Richard Craig, Author at GraceAndWorks

The Fallen Leaf

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Standing outside taking in all the beauty of the flowers, yards, and the skyline we have here in Vegas, I noticed a leaf had come detached from the branch it was clinging to. As it fell to the ground, it nonchalantly waved back and forth in the air until it reached the ground. Not giving much more attention to it, it just laid there. Then a gust of wind came along and swept it away. I just thought to myself….I wonder what happened to that leaf and where did it end up. I suppose it decayed away somewhere. A sad ending for the leaf.

As we go through life, it has been compared to the four seasons. Spring for our youth and younger years, Summer for young adulthood, Fall for middle aged, and Winter for the senior years. That leaf was in it’s senior years and finally after holding on as long as it could to the branch, it’s life was over. The Bible tells us that life here on earth is as short as the life of a vapor. Meaning it doesn’t last long. We hold on as long as we can, but eventually we will all be like the leaf and leave life behind. What we do while we are here is what matters. Are we so tied up with ourselves and our own lives that we have no time for anyone else? No love for others, no care for others, not doing what God wants, no consideration for the elderly, no consideration for the homeless, and the list goes on and on!! The world today tends to only care about themselves. One day Grandparents and parents won’t be here anymore and you’ll wonder, why didn’t I………..? (Or maybe not)

I’ve been in Christ’s church for 55 years and Ive seen a lot of people come and go. Those who have died a physical death and those who have died spiritually. I’ve been guilty of not contacting some of those who left the church, and ask why? What happened to them? Where did they go? It seems that they are kind of like the leaf, just reached the end, swayed back and forth as they fell away from the vine, and then just went away. Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” He will never leave us or forsake us. Don’t let your spiritual life nonchalantly float away like the leaf. Cling onto the vine (Jesus) and you won’t die spiritually. God promised us that if we would keep His commands, He would provide a place for us in Heaven to live eternally with Him. Never to die again. Live this life you have been given on earth, don’t forsake yourself from loving those who mean the most, and above all don’t forsake God and His commands to do right.

SMILE God loves YOU!! Have a good day all.

 

 

It’s Christmas Time!!

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Awwwwww….The hustle and bustle of Christmas season. The lights are twinkling, the trees are decorated, the crowds are maddening, and some of us spend more than we can afford so we can enjoy the happy faces of kids, family, and friends. We all have memories of different times we have had at Christmas. I thought I’d share a couple of mine.

We lived on a farm in Western Nebraska and money was always tight. However, we always had a nice Christmas. I was some where around 8 or 9 years old this particular Christmas. It was Christmas eve and we were starting to open our presents. The first one I opened was a screw!!! Well I tossed that thing right into the pile of wrapping paper garbage. Dad did a swan dive to recover it. The next package I opened had some kind of wood thing inside. The next one had some kind of metal thing in it. I had no idea what was going on!! The last one had a gun barrel in it. Dad finally put it all together and low and behold, there was a 22 caliber bolt-action rifle. Oh, how funny it became when all the pieces were found and put together. I was totally surprised!!

The other story I want to share was the Christmas right before my Dad went to be with God. The family all gathered at my Mom and Dad’s house in Dix, Nebraska. The food and fellowship was beyond compare. Fabulous, you might say. It was a bitter sweet time knowing that Dad didn’t have much time left. Christmas eve it snowed and Christmas morning when we got up, it was spectacular looking outside. My sister and her family were living in Dallas and snow was a rare occasion there. My nephew, Kevin, had his girlfriend with them and when she saw the snow outside, she said, “Oh, look, it snowed, just for me!!” We all had a good laugh over that. The cheer and the gifts were plentiful. Good times for all. Dad joined God about a month later. Fabulous memories of that last Christmas with my dad.

This Christmas is also going to bitter sweet. It will be the first Christmas, in many years, that Peg and I will spend the holidays with out any of our family around. It’ll be quiet, but, a fun time for us. We get to share a lesson and Sermon with the Saints in Pahrump. Desert Church of Christ, in Pahrump, has been such a blessing for us, to not only work in God’s kingdom, but also cultivate long lasting friendships.

This is also the time of year that most will remember and give praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Churches will have special events to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We don’t know exactly when Jesus was born, but, this gives everyone an opportunity to remember Him. God wants us to go to Worship services each first day of the week. We, as Christians, remember Jesus’s birth, death, burial, and resurrection every Sunday and not just on “Special” days. Will we see you in Worship this Sunday? God wants it that way.

MERRY CHRISTMAS ALL!!!!

One Body-One Faith-One Baptism-One Lord

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Old Testament prophecy told us several things about the New Testament church Coming. It told us about a new covenant. It told us that this covenant would take place in the latter days, which places it after Jesus died on the cross. It told us the church would be established in Jerusalem and spread from there, and all who believed and obeyed would be saved.
Prophecy:
Jeremiah 31:31-35–New Covenant
Jeremiah 32:40–New Covenant
Zechariah 1:16–Place
Isaiah 2:2-3–Time/Place
Micah 4:1-2–Time/Place
Daniel 2:44–Time/Frame
Joel 2:28-32–Who believed

Jesus stated, about Himself, that upon this rock I will build MY church. This means there is only one New Testament church.
Building The Church:
Matthew 16:13-19–Foundation/Confession Jesus is the Christ
1st Corinthians 3:11–Foundation/Jesus Christ
Matthew 21:42–Foundation
Acts 4:11–Foundation/Stone
Ephesians 2:20-21–Foundation
Isaiah 28:16–Rock

The first two chapters of Acts tells us of the Church being established. This occurred 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus. As prophecy told us, it started in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and spread from there.
Established:
Acts 1:1-2:47–Church established/Day of Pentecost
Acts 11:26–First called Christians/Antioch

Ephesians 4:4-7–The Apostle Paul has this to say:
“There is ONE BODY and ONE SPIRIT, just as you were called in ONE HOPE of your calling; There is ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM; ONE GOD and FATHER of ALL, who is above ALL, and through ALL, and in you ALL. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Our salvation depends on us getting “IT” right.

SMILE God loves YOU!! Have a good day all.

WHAT GOALS DO YOU HAVE?

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If you haven’t set goals, maybe it is time. Where do you want to be tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, 5 years from now, 20 years from now? Goals need to be set for money, job advancement, family, homes, cars, and life.

As I watch sports, many of them score by goals. Hockey, soccer, and basketball come to mind. The team that scores the most goals wins the game (DUH!!). My point here is, each team has goals when they enter into a game. Short term goals come from practice and getting prepared. Goals throughout the game, such as, leading at the first break and second break. Staying out of foul trouble–remain error free. Keeping other players involved. Pay attention to to the little things. If the players and team meet their short term goals, they will lead to the long term goal of winning.

In life we need the same set of goals. How much money do you want to have saved each month, each year, at the end of 5, 10, 20 years? If we set the short term goals, we will reach the long term goal of having enough money to retire. Where do you want to get in your career? I’m here now, I want to be there in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years. If you can’t advance the way you want to meet financial and personal goals, you may have to seek change in where you work. What about your home? Are you in an apartment or small rental home and want to have your own home? You will need to find the price range you want, the size you want, then set financial goals for down payment and monthly payment.

You also need to set goals for your life. What do you want out of life? Do you want to just float along, or do want to have purpose? The ultimate goal, everyone should have, is a place in Heaven with God. So, how do we get there? The first advice I would give you is: take Paul’s words to Timothy in 2nd Timothy 2:15 and following to heart. 1) Study God’s Word. 2) Show yourself approved as a workman. 3) Being able to rightly divide the Word. Become educated so you know right from wrong. Not listening to false teaching, which most generally comes from pulling verses out of context to make God’s Word say what you want it to, instead of what God wants. Once you have learned what God has to say, the 2nd advice I would give you comes from 1st John 5:3-6. If you love God, you will keep His commandments. They are not burdensome. Now I’ll give you 6 simple commands to start your goals with:
1) Hear God’s Word–Romans 10:17
2) Believe God’s Word–John 8:24
3) Repent (Do away with) of your sins–Luke 13:3
4) Confess to others that you believe Jesus is the Son of God–Romans 10:9
5) Be baptized–Mark 16:15-16, Acts 2:38-41
6) Live righteously thereafter–Revelation 2:10
These are short term goals to help you with the long term goal of reaching Heaven. You can’t and shouldn’t expect to reach Heaven by only doing one or two of these. They ALL need to be done. They are GOD’S commands.

SMILE God loves YOU!! Have a good day all.

 

IT’S YOUR CHOICE

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Those of us that have raised families know what I’m talking about. There was the hustle and bustle of little ones running around the house having fun and causing commotion. Then it was off to school and the house was quiet during the day UNTIL they got home. Then back to the joyful(?) noise. Then one by one they got married and moved on to their own lives until they were all gone. Then there were two. Empty Nesters, if you will. At this point what do we do? It always comes down to choices. Do we do this or that? Do we go there or there? Do we drive or fly? Do we go out to dinner or stay home? Do we retire or continue to work? Choices–there almost always are only two.

Throughout the Bible there are choices that were made. Does Lot’s wife turn and look back or not?–her choice. Do you get on the Ark or not?–it was their choice. Jesus asks, “Do you have faith or not?”–it’s your choice. Does Peter walk on water or sink?–it became his choice. It seems like it always comes down to “Just Two” choices.

Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and there are MANY who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are FEW who find it.” It once again comes down to two–wide gate or narrow gate? With the wide gate there is no worries!! Everything goes. Party on, do the drugs, drink the alcohol, engage in homosexuality, use the foul language, commit adultery, stomp on everybody that gets in your way for success, cause destruction in others lives, cause division with family and friends, etc. Because that gate to destruction is wide you can bring with you whatever you want, Satan WILL LOVE YOU!! The verses say that the narrow gate is difficult. That’s because we have to do what God wants instead of what we want. We have to have faith and obey the commands that God sets forth. Listen to God’s word, Believe in what God has to say, Repent of our sinful ways, Confess that we believe Jesus is the Son of God, be Baptized, and live a Righteous life thereafter. Not easy, but can be done. Once again it comes down to two–narrow gate or wide gate? It’s your choice!! Make the right one.

SMILE God loves YOU!! Have a good day all.

God Put A Hedge Around Me

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Yellow caution tape is used at almost every Police, FBI, and Fire investigation. It warns us that we should not enter because it is a crime scene or that it is not safe. Sometimes the tape is across a door, around a building, or blocking off a street. The point being, no matter how big the crime scene is, authorities can and will use the tape to protect their scene and to protect us.

So, as I was thinking about this, I got the idea that it sure would be nice if we had some of that yellow caution tape to use when we have areas in our life that we shouldn’t enter. Areas that may be harmful or areas that might lead us off in the wrong direction. Just take some yellow caution tape and tape that area off so you know not to enter. Boy, would that ever make things simpler. See the tape and just avoid that area. It could be used as a protection for our life and keep us out of trouble. No greed in our life–that would be taped off. No lust of the eye in our life–that would be taped off. No pride in our life–that would be taped off. Life would be better and this would be a much better world to live in.

Now with all that being said, if we are a part of God’s Kingdom, we have a hedge around us for protection. In Job the 1st chapter, Satan makes reference to Job having a hedge around him put there by God for protection from evil. God tells Satan that Job is a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil. The hedge concept for protection is used in many places throughout the scriptures. If we are obedient to God, blameless and shun evil as Job did, God will put a hedge around us and protect us from evil just as He did Job.

No need for the “Yellow Caution Tape”–Just be obedient to God and let the “Hedge” protect you.

Have a good week all. SMILE God loves YOU!!

Hard Headed vs Hardened Heart

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As I was researching this, I found they are directly involved with each other. I want to take a look at what God has to say through the scriptures about each of them. We’ll start with being hard headed.

Hard headed , by definition means stubborn. One who is set in their ways. Doesn’t want to change, but will if shown a better way. In the New Testament, we see examples of stubbornness. When Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, the Pharisees’ hard headed manner grieved and angered Jesus. Instead of praising Him for His healing power and acknowledging Him, the Pharisees’ hard heads caused them to try to kill Him (Mark 3:1-6). When Stephen was closing his speech before the Sanhedrin, he chided them for their foolish stubbornness: “You stiff necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: you always resist the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 7:51) When Paul preached to the Jews in Corinth, they continued to reject his message of Salvation through Jesus. Paul tried to reason with them for three months, but “some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly spoke evil of the Way” (acts 19:9). As a result of this, Paul took the disciples and left the unbelievers in their stubbornness and non-belief. This is a fate for those that reject Jesus. Romans 2:5: But in your accordance with your hardness and impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God.

The Bible considers the heart to be center of our personality. Scripture tells us that Grief (John 14:1); desires (Matthew 5:8); Joy (Ephesians 5:19); Understanding (Matthew 13:15); Thoughts and reasoning (Mark 2:8); and the most important, faith and belief (Romans 10:10) are all products of the heart. Considering all of this, it becomes easy to see how a hardened heart can take away a person’s ability to perceive and understand. Anyone’s heart can harden, even faithful Christians. Hardness of heart will cause the Christian to have an inability to see, understand, hear, and remember. Too often we forget what God blesses us with and what He has done for us. We need to remember God said, “I will never leave you and I will never forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) Sin causes the hardened heart, especially continual and unrepentant sin. Pride will cause hearts to harden. The pride of life and of heart will deceive you. If we can bring ourselves to repent of sin, only then can a hardened heart begin to be cured.

Hearts become hardened when we suffer setbacks and disappointments in life. No one is immune to the trials and tribulations that we encounter through life’s cycle. Paul tells us in Romans 5:3-5, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

My conclusion: Hard Headed will lead to Hardness of Heart!!

HEADLINES FROM GOD

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As I was reading the newspaper this morning, I was glancing at the headlines. Almost all of them dealt with negativity or bad news. So I got to thinking, what would headlines from God say? Here are a few I came up with:

REPENT AND BE BAPTIZED.
The question was, what do we need to do to be saved?

DON’T FORSAKE ASSEMBLING WITH THE SAINTS.
I, God, expect everyone to assemble on the first day of the week and Worship me.

FAITH COMES FROM HEARING.
There are different ways to hear My Word. You can have a group study (Bible Class before Worship). You can open your Bible and let Me speak to you. OR, you can come to My Worship services and hear the word preached.

IF YOU DON’T LOVE YOUR BROTHER, YOU CAN’T LOVE ME.
If you will only get the hate out of your life and let your love abound, your life and those around you will be much better. Faith in Me is good. Hope in Me is good. But, love is the greatest.

TRUST IN ME.
Talk to Me through prayer and I will get you through the tough times. Rejoice in your trials and tribulations. You will learn the right way to do things and I will make you stronger.

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE.
Do things that are right. Don’t spread hate and discontent. Don’t let ugly profane sayings come from your mouth. Walk on earth as Jesus walked. Treat your neighbor as you would want treated. Give a good days work for a good days pay. Live righteously.

OBEY MY COMMANDS.
This becomes very simple. Just do what I say, and I will prepare for you a place. I will provide eternity in Heaven for you. That’s My promise!!

SMILE I LOVE YOU.
I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. I will be there through the tough times and the good times. Take hold of My hand and I will lead you.

There are many more and you can probably add to this list some of those things that you treasure.
Have a good day all!!

Which Describes You?

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Are you a “Mustard Seed”, “Leaven”, or a “Tare”? We’ve been studying, in Bible class, the parables that Jesus talked about in Matthew 13. As we were studying, and as I further studied, I got to thinking how these can also pertain to us as individuals. So, I want to put a little different spin on the parables as they pertain to our life.

THE “Mustard Seed” is a very small seed, when planted and nurtured properly, will turn into a large tree. As individuals, we are like the “Mustard Seed”. We start off as babies and if nurtured properly with the right food, knowledge, and upbringing we will grow into the strong individual that God wants us to be. We will stand upright and strong and produce good fruit and works. Standing steadfast in our daily lives and our Christian lives is a task that takes good character, strong will, and the right knowledge. Are you doing the things that will take you from the “Mustard Seed” to a full grown tree?

A little “Leaven” leavens the whole loaf!! I was looking at this and myself wondering if I were the “Leaven” in life, would everyone around me grow? Would they flourish? Would people be better because of my influence? Then I figured, if that were to happen, I would have to be strong in my beliefs, convictions, knowledge, and the ability to stand steadfast. This would hold true in both my everyday life and my Christian life. Strive to do good works so those around you will have a positive influence.

Then there are the “Tares”. “Tares” are nothing more than weeds and we all know what weeds will do in the yard and/or garden. They can disrupt the growth and production of healthy plants. “Tares” are completely different from the “Mustard Seed” and “Leaven” in that they “Tare” down, instead of building up. So, what kind of things would be declared a “Tare”? GOSSIP–talking about others and creating disruption. DISOBEDIENCE–to your boss, family, and God. No CONSIDERATION of others–it’s all about me and I don’t care about you!! Uncontrollable ANGER–no patience and won’t listen. FILTHY language–do not take the Lord’s name in vain (OMG, For Christ’s sake, G-damn, etc). And the biggy–LYING!! Why can’t we just tell the truth? Why do we have to distort the truth? In God’s word, why to we tend to pull things out of context to prove our point? God already said what was what. Why would we think we are smarter than God?

A little different look at the parables and some questions for you to ponder on.

SMILE God loves YOU!! Have a good week all.