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Might I Suggest . . .

Might I Suggest . . .

       During our lives, there is no doubt a number of suggestions that have been offered by well-meaning friends, family or acquaintances intended for our benefit.   This time of year, especially while shopping for holiday gifts or while involved in other transactions, we might hear the words: “Might I suggest. . . ”   Some have a bit of difficulty choosing in various areas of life. Suggestions are one of many ways to help folks make decisions.  
         The word “suggest”, by definition is: “put forward for consideration”. In the Christian life, one can only “suggest” to others, or put forward for their consideration, the Words of “truth and soberness” that come from God. As the Spirit directed, the apostle Paul used this phrase while standing before king Agrippa and Festus in Acts 26:25.   He said: “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.” These Words of truth and soberness were given Paul by the Spirit.   These same Words were those to which the Lord Himself referred in John 6:63 where He said: It is the spirit that quickeneth; (makes alive) the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
        Even the apostles, who were given these Words of truth, had limits to what they could “command”. They could only “command” what the Spirit gave them. The word command means to “order” or “to direct with specific authority”.   The apostles had been given this authority directly by the Lord.   In Matthew 28:18-20 we see the Commandment of Christ given specifically to the apostles.   And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 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.  The wording of this commandment makes it perpetual. This means that this duty applies to all Christians even today.
       While Jesus was on earth, He indeed had authority. But He would often make “suggestions” to folks to direct their minds in a certain way. He made use of parables in many cases. In Luke 14:7 we read of this as He observed the lack of humility among many of the Jews. And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them,. He suggested they think on this, and then adjust their actions accordingly. He also gave the reasoning behind the suggestion in Luke 14:11. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.   Christ had the power and authority to Command them to be humble, but can one be humble on command? Isn’t man a free moral agent? God created man with this power of choice. 
          The greatest choice one can make is to become part of the kingdom of God – (the church) and remain faithful to that commitment. The mission of Christ on earth was to teach the Jews of the coming kingdom, then die on the cross to purchase the church. John 3:16-17 not only tells us what God gave, but also why He gave His Son, and what we “might” receive as a result. 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. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
         Christ had chosen His apostles to reveal this kingdom, His church, and Salvation in Christ, after Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension as 1Corinthians 5:20 shows. Now then we (apostles) are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. Today, we (Christians) cannot “command” anyone to do anything.   We can only suggest.   Other ways in which we encourage others to be obedient, then to remain faithful are to plead, extol, preach, teach and admonish.   The “choice” is up to the hearer or reader.  
          Might I use the power of suggestion to direct your minds to what God has Commanded for reconciliation to Him through His Word?   Then you can decide if you want the promise of eternal life, or not.   Choose wisely. In His Word, God has Commanded for one to be saved they must. . . (1) Hear The Word – (Romans 10:17) So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (2) Believe in Jesus – (John 8:24) I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.   (3) Repent of past sins – (Luke 13:3)   I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.   (4) Confess Christ before men – (Acts 8:37) And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (5) Be Baptized into Christ – (Mark 16:16)   He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (6) Remain Faithful unto death – (Rev 2:10) . . . be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.  Also, if one has once “obeyed” the gospel, then has yielded to the suggestions of the world and become “unfaithful” God has provided the means for reconciliation. This is found in Acts 8:22. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee
           The Commandments of God are not suggestions. The decision is yours. Be careful of the “suggestions” you follow.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Goodness and Mercy

Goodness and Mercy

     The terms, goodness and mercy are only once joined together with the conjunctive word “and” in all the Holy Scriptures. This is a very familiar passage as it comes from the 6th and final verse of the 23rd Psalm. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. However, both “goodness” and “mercy” are found throughout the Bible in various passages.   Both of these terms are important as God is good, and God provides mercy to all His people as the Spirit had the psalmist write. Just before this verse, the psalmist penned “my cup runneth over” as directed. This expression is definitely in reference to the goodness and mercy of God.  

     We know that God is good, as Jesus stated this in Matthew 19:16-17 as the rich young ruler approached the Lord with an important question. The Lord also responded to the young man’s request. And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.   The Words of Jesus here, also affirm what the Spirit had the prophet say in Nahum 1:7. The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. Both of these were spoken during the time the Jews were under the Mosaic Law, but this principle applies equally today.  

       In Romans 2:3-4 the Spirit had the apostle Paul write regarding God’s Goodness and what it should cause man to want to do. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

       Most readily accept God’s Goodness and are equally willing and desirous of receiving mercy from God, especially in light of their pending eternity. But the Spirit had Paul address both the virtue and the seriousness of God in Romans 11:21-22 as a warning to those who would NOT fear God and do His Commandments. For if God spared not the natural branches, (unfaithful Jews) take heed lest he also spare not thee. (Gentiles) 22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. This was said of the Jews that once rejected God’s New Testament plan. This also applied to these Gentiles as all humanity is now under the same plan. God’s mercy is liberally applied today as people seek Him through His Word.

     Another word for mercy is compassion as Matthew 20:30 and 34 clearly shows. Verse 30 And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.  Verse 34 So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him. Notice how these men reacted after the Lord had mercy on them – they followed Him.

     We can read in Ephesians 2:1-5 how God’s mercy is shown toward man today.   And you (Christians) hath he quickened, (made alive through His Word) who were dead (spiritually) in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, (Satan) the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

       God has shown His Compassion toward mankind by sending His Son to die on Calvary’s cross to purchase the church.   Christ, as promised to the apostles in John 14:26, sent the Holy Ghost to bring His Word so all could see God’s Goodness and Mercy. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. This gives man the opportunity and the choice to follow the Lord and become recipients of God’s Promise to the obedient and faithful.

     God’s Goodness and Mercy is available if one will follow God’s Plan for salvation. It is hard to understand why some leave the faith. One MUST first obey the gospel to have the promise of life everlasting. Then we are to “work” to maintain that proper relationship to God. Jude verse 21 advises us to do just that. Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. The Word shows the goodness and mercy of God.   Follow God’s plan today.   Obey the gospel. Don’t gamble that God’s Goodness and Mercy will “save you” in the end if you’re not obedient to His Word.   “If You Gamble – You Lose”.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Hearing God

Hearing God

         To “hear God” is of utmost importance. I doubt there are very many who would disagree with this. However, there is much confusion as to how and in what manner one is to do so.   Some today claim that God speaks directly to them as He once did to the ancients.   In the Old Testament portion of the Bible, -- Genesis through Acts chapter one -- the phrase “God spake” can be found eleven times.   In each case it is pointed out, to whom He spoke, as when He told Noah to depart the ark in Genesis 8:15-16. He obviously spoke directly to Noah. And God spake unto Noah, saying, 16 Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. 
        The first eight instances of “God said” is found in Genesis chapter one. In the first seven, God was making proclamations of creation. In the eighth, God the Father is speaking to the Godhead regarding the pending creation of man and the attribute of man, being created in the “image of God”.   The first account of God speaking to man, and man “hearing” God is located in Genesis 1:28 and states one purpose man was created. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
       The final occurrence of “God spake” in His Word is found in 2Peter 1:21 and here declares the way in which God first spoke to man, and the way in which He did to His O.T. messengers is very different. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.  Hebrews 1:1-2 clearly indicates that He now, in “these last days” speaks through Christ. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
         Down through the ages, as the plan of God was being carried out, His mode of speaking and His message has been suited to the phase of the plan. To say that God speaks “through His Son” is not to imply an audible voice to an auditory receiver (the human ear), or to the “heart” of man.   Within the N.T. writings, “hear His voice” is found but three times, and all are in the book of Hebrews. This doesn’t mean that God would speak directly to them as He once did to Adam and Eve.   God’s Word, once audible, has now been delivered in written form, one that is available to all of humankind. 
          Part of God’s plan was for His Son, Jesus the Christ to come to earth and to die on the cross to purchase the church so all could come to Him and be saved.   While here, Christ spoke, and in Luke 8:1 we are told of the message He spoke and what was heard by the Jews of His day. And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,. This was the earthly ministry of the Son of God.   Christ completed the earthly part of His ministry when He had been crucified, buried, arisen and ascended back to His Father in heaven.   The mission did not end there, and God did not cease speaking at that time.
         While Jesus was on earth, He Himself spoke to people. Previous to Christ coming to earth, man “heard” Moses and the prophets, as God’s message was being revealed in accordance to His plan. In Matthew 17:5, on the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus was given all authority, the voice of God was heard by Peter, James, and John. God said: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” 
            But in John 16:17, before returning to His Father, Jesus explained to the twelve apostles how He would continue “speaking” following His time on earth. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.  He then told them in John 16:13 who this Comforter was, what He would do, and the source of that Holy message.   Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. That which the “Holy Spirit” brought to the apostles was the Word of God.   We are to “hear” and obey that Word they recorded and which God has preserved in the Bible.  
          Additional proof that the Scriptures are God’s Word, is found in a letter the Spirit had Paul write the young preacher in 2Timothy 3:16. It states: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” Then in verse 17 we are told of the benefit of “hearing” the Word of God. That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.  
          We should all want to “hear” God as we want Him to hear us.   We are told in John 9:31 who God hears. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.   One cannot “speak” to God until they belong to Him as His child.   Hear His Word today. Do His Will.   God’s Will is that none should perish per 2Peter 3:9.   Will you not “hear God” today and be obedient to the gospel and prepare to spend eternity with Him?  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Going My Way?

Going My Way?

     I’m told there was once a time in our country when one could travel from one end of the nation to the other via hitch-hiking.   This was accomplished by the generosity of others who were headed in the same direction. Still, this likely would only take one part of the way.   It seems this practice may be declining in popularity as the danger of harm has increased.
      We are all going someplace. This is evident day to day as traffic is snarled in various locations as folks are making their way to and from.   But there is a much more important journey we are all taking and each has an eternal destination. Where each is going depends on the individual.    
        When folks were hitch-hiking, and now when people travel, they usually have a destination in mind.   From a religious standpoint, there are but two places one will spend eternity.   Many religious people claim to be headed to the same place, and will entice others to “go their way”.   This can be very problematic, especially when they are being improperly led on their journey.   In Luke 6:37, Jesus taught the Jews of His day the fallacy of following others, especially if others cannot clearly see the way. And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?   This is taught so that one will not “blindly” follow another, and in so doing, be led to destruction.   Many of the Jews of Jesus day were being led in a way that would hinder them from recognizing the kingdom when it came in their lifetime, and therefore would refuse to obey.    
       Today, the religious teachers entice others to go with them “their way” as they teach and preach the various denominational doctrines. Mark 7:7 is a clear identification of such. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  The question which needs to be asked is not “Are You Going My Way”, but are you going the “ONE WAY” that leads to life?   Is the way I’m going the way that Jesus provided when He came and died on the cross of Calvary?   That’s important.
         In Matthew 7:13-14, as Christ was concluding His Sermon on the Mount, He gave specific directions as to “the way” to go, and the destination, as well as the way “NOT TO GO” and the penalty for doing so.   He said: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
         All are going to their eternal home someday. Romans 6:16-18 contains the inspired proof that what you do in this life, determines what “home” is to be yours for eternity.   Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.    Who is it that you serve? 
         Going my way? I’m going where Jesus leads. He leads us through His Word and shows us the way.   As Jesus stated in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” This may have been the passage of which Linda’s dad was thinking all those years ago when he penned the words of this song.  

I’m Going Home Someday 

Sometimes I get tired
As I travel life’s pathway.
Things that I once admired
Try to lead me astray.
But I’m going to a place
Where the flowers are blooming.
By the help of God’s Grace,
I’m going home someday. 

I’m going home someday,
Since Jesus is leading.
He directs me each day.
On His Love I’ll be feeding.
At the end of the trail,
When the mists roll away.
Trusting Him, I’ll not fail.
I’ll be going home someday.

O.D. Wilson – deceased

     We’re all going someplace, and the beauty of God’s plan is that we get to choose where that is.   In John 14:2-3, Jesus comforted His apostles with the Words we read there.   In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. Choose today where you’re going.   Obey the gospel today and remain faithful till you take that final trip to be at peace and rest forever. Going my way? I’m Going Home Someday to be with the Lord forever. I want you to go too.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

The Price We Pay

The Price We Pay

     Everything has a price or a cost associated with it. This even includes the things we may be given. True, the material “gifts” which others may bestow on us might not cost us anything at all, but someone had to bear the cost of them.   We also ought to be made aware that the price of something is often not the same as the cost of it.   We read of this in Acts chapter 5 as Ananias and Sapphira received a fair price for their land, but as they lied to the Holy Ghost in their giving, paid the cost of so doing with their lives.  

     Perhaps they hadn’t heard of the teachings of Jesus in Luke 12:16-21 in regard to the attitude of the rich man. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.  He was willing to pay to have barns built, but wasn’t aware of the cost of forgetting God.

     What will be the cost of the decisions we make while in this life? Will we be like the man in the above parable and focus only on ourselves and what we can amass in this life?   In 2Corinthians 5:10, those brethren were told that the price one will pay, or the reward one will receive, will be that which is determined by the things they do in the here and now. 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.

       There was indeed a steep price paid for Salvation that we could not pay. The Lord died on Calvary’s cross to shed His blood so we could be saved. He told His apostles in Matthew 20:17-19, when, where and how He would pay the price for the Salvation of a soul.   And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, 18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, 19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.  

     Prior to this event, He told them in John 14:1-4 that because He was to die on the cross, those who would believe on Him and were obedient to His Word would have a place prepared for them and a way laid out for them. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. He paid the price, then following His resurrection went to His Father and is preparing a place where the obedient and faithful will spend eternity.

       But, don’t we not have an obligation in this arrangement?   Do we not also have a price to pay? 1Corinthians 6:20 lets us know that we certainly do. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. Those that are washed in the blood of Christ indeed are to have a part and have responsibility for their salvation.     The Spirit had John, in 2John verse 8, instruct the recipients of that letter how to glorify the Lord in obedience and watchfulness so they would not lose the promised reward. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

       Then, in Philippians 2:12 the Spirit had the apostle Paul write so all will know the “price they must pay” to maintain that Salvation. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  Christians need to be reminded that this “price” must continue to be paid as long as we live.     In Philippians 3:12-14 the Spirit had Paul remind the folks there, and us of this.   Our “work of Salvation” doesn’t end until we pass from this life.   Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

     In Matthew 16:24, Jesus told us the cost of true discipleship. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. God the Father, the Spirit and Christ, have all done their part, and paid the price for our Salvation. Are you willing to do your part as God has directed in His Word?   If you don’t pay the price now, the eternal cost is unbearable.   Think about it!

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Thank You For The Valley . . .

Thank You For The Valley . . .

       For as long as man has penned works of his own thoughts, the valley has been considered a metaphor for “low” times.   This idea has been used in poems, songs and in other types of literature.   As discouraging times come upon folks, this is usually when people are least likely to be grateful, or to express thanks for whatever is happening in their lives.  

     In 1966, the song writer Dottie Rambo wrote a song with the title of this week’s article. Now, we know she was a denominationalist, and as such, the words of her songs did not always follow the Word of God. However, there are some that indeed express Bible Principle.   Keep this in mind as you read the words of the two verses and the chorus below.  

Verse 1

THANK YOU FOR THE VALLEY I WALKED THROUGH TODAY

THE DARKER THE VALLEY THE MORE I LEARN TO PRAY

I FOUND YOU WHERE THE LILY’S BLOOMING BY THE WAY

AND I THANK YOU FOR THE VALLEY I WALKED THROUGH TODAY

Verse 2

LIFE CAN’T BE ALL SUNSHINE OR THE FLOWERS WOULD DIE

THE RIVERS WOULD BE DESERT, ALL BARREN AND DRY

LIFE CAN’T BE ALL BLESSINGS OR THERE’D BE NO NEED TO PRAY

SO I THANK YOU FOR THE VALLEY I WALKED THROUGH TODAY

Chorus

THANK YOU FOR EV’RY HILL I’VE CLIMBED

FOR EV’RY TIME THE SUN DIDN’T SHINE

THANK YOU FOR EV’RY LONELY NIGHT

I PRAYED ‘TIL I KNEW EV’RY THING WAS ALRIGHT

AND I THANK YOU FOR THE VALLEY I WALKED THROUGH TODAY

       The term “thanksgiving” is found twenty-eight times in twenty-seven verses of the King James Bible, and not once is this Word associated with a November holiday.   I don’t say this to disagree with, or speak against this holiday, but to show that the term is to have real meaning in the lives of the people of God.

     But how many people are grateful for the “lows” in life.   True, there are times when difficulties occur such as loss of life, loss of employment or the means of providing for family, or other things.   But more often than not, folks will not only be unthankful, but many will blame God during such times.  

     It is a fact that God does not cause these things. James 1:17 tells us that God is the source of all that is good.   Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. We should be always thankful to God for all that is good.

       Are the “valleys” good? Is there a benefit in the “low times” of life? Of course there is! These benefits may be hard to see, but it’s there none the less. Romans 1:21 shows clearly why many fail to see the benefit.   Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.   This also doesn’t mean that God sends these “low times” or the conditions which produce them.   The good that God provides exposes the bad as Isaiah 45:7 indicates.   I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.  The light God created manifested (made known) the darkness. The peace God provides in His Word manifests evil. The love of God exposes the hate of the world.

     God’s people, should be thankful at all times as Colossians 3:15 directs. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.  Notice from 2Timothy 3:2-4 that the “unthankful” are listed with some very unsavory characteristics. The people of God are not to be like this. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

       We know that 2Timothy 3:12 shows that Christians will indeed have to tread through the “valleys” of life.   Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.   But we also are assured that God will not forget His people as Hebrews 13:5 indicates. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

     Not only are Christians to remain thankful to God, we should also show gratitude for our brethren who help us in our walk for the Lord. Whether to God or our fellow Christians, ingratitude is not good. As my father-in-Law, another song writer, once wrote in a song: “Ingratitude is another sin, that simply costs too much.”   Be thankful, even for the valleys.   God is always there for those who faithfully serve in accordance to His Word.  

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Overcoming In Your Hour Of Trial

Overcoming In Your Hour Of Trial

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

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

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

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Our Death And Preparation For It

Our Death and Preparation For It

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

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

     As hard as it is to grasp, death is a reality all must face. The Spirit had the wise man, Solomon, pen the Words we read in Ecclesiastes 9:10-11 to help us see this as well as the fact that whatever we do, we need to do it now as we cannot do it after this life.   These verses also inform that this happens to all, as God is not a respecter of persons. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. 11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

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

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

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

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

     His Word tells us in 2Thessalonians 1:7-9 what will happen when God has determined that “time for preparation” has ended for all humanity. All tend to believe His promises for “eternal life”. Why do they not believe what He teaches regarding “eternal condemnation”?   And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;   Some will die before the Lord returns. What if they have not made the proper preparation?   Where does that leave them? It leaves them in the hand of a merciful, yet just God who will do exactly what He has promised in His Word.

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

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

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Can I Change? Should I?

Can I Change?   Should I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Compensation

Compensation

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

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

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

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

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

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

       Many are guided away from the truth and assisted in falling from grace as 2John 1:7-8 indicates.   For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Galatians 6:7 makes it clear that we can be deceived, but should not. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. It is also clear from 2Thessalonians 1:8-9 what “reward” the disobedient and unfaithful will receive. In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;  

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

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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