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Reading To Understand

Reading To Understand

      Many folks, because of the “present distress”, have additional time on their hands.   Some, while not out of work, are working from home.   While this may have its own challenges and difficulties, there may also be some benefits that have yet to be realized.   At least the time gained not having to travel or commute to and from an office or jobsite, provides additional time to use in other ways.   What is being done with this time?  Would this not be an opportunity to read more?   I have heard several folks mention that they are beginning to “catch up” on their reading.  Are we “catching up on” our Bible reading? 

     What is the purpose for what we read? Some read for pleasure and some do so for the information that can be gained.  Many Bibles contain a “daily” reading plan that will have one “read through” the Bible in a year.  It’s never wrong to read the Bible, but after “reading through” it in the course of a year, what have we learned?   How much have we truly retained when we simply read through the Bible?  

     There is a real difference in reading and studying.  One cannot fully grasp the full meaning of the passages of the Bible (or any other book) by simply “going over” the words on the page.   This is why the Spirit had Philip ask the all-important question of Acts 8:30.     And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?    The eunuch’s response indicated his desire to truly know, rather than to just read the Words found therein.   The eunuch, and we, are to apply the advice given in 2Timothy 2:15 by the apostle Paul as directed by the Spirit.  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  If more people read and studied God’s Word, honestly and earnestly they 1) would better understand, and 2) would be more likely to be obedient unto God.

       That which is not “understood” can truly be called a mystery.  The Spirit had Paul write to the church in Ephesus to inform them of that which was once a mystery, but is no longer.   Ephesians 3:1-6 is speaking of the gospel which has now been fully revealed.   Therefore, none have excuse for not obeying what God has directed in His Word.   This is where we also find that this glorious message includes us in the grace of God.    This passage also tells us how we can know this.  For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the SpiritThat the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 

       God has always provided the means for His people to “understand” His Words to them.  In Old Testament times, God wrote to His people Israel.  In Nehemiah 8:1-2 we find account of one of the many times God calls Israel back to repentance through the reading of the Law.   His Word in every age has been clear and concise.   And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. 2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.     Then, in Nehemiah 8:8 we read that all present had understanding because of the reading.  So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.

        Even in this, the final dispensation of time, God has made His New Testament message known to His people (the church) as the Spirit guided the pen of inspiration.    However, man has responsibility to take in these Words, through reading and work to understand what God would have all do.  The Spirit had Paul advise Timothy to do that which also applies to all who would understand God’s Word in 1Timothy 4:13 .  Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

        In Ephesians 5:17, the church there was given a directive that applies to all Christians.  Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.  And, according to 2Peter 3:6-9 it is God’s Will that all would come to repentance.   The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  Christians are to read and understand this, then take God’s Word to those that are living in sin and those Christians in error so they might understand what to do.   We are clearly told in 2Timothy 2:25-26 how we are to do this.   In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.  Let’s read – Let’s understand – Then do as God Commands. 

                                                    Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

In God's Presence

In God’s Presence

     The phrase “the presence of God” is found but five times in the King James Bible.    The first of the three Old Testament instances in which the phrase is utilized, speaks of the effect of God’s presence on the earth in the scattering of God’s enemies in Psalm 68:2.  As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.  The second and third times is in Psalm 68:8 in reference to God appearing to Moses to give him the Law to govern Israel. The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.  Surely all will agree that the presence of God is of great importance.

   The two New Testament occurrences deal with those in God’s presence in Heaven. In Luke 1:19 we find Zacharias, father of John the baptizer being visited by the angel to deliver great news. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.The final time we see the phrase, is in Hebrews 9:24 and alludes to the fact that Jesus arose from the dead to return to be with His Father following His resurrection. This also informs that Christ intervenes for us before God in Heaven. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 

     Christ was not a priest under the Law of Moses as He was of the tribe of Judah. However, following His resurrection, Jesus ascended to Heaven and is in the presence of God as our only High Priest as Hebrews 8:1-2 informs us.   Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. 

       God doesn’t make His presence known today as He did in Old Testament times. Neither is there any in the presence of God in Heaven, but the angels and the rest of the Godhead. 1John 5:7 is irrefutable proof the Godhead is there.  For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.  Jesus’ response to the Sadducees in their error on resurrection in Matthew 22:29-30 proves that the angels are also in the presence of God. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.  And, John 3:13 dispels the false teaching of folks that their loved ones go directly to Heaven following death. And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 

         We today, see God in the beauty of nature. God, in His omnipotence created all for a purpose. In Isaiah 45:18 God’s people were told: For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. But while enjoying nature we aren’t in God’s presence; we are simply appreciating what God has richly provided for us.  

       We cannot be in the presence of God as are Christ and the angels until time is no more and we have been granted entrance to that eternal home with Him.   Of course, this will not happen unless we are obedient and remain faithful.    God is omnipotent – all powerful.    God is also omniscient – He sees everything.  And, He is omnipresent, meaning He is everywhere.    But this doesn’t mean we are always in His presence. We must hold Him in awe, and seek to be in His presence (Hebrews 10:25).

       But don’t despair. We can be in God’s presence while we live here on earth.   When we gather with the church to worship, we are in the presence of God. We aren’t to “assemble” for social, or other reasons.   We come together to be in the presence of God Almighty! We can surely see this in Ephesians 2:22 as when we gather, God is in our presence. In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.  We are in God’s presence as together we bow to pray, raise our voices in song, as we commune around the Lord’s table to remember His Son’s death, and as we gladly return our offerings for the continuation of the work He has laid out for us in His Word.   Worship is homage rendered to God in obeisance, a reverence in submission to “His Will”.  

     We also “meet” God in His revelation to us. His Word, the Bible, provides all the instruction needed so we can prepare ourselves to be in His presence for eternity. Without that preparation, and unless we remain prepared, we cannot spend eternity with Him; we will be separated from His presence.  In Amos 4:12 we read of God’s warning to His Old Testament people Israel. Many of them had forsaken Him.   It seems they didn’t want to be “in His presence”.   Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.  The church is the “spiritual Israel” of God.   The same warning applies. We meet God in death! We will meet Him in the judgment!

                     Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Sin Sick?

Sin Sick?

     We are hearing a lot lately about the virus, and the sickness it brings as well the impact these things have on people.    There is a great deal of care being taken regarding the virus, such as face masks, social distancing, the careful washing of hands, and even the wearing of vinyl gloves when the situation calls for them.    A lot of money is spent each year on doctor visits, medical treatments and pharmaceuticals, as well as other alternative means to promote good health.   Most agree that good health should be one of our priorities. Our physical body is the only one we have.   Christians also know the body is the “vessel” that houses the soul while in this realm.  

      But how many people seriously stop and consider their spiritual health? In Luke 5:31-32 we find Jesus replying to derogatory remarks of the scribes and Pharisees.  And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  The Pharisees considered themselves “whole” because they were following their “own form” of doctrine, and felt spiritually superior to the rest of the Jews.   When we look at Luke 16-9:10 we see the kind of “medicine” the Great Physician came to offer humanity. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost

       We also know that the “health” that Jesus was bringing to man was the healing provided following His death on the cross and the establishment of the church.   In Acts 28:27 while Paul was in Rome conversing with the chief Jews in the area, Paul reminded them of the words the Spirit gave to one of their own prophets, Isaiah, which reveals why some will not receive the spiritual healing Jesus offers.  For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

      The great news is that God’s Salvation is now offered to “whosever will” and in Acts 28:28 the Spirit had Paul tell these same men this. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.   In other words, God’s remedy for sin is available to all who will receive it, obey it and abide by it.   John 1:10-12 tells us that the Lord had come, and that He provided the means by which a soul could be healed and remain healthy.  He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name

      This “power” was not available when Jesus was on earth, but in the next verse, we are told how and when it would be.  Per John 1:13, it is when one is “born” into the kingdom of God.  Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of GodThis is much the same as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 when He told him: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.   This was more fully explained by Jesus in John 3:5-6 after Nicodemus failed to understand.  Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.    Again, the remedy for the sin of man was not available when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, but it soon became obtainable.  

      The Spirit had Paul, in Romans 1:16, write to the church in Rome and tell them where the medicine for sin sickness is located.  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.   The remedy for spiritual sickness is available through the gospel.  

      We take the “medicines” prescribed by our medical doctors, knowing to have them and not ingest them, serves no purpose whatsoever.   Why can’t we see that the New Testament is the “cure” for sin sickness, as it is God’s Word that provides the instruction (directions), to eternal life.   The Spirit had Paul provide Timothy (and us) instructions in 1Timothy 6:11 for the “cure”.  We would do well to heed these Words.   But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.  That “medicine” is not a “one and done” as the Spirit had Paul write in Philippians 2:12.   Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.       God’s Word is the “medicine” we need for sin-sickness, but we must continually apply it in our lives.   To remain spiritually healthy, one must “work at it”. 

     It is so very sad to see our friends and loved ones suffering with physical injuries and illnesses.  Our heart goes out to them and we do whatever we can to help them in their times of need.   It is far sadder to see a friend or a loved one who is “sin sick” and will not accept the remedy Jesus provided through His blood, and as God has directed in His Word.  

      Obey the gospel today.  Take care of yourself physically and spiritually so you can live well in this life, and be with God for eternity. 

       Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Expressing Gratitude

Expressing Gratitude

       How often do we have the chance to tell someone “thank you” and let the opportunity pass?  Some don’t see the need to express their gratitude as if what is done for them is due them.   Then why does the KJV Bible have the phrase “give thanks” thirty-five times?      In addition to this, “giving thanks” is found five times, “giving of thanks” three times, and “thankful” three times. There are also many other ways to express gratitude.  

     Do we fail to express our gratitude for all that God has given us; done for us and provided for us?  Some don’t even pause long enough, when they sit down at the table to eat, to thank God for what they are about to consume.   It is apparent from Genesis 9:3, just after Noah and his family came out of the ark, God had “given” man food. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

     Christians should be aware that God has not only provided the means for fulfilling our physical needs, but according to 2Peter 1:3, the provision for our spiritual needs have also been met. According as his divine power hath given unto us (Christians) all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:  Can we not find it within ourselves to tell our Heavenly Father how much we appreciate the physical and spiritual blessings He has provided?   Some do not, cannot, or simply will not.

     Part of the “all things” of 2Peter 1:3, are “exceeding great and precious promises” of God.   He has promised in His Word in 2Peter 1:4 what awaits us if we answer the gospel call and then remain faithful to 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.  To be with Him and spend eternity with Him will only take place after the Lord returns at the end of time.  

   I am sure we wouldn’t want to be known as part of, or included with the carnal group of 2Timothy 3:1-4 who are identified as those “ushering in” perilous times.  This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;  Notice that the “unthankful” are listed along with the covetous, blasphemers, and the unholy.   Surely the child of God will not “willingly” participate in such things.    Rather, in the latter part of 2Timothy 3:5, we see the inspired instruction regarding those of this way.   Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 

     We are quickly approaching the “holiday” known as Thanksgiving.   Many are having difficulty “finding” things for which to be thankful this year. Much has happened in the past twelve months or so which has caused some to blame God.   We have the on-going virus, the restrictions imposed on us all as a result, the election woes, and perhaps even some unrelated personal ills, which draw the focus of many toward what we “don’t have”, rather than the many good things we “do have”.   Things might not be as they have been in previous years.  This is to be expected as much has changed during this year, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have things for which we can be thankful.  

     Might I direct the Christian’s mind to 1Corinthians 15:57 where we read that every faithful Christian is a winner? Most all folks I know are thankful when they win. But thanks be to God, which giveth us (Christians) the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Then as we read the next verse, we should see that the best way to “express gratitude” to God for this victory is to remain strong, and “abound” in His Work.     Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. 

(1Corinthians 15:58)

       Gratitude, or thankfulness, is not to be just a “holiday” affair, but should be a manner of life, especially that of a Christian. The Jewish brethren who previously lived under the Law of Moses, but were now the children of God “spiritually” were told in Hebrews 13:5 how all their lives were to show gratitude or appreciation. Let your conversation (means manner of life) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake theeThis alone is something for which all Christians should be grateful.   These same brethren were even told how to express their gratitude to God in Hebrews 13:15-16. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. 16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 

       Let’s strive to be pleasing to God as we enjoy the “Thanksgiving” holiday and every day by doing His Will, praising His name in song, communicating the Word of God and showing His Love to all.

                                                       Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Where Are You Wanting?

Where Are You Wanting?

 

    If asked this, most would correct the one asking the question, thinking they were asking “what do you desire”?   But in the use of “wanting” in the Bible, we see a different meaning.   The Bible meaning of “wanting” is: to have a deficiency in; or to be lacking.

     This is the idea being conveyed in Daniel when he, through the power of God, interpreted the dream of Belshazzar, king of Babylon. Belshazzar was being “judged” by the Lord in the sense that he had been warned, by the way his father, Nebuchadnezzar had been punished for not giving God the glory. Yet as king, Belshazzar ignored the warning. He received his “final” warning in Daniel 5:27 when Daniel told him part of what the handwriting on the wall said. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

     Then, Daniel told him of his demise in Daniel 5:28, as the latter part of the message from the writing on the wall was revealed. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.  Belshazzar must have figured this was to occur much later as Daniel 5:29 tells how the king responded to the news that he was “wanting” and his sentence had been given. Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

   Verse 30 of the same book and chapter makes it very clear that when God makes a declaration that it is to be heeded, because it will come to be. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.  He had been told “where he was wanting”, or lacking, and he ignored the warnings. This sounds like many today, who 1) have been duly warned in the Word of God, and 2) figure they have ample time before making changes that are needed before entering into eternity.

     Perhaps yet another reminder is needed. Man has been duly warned in God’s Word about the pending judgment, the demise of the ungodly as well as those who were once saved and then turned away from God. Another way a reminder finally “gets through” is in song.   It is a proven fact that most folks remember songs longer than spoken words or those on the printed page.  Possibly, this is due to the tune “sticking” in their mind.  

      We have a few excellent hymns that can serve as a reminder of the fate that awaits those that fail to obey God, or fail to continue in obedience. One such song is “Standing Outside”.   This song was written in 1932 by a man named John A. McClung.   The warning in its words is chilling.   Maybe the words of this song will cause someone to stop and consider “where they are wanting”.  

 

 

Standing Outside

Judgment is surely coming. Coming to you and me.

We will be judged that morning for all eternity.

Some will go into Heaven. Others will be denied.

Will you be in that number, Standing outside?

 

Standing outside while loved ones, Enter that pearly gate.

Knowing that there forever, You will then separate.

To be away from loved ones, And by your God denied.

O what an awful picture, Standing outside?

 

Can you not see the picture of those who’re lost in sin,

Standing outside the portals, Without a hope to win?

Souls crushed with deepest sorrow, Without a friend to guide?

O what an awful picture, Standing outside?

 

Chorus

Standing outside the portals, Standing outside denied,

Knowing that with the demons Ever you shall abide.

Never to share the beauties, Waiting the sanctified.

O what an awful picture, Standing outside?

 

   Don’t let your friends and loved ones be left “Standing Outside”.   Make sure that you have done all you can to bring them to Christ.   Invite them to Bible studies and to worship services.   Help them have opportunity to hear the warnings God has given in His Word so they can make informed choices.

     And equally important, don’t be afraid to live a righteous life before them, as Daniel did.    He did not fear the king, or what the king might do to him.   Serve God in all areas of life, not fearing what man can or may do to you. Fear being left “Standing Outside”. As stated in Matthew 10:28 by Jesus Himself: And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.    When “weighed in the balances” will you “be found wanting?”            

                   Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

When Life Is Like . . . .A Game of JENGA?

When Life Is Like . . . . A Game of JENGA?

      I am sure we have all heard of the game JENGA, the Wooden Blocks Stacking, Tumbling Tower Game.  If we have played the game, we are aware that all is well until the one block is removed that “topples” the whole thing, and everything “falls apart”.   Life seems like that sometime, and the Bible gives us several examples that might help us see that we are not the only ones to have these types of issues. 

     In Job 1:1-3 we read how Job’s life was “well ordered” and prosperous. There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evilAnd there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.   However, it didn’t remain that way.  By Job 10:1 all this wealth and stability was gone.  Notice how Job spoke of it.  My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.   

     Elihu, one of Job’s “friends” wanted to convince Job that the calamities of his life were of his own doing in Job 36:11-13.  If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures. 12 But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge. 13 But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath: they cry not when he bindeth them. 

      We all know that Job wasn’t wicked or evil, and after Satan was proven wrong, how God again blessed Job immensely, and Job’s life was long and quite happy.   After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations.  Job 42:16   God has always rewarded those that faithfully served Him. 

      Then, there’s Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachael.  His life was idyllic as a youth.  Even his father favored him as Genesis 37:3 indicates.   Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.   We read of the treachery of Joseph’s brothers in Genesis 37:20 which caused Joseph’s life to change and become unstable as a “stack of blocks”.   Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.   Then we read how his life was spared in Genesis 37:28 as they sold him into bondage.  Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.   We also know how God used this unfortunate turn of events to deliver Israel in the time of the great famine, as Joseph told his brethren in Genesis 45:5-8Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. 

     These are but two examples from the pages of inspiration.  But what are we to “glean” as we read these and the other Bible examples of tumultuous lives of faithful servants of God because of the actions of others?   Well, the Word of God provides the answer for this question as well.  In the latter part of Hebrews 13:5 those Jewish Christians, many of whom considered their lives “shaky at best” were reminded that the Lord told them:   “. . . I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  And He hasn’t, as the church at Rome was told in Romans 8:28.   And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 

      This does not mean that everything that happens to us is a “good thing”. It simply means that God has had a plan since before the “foundations” of the world, and man with all his “drama” cannot upset that plan.  In the sage words of Gamaliel of Acts 5:38-39: “ . . . for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: 39But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”   So, as a child of God, when life throws us a curve, and it seems that our lives are about to “fall apart”, remember that as Christians, we ought to take heed to the Words of the Spirit, given to the apostle Paul for the church in Romans 8:31.   What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us

       If you have not been baptized into Christ, you are not a “child of God” and the “tower” of your life is ready to topple.  As a child of God, we know that we serve God and do His Will and will be richly rewarded by Him.  Life is not what happens to us, but how we react to it.   Remain faithful to God in spite of life’s circumstances.   Stand fast to the end.    Hebrews 13:6    ” . . . boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”       

                             Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ  

What Kind Of Disciple Are You?

                                  What Kind of Disciple Are You?

     Depending upon where you look, slightly different definitions of the word “disciple” can be found.  From a general standpoint, we find:  a) One who embraces and assists in the teaching of another.  b) An active adherent, as of a movement of philosophy.   From a religious viewpoint, disciple is usually associated with being “a personal follower of Jesus during His life, especially one of the twelve apostles.”  

     We are aware that all of these definitions or descriptions fit the term we are examining in this article.  Many have shown themselves to be “disciples” of a given set of beliefs, or thinking, based on how they act or react to that which occurs around them.  But as we respond to the question of the article this week, let’s confine our thoughts to the “disciples” of Jesus.    We know that Jesus had disciples (followers) during His life’s ministry.   We should be aware that one can also be Jesus’ disciple today, many years after His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.  Hence the question all followers of our Lord should ask: “What Kind of Disciple Are You?”

     To answer this, we need only go to God’s Word and see examples of the types of “followers” existing in Jesus’ day, and see where we stand.   There are always those that seek blessings, and for such will “follow after” Jesus. 

In Matthew 9:27 we are told of two followers with a need.  And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. They had a need and Jesus filled that need,albeit a physical one.   They weren’t being selfish.   But today, many seem to be willing to follow, or claim to be a disciple of Jesus, based solely on the temporal blessings they receive.   When the going becomes difficult, or the times get tough, these are the one’s that often forsake Jesus.  Of course, these too will “cry for mercy”, being justly punished for living for themselves and only looking to God when they needed or wanted something from Him.

      Indeed, as we read in Mark 2:15, there were many during Jesus’ time that followed Him.  And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, (Levi the publican’s) many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.  But we are also told in John 6:66 that some who once followed, did not continue as disciples of Jesus.  From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.   The “hard sayings” of Jesus made them choose to be disciples no more.    There are some today that no longer continue as disciples because they think the Word of God too hard or that it is too constricting for their desired “lifestyle”.   

      This perhaps causes some today to be the type of disciple Peter was as the Lord was being tried by the Jewish leaders.    Luke 22:54 shows us how Peter followed at that time.   Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off.  Perhaps fear was not Peter’s only motivation for not standing up.   As Matthew 26:58 indicates, He wanted to “wait and see” how it all would turn out before committing fully.  But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.  Thank God Peter saw his error, wept, then repented and became a diligent “disciple” and served faithfully.    Had he continued to wait he might have lost his soul.

    Today, Christians are to be reminded of 2Peter 2:20 as we examine our own discipleship of Jesus.  For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

      We (Christians) should take the attitude of Thomas, one of Jesus’ original disciples, who also became an apostle, as is shown in John 11:16.    Thomas, often called “doubting Thomas” was among the apostles elect as they talked about how the unbelieving Jews of Bethany had sought to stone Jesus. Here, he showed what true discipleship is.  Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

      This same discipleship is shown in the Words of Paul as the Spirit had him write to the brethren in Philippi in Philippians 1:20-21According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

      What kind of disciple are you?  Are you following, seeking only temporal blessings in this life?   Have you ceased being an “active disciple” because the teaching or the circumstances were “too hard”?  Are you just following “afar” off, staying in the peripheral, and not being “too involved”?   Or are you, as a “true disciple”, boldly standing for truth and right, knowing that the reward far exceeds the sacrifice?   What kind of disciple are you?

     Only you can make that choice.   Become a Christian today and continue to serve as His faithful disciple and one day hear the Words from the Lord Himself: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”.  

                                     Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Promises, Promises

Promises, Promises

     We’ve been inundated lately with promises from political candidates who make every claim possible to get into the desired office.  When the election finally arrives, we have heard more promises than can possibly be kept.   What is so incredible is that many of the promises by any given contender is often countered by conflicting promises previously made by the same man or woman seeking the position.   This is quite inconsistent. 

      Every member of mankind makes many promises in the course of his or her life.   We do so relative to personal relationships, jobs, and many other areas.   When such promises are made, it is hopeful that “good intentions” are behind the promises.   Some of these are kept, or honored, and others are not.  To not keep the commitments, or promises we make, makes us inconsistent as well.  

     There is one who is neither inconsistent, nor fails to keep a promise.  This is because as Isaiah 55:8-9 informs us, God does not think nor act as does man.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.Then we read in Isaiah 55:11 that God made promise about how effective His Word is.  So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.  Then from the New Testament, in 2Peter 3:9 we see how serious God is about the promise He made and the plan He set in order from before the beginning of time for the benefit of man.    The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.   God is faithful, consistent, loving, and desirous that all souls would seek Him and be saved. 

     But what about our part in this?  Are we not expected to be consistent in our efforts to receive what God offers mankind?   Back in the early 1980’s O.D. Wilson, my wife’s father, re-wrote the words of “Make Me A Channel of Blessing” to address our promises, which he entitled “To Be Consistent”.   There was nothing wrong with the “original” song, but these “additional” words might help us to “examine ourselves” as we continue our Christian walk.   Perhaps when he wrote this, he was pondering the “commitment” all make to God when they obey the gospel.   Unfortunately, some Christians fail to live up to their commitment because of inconsistency.   Below are the words he wrote to that tune.  It asks some interesting questions. 

 

To Be Consistent

1)   Is it true that you are a Christian,

or a person who just wears the name?

Are you really committed to Jesus;

not acting or playing a game?

2)  Do you go to worship each Lord’s day,

are you just a “one timer” each week?

Do you eat the Lord’s Supper the right way?

Always the Lord’s Will do you keep?

3)  Do your neighbors know you are a Christian,

by the things that you do and say?

Have you tried to win them all for Jesus? 

Don’t wait, there’s no time like to day.

Chorus

To be consistent is so hard to do. 

I want to serve Lord and always be true.

Say what I do Lord, Do what I say Lord,

be an example each step of the way.

     What kind of promises do we make when we talk to God?   When we bow our heads in prayer and ask for specific blessings, do we consider that we committed to be consistent in our service to God?   Do we contemplate where we might spend eternity because of inconsistency?   Think about it. 

                                                  Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ   

Be A Giant Killer

Be A “Giant” Killer

     Upon reading the title of this article, you many have thought: “Fi -Fi-Fo-Fum”, as is found in the children’s stories depicting giants and such.   We know that the “mythical” giants as portrayed in these stories and films are designed to fascinate and entertain our young ones, and do not really exist. However, we are also aware that the “giants” of which the Word of God speaks did exist.   These were men of great size and of impressive physical abilities.   One of the most well-known “giants” is Goliath of Gath, and is found in the account of David and Goliath in 1Samuel chapter 17.  

     This account has been the basis of many a narrative in which the “giant”, or the great and mighty opposition is soundly defeated by the swift action, or the tenacity and perseverance of his diminutive foe.   There have been “fairy tales” told, books written, and movies made, some animated and others not, which had this as a storyline. More importantly, there is a lesson for each of us, if we will just heed the lesson and apply it within our lives.  

     We aren’t likely to have physical foes of the imposing stature of Goliath of Gath. We are to understand that he was indeed real, and he and warriors from the army of the Philistines terrorized the army of Israel for a time.   It simply took someone who served God, had faith in God and who looked to God for strength and deliverance to overcome and defeat the enemy.

   Young David, in 1Samuel 17:37 stated with full confidence: The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.   King Saul, grateful that he himself did not have to face the giant, told David: Go, and the LORD be with thee.         Saul, whether he realized it or not, was giving David some sage advice, which if followed will help us as we face the “giants” in our lives. As each of us have these in our lives, we need to be aware of the means by which we can overcome the “giants” we face day to day.  

     What might be the “giants” we face?   These are perhaps too numerous to list, as everyone is different and all live under various circumstances. But there are a number of these that might be familiar to us.   One “giant” has a rather broad description as many things fall into this category.   Its name is evil.   Romans 12:21 tells us: Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.   If we want to defeat the evil that presents itself to us daily, it can only be done by challenging it with good from God.  

     Evil is indeed a “giant”. In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus told His apostles that we have the power over evil. He said: For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.   Can we not see that we have the power to overcome, if we will but control our minds?   The Spirit had Paul write of this in Philippians 4:12-13.    I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

     God has provided us all we need to kill the “giants” in our lives, if we will simply avail ourselves of it. The apostle Peter was directed to write of this in 2Peter 1:3. 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:   But even that which God has provided is of little use unless we access it.   Why do you think David chose five smooth stones, rather than the armor Saul offered?   He knew what would work.    1Samuel 17:38-40 shows this to be the case.   And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. 39 And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him. 40 And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.

     As we face our obstacles, and the many things that might deter us from serving God, let us become giant killers. Take what God has given us (His Holy Word) and learn to be proficient in the use of it. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2Timothy 2:15)   Then take on all that stands between you and God.   You can and will defeat the enemy, regardless of its size.   We can see from 1Corintians 10:13 that God has made a way for us to be giant killers.     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.

     Go ahead, face your giant(s). Prevail over that obstacle. Have faith in God, serve God and look to His Word for strength – Become a “Giant killer”.

                                                Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

How Deep Are Your Roots?

How Deep Are Your Roots?

     When asked about their roots, many folks perhaps consider their places in the community, or their ancestry, or something of that nature.   This is certainly plausible, as our “roots” have some impact on us. We understand this as we look into our heritage.   Many have spent considerable sums and taken much time to research their roots for various reasons.  

     Some may want this information for health purposes. The tendency of a certain disease or physical abnormality within a family might be a good reason to have this information at hand.   This could be quite useful to a physician as he or she treats someone in such cases.   Others tout their “roots” in regard to their community because one with deep roots in the community indicates that the person has stability.   Perhaps their family has been in the area for many years.   This may also work in one’s favor with local law enforcement authorities, etc.

     But, how many stop to consider the depth of their roots from a spiritual standpoint?   My friends, these are the “roots” about which we should be most concerned.   Colossians 2:6-7 shows that our roots “spiritually” must be firmly “in Christ”. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

   This is the same concept Christ was teaching in John 15:4-6 as He spoke to His apostles. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. From this we should see how important it is that our spiritual roots be in the right place and that they remain firm.

     Part of the message of the parable of the sower in Luke deals with the necessity of roots. A plant, (or a person) without root, cannot be nourished as the root is the plant’s source of sustenance. In the Lord’s explanation to His close disciples in Luke 8:13, shows how the seed is ineffective when it does not develop roots.   They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.  The explanation in the Matthew 13:6 account shows what will happen if we have no root. And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

       We all understand how roots work. One of the things the encyclopedia tells us about plant roots is: In vascular plants, the roots are the organs of a plant that are modified to provide anchorage for the plant and take in water and nutrients into the plant body, which allows plants to grow taller and faster. They most often lie below the surface of the soil. A couple of points can be gleaned from this. 1) The roots “anchor” the plant.     2) The plant receives its life-giving nourishment through its roots.  

     As Christians, we are to be “rooted” in Christ.  Therefore, in Him we have our anchor. 1) Per Hebrews 6:19 It is our hope in Christ that is our anchor. Those Hebrew Christians to whom this letter was written were told this so they would remain rooted in Christ. Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;   2) The Spirit, in 1Timothy 4:6 had Paul tell the young preacher how the Christian is to receive the nutrition that sustains spiritual life.   If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

       We also know that the best way to prevent the growth of a tree, bush or any other plant is to separate it from its roots. The inspired message of John the baptizer in Luke 3:9 was to inform Israel that they would be “cut off” from God due to them having neglected and rejected His Word. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. God was applying the axe of His wrath on those of His people who would not remain rooted in His Word and would not follow His instructions.  

     This has always been God’s Way of dealing with His people. God has issued His Commands, provided the time and means for man to heed His Law, and has also warned of the penalty of failure to obey. In Romans 11:22 the brethren at Rome were told that this is also the case in the church age.   Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.   The goodness of God is shown in the giving of His Son on the cross of Calvary to purchase the church. His severity had already been shown to those that had rejected His Son, as they were “cut off”.   His Love and goodness is still extended to all today that will obey the gospel.   Put “roots” down today.   Obey the gospel. Then strive to grow in the knowledge of the Lord and remain firmly and deeply “rooted and grounded in love”. Ephesians 3:17

                       Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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