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The Fight of Your Life

The Fight of Your Life

       As we continue through this life, we no doubt endure a number of conflicts and struggles in various areas.  There are those who face disease or injuries that threaten their lives.      Many who have been afflicted with the COVID-19 virus have felt this way.   Others have major physical impairments that make life itself seem like an unfair contest.    Some who face this kind of struggle consider it the “fight of their lives”, yet strive to continue on.

     But if we look up the word “struggle” and the word “strive”, perhaps we can see that the “fight of our life” is the one that has the greatest impact on our souls.   Struggle defined:  make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction.    We all are to “struggle” to be free of sin.   We are reminded of this in 1Corinthians 9:25-27 as the Spirit had Paul write.  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. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. To walk this life and be favorable to God, we must fight with all that is in us to keep ourselves from sin. 

       In 1Timothy 6:11-12 we read where the young preacher was told what to avoid as well as well as that for which he (and we) are to strive.  The definition of strive in this sense is: make great efforts to achieve or obtain something.  But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.   Friends, for each of us, this is the fight of our life. Our eternal life depends upon it.

      But do we really stop and consider that where we will spend our “eternal life” is totally dependent on what we do in this life?  Based on the way some folks live, it seems they don’t realize this.   Most, upon reading this will apply this to those of the world.       Members of the Lord’s church also need to consider how this applies to us as well.    In 2Corinthians 5:10 we read a passage that was written to a congregation of the Lord’s church.   The “we” found in this verse means “Christians”.   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.

       The “fight of our life” takes place “in this life”.   In Ecclesiastes 9:10, the Spirit had the wise man Solomon pen this for our instruction.  We are to be busy in this life to make preparation for that which is beyond. 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.  And per Hebrews 9:27, it is a fact that our time in this life will come to an end. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

        One of the worst things I can think of, is having to fight for, or contend for something on the “spur of the moment”.   We have the advantage in the “fight of our lives, although we don’t know how long our lives will progress beyond the present.   The Spirit had James remind us of this in the general epistle that bears his name.  Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. (James 4:13-14)  The reason we have the advantage, is that God has told us in His Word how to prepare for that which is beyond this life.   However, we MUST start now because we don’t know how much time we might have. 

       Some have objected by saying: “But, aren’t we to do what we love?” We are, but we are also to be careful as to “what we love” while here in these lives as this determines the paths we will walk.    In 1John 5:3 we can read what the Spirit had the beloved apostle John write.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.    The word grievous means burdensome.  Therefore, it is never burdensome to do the Commandments of God, if we love Him. 

        The only way to take advantage of what God has offered is to do so in accordance to His terms.   In His Word, He has told us what to do to prepare for the fight of our lives.  1) Hear the Word–Romans 10:17    2) Believe that Jesus is the Son of God–John 8:24   3) Repent of sins–Acts 17:30   4) Confess Jesus before man–Acts 8:37     5) Be Baptized into Christ – 1Peter 3:21, and then remain prepared for that final stage of your existence.  This is where so many lose the “fight of their lives”.    Part of God’s plan of Salvation is that after we have done these things, we are to “remain faithful until death”.  We can read of the sad status of those who lose this fight in 2Peter 2:20.   

      Don’t lose the fight of your life by not beginning, or by not finishing.  God has provided us the time, the means and the reward.   The rest is up to you. 

                                        Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ  

Don't Waste Your Time

Don’t Waste Your Time

Life is like a flower in the Springtime,

Budding and blooming in the breeze.

Don’t crush its beauty but always be kind,

Do a good deed, always try to please.

Life is like a vapor, spreading o’er the valley,

In a short time, it goes away.

So temporary, it’s gone tomorrow,

Make the right use of it today.

Life is like a storm-cloud with a booming thunder.

There’s lightning and hail and heavy rain.

Soon it will pass, no need to wonder,

For we know the sun will shine again.

Life is like a journey; It has an ending.

We carefully chart the course to find.

Our footprints we leave, our message we are sending

To those who follow us, not far behind.

Then don’t waste your time; its use confine

Not for yourself alone, this resign.

Walk with God in perfect peace of mind,

Helping the lost, the way to find.

 

       This poem was written by my wife’s father, O.D. Wilson, many years ago but is still sage advice.    When we contemplate our “purpose of life” do we think about how we spend our time?   Do we consider the fact that we know not how much time we may have?   As Christians, do we stop to consider that our “duty” in this life is to help others know what they need to know what to do to become “children of God”?    Do we use our time getting “ready” and “able” to answer folks who ask of God’s plan for man?   In 1Peter 3:15 we are told how we are to prepare ourselves and help others.    But sanctify (set apart) 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:

        The Spirit had Paul remind his protégé’ Timothy of the fact that he (Paul) had not “wasted his time” after his conversion.   In 2Timothy 3:10-11 we see that the young preacher had a stellar example of how to live, even in the face of persecution.   But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.  Of course, Paul’s “doctrine” was not his, but that which was given him by the Spirit and which Paul had the privilege to deliver to the benefit of all who would listen and would obey.

     The Lord, in Matthew 28:18-20, told His apostles that which has come to be known as the “Great Commission”.  Even the wording of this commission, given before the kingdom came, shows its perpetual nature. Therefore, it is applicable today, as we live in the New Testament age – the kingdom age. 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.   Could it ever be a “waste of time” to do what Jesus “commanded”?  

     Can we say we are following the Great Commission if we are not declaring the gospel to all who will hear?   Do we consider what it is we preach and teach as we try to fulfill that commission?   Can anyone “fulfill” that commission with the “wrong kind” of preaching?   Is not the wrong kind of preaching a waste of time?   

       Part of our “obedience” is to not “waste our time”, but to work to maintain the Salvation we have in Christ.    The Philippians were instructed of this from the pen of Paul as directed by the Spirit in Philippians 2:12.   Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

        Think about it.  Can we maintain our salvation, or help others learn how to become the children of God as the purpose for their lives if the “kind of preaching we need” is not offered?    If we worship in such a place, we have indeed wasted our time there.   Make sure that where you worship, God’s Word is peached and followed.   If it is not, how will you know how to be pleasing to God?   If you leave this earth not pleasing to God – You have wasted your time. Time is short!    Obey the gospel today before your time runs out!  

                          Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Are We Pleasing To God?

Are We Pleasing To God?

     As we walk this path of life, all seek to please, or be pleased.   The problems that arise in this result from “how we seek to please” and “whom we seek to please”.   We all have our “place in the crowd” called humanity. Do we seek to be pleasing to humanity?   Many that are married seek to please their spouse.   The Spirit had Paul allude to this in 1Corinthians 7:32-35, noting that “pleasing God” is to be of most importance.   But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.  This is not to say that one should not be married, but that pleasing God MUST come first in the lives of all His people.

     This is in complete agreement with what Jesus taught in Mark 4:19 as He explained to His apostles, what He taught by the seaside in the parable of the sower. And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.While family, career, education and such are a large part of our lives, we cannot afford to allow these things to cause us not to be pleasing to God. Our focus is to be doing those things which are pleasing to Him. In Colossians 1:10 the Spirit had Paul write: That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;  The key here is that if we want to be pleasing to God, we must increase in knowledge and also do what we learn so that we walk worthy of the Lord and please Him.

     In Galatians 1:10 we read: For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ

We can also determine that which was to be proclaimed to be pleasing to God in vss 11-12. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.  The revelation of Jesus Christ (the gospel), our knowledge of the gospel, and our continued obedience to it is what is pleasing to God.   1Thessalonians 2:4 clearly states that the faithful preaching of the Word of God is pleasing to God.   But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. 

     But how does this affect “happiness”? That is truly dependent upon what it is that makes one happy.   Does being pleasing to God make us happy? Should we ever be happy if we are NOT pleasing God?  Happy defined is: Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.  Should we not be content or feel pleasure in being pleasing to God?   Then, why are so many worried about pleasing man?

Are they afraid of man?   Should we not remember the Words of our Lord found in Matthew 10:28 regarding “fear” of man?   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.  How many on the wrong side of this will be happy for eternity?   We all know that answer.  

       God’s Word was given to man to bring about man’s happiness.  We are also aware that God’s Word is given for our correction.   This too is for our happiness in this life and in the “world to come”. Job 5:17 is the first place in which God’s Word tells us we are to be happy when corrected by God’s Word. Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty Anyone who has received “chastisement” does not realize “happiness” at the moment the correction is being exercised.   But all who are honest, will realize the benefit afterward, as well as the happiness that results as Hebrews 12:9-11 tells us. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby

     What are other benefits of pleasing God?   The Spirit had the wise man, Solomon, write in Proverbs 16:6-7, Words for our learning. This is much needed even in our present society amid the turmoil that is certainly unpleasing to God. By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. 7 When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.  The Spirit had the apostle Paul, in 1Thesalonians 4:1 write it this way: Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

     Isn’t it about time to consider “pleasing God”?   He has provided for this His Word in which we can please Him and also be happy in this life and in the hereafter.                  

                                           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Inner Conflicts

Inner Conflicts

      Since nearly the dawn of time there have been hostilities, conflicts, battles, wars, and altercations.  These are usually the product of one man or group of men in opposition to another.   An excellent example of this is the first recorded war we have in the Word of God.  This account names a number of combatants, and is found in Genesis 14:2That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar.  

       Often, when the call for action in this kind of conflict is made in the field, or location of the clash, there is a need to let all involved know when to charge.   Battalions of the U S Calvary included a “bugler” who was well versed in all the “tunes” that were designed to signal various things.   The need for this was recognized even in Bible times.  In 1Corinthians 14:8, the Spirit had Paul write about this.  For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

       But these types of struggles are “external” in nature and usually involve a multiplicity of individuals.   In Romans 7:25 the apostle Paul was directed by the Spirit to inform the Roman Christians that not all “wars” aren’t fought with club, sword, firearm, or other such weapons.   Some take place “internally”.  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.    Another congregation was given a similar message.  In 1Corinthians 10:3-4, those brethren were reminded that the flesh did not control the Christian’s conflict.   For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)  These are battles of an individual nature and are fought by each of us.

      However, as we face these daily, we are not expected to deal with our inner conflicts without aid or assistance.   2Peter 1:3 assures us that we are richly supplied with all we need to live godly lives and overcome even our own inner battles.   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:   These “all things” are contained within the Word of God and are easily accessed by every soldier of the cross, if he or she will just go to the Word and read, study and meditate.  According to Ephesians 3:16, this is where we are to draw that needed inner strength.  That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;   Once we have done this, perhaps we can say as the Spirit had Paul write in Romans 7:22.  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

        We cannot separate the inner man from the outer until we die as we read in James 2:26.   For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.  So, when the inner man is “conflicted” and fails to remain faithful to God the outer man also suffers.  Therefore, God has provided all that the faithful Christian needs to prepare him, or herself, for every type of conflict one might face in this life.    The Spirit had Paul pen this so the church that met in Ephesus could overcome inner conflicts.   This has been recorded for us as well in Ephesians 6:10-18 so we can be fully equipped.    Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 

      How can we be victorious over these “inner conflicts”?   We must first obey the gospel.  When we become a child of God, Philippians 4:7 tells us, And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.   Then as the “inner conflicts” arise, we as soldiers in the Lord’s army have access to all we need to overcome.   Let us remember, just as warriors in other battles know, the weapons for offence and defense are useless unless we take them up and use them.  They are equally inadequate if we have not been trained to use them.   Take up God’s Word today.  Obey what it says to do.  Learn how to use it to your benefit and to render aid to others.  

                                        Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

You Complete Me

You Complete Me

     Some will no doubt remember this phrase, delivered by Tom Cruise from the 1996 film “Jerry McGuire”. Probably better remembered from that same movie is: “Show me the money”.   The truth is that many feel they are only complete if and when they have money.   This is evidenced by the importance of gain in this world in which we live.  

       Another word for complete is “whole”.   In John chapter five we are told of the belief of the Jews of that day, in the miraculous power of the “troubled water” at the pool of Bethesda, in which one could be “made complete” or “whole” or if they could be first in the water after the troubling of the water. In John 5:6, upon seeing a man infirm for thirty-eight years, who could not get in the water, Jesus asked: “Wilt thou be made whole?”     Then in John 5:8 Jesus simply Commanded: “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”   Then we read that the man was immediately made whole.  

       The man in the above account was “infirm” in that he was unable to convey himself from place to place.   He was lacking that which would allow him to do so. Jesus supplied that need and made him “whole” or “complete” in a physical sense. When the Jews ask the man why he carried his bed on the Sabbath, the answer is given in John 5:11. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.

     The Jews were not thrilled that one of their own was healed, and could not rejoice in that the man who had suffered an infirmity for thirty-eight years was made “complete”. Rather, they used the episode to find fault with Jesus as He performed a miracle, and then told the man to do that which was contrary to their traditions.   I am afraid that many today allow their “spiritual traditions” to prevent them from becoming “complete” or “whole” in the spiritual sense as they refuse to do all the Word of God Commands that their infirmity of the soul can be healed.

       The word “complete” only occurs two times in the KJV New Testament. It is first found in Colossians 2:10. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:  The second place is Colossians 4:12. Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.  In both of the occurrences, Christ is the catalyst that makes one whole or complete.   The first is obvious as one must be “in Christ” to be complete.   The second occurrence speaks of the “will of God”.   In John 5:30, Jesus’ response to the Jews following the healing of the infirm man shows He came to do the Will of God. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.  Therefore, it is God’s Will that we be “complete”, and only “in Christ” can we be that way.  

       Since it is God’s Will that we be complete, and one must be in Christ and remain in Christ to be complete, God has provided the instruction in His Word so we can become complete. We can see from Jesus’ reply in Mark 2:17 that He came to provide the means for one to become “complete” spiritually. They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.  God has also promised the reward of eternal heaven to all who become “complete” in Christ, and remain faithfully committed (COMPLETE) for the duration of their life. In 2Peter 3:9 we are told that God desires that all would become “whole”. 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.

      So that those who have become “complete” in Christ can remain “whole” the Spirit gave Paul words to write to the church in Rome in Romans 12:2. These Words apply to Christians today as well.   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.  This clearly indicates that the world and the things of the world cannot make one whole or complete.   This is also supported by 1John 2:15-17, as the Spirit had John write to the church. 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.   

     Compare that with what the Spirit had Paul write to Titus in Titus 1:14 and it is clear that the commandments of men and the truth are not the same things. Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.  Couple this with what Jesus stated in John 8:32 and we can see that only by faithfully doing what God has given in His Word can one be complete. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  Isn’t it time for you to allow Christ to “complete” you? You cannot spend eternity with God unless or until you are “in Christ”. You are not “complete” or “whole” or in Christ until you have obeyed the gospel. Obey the gospel today! Then remain whole by reading and studying His Holy Word and living as it directs.

                           Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Almost Faithful?

Almost Faithful?

       Have you ever looked up the word “almost” in the Bible?   Would you be surprised to know it only exists eleven times in God’s Word, and is never associated with faithfulness?   Of the nineteen times “faithfulness” is found in the KJV Bible, eleven times God’s faithfulness is referenced.   Salvation is also not something one can “almost” attain.    Acts 26:28-29 is the closest this ever came to be as the apostle Paul stood before king Agrippa. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. 29 And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. 

     One cannot be “almost saved” any more than they can be “almost faithful”.   I am afraid that some Christians seem to think they can be altogether saved, yet remain “almost faithful”.   That is not a Bible concept at all!   The first mention of “faithful” in the Bible is in Numbers 12:7 and is speaking of Moses, the one God chose to deliver Israel from the Egyptians. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.   However, we are also aware of when Moses became “almost faithful” and was not “altogether” faithful in Numbers 20:11. God had told him to “speak to the rock”. And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 

       Then in Deuteronomy 34:4 we see the penalty Moses had to pay for not being all the way faithful. And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.  There is always a price to pay when man is not faithful to God.  We saw it in the Garden of Eden and at the end of the life of Moses. This also will be the case for us if we are not faithful.  

       We are told we may suffer for being faithful. But there is also a reward waiting for all who are faithful to the Lord. And there is a penalty we must pay if we are not faithful.   In 2Timothy 2:12 we are told of the reward to be given the faithful as well as the penalty for the “almost” faithful and the disobedient. If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: Then, in 2Timothy 2:13 we are informed that God Will always continue in faithfulness.  If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.    This means if there is any unfaithfulness, it is on man’s part and not on the part of God.

       To better understand the idea being conveyed in the title of the article, let’s ask some questions about our daily lives, and see how this looks. Can we be expected to accept “almost” in the service of those with whom we interact?   Are we to accept medical services from a Doctor who is “almost” educated in the field of medicine?  Should we take our automobiles to mechanics who are “almost” certified?   Would you reward and pay the roofer who “almost” finished your roof?   How would we feel about the services of the Dentist who “almost” fixed a broken tooth?   Get the point?  

     God also pointed this out to His O.T. people, Israel shortly before the pen of inspiration was laid down until the N.T. times began. In Malachi 1:7-8 the Spirit had Malachi write: “Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. 8 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.”  Sadly, some of them did not get the point either.  

       In being “almost faithful”, Israel was robbing God.   When we today in our service to God, give “almost” what we should give in our time, service, monies, dedication, and adoration, we are “robbing God”. Israel was also told of this by the Spirit, through the same prophet. Malachi 3:8-10 tells Israel how they “robbed” God and also how bountifully God will bless if they did as commanded. Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 

     The church in Smyrna was not told to be “almost faithful”. They were soon to face severe persecution, but Revelation 2:10 tells them to be all the way faithful to receive that crown of life. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. What about you?   Are you willing to gamble your soul by being “almost” faithful or almost obedient?   That’s a choice you have to make – and a price your soul will have to pay for eternity.                

                                   Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

That Grand Old Book

That Grand Old Book

Thy Written Word is here to believe,

It speaks for Thee Lord, why won’t they hear?

When there’s a question, just take a look.

It’s all in writing, found in the book.

Jesus the person, Jesus the Word

Are alienated by finite man,

Christ bore it all, our punishment took.

It’s all in writing, found in the book.

Jesus says nothing but thru’ the Word.

“Tangible” truth’s the pattern today.

Angels can’t change it, they too must look.

It’s all in writing, found in the book. 

That grand Holy book,

every page turn and look.

The same every day.

Until you change it Lord,

It’s the Way.  

      The above poem (song) was written by my wife’s father, O.D. Wilson around 1982 and can be sung to the tune “When I see the blood”, the last verse being sung as the chorus.  He’s passed on now, but his words live on and still resonate in our minds.  The idea of “tangible truth” is popular today as the modern idea is to “customize” truth to fit one’s personal situation.  This won’t work as everyone’s situation is not the same.

          Many today look for “truth” in many places and in various ways.   In so doing, man has come up with ideas such as “relativism”.  This means they change truth “relative” to their specific circumstances.    This is a convenient way to “skirt” for one to get around truth when it convicts them.       Upon looking up the word “truth” in the dictionary, you will find the following definitions:  1) the quality or state of being true.   2)  that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.   3)  a fact or belief that is accepted as true.   

      The first two definitions are good ones.  The final one is unacceptable as much which is “believed” to be true is not.  Take religion for instance.  If you were to ask religious people if their doctrine is true, most would say it is.   The question then becomes: “Is your doctrine in accordance to the Word of God, or is it “man’s tradition”?”   Ah, this is where debates come from.   We are told in Hebrews 13:8Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”   We can also read in John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Since the Lord is always the same and “unchanging”, and He is the Word, does it not stand to reason that the Word also does not and has not changed? 

     The prophet, sent to Israel in Ezekiel 2:7 was directed what to speak to the defiant people of God in the O.T.  And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.   Ezekiel was told in the verse prior, not to be afraid of the people, nor of their words.  This also has application in the N.T. as the Spirit had the apostle Paul instruct the young evangelist in 2Timothy 4:2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. Then in verses 3-4, The Spirit had Paul tell young man Timothy why the “Grand Old Book” was to be declared in the ears of all who will listen.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

      When man deviates from the Bible (that Grand Old Book) which has not and will not change, then problems await.   All Bible students are familiar with Jesus’ proclamation of John 8:32. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.   Can we possibly be so blind as to think that “our version” of truth will make us free?  The Lord was speaking of becoming free from sin by doing as instructed in the unchanging Word of God.  Is there any way to have hope if we don’t know, or refuse to follow the Word? 

      Our eternal destiny is directly tied to following the Word of God and the instruction found therein.   If we study and “rightly divide” the Word, as we are told in 2Timothy 2:15, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth., and do as we are directed, our names will be written in the “book of life” per Revelation 20:12.  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  Follow that “Grand Old Book” and obey the gospel today, and have your name written in the Lamb’s book of life.  

                            Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

The Unchanging In a Changing World

The Unchanging In A Changing World

   As we continue through life, isn’t it amazing how much things change? But there are things that are unchanging.   The day has always been 24 hours long, and time has continued since created by God in the beginning.  We are told in Psalm 90:2 that God has always been.   Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God

     Since God has always been, folks seem to expect God to have changed over the years.  This is a fallacy man has developed because they don’t read God’s Word.   Isaiah 46:5 shows God asking Israel: “To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?  Malachi 3:6 clearly tells us that God is unchanging. For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.  Even when God’s people Israel persisted in sin, God did not destroy them when they should have perished. There is a great reason for this. The Spirit had the psalmist write in Psalm 89:34 “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.”  God had a plan from before the beginning of time as we know it.   He keeps His Word.

     God had chosen the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, also known as the nation of Israel through whom God’s Salvation would come to man. The latter part of Isaiah 46:11 tells us how unchanging God’s plan is. . . .yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” God has not changed. He did as He promised. He performed this in accordance to His schedule. Galatians 4:4 - But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,  God’s unchanging plan brought together all who will be obedient . Ephesians 1:10 - That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: This was the plan of God from before the world was created.  It hasn’t changed.  

    In Daniel 2:44, we read of the foretelling of the kingdom which God would establish on earth when His Son came to earth. He also told exactly when this was to occur.  And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.  These “kings” were the Roman kings (Caesars), and it was in the days of those kings that Jesus was born, died, was resurrected and ascended. It was also when God sent “power from on high” to His apostles as promised.    This was when the gospel was first preached (A.D. 33 on Pentecost) and souls were saved as the people were baptized into Christ. They were added to that unending kingdom as they were obedient. Acts 2:47b - . . . And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. 

     This should give us reason to rejoice, even as many things continue to change in our present world. God does not change. God’s plan for Salvation has not changed, nor will it. God’s love for man has not changed. He has shown His love man from the beginning. This was part of God’s plan. John 3:16 - 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.     This too has never changed. It is very sad that many “misinterpret” the unchanging message from God.   Verse 17 shows Christ didn’t come to condemn, but to save. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved

     God has also provided (providentially) all things that man has ever needed. 2Peter 1:3 is where we can read this. 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:  This also is unchanging as Jesus told in the Sermon on the Mount about God’s provision toward all humanity in Matthew 5:45b. . . for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” The same is true spiritually as we are told in 2Thessalonians 2:14 how God “calls” people to Salvation through the preaching of His Word.  Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our part is to obey that Word!

       As God has provided all we need, and the gospel to tell us how to be saved, we also have a guarantee from God that is as “unchangeable” as God is.   We can read it in the latter part of Hebrews 13:5 . . . for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  From this, we should understand that if anyone “changes”, it is us and not God.   We, who are subject to change and change of minds, are to strive to serve God in accordance to His Word regardless of the changes that occur in our circumstances and situations.   Things had changed in the lives of the Hebrews Christians in the first century.   The “old things” had been removed so the final (N.T. Law), the unchanging Law of God could be put in place. Hebrews 12:27-28  And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:  Are you following that unchanging Law?   Obey the gospel today.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

Tests, Trials, and Tribulations

Tests, Trials and Tribulations

     The word “challenge”, nor any form of it, can be found in the KJV Bible.  But the idea is definitely found in God’s Word!   We often speak of the challenges we face in this life.  Challenge has several definitions.    One definition of “challenge” is: a call or summons to engage in any contest.   

      We know that according to 2Thessalonians 2:14, we have been called by the gospel.  Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.   This is our “summons” from God to become His child. This has to be our choice, and He has also warned in His Word that, when we become a part of the kingdom, if we are faithful, that suffering (tribulation, or trials) are part of what we can expect.  The Spirit had the apostle Paul write this to Timothy in 2Timothy 3:12.   Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution

      Persecution is a type of challenge as well.  Tests, trials and tribulations are some of the ways in which we are persecuted.   Natural disasters, sicknesses (viruses and such), also present challenges.     However, if and when we bring difficulties upon ourselves, we cannot call these “tribulations” or persecutions.   This is just our suffering as evildoers as 1Peter 4:15 tells us.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.   However, suffering for the cause of Christ is reason to glorify God as the following verse informs.  Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.   (1Peter 4:16)

      It’s what we do when, in the face of tests, trials and tribulations that will affect our eternal destiny.   1Peter 4:19 is where we learn that we are to “commit” the keeping of our souls to God as we suffer for the cause for which Christ died on the cross.   Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

        Our faith is often tried.   This happens when temptations abound.  As we commit our souls to God, we must avail ourselves of what God offers us in His Word.   The “scattered abroad” were told in James 1:2-5 to use the tests, trials, and tribulations of this life to our benefit.   My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patienceBut let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

      The same type of “inspired” advice is offered to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, as the Spirit guided the pen of Peter in 1Peter 1:6-9.  It was sound advice then, and is sound today. This too, shows that our soul depends on our heeding the Word of God.  Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:  Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 

       God’s people have always had to face difficulties, but God has also always given assurance that He will remember the promises He has made.   God’s Old Testament people Israel, were given this assurance in Deuteronomy 4:30-31.

When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice31 (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them. 

      God’s covenant with Israel was for the purpose of bringing Christ to the world to provide the means for Salvation to whosoever will.     This means those who become a part of the kingdom for which Jesus died needn’t fear life’s trials, tribulations, or anything of that nature.    In Hebrews 13:5, those Christians (and Christians today) are given a divine guarantee, as well as instruction as to how to live their lives.   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

      We also have the assurance in Romans 8:35-39 that all the challenges of life are not sufficient to remove us from Christ’s love if we don’t allow it.   We can’t afford to allow tests, trials and tribulation to cause us to lose our soul.    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.        

                                       Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ          

In Whatsoever State I Am

In Whatsoever State I Am

       You may recognize the title of the article as a phrase from Philippians 4:11, in which the Spirit had the apostle Paul write to the brethren in Philippi.   Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  Continuing to read, we see the inspired explanation of what “state” means here.  Then in verse 13 we also read of the source of our contentment.   I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.(Philippians 4:12-13)

      The key to our contentment is what it is which “makes us happy”, and that is something over which we have full control.     In Hebrews 13:5 the Christians of Jewish nationality were warned against being covetous.   This was to be the manner of their lives, and it should also be the manner of all Christians. Let your conversation (manner of life) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.   What could make a person more happy or contented?  

       Now, as we examine these passages, can we not see that as long as we are in a proper relationship with God, we have every reason to be content?   To be in a proper association with God certainly could not cause us discontentment. Hebrews 13:6 tells us we are to have no fear of man, if we are indeed the faithful children of God.    So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

       If we look into the life of the apostle Paul following his conversion, we see that he, of all people, had reason to be upset, downtrodden, or unhappy, from a physical standpoint.    We are extremely fortunate that we don’t live in the time of, or presently live in a nation in which we, like Paul, are subject to the same persecutions or the amount of suffering Paul endured for the cause of Christ. 

       In 2Corinthians 11:23-27 we get a glimpse of the turmoil in the life of Paul as he served God.   The Spirit had Paul write to the Corinthians to show the type of suffering one could face, yet still be happy in Christ.   Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness If Paul could be in these “states” or face all these things and still be content, why can’t we remain happy?  

     The Spirit had the apostle Peter write to the brethren “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” to tell them the reasons that they should be happy and content as well as what to do in that happiness.  We find this in 1Peter 3:12-15.  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. 13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 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:  

       Of course, if our present “state” is brought upon ourselves because of our sins, we won’t be content or happy.   But, if and when we suffer for the cause of Christ, we should remain content.   This too, is stated in God’s Holy Word.   In 1Peter 2:20 the Holy Spirit had Peter write:  For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.   Then, the Spirit, through Peter’s pen, in 1Peter 4:15-16 tells us that there can definitely be a difference in the source of our suffering.  But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.

     It is a certainty that the faithful followers of Christ are going to be persecuted for living a godly life.  We are told this in 2Timothy 3:12.   Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.   Again, if the persecution we suffer is “self-inflicted, or is for a cause less worthy of the cross, the end result will not be eternal happiness or contentment at the present.   The apostle Paul was directed to write in 1Corinthians 4:11-12 that persecution comes in various forms, yet he remained content.  Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; 12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:   And in 2Corinthians 4:9,  Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;  

     We have so much more than this.   Why are we so unhappy and discontent?  If one is “in Christ”, in whatever state they find themselves, they’re content.  

                                                      Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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