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Overcoming In Your Hour Of Trial

Overcoming In Your Hour Of Trial

      Life is difficult at times, especially for a Christian. In the early days of the church, Acts 8:1 tells us of the hardships they had to endure, and why. And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.   Even in this day, we shouldn’t be surprised at this as we have read in 2Timothy 3:12 that all who strive to serve God in accordance with His Word will have “hours of trial”, or as the passage reads, “persecution”. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
      Persecution can be meted out in various ways. In Hebrews 11:36-37 we read of some, because of their faith in God and belief in His Promises, strove to serve Him despite the persecutions heaped upon them. Some even died following God, and in so doing, overcame. And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
      Trials and tribulations are a part of life.   In Job 14:1, perhaps the first book of the Bible that was penned, this was stated. Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. Truth is, all people, saints and sinners are faced with the “issues” of life.   But as has been pointed out a number of times over many years: “It's not what happens to us that defines us. It's what we choose to do with what happens to us that defines us.”   We are “defined” when we deal with the “afflictions” which we face as we live in this world.   Of course, the way in which we are “defined” is up to us and our response to God’s Word.       God created man with the ability to choose.   However, every choice we make, comes with consequences. 

     But how do we know how to overcome when we face the difficulties that make up our “hour of trial”?   Romans 12:21 gives us the inspired recipe for success. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. This was not new instruction, as the Spirit had the Psalmist pen the Words we read in Psalm 34:11-14 that say much the same thing to Israel. Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12 What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. 14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
     Because this is taught from the Old and the New Testaments, we should understand that this is a “principle eternal” from God.   Even from the early days of mankind this was expected of all.   Cain, the first son of Adam and Eve, was told this by the Lord Himself in Genesis 4:7. Cain’s sacrifice wasn’t accepted by God, and Cain was upset. The Lord stated: If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. We also know how Cain reacted. Sin indeed was at the door, as Cain rose up against, and killed his brother. He did not overcome, but yielded to his own anger. Cain thought the physical consequences of his sin were near intolerable. The “spiritual” consequences of any sin, which is not repented of are eternal.  

     The Spirit, through the pen of Paul, directed the brethren in Rome to do well by yielding to God in Romans 6:13. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Then as explained in Romans 6:16, we have the power to choose whom we shall yield to and serve, and what is the outcome of our choice. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 
     Yielding is a choice, as is obedience, and this is the key to being able to overcome as the “hour of trial” comes upon us.   Where does choice begin?  Where does choice originate? It begins in the mind. In 2Corinthians10:4-5 the Spirit had Paul tell the brethren what they, as well as what we need to know so every child of God can overcome, if they will control their minds.   (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
       This is also how we can overcome temptation.   1Cornthians 10:13 shows that all are tempted. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. The Lord Himself used God’s Word in overcoming temptation in Matthew 4:4,7 & 10. He said: “It is written
      Want to be able to “overcome in your hour of trial”? Follow the Word of God. Begin by obeying the gospel, and then continue to make “choices” based on His Word, and prepare yourself for eternal life. In doing this, you can definitely overcome in your hour of trial.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Our Death And Preparation For It

Our Death and Preparation For It

       When one is confronted with their death, there is one question which surely must be on their minds; the certainty they have regarding salvation of their souls.   It is easy to assure folks that you are ready to pass from this life and face eternity, but when that time comes, very few are “ready” to die.

     I’m not saying that some are not prepared, as they have learned what God has said in His Holy Word, and they have done those things, then lived a life of faithful service.   They know of the great promises of God and look forward to receiving the reward God has prepared for the obedient and the faithful.  

     As hard as it is to grasp, death is a reality all must face. The Spirit had the wise man, Solomon, pen the Words we read in Ecclesiastes 9:10-11 to help us see this as well as the fact that whatever we do, we need to do it now as we cannot do it after this life.   These verses also inform that this happens to all, as God is not a respecter of persons. 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. 11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

     Let’s face it – We are born to die.   That is the way of humanity. The time we have on this earth is granted so we can get ready to die. We don’t know how long this will be. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 we find there is a “season” for all that is appointed to man. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; The verses following this cover most all areas of life. When life is over, there is likely much more we would like to have accomplished.

     There was a great deal remaining for Israel to do when the Spirit had the prophet warn them in Amos 4:11-13.   Israel was the nation through which the promised Messiah was to come. Notice in verse 12 what they were told they needed to do in their lives. I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 12 Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. 13 For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name.

     In the above passage, we are told that God, the creator and sustainer of life, has told man what to do. He has also told man when to do it. Throughout the Scriptures man has been warned of the brevity of life and what will befall the souls of those who do not prepare. We learn from the pen of Paul as guided by the Spirit in 1Corinthians 15:19 that our hope MUST be placed in that beyond this life. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

     As for Israel, in that Covenant God had made for them, Micah 6:8 sums it up well, and also applies to us under the New Testament covenant of God. He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?   Are not these things also what God has required of us? When can we do these things? When can we follow the Word of God? It is in this life only! Are we so blind to think that “not doing” as God requires is pleasing to Him? Do we honestly believe God will “go against” His warnings of punishment upon those who fail to do as He Commands?   Surely not!  

     His Word tells us in 2Thessalonians 1:7-9 what will happen when God has determined that “time for preparation” has ended for all humanity. All tend to believe His promises for “eternal life”. Why do they not believe what He teaches regarding “eternal condemnation”?   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;   Some will die before the Lord returns. What if they have not made the proper preparation?   Where does that leave them? It leaves them in the hand of a merciful, yet just God who will do exactly what He has promised in His Word.

     We don’t know the time of our departure from this life. Don’t you think the most important thing would be to make preparation now? We do know that after this life there is the judgment.   Hebrews 9:27 clearly shows this. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

     Even if there is “more to do”, why not make the needed changes, so that you are ready if time runs out for you?   The brethren in Philippians 2:12 were told to: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Why not get busy now and prepare as God has directed in His Word so you can spend your eternity with Him.   You can’t “get ready” after you die.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Can I Change? Should I?

Can I Change?   Should I?

     In our lives, when things aren’t going as we desire, or when the things of life progress in directions in which we would rather they not, we might say “I should have changed this or that” as in doing so would have altered the outcome of the event being considered.   This only works with things under our control. We know this in regard to weather. We have no control over the weather, but we can easily “change our minds” as to what to wear to accommodate the weather. Failure to do so in this example would only result in becoming wet, or excessively warm, or something like that, and in the great scheme of things, would it alter the courses of our lives?

     There are things, however, that if not changed, indeed will change the course of one’s life. The choices we make all have consequences and these choices we make lead to certain destinations. Some of the choices made in this life are of much significance, while others are not. While it matters not what color of clothes one wears, but it could matter very much what one does while they are wearing them.

     Change by definition is: “make (someone or something) different; alter or modify.” Some of the synonyms for change are: “alteration, modification, or transformation.” Perhaps we should ask ourselves how our choices are able to transform us or modify us, or do we need to be modified or transformed?

We will either conform to, or be transformed, as the Spirit had the apostle Paul inform the church at Rome.   How one changes regarding the stimulus of the gospel is up to the individual.   What The Spirit had Paul write in Romans 12:2 is proof not only that we can, but should change as God has directed in His Holy Word. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.  

     Too many today think that being good is all it takes for one to be pleasing in the eyes of God.   Jesus, in Matthew 19:16-17, told a sincere young man that only God (the Father) is good.   And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. To keep the commandments of God is to obey Him.  If one has not been doing so, change is required.   This is why in Acts chapter 2, as the men gathered there who had heard the first gospel sermon in the New Testament age asked “Men and brethren, what shall we do? “, the inspired response found in verse 38 required change. Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

       Repentance requires change as it is a “turning from” sin and worldliness, and turning toward God. This is the change that is required in obedience to the gospel.   Unless this change takes place, and unless one fully obeys the gospel, the change from a lost, to a saved soul cannot take place. All should seek this change. This is also what was conveyed in 1Corinthians 6:9-11 as Paul wrote to them as the Spirit directed. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 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.

     But what about one who has obeyed the gospel? Do we not ever need to change? Once we become Christians by being baptized into Christ, are we allowed to remain at that point and never change? If so, what are we to do with passages such as Ephesians 4:23? And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;   Is not renewal here change? This same sentiment is described in 2Corinthians 4:16. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

     Is not growth change? Of course it is! This is why the Spirit had Peter, in 2Peter 2:2 write: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby”. And the Spirit directed Peter to write to mature Christians in 2Peter 3:18, they needed to continue to change by growing.

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. The Christian is to try to always “change”, by growing in the correct way.

     Can you change? That is entirely up to you. Should you change? Well, if you have not obeyed the gospel, and if you are ready to spend eternity in Hell, you shouldn’t change. But, if you want to spend eternity with God, you must change, and obey the gospel.   If, having obeyed the gospel and having become a child of God, you haven’t been growing toward maturity in Christ, and you desire to go to heaven, you should definitely change. Why not do as the latter part of Philippians 2:12 tells us? . . .work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Can you change? Should you?  If so, let us help as we show you how through God’s Word.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Compensation

Compensation

       When we think of compensation, we often consider only that which is to be “paid” for labor or repaid for damages.   This term is akin to “wages”, but as Luke 14:12-14 shows, it can also be applied to “repay”, or “recompense”.   This passage also indicates that we are not to seek recognition or reward from others for our doing good deeds, because the Lord will one day reward all appropriately at the proper time.   Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. 13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: 14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

       Compensation, or recompense, was part of both the Old, and is part of the New Covenant, or Testament of God. We are also aware of the fact that we cannot “earn” our Salvation. But God “recompenses” those who do good or bad.   From the O.T., Hosea 12:2 shows us that each had control of their own reward. The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him. From the N.T. we find this in 2Corinthians 5:10 from the pen of Paul as the Spirit directed. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

       This was also conveyed in Colossians 3:24-25 where we are told that not all “rewards” will be the same, and that God is not partial. Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. God will even punish those of His own N.T. people, just as He punished Jacob.

       Because of this, all should spend their time here on earth, not seeking all the world has to offer, but what God desires for us. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus, while preaching the Sermon on the Mount, told the Jews who believed in Him, about how they could be “rewarded” by God. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. This “kingdom” had yet to arrive, but soon would, and those in it would be rewarded. We know this as Colossians 1:13-14 indicates that Paul (the penman) as well as the brethren in Colossae were, at that time, “in the kingdom”, and we also see the immediate reward. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:  

       The opportunity for man to have this “reward” has been offered from the time of the first Pentecost following the ascension of the Christ. We see in Acts 2:38-39, as the Spirit had Peter and the other apostles respond to the question of those gathered there, how to receive that reward.   Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (the promise of eternal life) 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.   Also, we know that 2Thessalonians 2:14, shows how God calls man through the preaching of the gospel. Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those present at that Pentecost, (as well as all others since then), have to obey the gospel, or they could not have that promise.

       It is equally important we know that one can “lose” this reward.   If we are “in Christ”, which is “in the kingdom” we have the eternal reward in promise.   In John 5:24 Jesus, in preparation for the kingdom said: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth (which also includes obedience) on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is (present tense) passed from death unto life. Then in 1John 2:25 we see how we “hath” eternal life. We only “hath” it in promise. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.

       Many are guided away from the truth and assisted in falling from grace as 2John 1:7-8 indicates.   For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Galatians 6:7 makes it clear that we can be deceived, but should not. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. It is also clear from 2Thessalonians 1:8-9 what “reward” the disobedient and unfaithful will receive. 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;  

     With what will you be recompensed? Or, put another way, with what will the Lord reward you?   Make your choice today. Obey the gospel now and remain faithful till death.   Your reward awaits.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Going Up? - Or Down?

Going Up? – Or Down?

     I’m aware that the title of this week’s article sounds a bit like what used to be asked when there were elevator attendants. I may be “dating” myself a bit but I do remember, years ago, the uniformed attendant asking us this question as we entered an elevator. But that’s not the reason for the article nor the purpose for the question here.

     Ever notice how some folks, when speaking of dear departed loved ones, will kiss their hand, or touch their heart area, and then point to the sky? Others, when receiving accolades, awards of honors, will look upward and thank the lamented deceased ones, regardless of the type of a person they were, or the type of life they lived.   Why is this?   I suspect it is because all would like to think their departed loved ones are in a place of rest, peace and comfort.   It is too bad they fail to understand that when a soul departs, they neither go to Heaven or to Hell but to a place “like unto” where they will spend eternity.  

     The fact is, all who live, will face death (or be changed), and after death is no more, judgment will occur as we are told in Hebrews 9:27. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: We are not told a great deal about the judgment, but 2Corinthians 5:10 informs us why we are to be judged. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

     Humanity has determined that Heaven is up and Hell is down, and no one in their right mind wants to, or wants their loved ones to descend into the realm of eternal Hell as Psalms 9:16-17 declares. The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. 7 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

     Perhaps the best biblical picture of the intermediate state of man after his life on the earth is depicted in Luke chapter 16, as the Lord told of the rich man and Lazarus.   This is not a fable, or a parable, as the man had five brothers, and all in the story lived under the Law of Moses. Therefore, they were to be “judged” according to how they lived their lives under that Law. Luke 16:22:23 recounts the death of each. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: (which is Paradise) 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.   Notice that each did not go to the same place, and both of them were not in peace. Luke 16:24 -25 shows the difference in the state of each of these souls. And he (the rich man) cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he (Lazarus) is comforted, and thou (the rich man) art tormented.

     Provision was also made that one in torment could not “escape” and find rest or peace. Luke 16:26 provides this information. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. It is also obvious that none have yet gone “up there” to Heaven but Christ, as 1John 5:7 clearly shows. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

      Additionally, 1Thessalonians 4:13-17 indicates that the Lord will bring the dead in Christ with Him (from Paradise), at the end of time when He returns to gather the faithful living to go to judgment. If already in Heaven, would there be a reason for them to accompany the Lord to gather the remaining “saints”?   But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (means precede) them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  

       The final verse of this chapter, 1Thessalonians 4:18 tells the brethren to whom the Spirit had Paul write to: “ . . . comfort one another with these words.” These Words are indeed a comfort to those who have made the proper preparation, and have remained prepared for eternity. Life will have its share of “ups and downs”. In life, when we fall, we can get back up, and strive to serve God in accordance to His Will so we can spend eternity with Him. We want you to be comforted here, and after you die.   Going Up? – or Down after this life? That’s up to you.   Obey the gospel today.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

It's The Little Things

It’s the Little Things

It’s the little things that formulate life’s treasures,

It’s the weak things that tear the strong ones down.

It’s the tiny drops that fill the ocean’s measure,

It’s the simple deeds that make the world go round!

It’s the silent thought that forbids a painful heartbreak,

It’s the faintest smile that removes an angry frown.

It’s the slightest gesture of hope that one can make,

That lifts a man up when he’s down!

It’s the small hills which make the largest mountains,

It’s the unknown who rise to renown.

It’s the greatest in need, who shall likely succeed,

In exchanging their cross for the crown!

It’s the way that is down that leads up,

It’s what a man gives that he gains.

It’s the ones who die that shall live bye and bye,

It’s the ignorant that have all the brains!

It’s the poor who are rich and don’t know it,

It’s those who have not that can lose.

It’s not at your birth, you’re assessed for your worth,

It’s the little things of life that you choose.

O.D. Wilson – deceased

     The preceding poem was written many years ago by my wife’s father, and shows the fallacy of ignoring the “little things” of life.   It has been often said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This is true, and when considered in context, a single step is very small in comparison to the whole of a thousand-mile journey.   This “proverb” simply means that big achievements are made through small but concrete resolves. Dreams and life’s goals are achieved by making a plan, taking the first step towards it and continuing until the reward becomes reality.

     God also does not ignore the “little things”. The Spirit had Solomon write about four little things in Proverbs 30:24-28. The next thing stated in regard to these is that they are “exceeding wise”.   There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: 25 The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; 26 The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks; 27 The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; 28 The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings' palaces. Each were made by God with the instinct to do the things in this passage. It is because they follow “God’s Plan” that make them wise.   It is also by these “little” things God teaches us much through His Word. These little things are great examples.  

     The Spirit also had Solomon pen the Words we find in Proverbs 15:16 in regard to what we have in this life. Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith. Then, the Spirit had Isaiah write about the might God would provide as His Will was being carried out in the land of Canaan. Isaiah 60:22A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.

     Even “small” places had a “big” part in the plan of God as Micah 5:2 tells us in prophecy about the Lord. But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

     However, not all that is “little” in this life is good. In 1Corinthians 5:6 the Spirit had Paul write to the brethren in Corinth to remind them of this. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? This warning is given that we choose carefully the little things as well as the big things of life.  

     One must make choice in this life. God’s Word requires just a few “little” things for one to do to begin their lives as Christians.   These are: 1) Hear – Romans 10:17. 2) Believe that Jesus is the Christ – John 8:24. 3) Repent of past sins – Acts 17:30. 4) Confess that Jesus is God’s Son – Acts 8:37 and 5) Be baptized into Christ to have your sins washed away – Acts 22:16. Then, as a Christian, 6) Live the remainder of their lives in faithful service to God as He has directed in His Word.   In Revelation 2:10b, the church at Smyrna was told this . . . . be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

     Consider that these things and the span of our lives in which we have the opportunity to obey God are “very little” when compared to the enormity of eternity. Choose wisely!   Remember, doing even God’s “little things” shows wisdom and produces great rewards.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Who Is "Standing-Up" For You?

Who Is “Standing Up” For You?

     In our U. S. Justice system, one who is a “citizen” is granted certain rights. One of these is the right to an attorney (if needed). If you cannot afford one, the state will appoint one.   Many people understand this right, and when a person is accused of a crime, the accusers have to inform the accused of his or her rights. The attorney is the one who knows the law, and stands before the ultimate authority in civil matters for the benefit of the accused.

     In our military, there are also those who “stand-up” for the accused. In the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Navy, these are the JAG Corps, or the Judge Advocate General Corps. The Marine’s have Marine Corps Judge Advocates. These are in place to ensure that the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), is properly applied for all involved.  

     Now, let’s leave the civil and the advocates and judges of that realm and apply this principle from a Biblical standpoint.    It is certain that all have sinned as is declared in Romans 3:23. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;     As such we are all, not only accused, but guilty and have a real need of someone to “stand-up” for us. The one thing that is in perfect agreement between the civil and the spiritual, is that a person must be a citizen to have certain rights.   This is of great importance.

     In Ezekiel 8:17-18 God told His own people, the house of Juda, that they had lost the “right” of prayer because of their continued disobedience to His Law. Because of their great sin against God, even this great prophet could not be the advocate for them. Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. 18 Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.

     This was well understood, even in the time leading up to the purchase of and the establishment of the church, as the former blind man of John 9:31 indicates. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. God (the supreme authority) would not hear His own people who lived in sin. No intercessor had been appointed for them (Isaiah 59:16).  Sadly, some citizens of the New Testament kingdom, the church, have lost the right to prayer, and access to our intercessor, due to disobedience, and the refusal to repent.

       As part of the N. T. kingdom, the church, we (who are citizens in good standing) have the benefit of one who “stands-up” for us. Christ became our intercessor after living a sinless life on earth and then paid the price of His own precious blood to purchase the church. Christ then sent the Holy Spirit (as promised) to His apostles in John 14:25-26 who delivered His Law so man could know how to become a Christian, one who becomes a citizen of the kingdom through obedience to the gospel. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. This was His part of the plan of God to save the souls of men and women.   Man’s part in the saving of their soul’s is to fully obey the terms set forth in the gospel to become a citizen in the kingdom, the church, and then remain fully compliant with God’s N.T. Law.

     That gospel was first delivered by the apostles on Pentecost in A.D. 33 and all who complied with that law were made citizens of the kingdom (the church) and granted the rights that all within the kingdom have.   We read in Acts 2:47, just after the delivery of that law, those who had obeyed were “added” to the church by God Himself. Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Those that “should be saved” were those who became citizens as they obeyed the gospel. To not obey the gospel, one remains outside of the church and does not have the rights a citizen of the kingdom enjoys.

      In 2John 2:1 we read where John, guided by the Spirit was writing to Christians, those in the kingdom. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: This is one of the “rights” a Christian has; one who stands-up for them before the Father in heaven.   In so doing, according to Romans 8:34 the Lord intercedes for us. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. All of humanity needs this, because as already pointed out, all sin.  

       Doesn’t everyone need one to intercede for them before the highest of all authorities?   The answer to that is “ABSOULUTELY!” Then why do some not have this privilege and right?   It is because they are not citizens in the kingdom, or they are not in “good standing” in the kingdom because of sin.

       What to do in such a situation?   That is simple. God has laid out in His Law, the way in which one can “legally” become a citizen and the means so that this can be accomplished. Won’t you obey the gospel today? If you are a citizen of the kingdom, the church, and have failed to live in accordance to that Law; won’t you repent of sins and regain your rights as a citizen in good stead?   Your eternity depends upon having Christ “stand-up” for you.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Working For The Lord

Working for the Lord

     The first Monday of September has been “officially” recognized as “Labor Day” since 1894.   I always thought it strange that we celebrate labor by taking the day off from work, even though I take the day off just like most all other “workers” on this federal holiday.

     Much of our life is spent working. Many adolescents eagerly await the time they can “work” and enjoy the freedoms the pay brings. Many young adults seek a job and others strive for education so they can get the job they most want.   Sadly, many of these same people soon face the reality that the “dream job” becomes a nightmare.   A lot of people don’t like their jobs, but have to press on because of obligations that cannot be otherwise met.

     However, not all work is to be dreaded.   It has been said: “If you do what you truly love, you’ll never work a day of your life”.   There is a bit of truth in this as the definition of “work” is: activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result. If you love what you do, the mental or physical effort seems minimal.

       Now, let’s apply all this to our “work for the Lord”.   In 1Peter 2:21 we are told that Christ left us an example. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:  This goes for our working for the Lord as well. We see the Words of Jesus Himself in John 9:4 that shows this to be so. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. Jesus knew that His time on earth was limited.   Later, after healing a man on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted Jesus and sought to kill Him.   Notice what He told them in John 5:17. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.  His prayer of John 17:4 shows that in doing and completing that work, He glorified the Father.   I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

     Some are very quick to point out that it is grace that saves, not “works”. These same folks cite Ephesians 2:5 as proof. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) It is most unfortunate that these folks stop reading with this verse, and refuse to acknowledge Ephesians 2:8. This verse shows that God’s Grace is part of His plan to save.   For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Faith is man’s part in the salvation of his own soul.   “Faith” here, means more than simply believing. It means one will obey the Word of God.

     Romans 10:17 informs that “faith” is derived from the Word of God. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  We also read in Titus 2:11 that all have access to this saving grace of God.  For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Then we read in verse 12 what that “grace” is and what it does for us.  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 

       God’s Grace to man includes Him sending His only begotten Son to die on the cross at Calvary to purchase the church. It also includes what Christ promised His apostles in John 14:26. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.That which the Spirit gave them was the Word of God. That Word must be followed to be pleasing to God.   When the Word is followed, those who follow it will “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” – Philippians 2:12.

      Still, many insist that God’s Grace is all that is needed for one to be saved, and after “jumping overEphesians 2:8, pull Ephesians 2:9 out and “wrest it” by claiming all they need is faith. Not of works, lest any man should boast.  What will they do with James 2:17-18?   Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.   

     Are they also willing to ignore the Words of Christ in Matthew 16:27? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.   What about the Words the Spirit gave Paul to write in 2Corinthians 5:10?   Are these not important? For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Christ in John 12:48 said: He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. 

       Isn’t it about time to “get to work” for the Lord? If you truly love Him, you’ll keep His Commandments as Jesus told His disciples in John 14:15. If ye love me, keep my commandments. Keeping His Commandments entails obeying the gospel to become a child of God, then “working” to maintain a proper relationship with God in accordance to His Word.

       The Spirit had Paul write in 1Corinthians 15:58 that our “work” for God brings an eternal reward. forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

      

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

All Things

All Things

     The term “all things” occurs 171 times in the King James New Testament.   There are many who quote Philippians 4:13 as their favorite verse. It is an easy verse to remember, and the sentiment expressed is one that promotes courage as we face the many things the world places before us.   I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. I have seen this in people’s homes, on bumper stickers and even on some clothing.  This seems to be the mantra repeated by many, without being fully aware of what is implied.  

     The “all things” in every occurrence must be kept in context.   The Spirit had the apostle Paul write this just after: I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.(Philippians 4:12)   What were the “all things” of which Paul wrote in verse 12? He pointed out “in all things I am instructed”. Surely, we understand we only receive spiritual instruction from God through His Word.  

       The Spirit had Peter pen the Words we read in 2Peter 1:3-4 which tell us the source and the purpose of the “all things” He has provided for mankind. 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 virtue4 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. 

       The promises of God are contained in His Word. These are provided by God for our benefit as 2Corinthians 4:15-16 shows. For all things are for your sakes, (Christians) that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. 16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  The “all things” God gave man renews the inner man.

       One thing I find amazing as well as repulsive is that most folks want the “all things” (blessings) God has offered man in His Word, yet their actions prove that they won’t do “all things” God has Commanded. The argument used by most in this situation is that God “blesses” all of humanity.   I agree. However, the passage that proves this point, also shows the fallacy of their reasoning. Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:45, made this statement.   That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  The previous verse clearly indicates Christ is speaking of the reason He taught His followers to love their “enemies” as well as their neighbors. The blessings He mentions here are the “temporal” blessings that God has provided to “all men” for life on this planet.  

     Christ’s message there, (a Pentecost Pointer) was directing them to the time and place in which they could be recipients of God’s Spiritual blessings.  We perhaps need to be reminded that in Ephesians 1:3, the Spirit had Paul state where “spiritual blessings” exist. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:   Does it not stand to reason, based on this verse that if one is NOT IN CHRIST, they do not have “spiritual blessings” such as the promise of eternal life?   IF NOT, WHY NOT?  

       Of course, there are other spiritual blessings than eternal life. Eternal life is not the “all things” of which the Spirit had Peter write in 2Peter 1:3 (above), although it is a part of it.   The Word of God contains the instruction God intended us to have.   God’s Holy Word contains the teaching, evidence, chastisement, and training that man needs. 2Timothy 3:16 tells us this, and the 17th verse tells us why He offers this to man in His Word. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 

     Now, let’s return to Philippians 4:13 for a moment.   In “context”, and “in act and in fact”, only the Christian has this blessing of being able to “do all things” through Christ.    In addition to this, we see Ephesians 1:3 as the only place all spiritual blessings exist. Why then, would one NOT want to be “in Christ”?   Why not look into the Word of God and see what instruction He has given so that we might “be in Christ”?  

       In the midst of the many problems the church in Corinth experienced, the Spirit had Paul write in 2Corinthians 2:9: “For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. Won’t you obey “all things” commanded of God to be “in Christ”, and to remain in Christ so you can prepare yourself for eternity? God clearly tells us what to do.   God says one must follow these steps to get started.  1) Hear – Romans 10:17. 2) Believe – Hebrews 11:6.  3) Repent of sins – Acts 17:30. 4) Confess Christ before man – Luke 12:8   5) Be baptized (into Christ) – Mark 16:16. 6) Remain faithful unto death – 2Peter 2:20-21.     The “Erring Christian” - return to God in repentance & prayer – Acts 8:22.

       Let us help you start at the beginning, and then together, let’s do “all things” God has Commanded in His Word as we prepare to spend eternity with Him and His Son in heaven.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Where Do You Stand?

Where Do You Stand?

     There are various places to “stand” and many ways to do so in this old earth on which we live. This has been noticed by folks over the years and several “inspirational sayings” have been written regarding “standing”. One of the most recognized is: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for something (anything)”. As I considered this article, I came across some “proverbs” written by men that will definitely make one consider whether or not they are standing where they should.   A few I found interesting are: One foot cannot stand on two boatsChinese proverb. Do not stand in a place of danger trusting in miracles – Saudi Arabian proverb. And, Where the cattle stand together, the lion lies down hungry – African proverb.

     While these are interesting and show “common sense”, God also has said some things about “standing” and about where one stands In His Word that bears remembering. We can read of the benefit of “standing” where you should In Proverbs 12:7. This verse also indicates what will happen if we don’t follow God.   The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand. We should strive to be righteous.

   The Spirit had the Psalmist write of the “state” in which we are to stand if we desire to be righteous.   In Psalm 4:4 we read: “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.” Then this is repeated in Psalm 33:8, but the instruction there is directed to everyone. Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. 

     In 1Corinthians 2:4-5 we see the apostle Paul preached in Corinth to tell them (and us) where our faith is to stand. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 

     When Jesus was on earth, He taught in Matthew 7:24-25, about those wise enough to build their house on a rock and the benefit of so doing.   Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

       In 1973 J. Harold Lane wrote a hymn about this very thing. The words of song are catchy, surprisingly biblical, and have been sung by many folks in the years since it was written.   The lyrics of “Standing On The Solid Rock” are printed here.

Through my disappointments

Strife and discontentment
I cast my every care upon the Lord
No matter what obsession

Pain or deep depression
I'm standing on the solid rock

Chorus:
I'm standing on the solid rock of ages
Safe from all the storm that rages
Rich but not from Satan's wages
I'm standing on the solid rock

Now I'm pressing onward
Each step leads me homeward
I'm trusting in my Savior, day by day
And close is our relation
Firm is its foundation
So on this solid rock I'll stay

Repeat Chorus

Even though He's gone now
I don't feel alone now
With comfort came the Spirit of the Lord
Now with His Word to guide me
From temptations hide me
I'm standing on the solid rock

Repeat Chorus

      Let me ask the question with which I began this article. Where do you stand?  Do you “stand” on tradition, feelings, emotions, or the teaching of man?   Now let me ask you another? How “firm” is your footing there?  

     The Spirit had Paul write in 1Thessalonians 3:8: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. Other N.T. passages also direct us where to stand. Galatians 5:1 reads: Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

     Why not make sure you are on the only foundation that is sure. We read in 1Corinthians 3:11 where that is. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Obey the gospel today, remain faithful, then stay on that “rock” until the reward is given.

                                                       Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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