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Making Christian Progress (2)

Making Christian Progress

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

Making Christian Progress

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

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

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

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

O.D. Wilson – deceased

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

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

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

My Father My Friend

My Father, My Friend

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

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

The Price Is Right!

The Price Is Right

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

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

When

When

    In a recent article, we examined “if”.    We contemplated those things wherein we have choice.   There has always been some ambiguity regarding the many things that might have been or could be. But there is absolutely no doubt at all about those things which God’s Word assures us will be. So, we all need to look at “when”.

   As we navigate this life, we have all come to a realization of the difference between if and when. We likely take notice of this because of the inevitable things that are associated with life itself.   There are only a limited number of things that are guaranteed to occur. Two of these, if we enter life, are death, and the judgment.   Over one of these, we have no control as we are all going to die as Heb. 9:27 clearly shows. This verse also shows that at the conclusion of all life, judgment occurs.  

   While we have no power over death, each person has some control of the outcome of the judgment.   That is, while in this life, we can live so that our eternity is announced in a way which will be very pleasing to us. This idea, conveyed to the Christians in 2Cor. 5:10, shows that judgment will be in accordance with their lives, whether “good or bad”. Rom. 14:10 shows that “all brethren” shall “stand before the judgment seat of Christ”.  

     It is equally important that we understand that man can and will “fall” as we live our lives. This applies physically as well as spiritually.   We shall all fall physically as death is certain and unavoidable. We all fall from a spiritual standpoint as Rom. 3:23 affirms, because all sin.   We have physical enemies in that our health diminishes as we age, and disease occurs.   We cannot win that battle. We are all going to die. We have spiritual adversaries, of whom the devil is the leader.   But we needn’t lose that battle. That enemy will one day be destroyed as the Spirit had Paul write in 2Cor. 15:26. When all have died, or the Lord returns, the obedient and faithful are rewarded.

     Perhaps this is the idea that prompted my wife’s dad to pen the poem I have inserted below. He wrote this in 1981, just a few short years after his wife, a faithful servant of God, and Linda’s mother, had passed from this life after a terrible automobile accident.   She, and all who are obedient and faithful to God’s Holy Word have “gone to be”.

Gone To Be

Gone to be re-united, with loved ones over there,

In the Paradise of God, in that good land, somewhere.

Some have waited there, for many, many years,

Others, just a little while, we’ve scarcely dried our tears!

Gone to be on vacation, that shall never, never end.

Ten million years will be a moment, and “time” cannot begin.

They’ll need no map to tour the city, there’ll be a personal guide,

With nail-scars on His hands, His brow, His feet, the One they crucified.

Gone to be the recipient of a robe, a harp, and a crown,

To bask in the sunlight of God’s Love, having laid the old cross down.

No problems to solve, nor a pain to bear, not a burden of any kind.

Such things won’t enter Heaven; they’ll all be left behind.

Gone to be a musician, and singing a brand-new song,

With the ransomed of all the ages, throughout Eternity long.

With blood-washed robes in the blood of the Lamb, victors over sin,

A song God’s angels can’t sing, since they weren’t born again!

Gone to be in waiting, until the trumpet sounds,

Await a “glorified” body, not the old one in the ground!

Join in that wonderful meeting, with loved ones in the air,

I’m getting “packed” and ready, because I plan to be there!

O. D. Wilson – deceased

   While we await the final “whens” of our existence (death & judgment) and as we deal with the ones that take place in this life (stumbles & falling in sin), we must take heed to make the proper preparation.   Are you ready for death? If you’ve not obeyed the gospel, you’re not.   2Thess. 1:8-9 reminds us that God will take vengeance in flaming fire “on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” and they will be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;”.

    If, you have once obeyed the gospel, and when you fell, haven’t gotten up (repented and asked God’s forgiveness in prayer), then you are not ready for death or the judgment. Just as Simon in Acts 8:21, your “heart is not right in the sight of God.” This is why it is so important to get ready now.  

   We shall all be “gone to be” at some point. The question is: Where will we go? That must be determined now.   Remember Psa. 119:109 - My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law. Prepare for when – Now!

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

IF

IF

     Hardly any word in our language has as significant an impact on folks as the word “if”. As a part of speech, it is a conjunction. To use “if” introduces conditional clause. One uses “if” in conditional sentences to introduce the circumstances in which an event or situation might have happened, might be happening, or might happen in the future, as well as the outcome should this specific thing occur.

     As children, we no doubt were warned of the punishment we could expect by our parents as they used such a conditional clause regarding our behavior. It probably went something like: “if you do (such and such), then you’ll receive a spanking (or in this day and time, a “time-out”).   If our parents were consistent, the promised penalty was duly carried out when we broke the rules. Very early on, we became acquainted with the idea of “if/then”.

     When we became a little older, we learned the use of this conjunction was to entice us to do something.   For instance, a neighbor might say: “if you’ll mow the yard, then I’ll pay you five dollars.”   (At least that’s what it was in my youth). We fully understood the conditions (what the job entailed), as well as the reward that was expected upon completion of the job. Sometime later, we turned this around as we sought gainful employment in asking the prospective employer: “What pay, and benefits can I expect (if) I come to work for you?

     The same is true of contracts of all sorts. When we finance something or purchase something “on time”, we are allowed to keep and utilize that item, “if” we make the agreed upon payments in accordance with the conditions of the contract.   We will finally possess or own that item “when” we pay it off. This is only one example of how “if/when” works. The same is true when one enters into an agreement to provide goods or services to another for a set sum of monies. There are many other examples of this.  

   We’ve all heard some of the sayings of people that demonstrate this idea. Perhaps you’ve heard this one. If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Consider Lot, the nephew of Abraham.  In Gen. 13, as the land was not able to support the flocks, herds and tents of both Abram and Lot. A solution was suggested by Abram, which gave Lot the option of choosing which area he desired.   Gen. 13:10 shows that Lot chose the “well watered” plains of Jordan, which relegated Abram to the less irrigated land of Canaan. But we also see in Gen. 13:12 that this placed Lot in near proximity to Sodom. Gen. 13:13 informs us “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.” We know how this turned out. Lot’s deal wasn’t so good, was it?

     Perhaps you’ve thought up some of these yourself.   One I came up with is:
If you make a hot deal with the devil, then you’re going to get burned.” Many are “making that deal” yet have not considered what price they are going to pay.   From Gen. chapter 3, we learn of the deal the serpent presented to Eve as he tempted her.   He and Eve both were fully aware of what God had said regarding the “tree in the midst of the Garden”. Verse 3 shows the prohibition God had given and the penalty awaiting “if” man touched or ate of it. Then, in verses 4 & 5, the “deal” was presented. Eve considered the deal, took the fruit, ate it, gave it to Adam who ate it, and they both paid the price in being separated from God and being expelled from the Garden.   Following this was a life of pain, suffering, difficulties, and all sorts of maladies known to mankind, including death. God has always meant what He has said.

   Even today, many are making deals that involve their souls. In Matt 16:26, Jesus acknowledged this by asking two questions. He asked: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Our time in this life and all life has to offer has no value in comparison to the soul of man. Yet, many are “exchanging” their souls for empty promises of fame, fortune, pleasures, or a number of other things which lure man away from God and the promises He has presented in the gospel.   We are told in Titus 1:2 that He’s Promised us the “hope of eternal life” according to His plan before the world began.

   In 2Pet. 1:4 God has, through His divine power, given unto us “exceeding great and precious promises”. These promises are to those who have obeyed the gospel. In 2Pet. 1:8, following the list of things to add to our faith, we find another “if” which presents the condition which, if followed, will make one fruitful in the kingdom for which Christ died. Following this in 2Pet. 1:10 we have another divine guarantee for success. It is: “if ye do these things, ye shall never fall”.   This is advice that comes from God above through His Holy Word.   God’s Word is always to be obeyed and followed to the end of our lives.   This is evident in Gal. 6:9. The latter part declares: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 

     However, one must begin before they can be. This reminds me of one of the many sayings of Yogi Berra, the long-time catcher for the New York Yankees. He said: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it!”   You are at a fork in the road. You must go one way or the other.   Why not take the path that leads to eternal bliss? Obey the gospel today! Remain faithful to God and grow in the Word.   If you do this, then you can live with Him eternally.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

The Law Of God Is Perfect

The Law Of God Is Perfect

   Man has oft struggled with right or wrong, good or bad, light or darkness, virtue or evil.   God has addressed all these in His Holy Word. The sacred pages contain God’s Message to humanity.   The first Word of God was spoken and began in that Paradise on earth. It was sent to God’s people, Adam and Eve. It was perfect in design and true in every aspect. The warnings were clear, and the punishment foretold, if the directives were not followed out of love.

   After the fall of man, God continued to speak directly to His creation. They covered the earth, and many refused to hear His Commandments and lived for themselves. We are told in Gen. 6:5, GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. This grieved God. But there was one who loved God and followed God’s Law.   We know this is why Noah was called a just man.  

     God again spoke, but this time to Noah, giving him a warning, instructions, and directions how to be saved.   Noah heeded God and built that ark.   God’s Law for the saving of Noah and his house also condemned the world. Faith is what made the difference. Noah believed, was moved by fear (respect to God and His Word) and became “heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7), in following God’s Perfect Law. These eight souls were saved by following God’s Perfect Law.

   Later, God provided a written Law to a people (Israel), chosen to bring His Son into the world.   This law was also Perfect in that it fully accomplished all that God intended. Gal. 3:24-25 shows that Christ indeed came, and that Old Law now has been taken away. This is confirmed in Heb. 10:9-10. Therefore, there is only one Law of God today. Jas. 1:25 calls it the “perfect law of liberty”, and that same “law of liberty” will judge all – Jas. 2:12.

     The poem below was written by my wife’s father sometime around 1985. He first wrote it as a song which fits the music to the song: Beneath the Cross of Jesus. The words of that song do not align with God’s Word as the cross was only an instrument of death upon which the Savior gave the supreme Sacrifice. The cross cannot save, but the New Testament Law of God does. God’s Word was written so the Will of God could be known and followed. If it is rightly divided, and properly followed, it leads one to God, and an eternal home in heaven.

The Law Of God Is Perfect

 

The Law of God is perfect, it saves the human soul,

Designed to bring men unto God and make them fully whole.

Directs the wanderer from sin to realms of peace above,

It’s the chart and compass that transcends, all for that home above.

 

Paul wrote of its Perfection when miracles had ceased,

And childhood unto manhood, in maturity released.

He said it’s the more excellent way of which but three remain,

Confirmed by supernatural gifts, complete in Jesus’ name.

 

The Word inspired, confirmed, makes the child of God complete,

The Perfect Law of Liberty from which none may delete.

Contains all things which now pertain to life and godliness.

It is the Truth which now alone, reveals God’s righteousness.

O.D. Wilson – deceased

 

     God has provided this “Perfect Law of Liberty” for the sole benefit of man. It contains warnings to be heeded – Col. 1:27-28. The great and precious promises are there for the benefit of His faithful children – 2Pet. 1:4.   As the gospel of Christ is proclaimed, the “power of God unto salvation” is what is presented and is available to all – Rom 1:16.  For the gospel to be followed, one must read the instructions – 2Tim 3:16-17. This passage, along with the one found in 2Pet. 1:3, the child of God has everything we need to prosper in life and be godly through the Holy Word. It is only through that “perfect” Word of God that we can know of Christ, and what He did to provide Salvation for the soul of man.  

   Incidentally, it is only in accordance with God’s Perfect Law of Liberty that one can become a child of God. The New Testament Word of God is also that which identifies children of God. 1Jno 3:10 tells us this and that God’s Word also identifies the children of the devil. Those who “doeth not righteousness” are “not of God”.  This is evident from Psa. 119:172. My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness. All God’s people speak of and follow God’s Word.

  Don’t delay. Look into God’s “Perfect Law of Liberty” today. Then do all that God Commands. He’s provided this for your benefit. Do just as Jas. 1:21 says. “receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

A Mother Worthy Of Praise

A Mother Worthy Of Praise

    To most folks their mother is special. This is likely why a day has been set aside yearly in our country to honor and remember them. This is no surprise as the mother is the one who carries the baby in the womb, ushers it into the world, and in many cases, she is the one who nourishes the infant until it can feed itself. It is also the mother (when things are done as God set them up) who takes care of the child, kisses the “boo-boos”, and directs the child through childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood. Additionally, in many situations “Mom” is always there when there are problems.
    For all these things, mothers should be loved, honored, and appreciated in many ways. The mother is often the “rock” of the family, and the “glue” which holds the family together. Many families become unsettled and fractured when there is not a mother in the picture. Sadly, there are times when the mother must carry the whole burden of the family, and there are many who have done so with amazing results. Great effort is required to do all this.  
   There have been many “mothers of note” in the annals of time. Of course, there was the first mother, Eve.   We are told in Gen. 3:20 why Eve holds a special place in the history of mankind. And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Then in Genesis 4:1-2 we see that Eve indeed bore children.   From that time forward, women have been bearing children and fulfilling part of God’s purpose for them. The next who was called a mother was Sarai (Sarah), Abraham’s wife.   She too was blessed in Gen. 17:16. Although she only bore one child (the child of promise) she was to be “a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
     Of course, we could also mention Rebekah, the wife of Isaac; Rachael, the wife of Jacob; Jochabed, the mother of Moses. Then there is Naomi, whose husband and both sons died in Moab, but returned to her people from Moab with Ruth who was in the bloodline of the Christ, as well as many others.  We could continue a search through the whole of God’s Word and identify a plethora of note-worthy women who bore children, some of whom were people of renown. Hopefully, all these women were loved, and their efforts appreciated by their offspring.
     However, the mother who is worthy of praise in every dispensation of time is not only she who bears children, nourishes them, watches over them, and provides for their physical needs, but looks out for their spiritual needs as well. One such mother was Hannah who had been barren and prayed to God for a child. In her prayer, she promised if God would grant her motherhood, she would give her child to the Lord. Surely this is a mother worthy of praise. Her prayer was answered, and as she promised, her first-born was “lent” to the Lord per 1Sam. 1:28. This child was Samuel, a great prophet and servant of God. She left her son with Eli to be taught to “minister” before the Lord. Hanna was also blessed in that she bore three more sons and two additional daughters.  
     Of course, any conversation about mothers worthy of praise is incomplete without the mention of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We are told in Luke 1:30 that Mary “found favor with God.” What greater honor could a woman ever have than to be chosen to bring God’s Son into the world. The announcement by the angel perplexed Mary as we see in Luke 1:34. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? But the explanation provided in Luke 1:35 clears this up for us all. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. After Jesus was grown and had begun His earthly ministry, we find in John 2:5, His mother provided some sage advice. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. This is advice we all should heed.
   As we move into the New Testament, we must note the grandmother and the mother of Timothy.  In 2Tim. 1:5 we are told a remarkable attribute of the young evangelist was his deep-seated faith which was instilled by Eunice with help from her mother Lois.   Why were these mothers worthy of praise? Because they used what God had supplied to help him develop that faith. In 2Tim. 3:15 we find what they used.   And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  They only had the Old Testament Scriptures at that point. They heeded Prov. 22:6 and when Timothy was able to make his own choices, he chose well. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. 
     I suppose almost every mother deserves love, appreciation, and some of them warrant honor.   However, the mother that brings up her children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord are to be praised.   Be warned, not every child that is taught the truth at a tender age will result in a diligent and faithful servant for the cause of Christ. But if they are not taught properly from the Word of God, they are far less likely to become a Christian, and far less likely to raise their own children the right way.  
   If you are a mother, you are appreciated, and we honor you. But if you brought them up in the Word, you are a mother worthy of praise.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

It's Just That Way

It’s Just That Way

      As I was contemplating “things that are just” this past week to prepare for the sermon Sunday morning, I realized that the phrase which is the title of the article, and the title of the included poem could be taken a couple of ways. This would depend on your outlook.   Some might consider life and all the issues it presents and resign themselves that “it’s just that way”, or simply things are the way they are.   Many who consider things in this light rarely seek to change for the better or prepare for what lies beyond after we have shed these mortal bodies.   These are they who ‘drift’ through life and receive the consequences in life or the afterlife, whatever they may be.

     Others might express this slightly differently, putting emphasis upon the word ‘just’, applying a biblical definition of that which is: meet; holy; right or righteous. Used in this way, the phrase takes on a whole different meaning, doesn’t it? We are instructed in Philippians 4:8 to think on things that are: true; honest; just; pure; lovely; of good report; of virtue; and of praise.   When we think on these things, surely, we are thinking of the Word of God. While Christ was on earth, in John 5:30, He stated that His judgment was “just” because He sought not His own Will, but that of the Father.

       We are told in Rom. 1:17 that the ‘just’ shall live by faith. We also can see in Rom. 10:17 that ‘faith’ comes by hearing the Word of God.   We can only see to be ‘just’ if we read, study and apply God’s Word. Did not Christ live in accordance with God’s Word? He is called “Just” in Acts 3:14; 7:52 and 22:14.  God’s Word is just. His plan is just. We can be just, only by following that plan.  

       My wife’s dad penned the poem below in 1983. I don’t know why he put these words to paper.   But as you read it, consider the contrast between: ‘It’s just that way’ as in: ‘que sera sera’ (What ever will be, will be), and “It’s just that way’ in that: life can be “just” when lived as God directs in His Word.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

It’s Just That Way

1)

Well, a fine little boy was born today,

To a sweet young couple just over the way.

They’d both been so happy, they could hardly wait,

And now they can really celebrate.

Why, they’d planned his life ‘til the time he was grown,

When he’d take a wife, have a home of his own.

The new mother wanted him to be a preacher,

But his dad preferred he’d be a schoolteacher.

And the difference was settled between these two,

He could be a preacher and a schoolteacher too.

2)

But they also had a funeral in our town today,

For a well-known man who’d passed away,

Who had lived a life of many years,

And had shed a lot of sweat, as well as tears.

When you had a problem and felt down and out,

This man would help without a doubt.

When he’d take his old Bible and begin to read,

Seemed he knew just the verse that filled your need.

When he’d bow his head and offer a prayer,

You felt like the Lord was standing there.

(I was thinking just now, that God in His grace,

May have sent that little boy to serve in his place).

3)

And you know, I believe it’s this way friends,

Where one leaves off, another begins.

From the point of beginning in a physical birth,

Our days may be few upon the earth.

We stumble along, make so many mistakes,

Through joy and peace and many heartaches.

I’ve oft asked this question, and now I know why,

When you’ve learned enough to live, it’s time to die.

And our expertise or the things that we own,

Won’t enter the grave or that Heavenly home.

O.D. Wilson deceased.

Fellowship Is A Matter Of Choice

Fellowship Is A Matter Of Choice

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

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

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

What Makes You So Special?

What Makes You So Special?

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

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

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