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How Comitted Are You To God?

How Committed are You to God ?

     Most all religious people claim to be committed to God.  But what does it really mean to be “committed” to God?   We have numerous examples in God’s Word that show true commitment. In Joshua 1:7 we read where God told Joshua what it takes to be committed.   Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.  When God told him this, He also told him the initial benefit for so doing.   Upon studying the entirety of this book, we find near the end that the commitment of Joshua positively affected the nation of Israel. This is found in Joshua 24:31.  And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel. But, as we study the O. T. and look at the nation of Israel after this time, we must ask: “What happened to their commitment to God?”  

    The answer to the question was the same then as it is now, and it always will be. God has always provided for His people – If His people will accept His instruction, then do what God says to do. This was applicable under the Old Testament Law to Israel and also applies today under the New Testament Law of Christ, written to Christians.   In Hosea 4:6 we read of the condition of most of Israel and the reason they had fallen into such a state.   My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.  When these folks rejected God’s Word they rejected Him and also they stopped teaching God’s Law to their children. In this way the children knew not God and He “forgot” them because they refused Him.  They weren’t committed to God. Christians cannot be uncommitted to God and expect to please Him.

     In Joshua 24:14-15, after God had done as promised and delivered Israel to the Land of Promise, Joshua charged the people to be faithful to God. He also stated the commitment he had to God. But, he also told them that each individual had to decide if they too were going to be committed to God. Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.  We know that Israel immediately made claim that they would always be faithful. Most do when challenged in this way.

    But, what is the proof of such claims? As the saying goes: “The proof is in the pudding”. Originally this was stated: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” and it means that the end product will show the true nature of a thing.   James 2:18 is perfectly clear about how one’s faith is demonstrated.   Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  The same thing applies to one’s “commitment to God”. One would not be out of line to say to another: “Show me your commitment to God without your works, and I will show you my commitment to God by my works.”   Can your commitment to God be shown by your works? Does an hour or so on Sunday constitute works for the Lord?   It doesn’t even qualify as “reasonable service”. Remember Luke 17:10 as Jesus spoke to His disciples? So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. 

    Of course, these “works” with which one could show their commitment to God, have to be in accordance to the Word of God. These “works” would also include the teaching of the Word of God as well as living them. In Psalms 119:10 we read of the degree of commitment the psalmist had toward God and His Word.   With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.  As we read Psalm 101:6 we find the one who does “not wander” from the commandments of God are not only committed, but also are faithful. The “committed” one will also “dwell” with God. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me

    One cannot acceptably serve God without being committed to Him. The idea of commitment is conveyed in the word “walketh” in the above verse.   The eth on this word implies an ongoing and continuous walking in a perfect way. We find the same suffix, “eth” twice in James 1:25.  When these verses are taken together, one must realize that to be “committed” to God, one must “look” into and “walk” continually in the perfect law of liberty. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.  This verse also indicates that commitment is not just hearing, but doing the work.   Just like Israel, the O.T. people of God, we today, as God’s people – Christians – cannot expect to receive what God has promised in the Law He wrote to the church except we be committed to Him and His Word.  

     How committed are we to God?   Our soul’s eternal destination requires us to be totally committed to Him and His Word.  

                                                                                      Dennis S – Mooresville church of Christ

Lack of Knowledge is Hazardous to Your Health

Lack of Knowledge Is Hazardous to Your Health

   There is a long list of products, substances and actions that are known to cause harm to a person, but “a lack of knowledge” is on none of these lists. That is largely because the primary concern on these lists is all about ones “physical” being. It is important to take care of our bodies, and the knowledge of how to do so is valuable.   We are to take care of our physical bodies as the body is the earthly dwelling place of the soul. We are also to use our bodies in the service of God. This is what the Spirit had Paul tell the Roman brethren in Romans 12:1, but in verse 2 we also see that the body and soul are to work in conjunction in service to God.   I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 

   The idea that lacking knowledge or even hating knowledge causes one to bring difficulties to themselves is not new.   In Proverbs 1:28-32 we are told of the fate of those under the Old Testament Law of God willing to endanger themselves by spurning the Word of God. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: 29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: 30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. 31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. 32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.  Notice that the individual is to bear the blame when God’s counsel is ignored and it is the individual that makes the choice that brings destruction upon himself.

   Hosea 4:6-7 is perhaps a much more well-known Old Testament passage that shows that what one does not know is harmful to them. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.  But there is also a very important New Testament passage; Romans 1:28-32, which shows us in this age, that “lack of knowledge” of God’s Word leads to all sorts of despicable acts and makes one worthy of death – spiritual death.   And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. 

   The very fact that a “lack of knowledge is hazardous to your health” is evidence that knowledge can indeed be quite beneficial. In 2Peter 1:3-4 we find that through “knowledge” of Christ and His plan we have access to the “great and precious promises” made in the Word of God. 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: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.  Notice also that we first have to escape the corruption that is in the world.  

 Knowledge of this is important because we do have choices. As we live this life we are actually choosing where we will spend eternity. 1John 2:15-17 tells us of our choices. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  Then, when we read 2Corinthians 5:10 we see why knowledge is so important as we make our choices as none can escape the judgement For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.  Aren’t you glad that you now know?  

                           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Is Prayer Effective For You

IS PRAYER EFFECTIVE FOR YOU?

   There is a great deal of misunderstanding among most people when it comes to prayer. I am convinced that many people view prayer as the great panacea (remedy for all ills or difficulties) for the troubles mankind faces. Man has long looked for his own cure for whatever happens to him, regardless of the cause. Usually man first seeks to find his own resolution for his issues, even those that are self-inflicted, before turning to prayer. But, when all other efforts have been exhausted, most will turn to deity. Even those who claim not to believe in Jehovah God will routinely “bow” to whatever god in which they believe and expect a “miraculous” result.   Of course, these requests are always “tilted” in the favor of the one doing the asking.   Much teaching needs to be done on prayer today.

   One of the reasons that prayer is ineffective for some folks is that they don’t have the right to pray. When Jesus was asked by His disciples in Luke 11:1 to teach them to pray, He gave them the formula in Luke 11:2-4 for the type of prayer they were to pray. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.  These disciples were the children of God, as they were still part of Old Testament Israel and God’s New Testament Law was yet to be delivered.

   As children of God, they could call God their Father. They had become children of God when they were born as part of Israel. As such, as long as that Law was in effect, they could pray “Our Father”. That law was a physical law, based on the physical promises to Abraham and made them God’s people to bring Christ into the world. They were God’s people, had received God’s Word to them and benefited greatly by the blessings God bestowed on them.  

But when the New Law of God was submitted on the day of Pentecost, those who once were children of God under the previous law, were now required to submit to God under the New Testament Law. This is the meaning of Jesus’ night time discussion in John 3:3 with Nicodemus in that visit. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  One born of “water and the Spirit” in baptism becomes a child of God under the New Law.   He/she then has become part of the kingdom, is a Christian, added to the church, is a joint-heir with Christ and also is given the “right” to call God their Father and then can approach their “Heavenly Father” in this wonderful avenue of prayer. Those of the world, not having been “born” into the family of God cannot rightly call God their Father.  

   Just because one enters into the family of God and is granted this great honor to call God their Father and the privilege of prayer, does not mean the relationship requires no effort on our part.   In 1Peter 3:12 we read where the Spirit had Peter write about prayer. There it is explained whose prayers God acknowledges. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.   Therefore if we want God to hear our prayers, we have to strive to be righteous. This was affirmed even in Jesus’ day in John 9:31, by the man – blind from birth – that Jesus had healed. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth

     This provides the solution to the question from the title of this article. If you find that your prayers are not effective, it is either because 1) You are not a child of God, or 2) You are a child of God, but are not living your life in accordance to the Will of God, which is His Word. If situation # 1 (above) applies to you, look to God’s Word, then obey the gospel by following His inspired directions, and become a child of God. (Any faithful Christian should be able to help you do this).  But, if situation # 2 (above) is applicable and your prayers are ineffective, you need to look into God’s Word to see what it is you lack in doing the Will of God. Then you must repent and turn back to the Word, and Will of God before He will hear your prayers.   Those prayers also have to be in accordance to the Will of God.

   We can see in 2Peter 1:3-4 that God has supplied all we need to live and be godly in this present world and also be partakers of the divine nature. 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: 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.  Couple this with what we read in Titus 2:11-12 and we see that there is no excuse for a child of God to have ineffective prayer. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

   What is required is honesty on our part.   We cannot blame it on God if our prayers do not seem to be effective. We must look within ourselves and make an honest assessment and make the needed adjustments. Then our prayers can be effective for us.      

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Leader and Follower?

Leader and Follower?

   There are many who desire to be leaders. Some do so for the prestige or power they think they will have as a leader.   Some are naturally inclined to be leaders and others are naturally inclined to take the role of a follower.   What determines this is often how a person sees him or herself in a particular situation.

   What makes the difference between a leader and a follower? A leader is one who is stimulated to make a difference and is someone who motivates their followers to believe in something much greater than their own existence.  But, a follower is someone who is attracted to the purpose and vision of the leader and in turn helps the leader achieve his or her objectives.  

   Among the folks that teach motivation among corporations and companies, there are those who correctly teach that every leader is a follower and every follower is also a leader.   One such line of thinking goes something like: To Be a Good Leader, First Be a Good Follower. ... In essence, they learn key “followership” lessons that will serve them well when they become leaders. According to Barbara Kellerman, a leadership lecturer at Harvard University, there is a lot a person can learn about being a good leader by being a good follower.   While this is true and also important, why is the emphasis on “what or Who one follows” being largely ignored? Some have even been taught to follow their own consciences.   Where does the Bible teach this? Does our conscience “lead” us or does it “follow” us?  

   When Jesus called His disciples, those who would begin preaching the message of the kingdom after the Lord purchased the church, He used two simple Words. They were: Follow me. These men were expected to follow Jesus while He was here on earth, and also follow His teaching after He returned to His Father, when He had done His Father’s Will and provided the sacrifice that was required to remit the sins of those who will be obedient to the N.T. Word of God.  

   However, while here with them, Christ taught His disciples that they were also to become great leaders. In Mathew 19:27 Peter speaks of the cost of discipleship after the Lord had pointed out the fallacy of trusting in riches. Peter also asks what they could expect to receive. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?  Then in vs 28 Jesus told them how they were going to be leaders.   And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  But what does this scripture mean?   It does not mean that they were to sit on physical thrones. The thrones being referenced were spiritual in nature. The “regeneration” is the “Christian age” (the time of the new birth). The “judging” of the “twelve tribes” (the church) was the apostles delivering the gospel message, first starting at Pentecost, A.D. 33 in Jerusalem and ultimately spreading to the whole world .

   Luke 24:47 shows the scope of the “leading” the apostles would do. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  But, Luke 24:49 shows at the same time that the apostles would indeed be followers and Who would be leading them. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on highThis event would help them not only be leaders in the cause for which Christ died, but also would help them as they continued to follow the Lord.  As they, and other men received the Word of God from the Spirit and delivered it to those that would hear, were leading others. Then, as they heeded the Word the Spirit delivered to them, they also were following the Lord.  

   This continues even today. No faithful Christian will deny that they are also to be disciples, or followers of Christ.    In Matthew 28:16-18 the eleven disciples (apostles elect) went where Christ had told them to go, When Jesus came to them He told them of His authority. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Then we read the Great Commission in vss 19-20. In this passage we are given the directive to follow the command of the Savior, as well as the command to lead others to Him through His gospel. It reads: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

   Anyone can see that this commandment is perpetual.   All who are not doing as this commandment teaches is not following the Will of God. 2Peter 3:9 shows what God’s Will is. 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.  Are you “following” and “leading”?   If not, you cannot be pleasing to God and will not receive eternal life. Think about it. Obey now!  

               Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Who Do You Love?

Who Do You Love?

    Many will recognize the title of this week’s article as a song written in 1956 by Bo Diddley and recorded by a number of folks down through the years.   I thought this to be an appropriate title for this week’s article as many are beginning to focus on the up-coming holiday, Valentine’s Day.

   According to “legend” there was an early Roman Catholic bishop by the name of Valentinus who was reportedly imprisoned in Rome because he was performing weddings for soldiers, who were forbidden to marry, and ministering to those “Christians” persecuted under the Roman empire. The legend states that this man wrote a letter, just prior to his execution, to the blind daughter of his judge, and he signed it “Your Valentine” as a farewell.   Of course the Catholics later made him a “saint” and the course of a holiday was charted. Then in the 14th century, the English poet, Geoffrey Chauser wrote of the day in terms of romantic love and by the 18th century, a flourishing business had developed as “courtly love” was expressed with flowers, confectionery (candy) and greeting cards. The cards became known as (you guessed it) valentines. The season is upon us and many are spending much to express their love in various ways. A whole industry has developed as a result.

   There is much said about love in the Word of God and has none of these have to do with cards, or other expressive ways man has invented to deal with this God given emotion.  With love, man has (as he has done with most things that God has given) focused on one aspect, and not necessarily what was intended. In fact, in the King James Bible, there are 311 occurrences of the word “love”. In each place this word is found, the context needs to be consulted to determine the type or kind of love being referenced. Also the context is necessary to see the object of the love being referenced.

     The first reference to love in the Bible is found in Genesis 27:4 and the object of love here is the “savoury meat, such as I love”. This “love” was expressed by Isaac in his advanced age as he prepared to bless Esau. And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.  The first reference to “romantic love” is in Genesis 29:20 when the days seemed but few as Jacob labored under Laban for the hand of Rachael, the younger daughter.   And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. This is the kind of love all young woman likely desires that their man had for them.  

     But there are “loves” that are by for more important than either of these which have been previously mentioned in this article.   One of these is that which God has shown for all humanity in the sending of His Son to die on the cross.   John 3:16 is a passage familiar to many, yet the depth of the meaning is lost on most. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.    Some even suffer the delusion that simply because God gave Jesus, they have eternal life. For this to be the case, God would have to authorize “unrequited love”. We know from a study of the Word, that God expects His people to love each other and to love Him.  

     When God had separated out a people (Israel) through whom He would carry out His plan for the redemption of souls, He gave them a Law.   In Leviticus 19:18 we find in that Law, that love for one’s neighbor as one loved himself was required. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. God also required His people to love Him, as is evidenced by Deuteronomy 6:5. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. But then in vss 6-7 of the same book and chapter we see how this love was to be carried out and taught.   And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 

     Then as we examine the latter part of the New Testament, 1John 2:9-10 shows that loving one’s brother is also a commandment of God under this dispensation. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.  Then in 1Thessalonians 4:9 the Spirit had Paul write to these brethren on the same vein.   But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. 

     We also have the teaching of Christ in Matthew 10:37-38 showing that love and devotion to even our parents and family is not as important as love to the Lord. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.   Now, who do you Love?  How do you show it?   Who, or what you love is evident in your actions. It’s something to think about.        

                                     Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Are You On The Winning Team?

Are You on the Winning Team?

   Excitement was high among many this past week as the two top teams in the NFL for this year were making preparation to face each other for the distinction of being the best team in the league. I have noticed some folks in my area wearing jerseys so others will know which team they desire to win. Now, I know that not everyone that lives in North Carolina was born here.  Some have moved here with their families for employment, or while in the military or whatever. But I feel sure that the majority of these people did not move here from New England or Los Angeles. So, why are so many people here wearing jerseys from these two teams?  The answer is quite simple – They want to be associated for the “winning team”.  

     We see this each sports season. When the NBA season nears the championship games, folks “choose” sides and root for their team. The same for Baseball, Soccer, and maybe even Hockey.   Often you can tell who is “in the playoffs” in a particular sport, and what season is drawing to a close by the jerseys worn in your town. This is done for the same reason; all want to be identified with the winning team.

     Believe it or not, in religion there is more confusion than there is in sports. Why is this you ask?   Well, most folks are aware that in sports, only the team that has the best score at the end of the game is the winner. Yet, it seems that most think that all groups within religion are going to win. How do they figure that?  Well, many teach that whatever one believes, so long as they are sincere, will be winners when the Lord hands out the reward.    Ask most anyone if they think they are going to heaven and they will say something like: “Of course I am, I am saved or I have been born again.”   Then, ask them to which church they belong, and many will give you the name of the denomination where they are enrolled.   Isn’t it interesting that man knows in sports, only the winning team gets the trophy, ring or prize, but when it comes to religion, many think that everyone is going to receive eternal life?

    Another interesting thing is that folks seem to know most all the rules about their favorite sports and many can quote much of the rulebook.    But, when it comes to religion, the ultimate rulebook, the Word of God is rarely consulted, let alone quoted or remembered by most “religious” people.   Most know just enough to “justify” their specific ideas about salvation.   For instance, in John 5:24 we see what Jesus said to the Jews who sought to kill Him.   Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.  Many try to “bend” this rule to their benefit. They teach that all one has to do to have everlasting life is to believe. Even the devils believe in God and tremble per James 2:19. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.    Are they on the winning team?   You know the answer to that!

   These “belief only” people are the same folks claim to be disciples of the Lord, and as far as they are concerned are part of the “winning team”, but what did Jesus have to say about it?  In John 8:31-32 Jesus spoke to some Jews who already believed in Him. He said: If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  This should show us that believing alone will not suffice.   It also points out that one who does not continue in the Word (follow the rule book) is not a disciple. Then, as we look to 2Timothy 2:5 we find another place that proves that the rules have to be followed or one cannot receive the prize. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.  The rules have to be followed.

   Now the big question. On whose team are you; and will you win? God’s team is always going to win. In the O.T. we see Joshua was on the Lord’s side. We find the Spirit having him tell Israel in Joshua 24:15 to choose wisely, and also have their response in vs 16. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. 16 And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;  He followed God’s rules under that dispensation and received the reward God had promised.

     Then as we come to the N.T. we find that Jesus gave “rules” to become part of His Winning team in this dispensation. Jesus tells us in Mark 16:15-16 how the “recruiters” were to find those who would become God’s “team members” and that by believing alone one cannot be a part of the team. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.     If you are on a team that does not have these requirements, or the others stated in the New Testament, you are not on the winning team. Everyone wants to be on the team that wins.   When it comes to your soul’s eternal destiny, you cannot afford to be on the teams that will lose and be condemned forever.  

   Follow God’s rules, Obey the gospel, and become part of God’s Winning team.

                              Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Get In The Fight

Get In The Fight

1

The war is on brother, join in the fight.

How can you wait, when at stake is the right?

Are you afraid? Put the whole armor on.

No need to pray when the banner is gone.

2

We are out-numbered but God’s in command.

He’s not a loser, do you understand?

Battle’s aren’t won when the soldiers retreat,

What you could do, might mean Satan’s defeat.

3

For what you’ve done brother, there’s no respect,

What good are you, if from Truth you defect?

They want somebody today, they can use,

What is your record, from which they can choose?

4

Get in the fight, brother. Give it your best,

You may be wounded, but so may be the rest,

What good’s a soldier, who won’t stand and fight?

Give all you’ve got for the Cause that is right.

                                                                              O. D. Wilson - deceased

   The preceding poem was written many years ago by a faithful gospel preacher, my Father-in-Law, O.D. Wilson. Even then, there were “soldiers of the cross” that were giving up the fight for the cause of Christ. Thank God that there are always some who recognize this problem and warn others of the danger of doing the same.   Ever known anyone who has given up?   Of course, you say. “Everyone has given up on something haven’t they?”   But we’re not talking about giving up bad habits, or giving up on something that can hurt oneself or others. We are not discussing the soldiers that have gone AWOL, or have become deserters in some man’s or country’s Armed forces.    Some desert these “armies” because they no longer agree with, or support the cause for which they are to be fighting.   Some quit, because they don’t like the “rules and regulations” that hinder them from doing what they want and in the manner in which they desire to do it.  

   This article, and the poem offered here are speaking of those that “Give Up” on God and the cause for which His Son came to die. Man’s rules and laws are subject to change, but not so with God. Psalm 119:89 shows this to be the case. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.   Since God’s Word does not change, neither has His promises to those that serve and follow Him. The Spirit had Paul write in Philippians 1:27 to encourage the brethren there to stay in the fight and never give up. One can only do this if they stay in the Word and follow it completely. It will guide their entire life, if they will let it. Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

    Quitting is not an option. We made the commitment to follow and serve God when we were baptized into Christ. That was to be a lifetime commitment! Those who quit have forsaken that commitment. In 1Thessalonians 5:21 we are told: Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. We can prove all things (test them) according to the Word of God.   This verse also tells the Christian to “hold fast”. To show that to which one is to “hold fast”, the Spirit had Paul write Timothy in 1Timothy 1:13. Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. These Words were supplied by the Spirit – so, they were the Words of God, delivered by Paul through inspiration.  

   Getting in the fight is important. One does this upon obedience to the gospel and the Great Commission is where we are told to go and teach others. But staying in the fight is just as important.   One will not receive the “prize” unless they remain in the fight.   In 2Timothy 4:6-8 we see what the prize is, and what one must do to be a recipient of that prize.   For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 

   If you are not a Christian, you’re not in the fight and condemnation awaits. If you are a Christian, don’t quit.  Keep serving faithfully.   The reward awaits.

                                                                         Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ    

Ain't Skeered

Ain’t Skeered !

   While driving around in recent months, I have been seeing stickers on the back windows of trucks that say: “Ain’t Skeered!” It is not very difficult to determine what this means. To one speaking properly, the phrase would be: “I’m not afraid.” There have been many in various situations that have made the claim they were not afraid. When I looked up “ain’t skeered” on the internet I was only a little surprised to find out there was actually a song with this title on YouTube. There is not a lot of other information available on this phrase.

   It has been my experience that those who usually make the boast that they are not afraid, are the ones that are terrified of that thing or action which is being contemplated. For instance, the child that proclaims they are not afraid to sleep with the light off is likely to be the one afraid of “monsters” under their beds. The same is true of adults, in that often a “grownup” will sometime feign braveness of something when they are really horrified of it.  

   Fear has been a part of the makeup of man since man was in the Garden of Eden. It is interesting to me that of all the things in the Garden, none caused Adam any fear until he had sinned against God. When Adam and his wife, Eve sinned, by eating the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened, they became aware that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together to hide themselves. In Genesis 3:9-10 we see that the first man and women vainly sought to hide themselves from God because of that fear. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?10  And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. Also, we should notice that it was not God Himself of whom they were afraid, but appearing before God in the knowledge of their nakedness.   They tried to hide from God out of fear.    

   The Bible is full of examples of things people have done out of fear. Sarah lied in Genesis 18:15 and said she didn’t laugh, when God promised her a son in her old age. Jacob, in Genesis 31:31, told Laban he stole away in the night with his wives and children because he feared his Father-in-Law would take them by force. Later in Genesis 32:27, while returning home, Jacob was afraid of what his brother Esau might do, and divided his family and flocks into two bands so part of them could escape if needed.   Moses, in Exodus 3:6, when confronted with the burning bush, “hid his face for he was afraid to look upon God.”     Upon hearing the thunder and rumbling from the mountain, the children of Israel were afraid to come before God and implored that Moses meet with God and then tell them what they were to do.

     Space in this article will not permit the listing of all the occasions in the Bible where man was afraid, nor of that of which man has feared. But, it needs to be noted that not every time the word “fear” is mentioned is it a bad thing, nor should we expect “fear” to always have the same meaning each time it is used.   In Ecclesiastes 12:13 the Spirit had Solomon write: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. None would think to “be afraid” of God would be a duty of man. “Fear” in this place obviously means something else. Fear in this passage carries the idea to revere, or to stand in awe of God, and this verse also teaches that the duty of man is to keep, (obey fully) the commandments of God. This reverence or “fear” for God is what is needed in the life of all who claim to serve God.

Still, even today, fear is used as an excuse, even when service to God is being contemplated. Many a Christian man will not participate in public worship because of fear. Of what are they afraid, making a mistake?   God knows that man is prone to mistakes and how many among us ever accomplished anything without a mistake or two along the way?   Those who do nothing out of fear, are those who accomplish nothing. Another way of saying this is that those who do not serve God because they are afraid, are not serving God. That’s hard for many to accept, but it is true nonetheless.   This world is full of many who do not have reverence for God and His Word. This is evidenced by the evil that is all around us, and the many that participate in it.

 Matthew 10:28 is where Jesus said something which defines some fear as dread. 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.  We are to have no dread (fear) of those that can kill the body, yet have no control of what happens with our soul.   On the other hand, we are to have dread about what God will do with a soul that is disobedient.

   Ain’t Skeered?   There are two ways in which all are to “fear” God.   1) Hold Him in reverence and do His Will as outlined in His Word.   2) Fear the fate of all that are disobedient.   The latter part of Romans 12:19 tells us: Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.  He will repay at the end of time.

Think about it!          Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

He Ain't Heavy - He's My Brother

He Ain’t Heavy – He’s My Brother

  

   Many will likely recognize the title of this week’s article as a song from 1969 by the Hollies, and Neil Diamond and the Osmond’s in 1970. This song has been recorded by many different artists over the years.   But have you ever wondered about how the title came to be?   According to Wikipedia, in 1884, James Wells wrote a book about the parables of Jesus. In that book, he tells the story of a little girl carrying a big baby boy.   When asked if she wasn’t tired, she was surprised and replied. “No, he’s not heavy, he’s my brother.   Then in 1918, Ralph Waldo Trine wrote a publication entitled The Higher Powers of Mind and Spirit in which he relates the same situation as an anecdote. As it involved a Scottish girl, the reply was: “He’s na heavy. He’s mi brither.”     And, in 1924 Row Fulkerson, the first editor of the Kiwanis magazine published an article with the title: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, which was the first use of the phrase exactly as it is rendered in the song title. Finally, in the 1940’s, Edward Flannigan, the priest that started the famed “Boys Town” children’s home adopted as a slogan: “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother”. So we can see that the phrase has been well used over the years.   But have we as Christians stopped to think how the phrase applies to us and our brethren?  

   Everyone that has been baptized into Christ becomes a (Spiritual)“brother in Christ”. We have many passages addressed to “brethren” or brothers, as the Spirit directed the various letters to be written to the early church in the N.T., but the idea of brotherhood extends way back into the O.T.    The first brother (physically) was the second child of Adam and Eve. As we read Genesis 4:2 we see his name was Abel.   Then in Genesis 4:9 after Cain had killed Abel, we find the Lord’s question to Cain and the improper attitude Cain had and response he made because of his sin against his brother. He lied to the Lord.   And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?

   In Genesis 13:8-9 we find that Abraham, the one who became known as the “Friend of God” was shown to have the right attitude as his herds and those of Lot’s had become more than the land could support.   Choices needed to be made and the first choice was that there be no strife between them. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.  As these two were “brethren” they sought to work out differences and “get along”.

   We also know that Lot’s choice in land was based on appearances and not on how he and his family would be affected by his choice. Then, as Sodom, which was where Lot abode was to be destroyed because of its great wickedness and sin, Abraham again showed he was a brother.   In Genesis 18, for the sake of Lot, Abraham communed with the Lord and asked Him to not destroy the City if even ten righteous could be found.   Ten were not found. We see the mercy of God as He sent angels to deliver Lot and his family. But evil had pervaded that family because of their closeness with the wicked people of Sodom. Perhaps if Lot would have stayed closer to faithful brethren, things would have been different for him.

   What about God’s people in this day and age? As previously pointed out, we who are Christians are brethren.   What is our responsibility toward our brethren in Christ? Are we, like Cain going to ask: “Am I my brother’s keeper”? Are we to forget what the Spirit had Paul write to the Galatian churches in Galatians 6:2?   He wrote: Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.  Then again, when one looks to Philippians 2:4-5 Paul was directed to write: Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  This does not mean that each does not have responsibility to make every effort to serve God faithfully in according to His Word.   None can allow his or her brother to shoulder their load all the way to eternity.   Galatians 6:4-5 shows this to be the case. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden.    Then in 2Corinthians 5:10 we also have the teaching that shows each soul will be judged separately. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

   While we all will be judged according to what we do in this life, there are none of us that can make it on our own. We have the help of the Lord, through His Word. But if we have encouragement and help from our brother, would not the journey through this life be more tolerable.   The Spirit had Amos write a question in Amos 3:3 that all who are “brothers” need to ask themselves.   Can two walk together, except they be agreed? That which all “brothers” are to agree upon is the Word of God. If it is followed faithfully it leads to heaven.   What do you do when your brother needs help or encouragement?   Will we let him enter eternity unprepared because he has some difficulty bearing his burden.   Remember – Help him.   He ain’t heavy – He’s my brother.           

                      Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

 

Ready, Set, Go

Ready, Set, Go!

     It was pointed out in last week’s bulletin that everything has a start as well as an end. This is true of every race, every transaction, every covenant and every year. We have now started a new year. This past week was the beginning of this year. It was a time celebrated by many as the beginning of hope yet again.

   When man and woman were created and placed in the Garden, it was just the start for humanity. But, it was also the start of God’s plan for humanity. God announced His plan first in Genesis 3:15 as He spoke to the serpent following the serpent lying to Eve, deceiving and tempting her to sin. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Adam’s sin was listening to and following the voice of his wife, and then partaking of the forbidden fruit. This was the start of man’s problems.  

   Because of mankind’s sin, man now needed a Savior. That need continues as all that have been born have entered a world that is tainted with sin. Man is not born in sin, but is soon introduced to sin and all become tainted by sin. God began His plan to save those who would be obedient to His Will as He separated out a people through a Law for them alone, within which time the Promised Savior was to come. Galatians 4:4 tells us of this truth.   But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

   Shortly after Christ came, started His ministry, died, was buried, was resurrected, He ascended to His Father in Heaven. Then the plan that God had formulated from the beginning to save the soul of man was possible for all who would obey His Word. That plan had for a long time been a mystery, but no more.   Romans 16:26 tells us it is now made known.  But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: 

     In 1Corinthians 6:9-10 we find a long list of despicable sins which identify those that are unrighteous. We are told they “shall not inherit” with those who obey. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  But verse 11 of the same book and chapter shows clearly that the Corinthians which had obeyed the gospel were no longer in that group.   And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. 

   This means that they had made a “new start”. They made ready when they obeyed the gospel. They, like Paul in Philippians 1:17 were to remain “set for the defense of the gospel”, and we, like they are to go.   We are to go, taking the message of salvation to the lost and the erring as Jesus directed in Mark 16:15. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 

   However, one made ready by baptism for remission of sins is not automatically equipped to be set for the defense of the gospel, and therefore cannot go without the right preparation. 1Peter 3:15 admonishes all Christians to be able to provide reason for our hope. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:  One also does not become instantly ready upon becoming a child of God. It takes work on their part. 2Timothy 2:15 is a passage that informs as to how one can be prepared. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 

Ready, Set, Go seems to be applicable as in 1Corinthians 9:24-25 the Spirit had Paul use the idea of a race in writing to the Corinthian brethren.   There he also told them the prize that was at the end.   Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  The only other place the analogy of a race is referenced in the New Testament is in Hebrews 12:1-2 being advice that every Christian would do well to heed.   Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

   If you are not ready, you need to be so. Obey the Word of God and become His child. If you are a child of God, but not set; well, time’s a wasting. Study, learn and apply the Word of God and make the proper preparations to go.   Then go – go and teach the gospel. Take it to all that will hear it. Help them understand how to obey it and in so doing, serve God acceptably. Anything less . . . You will lose your race ! Ready – Set – Go!   What better time than at the start of this new year?      

               Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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