   His particular quote which comes from “Hamlet” is: “To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; no more; and by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to 'tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd. . . . ”   Upon reading the entirety of this narrative, I’d say it is quite profound.   Space in this article will not permit the printing of the whole soliloquy, but the final words of the oration are: “be all my sins remember'd!
     As ole’ William points out, if we “be” (if we live), and are here any amount of time (reach the age of accountability), we are going to sin.   The Bible stated this fact in Rom. 3:23 long before Hamlet was written. If we live long enough, we will realize some of these “natural shocks” due to our sins.   In anticipation of those who would arrogantly claim to be without sin, 1John 1:8 reminds such they are self-deceived and have no hold on truth. Another warning is 1John 1:10 to those who deny they have been tainted by sin, in so doing, are accusing God of being a liar.   Who would be so bold?   You’d be surprised.  
     Sadly, there are many who claim to not believe. Some have even been so deluded in mind to imagine they don’t believe that God is. The Holy Spirit, in Psa. 14:1 & Psa. 53:1 had the psalmist declare that those who fail to believe in God or who make proclamation of this are fools. So, to “not believe” is to be a fool. Those who have Bible faith are those, according to Heb 11:6, are those who not only believe God is, but also believe that He rewards those who “diligently seek Him”.   This, is why the Spirit had the penman of the Hebrew letter warn them not to “cast away their confidence” in Heb. 10:35. If they no longer believed, they also no longer would have hope.
     Sadder still, there are those who firmly believe in God, yet because of being misinformed, or for other reasons, either do nothing, or religiously do the wrong things. We have biblical examples of each of these. In Jas. 2:19 we read of the devils who “believe and tremble”. Yet, as spirit beings, they are no longer able to do anything with that belief.   In Gal. 1:14 the Spirit had Paul write and tell how, when he followed “the Jew’s religion” when he was known as Saul, he was “exceedingly zealous”.  In Acts 26:9-10 we read of some wrong things Paul did “contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth”. He imprisoned many Christians, and spoke against them when they were to be put to death. Could any argue that there was a lack of belief in either case?
     Does the fact that some refuse to believe, or that some believe erringly change God’s Promises to mankind? One can clearly see from Rom. 3:3-4 that question is asked and answered. “God forbid:” And, in Heb. 10:23 we are also reminded that God Who Promised is faithful. We are also told in 2Peter 3:9 that “the Lord is not slack concerning His Promise”. In that same passage we see it is not His desire that “any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”   What is that promise? From 1John 2:25, we know the Promise of God is “eternal life”.   But to whom? Is this promise to those who believe men and men’s teaching? I think not! Matt. 15:9 makes it quite clear if the commandments of men are taught and followed, vain worship results. Would they not also render vain belief?   This is exactly why 1John 4:1 instructs to “try the spirits whether they are of God”. Therefore, it is not only important to believe, but what one believes is of great significance as well.  
     God has also addressed this in His Word.   In 1Cor. 1:21 the Spirit had the apostle Paul write that the world by its own wisdom did not know God. This verse also shows what means God provided so man could believe. Here it is called the “foolishness of preaching”. It is foolish to the world because the world does not believe it.   Only God’s Word is to be preached as we see from 1Pet. 4:11 and 2Tim. 4:2.   The Spirit made it clear in Gal. 1:8-9 that an apostle, an angel from heaven, or any man preach anything else but the pure gospel of Christ, is to be accursed. Those who believe and follow that false teaching are also accursed.   Paul was directed in Rom. 1:16-17 to write to show that the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth”.   The preaching of the gospel is also how the righteousness of God is revealed to man.
     Notice the “eth” at the end of believe in the KJV. Some want to abandon the KJV Bible for many reasons.   This may be one of them, but this particular grammatical aspect is very important.   The “eth” on the end of a word means an on-going and continual thing. Mark 16:16 is one passage that uses this. He that believeth (continues to believe) and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not (does not continue to believe) shall be damned. Notice also that one cannot “just believe”.   Baptism “into Christ for the remission of past sins” is part of one’s obedience to the gospel, God’s Word.   Do you believe that God’s Word is good? Jas. 4:17 tells us if we “knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin”.
     To believe or not to believe? . . . that is the question. What’s your answer? Look into the Word of God. Believe it! Follow it! Then take it to others so they can know, believe and follow it.   This is how the church grows and remains strong.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

So Few Eggs, and No Bunnies!

So Few Eggs, and No Bunnies!

     This Sunday, the world is focused on the so-called “Easter” holiday. It is regrettable that so few realize the true nature, origin and purpose of this much commercialized annual event. It is equally disheartening that so many true Christians fail to realize that this “holiday” was made up by man and has no basis at all in the Word of God. Unfortunately, many fail to understand that ignorance in regard to this and many other ‘religious’ events is a direct result of often self-imposed stunted spiritual growth. This stems directly from a lack of sound Bible study and meditation on the Word of God.  
     Before any get upset, let me remind all that the Word “Easter” occurs only once in the KJV Bible, (Acts 12:4) and no times in the ASV Bible. In this occurrence in the KJV, the word is “translated” from the Greek word pascha, and most of the time is translated Passover.   As for the word ‘Passover’, it is found 28 times in 26 New Testament verses, and only 2 of these are after the establishment of the church for which Jesus died.   In the first, (1Cor. 5:7), we find it used in a figurative sense, as it refers to Christ who gave Himself as the only suitable Sacrifice to provide the means of reconciliation of sinful man to God.   In the second, (Heb. 11:28), the term refers to Moses’ participation in the original ‘passover’ by putting blood on the doorposts and lentils so the destroyer would not slay the firstborn and would ‘pass over’ that house.
     The current argument for embracing this man-made commercialized day is that we are ‘remembering’ or ‘celebrating’ the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.   Would someone please show me this from the New Testament after the establishment of the church?   Has not anyone asked how the many traditions of this (or any other) holiday came to be? Were they taken from the Scriptures? If so, I can’t find them. There is not one instance of a person ‘celebrating’ the resurrection of Christ in the New Testament, after the start of the church which began on Pentecost A.D. 33.    
     How do folks attempt to celebrate this monumental event today?   Some have ‘special’ services (sunrise etc.), others paint eggs, give others chocolate bunnies, wear new pastel-colored clothes and gather with family and friends for any number of activities.   Let me quickly state that ‘traditions’ such as the coloring & hiding of boiled eggs, chocolate in bunny shapes, family gatherings and such are not wrong in themselves.   However, to take such and substitute it for “religious” service, or for religious purposes is wrong. ONCE AGAIN, these types of things are ‘traditions”, and are not inherently wrong. And, what in the world would any of these have to do with the resurrection of the Son of God to fulfill God’s Will for humanity anyway?  
     The pondering of such questions should cause all to research to discover the origin of this, and any other holiday. When did “Easter” originate? When was it decided to incorporate eggs & bunnies for such a purpose? In fact, egg(s) cannot be located within the God ‘s Word following Acts chapter 2 when the church began.   Bunnies are not found in the entirety of the Bible. The word “Easter” is likely derived from Eostre, or Eostrae, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility.   Ah, now we see the symbolism of bunnies as they seem to be quite fertile. The egg, of course is a symbol of fertility.
     The Council of Nicaea in 325 (Catholic) decreed that Easter should be observed on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. The reason for such was because of certain false teaching against which the Bible sternly warns.   A Britannica article on Easter states: By the 4th century the Easter vigil was well established in various liturgical expressions. It was characterized by a spirit of joyful anticipation of the Resurrection and—because of the belief that Jesus’ Second Coming would occur on Easter—the return of Jesus.   Surely, we remember the Lord’s Words in Matt. 24:36 - But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.   Oh, the error man allows himself to embrace by listening to other men.
     There is however, something true Christians are to participate in weekly. This is the Lord’s Supper. There are multiple passages which teach regarding this most sacred and somber event.   The purpose of this is to commemorate, not the Lord’s Resurrection, but His death. Matt. 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-20, 1Cor. 10:16-17, & 1Cor. 11:23-29 are some of these. In His death is where He shed His blood so man could be saved upon obedience to the gospel.   Are not these verses sufficient to show the importance of this memorial feast? We can also see in these verses the ‘emblems’ to be used in this supper, and for what they stand.   The ‘unleavened bread’ represents the body of Christ and the “fruit of the vine” (grape juice), represents His precious blood, shed willingly on the cross of Calvary. These are the only authorized things to be used for this. We cannot substitute in any way.
     Notice if you will, how often this is to be observed. Acts 20:7 tells us that the disciples (Christians) gathered to “break bread” every first day of the week. Rom. 1:3-4 tells us Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.   His death is what we remember each first day. This is not an annual occurrence, nor is it to be relegated to “special days”, or on holidays as some religious folks do. It is to be observed each week on every first day, by Christians as we prepare for a resurrection of our own.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

No Fooling! This Is Serious!

No Fooling, This is Serious!

     The frivolous “holiday” known as “April Fool’s Day” has just passed. Some seem to revel in tricking friends, family, co-workers, or school mates. These things are done in jest, and hopefully are not permitted to harm those upon whom they are directed. Pranks can sometime turn serious, especially when the pranked fail to see the humor or become angry upon becoming the butt of the joke.   When revenge for such an act is sought, things often get out of hand.   There is much in life that is enjoyable, fun, and pleasant. In fact, it is part of God’s plan that man enjoy life. In Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, the Spirit had the wise man tell us part of God’s gift to man is that “every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour”. For this, man is “to rejoice, and to do good in his life.”   But alas, not all of life is delightful.

     Some seek to “trick” others for personal gain. Perhaps the best biblical example of this is found in Acts 8:9, where Simon was known for enthralling the people of Samaria with enchantments and charming them out of their monies. This was done intentionally for Simon’s own personal benefit.   Even after Simon had been baptized, we see in Acts 8:19-20 that Simon’s mindset soon reverted to the deception and guile of his previous life.   Peter told him afterward what his condition was in Acts 8:21. He said: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.   That, my friend, is very serious!

     Simon was not the only Christian to be deceived after becoming a child of God. The Christians in Galatians 3:1 were asked who had “bewitched” them to the point they didn’t remain faithful. Galatians 1:6-7 makes it apparent that a “perverted gospel” was the source of the troubles the brethren in that area faced.   It is indeed very serious when the message that is delivered leads a soul to destruction.   Surely this is the reason the Spirit had the apostle Paul warn the Christians in Colossians 2:4 by writing: “lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.

     It is indeed “enticing words” which lead people away from the truth. We have learned from Genesis 3:4 that words of deception (a lie) were utilized to tempt the woman to go against what God had directed. We now understand it only takes one word to change God’s Commandment into a falsehood. It is well stated in Proverbs 15:14: . . . but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness. Could any other word than “foolishness” describe the words or actions of one intent on imperiling the soul of another?   Can one who does such be following God?   Proverbs 19:3 is where we find that the “foolishness of man perverteth his way”. Even those things that are “wise” in the eyes of the world are at best problematic, because it is declared in 1Corinthians 3:19 that man’s wisdom is foolishness with God, and their own craftiness becomes a snare unto them.

     This is very serious because souls are at stake.   This was true, even when Israel, as a nation was considering the physical blessings of being the people of God after deliverance from Egypt. It is serious because man must choose whether to serve God and receive the blessing, or choose to allow himself to be deceived, tricked, or beguiled into forsaking God, and thus rejecting the good God has promised man in this life and beyond.   In Deuteronomy 30:19, God had Moses set before them “life and death”, “blessing and cursing”, and implored that they choose life that they and their descendants might live.   The following verse shows that they MUST love God, obey His voice, and cleave unto Him to be able to enjoy the immediate blessing of living in the Promised Land, and ultimately to be with Him for eternity.  

     Life and its outcome is no less serious today. In this, the Christian age, we are blessed to have God’s Written Word to read and study that we can make informed choice regarding our soul’s Salvation.   Of course, after we “put on Christ” in baptism and are added to the church (Acts 2:47), we must continue to be serious about our service and dedication to God. In 1Peter 1:13-15 the Christian is enjoined to “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end”, and as “obedient children”, “be holy” as the one (Christ) who called us by the gospel is holy.  

     Additionally, we are to be ever conscious of, and watchful for the dangers that await throughout this life.   Our adversary the devil, in 1Peter 5:8, is compared to a “roaring lion” seeking to devour.   He cannot literally “eat us up”. But he can and does try his best to influence us to “give up our soul” to him. Influence using temptation is the only power Satan has over man. This is most serious, because 1Thessalonians 1:8-9 warns of the “everlasting destruction” that will come upon all who “know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”    

     This is serious because many are still trying to “trick” folks into following them or some man-made doctrine.   We are warned in 2Peter 2:1 that there were and are “false teachers”.   These are bringing “swift destruction” upon themselves as well as those that follow them. This is why 1John 4:1 directs all to “try the spirits (teachers) whether they are of God”.   Would you not agree that the place your soul will spend eternity is very important? This is the most serious aspect of your life.   Set aside all “foolishness” and search to see what God Himself has directed in His Written Word for your soul’s Salvation, and then do it out of love for God. No Fooling, this is serious!  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

How Important Is One?

How Important is “One”?

   One is a very important number. It is likely the first number we learned as children.   When children are taught to count, the parent or sibling begin with the first positive number. It represents a single entity and is commonly regarded as the fundamental unit of counting and measurement. Without it, where would we start to quantify items or events? Without this foundation, could society have possibly advanced to its present state?  

   God, in His creation of all things, knew the importance of where “one” needed to be applied. In Genesis 1:9, God gathered the waters into one place to allow dry land to appear. God created man and knew man has a multiplicity of ribs. In Genesis 2:21, God knew man could live and exist with one less, and took a rib from Adam. Then in Genesis 2:22 we see that God took this one rib and made one woman, gave her to man to be with him. It is interesting that Adam recognized the significance of this. We read his proclamations of Genesis 2:23-24 which is God’s pattern for all time.   Notice they became “one flesh” in accordance with God’s plan. Can “one” human procreate?

     God also decided when “one” was applicable in the forming of man, and when multiples were needed. For instance, there are appendages or organs, within or upon the human body that are single. In creation, God decided we only need “one” head with one brain. Upon that one head, He formed one mouth, attached it to one esophagus, leading to our one stomach. Within our body cavity we have other “single” organs, all which have a specific function and purpose. He also determined we only needed one heart.

     God also knew when “more than one” is important. Would the hand be the great device we know today with only one digit?   Would we be as mobile as we are now if we only had one leg?   Or could we have the dexterity we presently enjoy with only one arm with one hand?   The answer to each of these is ONE BIG NO!

     The number one also represents oneness or unity. This is apparent in the statement of Christ in John 10:30. He said: “I and my Father are one.” Christ and the Heavenly Father are obviously two specific beings, in that God was in Heaven while the Christ was on the earth. This is obvious as Jesus prayed to God the Father in John 17. John 17:11 gives us part of that prayer as well as the means by which the apostles could be separate individuals, while at the same time be “one”.   Throughout this prayer, Christ prayed that his apostles be “one” as He and His Father are “one”.   This means they are united in purpose, as well as their dedication to see that God’s purpose is carried out.  

     That purpose, according to Ephesians 3:11 is an eternal purpose in Christ and in John 3:17 we see the reason Christ was sent. It was: that the world through him might be saved. That this was to take place in God’s time is what we read in Ephesians 1:10.   Notice from this verse we are told there was to be unity in that “he might gather together in one all things in Christ”.   We are told in Romans 3:24 that redemption is “in Christ”. Ephesians 1:3 reminds us that “in Christ” are where all spiritual blessings exist. We are also reminded in Romans 12:5, we who are Christians are “one body in Christ.” Why would any not desire to be a part of it? Unfortunately, many claim to be a part of the one body, yet are not united.   How can this be?

     One is so important that God saw fit to include it seven times in three verses in the New Testament. In Ephesians 4:3-6, we also see the “unity” we are to be a part of in Christ. Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Could it be possible that those who are not united in obedience to God are part of the “one” body?   Surely not!   That would be the opposite of unity.   It would be confusion. This does not come from God. 1Corinthians 14:33 tells us that God is not the author of confusion.

     What is not confusing is God’s one plan for Salvation. This is important because you only have one soul. It is up to you to determine where that soul will spend eternity. Those who desire to be united in Christ, and become part of the one body will willingly submit to that one plan. This one plan is clearly outlined in God’s New Testament Word. 1) Hear the gospel – John 6:44-45   2) Believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – John 8:24   3) Repent of your sins – Acts 17:30   4) Confess before men that Christ is the Son of God – Matthew 10:32-33   5) Be baptized into Christ – Acts 2:38. This is God’s “one plan” for the Salvation of a soul. When these things have been participated in, a person is saved from past sins. Then a person is to focus on and dedicate him/her self to one thing. 6) Remain faithful until death – Revelation 2:10 & 1Corinthians 9:27.

     There are but two more “ones” I wish to mention.   There is but one Hell, which awaits all disobedient and unfaith. There is one Heaven, which is reserved for those who obey God in accordance with His Word.   It is one of these places where your soul will spend eternity. How you live your life, and what you do with it will determine how your one soul fares for eternity. How Important is one? You know the answer.  Do something about it today. Obey the gospel before it is too late.   Then remain faithful to God from then on.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

How Hard Are You Working?

How Hard Are You Working?

       Work has been around since before man. In Genesis 2:2 we find the first biblical reference to work, as God completed creation, so work preceded man.   Man also knew work before his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. We know this from Genesis 2:15 as it was the God-given duty of man to “dress and keep” this Garden Paradise. Some sort of effort must have been needed to carry out this responsibility.  

       Something obviously changed regarding “work” after expulsion from the Garden. We must consider that what we now know as work, labor, toil, and exertion came as a direct result of punishment because of man’s sin in the Garden.   Genesis 3:19 tells us Adam would eat bread by the sweat of his brow from that time forward until he returned to the dust from which he was taken.   We see in Genesis 3:23 that Adam was ejected from the Garden and his physical punishment was to “till the ground” to produce food to eat. Such is the fate of all mankind.   This is called work.

       There is no doubt that man “works” today, and many work hard trying to get out of work. Many have exhausted much time trying to figure how to “get more” and “work less”.   From these efforts have come motivational slogans such as “Work Smarter – Not Harder”.   A coach once told his players: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Maya Angelou is credited to have said: “Nothing will work unless you do.” And Simon Sinek, the British-American author wrote: “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress: Working hard for something we love is called passion.

     While all these, and many others are designed to get more out of people or to motivate them, most of these sayings are applied to the physical labor in which we participate to earn for the earthly benefit of ourselves and our families. But there are far more important things for which we must work. There is a real need to labor as we prepare for eternity.

     Jesus stated in John 4:34, in response to His disciples’ request about food for physical sustenance: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” His remark indicated there was labor involved in carrying out the Will of God for the Salvation of souls that would obey God’s Word. In John 9:4, the Christ also informed us there is a limited amount of time in which to accomplish what which needs to be done. The Lord’s Words: “the night cometh when no man can work” is clearly speaking of death.   That there is no work in the grave was also proclaimed in Ecclesiastes 9:10.   After we cross the threshold of death, there is no more work for us, as our lives on earth are over. Any work we do in preparation for eternity must be done in this life.

       Therefore, we need to address the question which forms the title of this article with our eternal destination in mind.   How Hard Are You Working? We do want to spend eternity with God, don’t we? Are we not willing to do as the Spirit had the apostle Paul tell the brethren in Philippians 2:12? He told them to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This is the same reason 1Corinthians 15:58 instructs those brethren to be “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”, and why they were reminded that their “labor” in the Lord was not in vain.  

       Some might ignorantly claim no work is required for one to have Salvation because we read in Ephesians 2:8 that one is saved through faith as a gift of God.   Others erroneously believe since Romans 6:23 states that God’s “gift” to man is eternal life, there is nothing required of man except to believe. May I ask if the “devils” are going to be saved?   James 2:19 clearly shows that the devils believe “there is one God” and even “tremble” as a result. One might say the devils have faith in God.   However, James 2:20 shows without doubt that faith absent of works is dead.   The devils, while believing, are not saved because they refused to do “works meet for repentance” such as the Spirit had Paul preach in Acts 26:20. Although Salvation through Christ is indeed a great gift from God, there are conditions that must be met to receive and to retain such a gift.  

       One of these conditions is obedience to the gospel. In Romans 1:16, Paul made it clear that the gospel of Christ is the “power of God unto salvation” to all who believe. To prove that “action: must accompany that faith, one need only to read Romans 16:25-26 to see that the gospel is “made known to all nations for the obedience of faith”. It takes work for one to be obedient and to remain faithful to the Lord. This is why, in Acts 2:40, after preaching the first gospel sermon in the New Testament age with the other eleven apostles, Peter said: “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.“ The people who “gladly received his Word were baptized”.

       Why would they do such a thing? 2Corinthians 5:9 tells us they labored so they “may be accepted of him”. Colossians 1:10 shows that “being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” is to walk worthy of the Lord and please Him.   Why not get to work today, learning what God would have you do in accordance with His Word, and then do it? If you claim to have obeyed, and that you do work, How Hard Are You Working? Are you working hard enough to be pleasing to God?   Are you willing to bet your soul’s eternity on it?   Think about it.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville


Having The Time Of Our Life

Having The Time Of Our life

     Usually the idea of “having the time of our life” is associated with a period of fun, gaiety, intense enjoyment, or something of that nature.   Sadly, many who claim to be having the “time of their lives” are spending their lives with a focus on the physical.   In Ephesians 2:3 the Spirit directed the apostle Paul to remind those brethren their past consisted of “fulfilling the desires of the flesh”, and during that time, they were “by nature the children of wrath”. Is such an existence to be considered the “time of our life”? How will this end?

   Another group that had a sordid past was the church in Corinth. We read in 1Corinthians 6:9-11a that the past lives of the brethren there were lived in an effort to fulfill various lusts of the flesh. In that same passage, they were told that those who have such a focus “shall not inherit the kingdom of God”. Thankfully, the recipients of that letter had been “washed” (baptized into Christ), and when they did so, were “sanctified” (set apart), and “justified” (be rendered innocent) by the blood of Christ.  

     All Christians should be regularly reminded that everyone lived “according to the flesh” prior to obeying the gospel. This is true regardless of the degree of the sin in the life of the individual. Romans 8:5-13 makes this abundantly clear. In this life, one either lives “after the flesh” or “after the Spirit”. There is no middle ground. Romans 8:6 shows the eternal outcome of living each type of life.   Also, one need not be a “vile sinner” to be lost.   James 4:17 tells us that if we know what is “good” to do, and fail, or refuse to do it, we have sinned.   Sin separates man from God, so man should do all he can to not sin.

     But this does not mean Christians must live a less that enjoyable life. One who is a faithful member of the body of Christ truly enjoys a life in service to God. The “time of their life” is spent preparing for what follows this life. Perhaps if more people would consider where the “time of their lives” as the world defines it leads, they might begin to question what this life is all about.  

     What is life truly about? Why are we granted “time” in this realm? This is the greatest question of life. We need to be reminded that our time on this earth is temporary. It is not our entire existence.   Even Methuselah, who according to Genesis 5:24, lived nine hundred-sixty-nine years, had a limited time on earth. Many others also lived a long life, but even these lives were not permanent. This was when man was populating the whole earth.   We are then told in Genesis 6:3 that the average lifespan was reduced to about a hundred and twenty years. After this, in Psalm 90:10, we see that number condensed to “threescore years and ten”, or seventy years. Even here we are told that though we may exceed this span, life “is soon cut off, and we fly away.” In James 4:14, the New Testament reminds us of the brevity of life as life is described as a “vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

     So, what are we to do with our “brief” stint on earth? In James 4:13, just before being warned that life is fleeting, we are told our time here is not only about earthly increase.   1Timothy 6:6-7 tells us that that true gain is about godliness, and that none of the things we amass while we sojourn here can be taken with us beyond this life.   For some, the “time of their life” is all about narcissism, or self-admiration in one form or another. Surely this is not to be our purpose in life, as Jesus taught in Matthew 16:24 all are to deny self, take up their cross, and follow Him. We are also taught in Matthew 6:5 this life is not for the goal of being noticed by others. In fact, He said that those who make it their function in life to be seen by men have already received their reward. Therefore, the purpose of our time here must be to address our spiritual needs. God has provided for this if we will follow His Word.

     The “time of our lives” should be about preparing for our existence after our period of existence in this realm. This does not mean we must abandon our pursuit of “good days”.   1Peter 3:10-11 informs that loving life and good days will cause one to control their lips and tongue, shun evil, and follow after peace. In Hebrews 12:14, the recipients of that letter were reminded of the life-time commitment they made to God upon their obedience to the gospel. If they wanted to “see the Lord” they were to “follow peace and holiness” with all men.   This applies to all “children of God” as Romans 14:17-18 shows. All who follow these things in this life are “acceptable to God and approved of men.” To “follow peace” is not to “just get along”, but to obey the gospel and faithfully serve God in this life.   Why is this so important?

      This is of utmost importance because Hebrews 9:27, says everyone granted time on this earth has an appointment with death. At the conclusion of all things, per 2Thessalonians 1:8, God will take vengeance in flaming fire on all that know not God, and obey not the gospel.   The “time of our life” is given so we might have the chance to obey as God has commanded. In every dispensation of time, God has granted man time to make the choice as to how to spend the “time of their life”. Perhaps the best way to describe the way one is to “have the time of their life” is expressed by God Himself in the Words given to Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:13: If we “fear God and Keep His Commandments”, Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says we can have the time of our lives here as we prepare to spend eternity with Him over there. “enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matthew 25:21b

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

     From 1968 through 2001, an educational children's television series called “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood aired in the United States. The series was aimed primarily at preschool children ages 2 through 5, but the show has been determined as appropriate for all ages.   The message of the show was designed to reach the malleable minds of young children. It was intended to assist them in becoming competent, compassionate and caring adults.

     There’s no doubt that “neighbors” have existed since Genesis chapter four when the descendants of Adam and Eve spread out into communities as they continued to multiply. However, the word neighbor cannot be found in the Bible until Exodus 3:21-22 when the captive Jewish women were instructed to borrow from their “neighbor”, jewels of silver, gold, and raiment.   This was God’s plan to give “Israel favor in the sight of the Egyptians” and the spoiling of them. In this case, the Hebrew Word used is shâkên (shaw-kane’), meaning a resident, or inhabitant or fellow citizen. Another Hebrew Word used for neighbor in the Old Testament conveys the idea of: an associate, brother, companion, fellow, or friend.   In other passages, we find a word for neighbor that implies kinfolk, or those of close affinity.  

     As we move into the Gospels, neighbor first occurs in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:43. The Greek Word used by the Lord here is “plēsion” (play-see’-on), and conveys the idea of one close by, a countryman, friend, or fellowman.   Incidentally, this same word is used throughout the New Testament for neighbor.   Matthew 19:19 provides the second occurrence of this Word and is identified as part of the Ten Commandments. This was the Law under which both the Lord and the man asking the question lived.   As we contemplate the Lord’s Words here, we understand that we are to love our neighbors to the same degree we are to love ourselves.

     The first question then is: How much do we love ourselves?   Is our love for ourselves enough that we will seek to save our own souls? Perhaps this is the idea behind the Words of Jesus in Matthew 16:26 as the question of what man loves most is presented. Obviously, folks who are willing to “take something” in exchange for their souls are either indifferent, ignorant, or have a total lack of concern for the eternal abode of their own souls, not believing God’s Promises of destruction for the disobedient.  

     On the other hand, the evidence is abundant that some loved themselves and loved their souls enough to do as Commanded. The first case of this can be found in Acts 2:14-39 as Peter and the eleven were honored to preach the initial gospel sermon in the “last days” on the day of Pentecost, A.D. 33. Then in Acts 2:40 with “many other Words” given them by the Spirit, the Jews there were exhorted to “save yourselves”. We see how this was accomplished when in Acts 2:41-49, as those who “gladly received” the proclaimed Word of God were baptized into Christ, and were added to the church. So, those who love themselves and love God, will obey His Word.

       The same soul saving message which was delivered at Pentecost was also proclaimed by apostles and others, as moved by the Holy Spirit. As Paul was directed to write to the church at Rome, we see in Romans 1:16 the refusal to be ashamed of the gospel and the reason why. The gospel “is the power of God unto salvation” to all who believe.   James, the half-brother of the Lord was directed in James 1:21 to pen inspired Words to warn the brethren to “lay apart” evilness (even the appearance of such), and rather, “receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” Note also that it’s not enough to “love God” in initial obedience, but that it is to be an on-going effort. This is why in Philippians 2:12, the Spirit had Paul tell those Christians to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

     The second question is: How much do I love my neighbor?   Is his/her soul important to me?   And then, why should it be?   If we apply Matthew 19:19 as it should be applied, we should have the same love for our neighbor’s souls as for our own. If we strive to know, understand and follow the Word of God for the benefit and salvation of our own souls, and if we love our “neighbor” as ourselves, doesn’t it stand to reason that we should do all we can to help our neighbor also to be saved? I can see it no other way, and neither could the Lord.

     In John 14:21, while Jesus was on earth, He told His apostles: He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father.   Our obedience to God should not be solely to “save our own souls”, but because we love God, His Son, and His Word.   If we love God and His Word, we will do what He Commands, including take that soul saving message to our neighbors. Was this not the idea behind the Great Commission, given by Christ in Matthew 28:19-20?

     Now, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?   Allow me to help you see the love of God and the plan for which His Son willingly died on Calvary. Unless or until you obey God’s soul saving plan found in His Word, there’s no way you can “lay hold” on eternal life. If you love God, you’ll obey Him and help your neighbor be saved as well.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Almost or Altogether?

Almost or Altogether? 

     Most students of the Bible readily recognize the Words which comprise this article’s title as those spoken by the apostle Paul as he stood before king Agrippa in Acts 26:28.   We might also recall that just prior to this, Paul had been accused by Governor Festus of having too much learning and being mad.   We also can be reasonably sure that neither Festus, Agrippa, nor any of those gathered there had obeyed the gospel, because Paul’s statement indicates as much. There is also no doubt as to why the Spirit had Paul make such a strong proclamation before these men who literally had Paul’s life in their hands.   The only other thing Paul desired at that time was that those who heard him would not be subjected to being bound as he was.

     We have another time in which the Spirit had Paul express his desire for the Salvation of others in Romans 10:1.   At this occasion, Paul made it known that he even prayed that Israel be saved. The primary difference between the Jews of which Paul spoke here and the Gentile king and governor was that the Jews had a zeal of God.   While there were also several other things that divided these Jews and the Gentile rulers, they shared commonality in at least two things. 1) They were not saved, and 2) they lacked the knowledge they needed to become Christians.

     Herein lies the problem with many a people today. There are many who have been deceived by various denominational doctrines and beguiled into a false belief that they are saved. Why do some not have proper knowledge of God’s plan to save the souls of men? In Romans 10:3, the Spirit had Paul reveal the source of the problem.   Zeal without knowledge causes man to rely upon himself rather than upon God and His Word.   As this occurs, men commend themselves. 2Corinthians 10:18 clearly teaches such an one is far from being approved of God. Because of a lack of, or a refusal to receive proper knowledge, they are not “almost”, but altogether lost in sin.

       This is of utmost importance because one can’t be “almost” lost or saved.

King Agrippa, while being “almost” persuaded, was still altogether lost.   God does not desire that any be lost. In 1Timothy 2:3-4 we are told this, as well as God’s desire that all learn, or come to the knowledge of the truth. Was it not the Lord Himself in John 8:32 who told the Jews that believed on Him that they would “know the truth”, and thereby be made free? From what would they be freed? Romans 6:3-7 clearly reveals the answer to this question. Would they be “almost freed”, or altogether freed from sin? Acts 2:47 provides this answer, as God added the ones who had learned the truth and obeyed the gospel to the church daily.

     We are also reminded in 2Peter 3:9 that it is not God’s desire that any perish (their souls be lost), but rather that all would come to repentance. The Spirit also had the apostle remind those recipients of that second letter in 2Peter 1:3 that the knowledge of truth of which Jesus spoke, the Word of God, provides all that man needs for “life and godliness”. That which God has provided and clearly shows one how to be “altogether saved” is the gospel.   Additionally, 1Corinthians 1:18 makes it clear that the “preaching of the cross” is the “power of God”. This is also affirmed in Romans 1:16 in the letter to those brethren.   It was that same power of God that Paul proclaimed before Agrippa, Festus, those gathered there as well as all who would receive that soul saving message.  

     According to Acts 26:16-18, this was the purpose Paul was a chosen vessel unto the Lord. As such, Paul would testify of what he had seen, what the Lord delivered unto him, and be delivered from the persecuting Jews and Gentiles. His message would shine the light of the gospel before them that they “may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance”.   It appears very certain that the sins God would “remember no more” in Hebrews 10:17 were not “almost” forgotten, but altogether forgotten.   These (past) sins were taken away and no longer remembered (brought up year after year).  

   Christians must then make sure that they do their absolute best to remain as free from sin as is possible so they can continue to be “altogether saved”. This does not mean that we will not sin, because we are told in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.   But each child of God will examine him/her self as 2Corinthians 13:5 directs to ensure they are still “in the faith”.   Are we, as children of God, almost, or altogether following His Holy Word?   This is what will make the difference in whether or not we will be spared condemnation at the judgment.  

     Can one “almost” or partially do God’s Will and be pleasing to Him?   Such is not possible. Can the child of God “almost” evangelize?   Can one almost follow the Lord?   Is not this the point the Lord was making in Matthew 7:22 in regard to those who said unto Him, “Lord, Lord?   As the next verse in that great Sermon on the Mount shows, He will say unto those who “almost” serve Him, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

     Don’t be as Agrippa of old. Don’t be “almost” persuaded and altogether lost! Be fully obedient to that soul saving gospel message. That is the only way one can be “in Christ”. Faithfully serve in accordance as God has directed in His New Testament Word.   Only then it can be said of you, as was said of the brethren in Colossians 2:10, that “ye are complete in Him”.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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