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Gowing With The Flow?

Going With The Flow?

       As we travel through life, what path do we take? Are we inclined to take the easy way? Water does. Pour water onto the ground and it will follow whatever path the ground provides. As creeks, streams, or rivers come into contact with an obstacle, the water simply flows around, under, or over any object in its path. Other things of nature could be used as an example, but this one is familiar to all. As water flows, it goes; and where it goes matters little unless it causes a problem. If that is the case, it can be diverted by placing some sort of barrier in its way to change its direction, and it flows on. Where it ultimately ends up doesn’t matter much as God recycles it and it flows again. 
      Man also often seeks the path of least resistance. Most look to avoid the path that is arduous, and in so doing, goes with the flow. Some do so to please others. This may be the ‘easy way’, but where does this lead? What destination is expected? The difference between man and water is that man’s destination is a final one. The ‘path’ we take leads somewhere eternal. We too may have obstacles or barriers in our journey. Another huge difference between water and man is that man can choose his destination.
      As Jesus spoke to His disciples on the mount beginning in Matthew chapter five, He had much to say. He spoke ‘Pentecost Pointers’, directing them to the time when the church was to soon be established. As He neared completion of the Sermon on the Mount, He stated in Matt. 7:21 - Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Man has choice. Whatever time he is granted on earth is to choose the place he will spend eternity. To ‘go with the flow’ is to follow the crowd. If one simply follows the crowd, should it surprise them if they end up where the crowd ends up? Does it stand to reason that the “crowd” is always right? Man can at times be likened to the Leming, who inexplicably follows his kind to mass destruction and leap to their deaths.
      The logic of many folks is faulty. Many people contend: “Everyone is doing it.” Others reason: “if so many are doing (or going) . . . how can it be wrong?” What does the Bible say about this? As God had Moses speak to the people He had separated out in keeping His promise to Abraham, He directed Moses to say in Exo. 23:2: Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil;. Israel often went with the flow and often participated in evil individually and en masse (in a group or all together). Of course, there was always a ‘remnant’ who went against the flow and continued to follow God and His Word.
     As Jesus was preaching in that Sermon on the Mount, in Matt. 7:13-14 He warned that there were two ways to go and that each had a destination. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.    There are many who choose to pursue the same path as the masses, as this is the easy way. This way seemingly has less ‘friction’ and less opposition here on earth. The Lord said ‘many’ participate in this way. Notice the fate of those who follow the crowd.
     The word “strait” is another word for narrow. It is used in reference to water as the place where two seas come together. This word is also sometimes used in reference to a situation characterized by a specified degree of trouble or difficulty: For instance, an idea that should be familiar to us all at present. "Our economy is in dire straits" or (having much difficulty). From this usage, many have concluded that the Words of our Lord in the above passage means “hard” or difficult. This is also because to ‘go against the flow’ is indeed difficult. The Word ‘strait’ in the Bible carries both ideas. The way is ‘narrow’ as the Lord declared, but perceived as difficult at the same time because life presents many barriers to the one that refuses to go with the flow.
      This is true in many cases in nature as well. Salmon comes to mind. As these fish seek to carry out their ‘purpose’ of life, they are presented with many things which make their journey difficult. They cannot choose as man does, and God provided them with instinct to live and die as they do. However, the ‘path’ they take as adults can serve as a valuable example to man. The purpose of Salmon is to go as God created them to spawn in fresh water, and then die. Their young will make the trek to the sea, mature and begin the arduous trip to spawn young and this is where the greatest difficulty lies. The life of a Salmon is fraught with peril. As a youth, it may be ‘eaten’ as it makes journey to maturity. It may also be snared in the fisherman’s net. But as it strives to fulfill its purpose, this is when it becomes the hardest. 1) It must travel upstream (against the current). 2) it must travel ‘uphill’ to the spawning area. 3) It faces death by hungry bears or other wildlife. Yet, against all odds and opposition, success is achieved through perseverance. Finally, once its objective is reached, it has given its all, and it dies.
      With man, the journey to spiritual success is ‘against the current’. It is indeed ‘uphill’ as we face opposition from those going with the flow. And as we read in 1Pet. 5:8, we also have an enemy, (the devil) that seeks to devour those going against the flow (following the Lord). Eccl. 12:13 gives man’s “whole duty” which is to “Fear God, and keep His Commandments”.  This is against the flow of much of humanity. Are we going to be likened to Lemings or Salmon? We should remember, our path leads to our destination. Are you ‘going with the flow’ or serving God in accordance with His Word

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Walk Like . . . ?

Walk Like . . . ?

       Some of us remember the 1963 song by the Four Seasons. A young man is basically told to ‘grow up’ and “Walk Like A Man”. Much has been said in song as to how one should walk. There’s 1968’s Elvis song ‘Devil In Disguise’ with the lyrics “Walk like an angel”. Then there’s “Walk Like An Egyptian” by the Bangles, “Walk Like a Dinosaur” by Was (Not Was)?, “Walk Like A Camel” by Storybots, “Walk Like A Duck” by Kurious, “Walk Like Shawn” (whoever that is) by Funnel Vision, And even “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith. I am sure there are more, and I won’t attempt to list any of the lyrics of these, as many of the lyrics are unmentionable, wicked, and surely not repeatable.
      The point is, there is a lot of advice from many sources as to how one should walk. The problem with all this advice is that it is all “opinion”.  As we all know, opinions differ, and not all can be trusted. Why is it that so few look to the one source that can always be trusted? Psa. 32:10 provides an undeniable edict as the Holy Spirit had that penman write: Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.   Couple that with Psa. 84:12 and surely all should see that God’s instruction is the only advice that is safe to follow in any area. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.   God had the prophet Jeremiah remind the people of Israel of this in the warnings He directed this prophet to give them in Jer. 10:23O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
      Why is it that so many heed so much direction from others? Is it that some care not what God has said?   Can it be that the advice of man on this or any subject is simply a tool of Satan to lead people away from God?   This could be the case.   If Satan can convince you through influence, that you are walking your own way and it is a good way, why not advise others to do the same?
      Again, we return to Words of Wisdom given to Israel to see that this might very well be what’s going on. In Jer. 6:16, we find the inspired Words provided for this weeping prophet. He lamented the fact that God’s own people had turned away from God. He warned them as directed by the Spirit. Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.   The latter part of the verse shows their obstinance. But they said, We will not walk therein.  When man today refuses to hear God through His Word, there is not any rest for that soul. When people are miserable, tormented in life, failing to realize peace, it is because they are NOT ‘walking’ like God would have them walk.
      What does God say about how we are to walk?   Since we all live in this, the final dispensation of time, we’ll see what He has said to man in His N.T. Word.   Prior to this dispensation, (with the exception of the Law of God to Israel), God, per Acts 14:16 had allowed man “to walk in their own ways”.   This all changed when God, through Christ established the church for which Christ died on the cross, after He had been buried, resurrected, and ascended back to the Father.    We know that when the church began, Acts 2:41 tells us: Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.     Why were they baptized? Rom. 6:4 not only shows that their ‘baptism’ was a burial, it also shows how they were to then walk.  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
      Our lives may have once been as wicked as some of the Corinthians had been as listed in 1Cor. 6:9-10.     They had been changed when they were baptized into Christ as verse 11 shows.  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.   In Rom. 13:13 the Spirit had Paul tell those brethren how to walk and how NOT to walk.  Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.  This is only accomplished by following the direction of Gal. 5:16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  To walk in the Spirit means to walk in accordance with the Word of God. This is because the Spirit brought the Word to man.
      In Col. 1:10 the Spirit had Paul tell these brethren to walk and what to do as they walked. That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; One is also to walk as Eph. 5:15 tells us. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, If we would be ‘wise’ we must follow the advise provided in Col 2:6As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
      Christians are also told in Col. 4:5 to: Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Then in Phil. 3:16b. “. . . let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” As we do this, we must take those that are without the soul saving message of the gospel. If you are a Christian, how are you walking? Whose advice are you following? If we aren’t walking by the rule of God, we’re not walking according to His Word. Isn’t it about time that all walk as God directs? This is the only way we can obey Him and be pleasing to Him.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

But You Promised!

But You Promised!

       Promises are a part of life.  As children, we may have looked forward to receiving a promised item for accomplishments etc. We likely felt if our parents assured us of something, we could believe them, and then would receive it as promised. No doubt, when something did not materialize after we had been told it would, we accused: “but you promised”, in pleading for whatever had been the subject of the pledge. I suspect there are very few cases in which a child, upon returning home, when the parent seemingly forgot the promise of a spanking has come to the parent saying: “but you promised!”. We look forward to promises that are pleasing. But on the other hand, that which we deem hard or harsh, we’d just as soon ignore or forget. I’m convinced this is what many have done regarding God’s Word. Where God has promised peace, comfort, or other blessings, many say: “Yes please”, then often disregard the ‘conditions’ of such blessings. Jas. 4:3 shows the fallacy of Christians with such a selfish attitude. To ask ‘amiss’ is to forfeit. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
      Many things asked of God by man fit Jas.4:3. Most promises God has made have conditions attached. To expect the things God has promised and ignore the specific requirements He has assigned to His promises is to ask inappropriately. For example: “If you do _____, then I’ll give ______.” When we ignore the “if” part, He who extended the promise is under no obligation to provide the “then” part. Unfortunately, the one who fails to receive because of their own failure to act appropriately usually places blame on the one who made the promise.
      This is very easily seen in the way the world views God’s Promises. Many seek to be the beneficiary of much that God has offered yet refuse to follow God’s Word or do what God has Commanded. They are much like the petulant child who stomps the foot and cries out “but you promised!”, failing to admit they’ve not kept their end of the deal.
       In 2Pet. 1:3-4, God’s Promises are called exceeding great and precious. God made these promises through His divine power. He gave man all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Christ. These verses also tell us that according to these promises we ‘might’ be partakers of the divine nature. Those who have “escaped the corruption that is in the world” had to do so in accordance with the gospel. We know God’s Promises to man in the New Testament are contained in the gospel. It is also through the gospel the Lord called man per 2Thess. 2:14.
As we continue reading in 2Pet. 1:5-7, we find a list of things to be added to one’s faith. Faith is where one’s obedience begins. These things are to be added by “giving all diligence”. Then we see the promise in verse 8. The benefit is: “if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Then we see another inspired guarantee in verse 10, and one is also reminded to be diligent. In the latter we read: “if ye do these things, ye shall never fall”.
      Another verse that has inspired promise is Mark 16:16. This was just after Jesus’ resurrection as He issued the Great Commission to His apostles. He had just told them “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” He then said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” These are promises of God. Strangely, there are those that want to be saved, but refuse to complete their obedience by being baptized in accordance with the gospel.
       We are told in Psa. 111:7 The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. If His Commandments are sure, can we not see that His Promises are certain as well? Deut. 7:9 provides affirmation of this. Here God’s people were told: Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
       Just like the child who has been promised ‘a spanking’ hopes the parents forget, many of the folks of the world hope God will forget some Promises. Take for instance the Words of 2Thess 1:6-9. The brethren there are promised when this would occur and upon whom God’s vengeance would be directed. Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; The Christians in Rom. 12:19 were reminded that vengeance belongs to God. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
      God does not forget. 2Tim 2:19 says the “Lord knoweth them that are his.” This passage also tells us: Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. Since the Lord knows all them that are His, He also knows who will suffer His wrath. It is all those who work iniquity. In Matt 7:23, the Christ made a promise. He said: And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. There will be no chance to, nor any reason for any to say, “but you promised”, for all will receive exactly what God has promised based on how you live regarding His Word. As Gal. 6:7 says: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

                                    Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

In Your Hand

In Your Hand

       The hand is an amazing thing.   Contrary to ‘popular belief’, in some circles, the human hand is not an implement that ‘evolved’ over eons of time, nor is it the result of trial and error.   God designed and created the hand when man was created.   This is easily proven by Gen. 3:22 when man, because of his sin, was about to be banished from the Garden of Eden.   Adam was created with a fully developed, totally functional hand. God knew if Adam and Eve were allowed to remain in the Garden, man would “put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.”
      According to Britannica, the hand is: a grasping organ at the end of the forelimb of certain vertebrates that exhibits great mobility and flexibility in the digits and in the whole organ.   It is made up of the wrist joint, the carpal bones, the metacarpal bones, and the phalanges.   The digits include a medial thumb (when viewed with the palm down), containing two phalanges, and four fingers, each containing three phalanges.  The article also points out that in humans, the hand is primarily for “manipulative function”.   The opposing thumb, in conjunction with the fingers allows for much dexterity, not accomplished with God’s creation not given hands.
     Even without this ‘technical’ information and definition, we know the hand is a remarkable tool.   The infant first begins to grasp with the hand while still in the womb.   After entrance into the world, the child discovers much with his or her hand. They discover how to hold, pick up, and control objects. This is training that is much needed as they learn to do the things to navigate life.  Therefore, the mind must be ‘trained’ and educated properly so it can direct the hands appropriately. The idea of having something “in your hand” is to have control over it, perhaps possess it, and to be a manipulator of whatever it is.   This is applicable literally to tools, or items that can be grasped for various uses, and figuratively regarding certain intangible things.
       This is likely the idea conveyed in Psalm 119:109 where the Spirit had the psalmist write that his soul was under his control.   This was why the psalmist continually dedicated himself to the “Law of the Lord”. He penned: My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law.  Each individual is to be in control of, and has responsibility for his or her own soul.   This is clearly seen in Ezek. 18:20 as God sent His prophet to warn His O.T. people, Israel. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
     The New Testament also teaches that same concept.   In Gal. 6:6-7 we read how each has responsibility for their own eternity.   Each has a choice in how they live.   ‘Sowing’ is what we do in this life.   The ‘reaping’ is what each is to receive as a result of how they lived that life. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. None should think God is going to be partial. This passage says that God is not mocked. In Col. 3:24-25 the Christians in Colossae were reminded of this. The Spirit had Paul write: Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
     This is why it is important to address any needs we have while still in this realm.   After we pass from this life, we cannot change the direction we have taken or alter the reward or punishment we have brought upon ourselves. The Spirit had Solomon pen the Words of Eccl. 9:10 for our benefit. The hand, this magnificent tool, is only intended for our use while we exist in these physical bodies. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.  This also means that we must attend to the needs of our soul while we have opportunity.   Since there is no work in the grave, we cannot exert any effort after we die. Whatever shape our soul is in when we pass from this life, in such a state it will remain for eternity.
     The Spirit had Paul write in Phil. 2:12 to instruct those brethren to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”.   The same applies to man today. At the beginning of the church in Acts chapter 2, we see the conclusion of the first gospel sermon in the ‘church age’.   Acts 2:40 reads: And with many other words did he testify and exhort saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. In the verse that follows, we see what those who now realized that their ‘soul was in their hand’ did. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
     Today, your soul is in your hand. Take responsibility! Where you spend eternity is determined by how you respond to the Word of God.   How are you sowing now? What will you reap for evermore?   Do ‘with thy might’ now, that which God’s Word declares one must do to prepare for eternity. As Christ said in John 9:4the night cometh, when no man can work.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Where Is Your Faith?

Where Is Your Faith?

      Perhaps a better question is “In whom is your faith?” This is asked in this way because faith by definition is: complete trust or confidence in someone or something: Synonyms are: trust, belief, confidence, conviction, credence, reliance, dependence, optimism, hopefulness, or expectation. We all trust in someone or something. Everyone has ‘some kind’ of belief, even though not all ‘beliefs’ line up with other’s beliefs. The fact that they don’t align should indicate that some of that faith is faulty, and some beliefs are wrong. The problem with beliefs not aligning is that not all beliefs are based on truth. Jno. 17:17 tells us God’s Word is truth. Some tend to base their beliefs on feelings, previous teaching, or on some other stimuli. This is obvious because folks’ beliefs change over time as situations change or as one gains a better understanding of things. This is why Christians are to study and meditate on God’s Word, rightly divide it (handle it aright) so a proper understanding is gained. Sadly, not all men have Bible faith. We see this in 2Thess. 1-3. Here, Paul is asking the church in Thessalonica, for prayers that the Word of God, as it was being preached and taught, not be hindered. All Christians should ask this in prayer. We should also ask for strength as Paul requested that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. Of course, that prayer is one asked ‘in faith’ as is indicated in the 3rd verse - But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. This is done through His Word.
       This goes right along with Jas 1:5-6 in the child of God praying to God for wisdom. 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. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. Verse 8 enforces this as it describes one who prays without faith – ‘unstable in all his ways.’.
     Because God’s Word is His direction to His children, one should consult the Bible for God’s definition of faith. Heb. 11:1 gives us the inspired meaning of Bible faith. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. The entire eleventh chapter speaks of faith, and provides a lengthy listing of examples, beginning with an ‘understanding’ of the origin of our world. It’s obvious that some don’t believe this as they put forth that the world is millions of years old and came into being with a “big bang”. The chapter also has an inventory of individuals who possessed faith. This list also reports what these folks did because of their belief in God and in what He directed. We are also told in Heb. 11:6 that one cannot be pleasing to God unless we possess Bible faith. Notice the verbiage. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
      Perhaps it would help to identify the origin of Bible faith. We are told in Rom. 10:17 that God’s Communication to mankind (His Word) is how one is to obtain and maintain true faith. Does it not stand to reason that if one cannot please God without faith, He would provide the source of true faith? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. It is God’s Word alone that provides the information whereby we may believe. Earlier, we provided the inspired definition of faith, which includes “things hoped for”. For what do we hope? The answer is simple. It is the things in which we believe. The previous passage also tells us faith is the evidence of things not seen. This has to be something beyond this sphere and realm in which we live, as these things are indeed seen. We ‘hope’ to spend eternity in heaven with God (at least we should).
     In Rom. 8:24-25, as the Spirit has Paul write, we can see that our salvation is embedded in our hope, which must be based on faith. Clearly, upon reading this passage we can see that it is our faith that carries us forward until we are to receive that eternal home. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 8 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Since we have learned that Bible faith comes from God’s Word, and also that faith is required to be pleasing to God, does it not make sense that God’s Word must be consulted to ensure that our faith is sound and leads to the desired end?
     We are told in 2Pet. 1:3 that God has supplied all information, instruction, and direction needed to endure this life, as well as what is needed to prepare for eternity. 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: Why would anyone have faith in anyone or anything else? To blindly follow anyone or anything else is to be led astray. The next verse tells us the great things promised by God. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Titus 1:2 tells us how sure these promises are. In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; Why would anyone trust any besides God and His Word?   Where is your faith?   Is what you believe what God has said, or what man has taught that God has said? Think about it! Then investigate God’s Word for yourself and obey it.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

The Race Is On

The Race is On

       It is possible that upon reading the title of the article, you might recall the song of this title.   It matters not what genre of music appeals to you, because the song has been covered by a variety of bands over the years.   Surprisingly, this song made popular by George Jones back in 1964, was also covered by the Grateful Dead, and later, the “Chipmunks” (Alvin, Simon, and Theodore), among others.  The idea in the song is that of a thoroughbred race used as a metaphor for the singer’s issues in his romantic relationships.   In case you’ve never heard of the song, I’ve inserted some of the lyrics here.  

I feel tears wellin' up cold, deep inside
Like my heart's sprung a big break
And a stab of loneliness, sharp and painful
That I may never shake

You might say that I was taking it hard
Since you wrote me off with a call
But don't you wager that I'll hide in sorrow
When I may lay right down and bawl

Now the race is on
And here comes pride in the backstretch
Heartache's goin' to the inside
My tears are holdin' back
They're tryin' not to fall

My heart's out of the runnin'
True love's scratched for another's sake
The race is on and it looks like heartache
And the winner loses all

      While this song and the idea to use a horse race to describe heartbreak and pain is cute and ‘playful’, there is a serious race in which all Christians are involved.   It is one that has ‘eternal’ consequences.   We cannot afford to be ‘cute’ or ‘playful’ as we run this race.   We only have one chance to run, which is the entirety of our lives once we become accountable souls.  The pain and the heartbreak that ensues if we lose this race is one that lasts forever. 
     The Bible speaks of a “race” on several occasions. The 1st of these is found in Psa. 19:5 where race is used to describe the ‘bridegroom’, who rejoices as a strong man to run a race. The strong man here, is happy and excited as he knows by his strength, he is likely to win the race.   The bridegroom, having just received his bride, has already won.     The 2nd, found in Eccl. 9:11, is about life in general, as is all of the book.   Here it points out that no matter how hard we strive in life, everyone’s time on earth ends the same. “but time and chance happeneth to them all.”  Regardless of our successes or failures, we all have an appointment with death.   Both of these passages deal with life on this earth, and while written directly to God’s O.T. people, Israel, application can be made by all. 
     The final two occurrences of ‘race’ are found in the N.T., therefore they are given in context of “Christian living”, or how one is to live as a Christian. One is 1Cor. 9:24 and is introduced by the Spirit by having Paul announce the things he did was for the sake of the gospel that he, and the ones to whom he wrote could be partakers together.   The idea is that all must run to be ‘in the race’.   In other words, if you are not “in Christ”, you’re not even in the race and the ‘prize’ cannot be yours.   He points out “one receiveth the prize”, and this is only true in earthly contests or races.  The “winner” receives the crown or trophy.   However, as is pointed out in 1Cor 9:25, those in earthly contests do so for a “corruptible crown” (one that is not lasting).   Those who begin the race for their soul do so only when they obey the gospel.  In order to win the “prize” (eternal life – the incorruptible crown), one MUST: 1) Get in the race (obey the gospel). 2) Stay in the race. 3) Follow the rules as are set forth in the N.T. Law of God till their race is fully run - (when they die).  All who fully follow these inspired instructions are ‘winners who win it all’!
     The final occurrence of ‘race’ in the Bible is located in Heb 12:1, which contains two admonitions. 1)lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” & 2)run with patience the race that is set before us”.  We cannot run the race while encumbered with the ‘excess baggage’ of sin of which we will not repent, or persist in participating in.   We also cannot ‘speed up’ God’s plan.   Heaven is not available until God has determined it will be. Be patient.  When time is no more, the ‘prize’ will be awarded to those who have been successful in this race. 
     Interestingly, the word ‘prize’ is only found twice in all God’s Word.   We saw it above in 1Cor. 9:24, and it also occurs in Phil. 3:14.  In the two verses prior, the Holy Spirit has Paul write to inform all Christians they have yet to win.   The ‘race’ is not over.  Paul had not yet ‘attained’, and neither have we. Neither can we afford to “look over our shoulders”, or rest on the times when we were obviously ahead in the race.    Ever tried to run while looking behind you?    It’s not very safe. In fact, it’s foolish. The race is now and ahead, not backward.  Like Paul, we should “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”   The Race Is On!    Win it! 

                                                   Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Remember

REMEMBER

        It has often been stated that we don’t appreciate something (or someone) until we no longer have them (or it) with us. Having lost folks that were near and dear, I always assumed this to be a true saying. But as I contemplated “remember” in the writing of this article, it occurs to me that ‘loss of memory’ in our frail human bodies doesn’t quite follow that path. My reasoning is: If we truly “lose our memory” of those things which occur in this life, how could we lack appreciation for that which ‘once was’ which we can’t recall?
      I’m aware of a number of situations in which folks have or can “lose their memory” (as we normally call it). Sometimes this happens as a result of an accident, injury or some ‘defect’ in our brain due to some other cause. This seems to be most frustrating to folks, especially when that “memory” or recall comes and goes. It seems as though dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease is much more prevalent now than in the past. One of the scariest things I can imagine is to not be able to recall or remember God’s Word. The second, is to lose all memory of spouse, children, or close family members. Of course, when we lose that which is our guide and comfort in this life, we become like a ship without a rudder.
        Since the number twelve is considered a ‘perfect’ number, and symbolizes God's power and authority in the Bible, I don’t think the word “remember”, being found 148 times in 144 verses in the King James Bible is a coincidence. God, through the Spirit has ‘placed’ that word in His Word for a reason. Over the course of the usage in God’s Word, remember represents what God remembers, what God says He will not remember, Commandments for man to remember, and God’s Promises to man for man to remember and use for a guide in life so he can spend eternity with God.
       It is also found in Luke 16:25 to one that had departed this life, so we could know that our ‘memory’ goes with us when we die. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. We never “lose our memory”, but sometimes can ‘fail to recall’ in this life.
Perhaps this was the thought of my wife’s father when he wrote a booklet entitled: “Memorials”. Below is an excerpt from that booklet.

Memorials

An Innate Possession

An innate possession of the human mind is memory. This is also true in the animal family, to a limited extent, however, the animal cannot decipher between the good and the evil and perform on that basis. There are many advantages to “memory”, and there are some disadvantages. There are some things worth remembering, memorabilia, while the value of others is to be forgotten. The Artificer of the universe so created man in the beginning with this “built in” equipment, and also with the power to choose between the two. Memory exists in the present, operates in the past, and extends into the future. The poet has said that it is “one gift of God that death cannot destroy.” It is my opinion that the power to remember, as suggested by Abraham to “Dives”, (Div-ees’ – Latin for the rich man of Luke 16 DPS) shall be the most tormenting of all God will use eternally to punish the wicked.

The Mind And Memory

The human mind is a “store-house” of knowledge. We must be certain that this knowledge is authentic, reputable, trustworthy. It “supplies” the conscience, the “judge”, with the proper information in accepting, or rejecting the “orders” sent in by the five human senses: hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling. Memory has a significant part in the classification, arousing, awakening, stirring up of the mind. The apostle Peter wrote: “I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance.” (2Pet. 3:1). How we need to remember good things. To forget them is catastrophic. While it is true that we need to learn new things, we must not forget the “tried and tested” of yesterday. We need not walk “looking back over our shoulders”, as it were, but neither should we “forget” to “remember”. We need to “draw” from the past. There is strength and wisdom if we make diligent comparisons between ourselves of the “then” and the “now”, and apply what we learn in the activities of today and tomorrow.

from the booklet “MEMORIALS” by:
O.D. Wilson – deceased

        The ‘things’ of this life, for which we will be judged, will never be forgotten. I hope all will make the right preparation while in this life. This is the only way our ‘eternal’ memories will be enjoyable. Remember, 2Cor. 5:10 tells us that we shall “receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Make good memories now – Obey the gospel, then remain faithful till death.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Making Christian Progress (2)

Making Christian Progress

     Have you ever felt like you weren’t making any progress in an endeavor in this life?  I’m sure we all have.   In every venture we’ve undertaken, we have had to make the necessary adjustments to achieve a desired goal.   This is not to say we must compromise. If we compromise in our efforts to reach a particular objective, we are actually redirecting our attention to a different target altogether.  
     Those that are Christians should have the goal of heaven in mind. In order to reach such a lofty goal, a certain number of things must occur.   First, one must “become” a Christian. You have to “become” before you can “be”. In John 1:12 we see that part of the reason for the coming of Christ was to provide the “power” to become “sons of God”. Notice that only those who “receive Him” are those who access this power. It is also of note that the “power” is in the Word. This can be shown by looking at a couple of passages. 1) Rom. 1:16 clearly declares that the gospel is the “power of God unto Salvation”.   2) Acts 2:41 unmistakably shows what the first folks did when they “received” that power. They immediately obeyed the instructions and were “baptized into Christ”. 3) Acts 2:47 declares that God “added” those who were baptized into Christ to “the church”.   This means that all Christians are “in the church”, but this does not mean they have reached their goal.
     Once we have “become” Christians, we can’t simply sit back and wait for a reward.   We must “make progress” toward that goal.  In Phil. 2:12b we find the Spirit had the apostle Paul write: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Were they not already Christians? Of course they were! But this passage indicates they needed to make progress as Christians so they might reach the goal of heaven.  Christian progress begins as we “become” a child of God and should not diminish until the close of our lives.  
     Perhaps this is the idea behind yet another poem, written by my wife’s father and inserted below.   I have no idea exactly when or what prompted him to write this poem. I do know that part of Christian progress is admitting our faults and seeking to overcome them. This can only be accomplished by reading, studying, meditating upon, and living by the Word of God. Christian growth is part of the progress we should see in our lives as we sojourn here, awaiting our reward.   We are also reminded in the poem, and in God’s Word, that we don’t make this journey through life alone if we are “in Christ”.  

Making Christian Progress

Closer and closer, Lord would I be,
I’ve found the answer, learning from Thee.
Where would I be if I’d never heard?
How would I know Thee without Thy Word?

Stronger and stronger, Lord would I grow,
With Thee beside me, I can, I know,
One single cross I don’t bear alone,
You help me bear them like they are Thine own.

Purer and purer, Lord would I be,
More of Thyself, and far less of me.
Crossing the “river”, I’ll have no fear,
For I know my Savior will always be near.

Longing and hopeful of wearing a crown,
When faith is sight, and the sun has gone down.
Reunion with those who have crossed to that Shore,
Rejoicing in knowing we’ll part never more.

O.D. Wilson – deceased

      Failure to progress is to lose that which was once gained. As we became Christians, we gained the “promise” of eternal life - (Acts 2:39). Without Christian progress we forfeit that promise. The Holy Spirit had the beloved apostle John pen the Words written to Christians in 2John verse 8 to warn them against a lack of Christian progress.   God does not want any to fail of the reward promised to the faithful (2Pet. 3:9). He wants us to overcome and remain victorious to the end.   This is why 1Pet. 2:2 mentions the “milk of the Word that we may grow thereby”, and why 2Pet. 3:18 admonishes Christians to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Proper Christian growth can only be viewed as progress, and such progress will lead us to our eternal goal. This goal cannot be attained unless or until a person acknowledges their faults, embraces the truth, and adjusts themselves in accordance with that truth. If we don’t have heaven as a goal, the only alternative available to us is eternal condemnation.   This is where lack of Christian progress leads.

       Won’t you do as God’s Word directs and “become” a Christian, and then be ever focused on progressing toward maturity as a child of God?

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

My Father My Friend

My Father, My Friend

      The third Sunday in June, in many countries has been designated, or set aside for “Father’s Day”. The day is held on various dates across the world, and different regions maintain their own traditions of honoring fatherhood. I learned that in the U. S., Sonora Smart Dodd, of Spokane, Washington is credited with establishing a national day for fathers.   Sonora held her father in great esteem. While hearing a church sermon about the newly recognized Mother's Day at Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Sonora felt strongly that fatherhood needed recognition as well. She approached the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and suggested her own father's birthday, of June 5, as the day of honor for fathers. The Alliance chose the third Sunday in June instead. (info here and below from Wikipedia)
     Not until 1966, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day was it an official holiday. In 1972, President Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father's Day to be held on the 3rd Sunday of June each year. Unfortunately, Father’s Day, like many holidays have their origins in secular traditions or man-made religions.   For centuries, the Eastern Orthodox Church has appointed the second Sunday before Nativity as the Sunday of the Forefathers to commemorate the ancestors of Christ according to the flesh, starting with Adam and emphasizing the patriarch Abraham, to whom God said: In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Gen. 12:3
    Notice that the focus of “Father’s Day”, from its inception until now is on ‘earthly’ fathers. There is nothing wrong with honoring fathers. Our dads, if they provide and raise their family properly, deserve honor and praise.   This is especially true if they raise the family according to God’s Word. And every father should be the friend of their children, as well as one of their parents. But if our focus is right, we can have a closer friend in a heavenly Father.  
     We perhaps need reminding that we all came from God. Without Him and His creation, we wouldn’t be. This information was part of the discourse of the Spirit (as delivered by the apostle Paul) on Mars Hill in Acts 17:28. They were told: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being;” and some of these folks’ own poets had said of God: “For we are also his offspring.”   This is certainly true, as Luke 3:38 points out that Adam “was the son of God”. It should be clarified that Adam was God’s “created” son.   It stands to reason since Eve was the “mother of all living” per Gen. 3:20, that Adam is the ‘earthly father of all living’.
     Just like the first earthly father, we are all going to die. 1Cor. 15:22 affirms this. The passage also informs that we needn’t die spiritually, for there we are told: For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. When one becomes “in Christ” is when they have a “heavenly Father”. This blessing was made possible by God through Abraham and God’s Grace.   We can read of this in Rom. 4:16.   Interestingly, this was written to the church for which Christ died, that met in Rome. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,. The “us” in this verse, are Christians, those “born into the kingdom. It was meant for them, as they were the ones “in Christ” in Rome.   It applies to all Christians today as well.
     Is Abraham our ‘heavenly father”?   NO! And that is not what the above passage implies.   We can see in Gal. 3:26-29 how Abraham figures into the equation.   If ‘spiritually’, by baptism into Christ, we are Abraham’s seed, we are heirs. We are told in Rom. 8:17 that if we are “children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ”. This means if we are ‘in Christ’ we are the children of God and He is our Heavenly Father. Jesus, the ‘only begotten Son of God’ per Heb. 2:9-11, through His suffering and death was glorified, and therefore is not ashamed to call the spiritual sons of God, brethren.
     There are no less than eleven references in the Bible to “God our Father”, and in every one of these Jesus Christ is named as “Lord”.   Would it surprise you to know that all of these are in the New Testament? Four times in three verses in the Old Testament, we see Jehovah God referenced as the Father of the nation of Israel. These are 1Chron. 29:10; Isa. 63:16; and Isa. 64:8. Unfortunately, among Israel, and among God’s New Testament people, there were and are still some who fail to act as sons, let alone as friends of God.
     We have many Bible examples of those who loved God and showed their love for Him by their obedience.   Of course, these folks sinned at times. We all do, as we are human. Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the honor roll of the faithful, and even there the Spirit had the penman, in Heb 11:32, list the names of some who, while their faithful acts are not enumerated, are still part of this great list.   All of these could be considered “friends of God”. But there is only one who has this “official designation. Abraham, the father of the Jewish Nation has this distinction in Jas. 2:23b. Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 
     The great news is that you can become a son of God and a friend of God. But this is not possible unless you obey His Word and “be born” into His family. Only His obedient children, can truly say “My Father, My Friend”.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

The Price Is Right!

The Price Is Right

       No doubt, upon reading the title of this article, you thought of the game show of the same name. The Price Is Right is an American television show where contestants compete by guessing the prices of merchandise to win cash and prizes. Contestants are selected from the studio audience as the announcer calls their names and invokes the show's famous catchphrase, "Come on down!" This show began in 1972. Per Wikipedia, The Price Is Right has aired over 9,000 episodes since its debut. It is the longest-running game show in the United States and is one of the longest-running network series in United States television history. 
     However popular this, or any other show or series is, there is much which is of greater value, and for which a greater price has been paid. We’ll not take the time to discuss the myriad material goods that man can buy, possess, or attain.   All these, according to Eccl. 2:18-19 are to be left to someone else, and “who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool?” Then the Spirit has Solomon call all this vanity. Additionally, in 2Pet. 3:10 we are told that all the material things and the earth itself “shall be burned up.”. To dispel any doubt, we are also told in 2Pet. 3:12 that even the “elements”, of which all material consists, will “melt with fervent heat”.
     Therefore, we need to concentrate on that of man which remains beyond this life. That is the soul. Every member of humanity has a soul and will spend eternity somewhere. But what is of greater importance than this is the fact that a great price has been paid so that souls needn’t be lost. This price could no man pay because man is sinful. In Matt. 16:26, Jesus posed the question: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Man can offer nothing because man really owns nothing.   All that we have control over has been “loaned” to us by God while we are here. Christ, being without sin, was the only one that could pay that price.
     We are also reminded of the fallacy of relying on even precious material things in 1Pet. 1:18-19, as well as the price that was paid by Christ so the souls of man could be redeemed. Silver, gold, and precious stones don’t have enough value to redeem a soul. Christ gave His life on the cross where He shed His blood so we could be saved.   The entire physical existence of Jesus was for this very purpose.   We are reminded in Phil. 2:7-8 that Christ “made Himself of no reputation”, came as a man, and “humbled Himself” to die on the cross and shed His blood. This was the “price” He was willing to pay.   According to Heb 10:12, we see this called a “sacrifice”.  
     God also sacrificed in sending His Son. John 3:16 is a much-loved, yet often misquoted passage which shows God’s Sacrifice for our benefit. Most folks fail to realize what price God paid so we could have the opportunity to be saved. The fact that God sent His Son, or that Christ willingly died on the cross did not save anyone.  We see this again in 1John 4:9 where God’s Love was manifested to us in sending His Son so we could live.   This passage speaks of the possibility of eternal life. In Eph. 3:11 we are told this was God’s plan for man even prior to the creation of the earth and of man.   Yes, the price is right, because it is the only price that could be paid to save a soul. 
 
     But just because the Godhead has paid a great price so our souls can be saved, doesn’t negate the fact that we also have responsibility for our soul’s salvation.   Don’t get me wrong. We cannot save ourselves from our sins by good works etc. The first part of Titus 3:5 makes this abundantly clear. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; However, just because we cannot “redeem” our own souls, does not mean we don’t have responsibility in our possible salvation.
     When Christ was on earth, just after foretelling His death in Luke 9:22, He spoke of one of the many sacrifices men must make to be able to receive this great benefit. In Luke 9:23-24 He said: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.   One sacrifice we must make, or price we must pay is a daily surrender to His Will.
     But before we can daily surrender to Him, we must become children of God.   We are clearly told in John 1:12 those that “receive Him” have been given “power” to become “the sons of God”. How does one become a son? He is born. John 3:16 was a part of Christ’s answer to Nicodemus which began in John 3:3. We must be “born again”. The beginning of the price we must pay per John 3:5 is to die to sin and be born of “water and the Spirit” in baptism for the remission of past sins. Then we see in Rom. 6:2 that since we are “dead to sin” we are not to “live any longer therein”.  This is what it means to “take up thy cross daily”.   It also requires daily reading, study, and meditation on God’s Holy Word. To do otherwise is to argue that your soul is not worth it!   Yes, the price is right !
    The Godhead has done their part and paid the enormous price so that we can become the children of God and inherit. Won’t you do your part, obey the gospel, and then grow and labor in the kingdom till you receive the prize?

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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