Index by Subject

“Your sin will find you out”

Numbers 32 records the petition the children of Reuben and Gad made to Moses and the leaders of the congregation of Israel. They desired to settle on the east side of the Jordan River rather than with the rest of the Israelites in Canaan. Moses agreed to allow this, so long as the two tribes guaranteed they would fight with the rest of Israel until “until every one of the children of Israel has received his inheritance” (vs. 18). Having given his approval, Moses warned the people should they go back on their word:

“But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out” (vs. 23).

There are many different examples, in both the Old and New Testaments, of people trying to hide their sin. While it is possible for the sinner to hide his sin from men, it is not possible to hide his sin from the Almighty.

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Trademarking “Tebowing”

The New York Jets backup quarterback has been a bit of a public relations sensation since entering the NFL. Most agree that the hype surrounding him is probably greater than his actual talent. But, that being said, he is extremely popular, in part because he is a very religious individual and is very forthcoming about his faith.

After touchdowns and on other occasions each game, Tebow drops down to a knee, and in front of tens of thousands of fans, and millions of viewers on television, says a short prayer. Some wag coined his practice “Tebowing” (the name is pronounced with a long ‘o’, like an archer’s bow).

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Pharisaism

During Jesus’ ministry, there were three main sects of the Jews that influenced Jewish politics and culture. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes.

Interestingly, the Essenes are not mentioned in the New Testament writings. Perhaps their tendencies toward asceticism and monasticism separated them from the common Jew, and limited their influence upon Jewish culture. (Note: It is believed that it was an Essene community, Qumran, that was responsible for the penning of the Dead Sea Scrolls).

The Sadducees were characteristically liberal and secular in their outlook. They were political animals, often affluent, and held the highest political offices among the Jews. “They were a political party, of priestly and aristocratic tendency, as against the more religious and democratic Pharisees” (ISBE, Vol. IV, pg. 2659).

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Knowledge Puffs Up

“Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3).

In this text the apostle Paul addressed a conflict that existed in Corinth.  How were the Corinthians to handle the eating of meat offered up to pagan idols?  Though some of the Corinthians were aware that “an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one” (vs. 4), others “until now eat it [meat offered to an idol] as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled” (vs. 7).  Paul recognized that those with superior knowledge could be guilty of acting arrogantly in the matter, and eating meat in the presence of those whose understanding was limited.  He asked, “And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” (vs. 12).  In considering the responsibility he had toward his brother, Paul proclaimed his love by writing, “Therefore if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (vs. 13).

While Paul did not devalue the importance of knowledge in this passage, he did indicate that knowledge, in and of itself was not only insufficient, but fraught with danger.  Knowing can lead to sinning!  In the context, Paul emphasized that such knowledge must be tempered with love for the brethren.

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A1 – The Logical Consequence of Belief in God

Video Script: The Logical Consequence of Belief in God (A1)

Have you ever thought about the fact that atheists, agnostics and skeptics speak a different language than those who profess a faith in God?  A believer will look at the skies above and attribute the glories to His creator, the Almighty God of heaven.  He approves the sentiment of King David, who wrote the 19th Psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.  Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.  Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (1-4).

The skeptic attributes that same glory to chance and time, and denies that a divine hand is behind its existence. Continue reading » Video Script: The Logical Consequence of Belief in God (A1)

“Literally” – A Discussion of Definitions

I recently read an interesting short article on the use of the term “literally” that I want to share with you, then comment upon.

Two Misuses of “Literally”

“He literally knocked his head off.”  No.  If he had, the head would have rolled across the floor, separated from the body.  “Literally,” in that case, is mistakenly used to intensify a figure of speech, but “literally” does not intensify the figure.  It says “knocked his head off” is not a figure of speech but a true description of what he did.

Another misuse of “literally” has to do with word meaning.  Someone says, “proskuneo ‘literally’ means ‘kiss the ground toward.’”  No, proskuneo literally means “worship.”  “Kiss the ground toward” is its etymology, how the word was formed.  It is also an archaic meaning; as ancient Persians did literally fall on their faces and kiss the feet or hem of the robe of their deified kings.  Etymology does not determine meaning; usage does.  The New Testament frequently says, “They fell down and worshipped him”  (Matthew 2:11; e.g.).  “Fell down” is from a different original word, “worshipped” is proskuneo.

“Literally” does not intensify a figure.  A word’s etymological meaning is not its “literal” meaning.

Cecil May
Preacher Talk (Vol. 27, No. 2—April 2012)

The first misuse of the term “literally” is typical in casual conversation.  While irritating to those who are sensitive to the mangling of the English language, it is innocuous.  However, defining biblical terms by their etymology, (or even their assigned dictionary definitions), without considering context, is extremely troubling as we seek to interpret God’s word.

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The Ethics of Men

I grew up hearing lessons preached on ethics.  The lessons were critical of a ethical view taken by many religious people called “Situational Ethics.”  While a situational view of what constitutes ethical action has always had a foothold in the world, it was largely rejected by those who claimed an affinity for the Bible.  For generations religious people were content to let the word of God be the standard by which ethics were established.  They accepted at face value the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).  To those who accepted the Bible as an authoritative and absolute ethical standard, lying was always a sin, as was sexual activity outside of the marriage bed.  Regardless of circumstance, sin was sin, and righteous behavior was well defined.

In the 1960’s things changed for many religious people.  Situational Ethics was first popularized by an Episcopal priest named Joseph Fletcher, who wrote two books titled The Classic Treatment and Situation Ethics.  In the books he contended that the principle of Love (agape) was supreme, and sometimes situations necessitated a breaking of God’s law for the higher good of expressing love for another.  The concept was accepted by a large number despite its arbitrary, individualistic and subjective nature.  Its influence is the primary reason why the hue and cry of religious people today, rather than obedience to God, has become, “You have no right to judge me!”

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“I who speak to you am He”

John 4:25-26

At the end of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4, the woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ).  When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus’ response was His most direct self-affirmation to date in His early ministry, as He said, “I who speak to you am He.”

Other words and phrases had earlier been used, by Jesus and others, that intimated His position.  The first example, of course, was the angel’s words to the virgin Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).

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Are We Relevant?

Several times in the history of Watchman Magazine I have written articles explaining the present state of the effort, and desires for the future.  As many may know, Watchman Magazine is my personal project, for better or worse, and the ebb and flow regarding its relevance and prolificacy are almost entirely a result of my efforts or lack thereof.  That means that my organizational abilities, mental state, and life circumstances all play a part -both in my writing, and in my publishing of the magazine.

Watchman Magazine began in January of 1998, and continued a regular publication schedule, for the most part, through 2004.  Toward the end of this initial iteration of the magazine, publication became more sporadic, as I personally dealt with a bad case of editor/publisher burnout.  After a hiatus of several years, publication resumed in January of 2010, with several changes.  Primarily, the magazine took on a blog format, rather than maintaining a monthly schedule.  With the advent of social networking, and powerful blogging software platforms, I believe this change to be a positive one.  It has made it possible for the Watchman writers to post articles on their schedule, and my editorial responsibilities have lightened.  It is nice to no longer be responsible for coding HTML, and fighting the compatibility problems of earlier years.

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The Intolerance of Toleration

intoleranceI recently came across an internet article listing the 5 most hated YouTube videos in internet history. This list was based upon the number of “thumbs down” designations given. Fifth on the list is the music video, “Baby”, by teen pop singer Justin Bieber. First on the list is a young lady who videotaped her opinion that the earthquake and resultant tsunami that devastated Japan was an answer to prayer, that God might convince the atheist of His existence. Interestingly, the girl later admitted that her video is a hoax, deliberately outrageous with the intent of provoking the ire of viewers.

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A Quiet Man of God

The following is a tribute I wrote for my father, who passed from this life October 20, 2011.  My friend and brother in Christ, Dennis Craig, read it for me at a memorial service we had for dad on October 24, 2011.  Dad’s name was Larry Cox.  He was not well known in the brotherhood, but he was well loved by the brethren who knew him.  He was not a preacher, just a kind and godly man.  And a wonderful example for me and his family, friends and brethren.  Men like this deserve honor as much as others who are better known.  I pray you are encouraged and edified by learning a bit more about my dad.

The day before my dad died he and I were sitting in his hospital room talking. He mentioned to me that he had for a long while toyed with the idea of writing a short biography of his life that he thought might have meaning for his family. "When you have lived as long as I have," he said, "you gain a couple of insights you can share. Maybe not many, but a few."

This desire was not a surprise to me, because I had found a short outline he had handwritten some time before. I was going through his papers while he was in the ICU, near death, a year ago. I kept it with me for the past year. It is a single page, off of a 5" X 8" pad. I would like to spend a short time "fleshing out" that outline to give you a better idea of the type of man dad was. All of you know him as a kind man and a faithful Christian. There are reasons he lived his life as he did.

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Tragically Ironic

Irony is defined as follows:

(1) Incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.  (2) An event or result marked by such an incongruity. (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1977 edition)

One tragic example of real-life irony about which I recently read concerns a motorcyclist in New York last July.  The helmetless man was riding his motorcycle as a part of a large group of cyclists staging an organized protest over the state’s mandatory helmet law.  The 55 year old man crashed, hitting his head on the road, and suffering a fatal skull fracture.  A state trooper was quoted, “The doctor felt that the death could have been prevented if he simply had been wearing a helmet.” (Reuters)

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True Worship

John 4:16-24

Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well was astounding in both circumstance and content.

The Jews hated the Samaritans, and the feeling was mutual.  The conflict had its origin in the divided kingdom, and the animosity only grew through the centuries until the time of our Lord.  It is important to note that  the Samaritans were the remnants of the northern Jews who had been taken into Assyrian captivity, and had intermarried with other races upon their return to Samaria.  The mingling of races, combined with the Samaritans acceptance of pagan gods led to a mongrel race and religion.

The Samaritans had built  a temple upon Mount Gerizim, adjacent to Jacob’s well.  It is this mountain to which the woman referred, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (vs. 20); and is the setting and context for the conversation recorded in John 4.

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Living Water

(John 4:1-15)

After Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus (John 3), He left Judea, and traveled through Samaria on His way back to Galilee. Many took a circuitous route between the two regions to avoid the Samaritans, who were despised by the Jews. However, Jesus determined to cross through Samaria, and immediately struck up a conversation with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in the city of Sychar.

Jesus’ disciples had departed into the city to buy food, and upon their return (vs. 27) marveled that he had talked with the woman. Jesus’ actions, and the content of the conversation itself, made clear that His purpose in coming to earth was to save all men, not just the Jews.

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Modest Dress: A Man’s Perspective

Spring is in full bloom, and with the increase in temperatures, we see a corresponding decrease in the amount of skin covered by those who seek comfort in the sun and the approving gaze of others.

What? You say that your skimpy dress is not an attempt to gain approval (most often from the opposite gender?) Well, I was born in April, but I was not born this last April!

The immodest fashions of the day are very clearly designed to produce lust. The most common term that is used to describe bikinis, short skirts, halter tops and tight fitting clothes is “sexy.” The term sexy is defined by Webster, “sexually suggestive or stimulating: EROTIC” While the term has become common place, it nevertheless reveals a concept that is antithetical to the Christian’s perspective and profession.

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Video Script: Wash Away Your Sins (11)

We affirm that the gospel is God’s power to salvation. That to be saved one must believe that gospel, repent of their sins and be willing to confess before men that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God.

When we affirm these things, almost everyone is pleased. Texts such as Romans 1:16, John 3:16, Luke 13:5 and Romans 10:8-10 clearly teach these truths.

We also affirm that baptism in water is necessary for salvation. And now we have a problem. Most people deny that one must be baptized to be saved. So why do we affirm it? Simple, just as belief, confession and repentance are clearly taught as necessary for salvation, so it is with baptism. Don’t believe me? Well, consider the following:

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10 – With the Mouth Confession

Video Script: With the Mouth Confession (10)

While commissioning his disciples to go and preach His gospel, Jesus said, "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33). Later in that conversation Jesus added, "He who doe not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it" (vs. 38-39).

The lesson is clear. Jesus demands loyalty. We must be on His side, we must be militant, we must be bold. It is unacceptable for us to hide our allegiance in the hope we will be spared by our enemies. There is no room for covert operations in the battle with Satan, we are required to boldly proclaim, "I am on the Lord’s side, Master here am I."

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9 – Repent or Perish!