Index by Subject

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 Law of Equivalences

Studying the Bible is a great joy.  The truths that are found within the pages of God’s word have value that the world cannot measure with earthly things.  The excitement of unearthing these treasures is accelerated as each student detects the urgency in grasping its teachings.  Eternity is at stake.  Time does not stop so that I can perceive truths.  We are given one life and with that one life we must gain knowledge and wisely practice what we learn.  We must open God’s word, look to the context, consider associate passages, and reflect on what I call, “The Law of Equivalences.”

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Review of “Anti-ism — From God or Man?” (1)


In 2006 the small group wearing the moniker “Spring Church of Christ” in Spring, Texas hosted their annual “Contending For the Faith Lectureship.”   In that year the topic under consideration was “Anti-ism—From God Or Man?”   In conjunction with the lectureship series, a lecture book was printed to help further the spread of their intended message.     I came into possession of this work, and spent some time at the wearisome task of examining the teaching therein.   What will follow is a series of articles reviewing portions of that lecture book.

Why only review portions?    As is so often the case, when those few institutional brethren who will discuss these issues take time to discuss them, they make attempts to tie them into some inane and obscure doctrines that are present among churches of Christ.  For instance, they will attempt to liken brethren who oppose the use of the collection to support human institutions such as orphans homes, preaching schools, etc., with those who oppose the use of separate Bible classes or who bind the idea that Christians must only use one container when partaking of the Lord’s supper.   Thus we see no reason to review articles that condemn ideas that we agree are not biblical. Continue reading » Review of “Anti-ism — From God or Man?” (1)

Mingling With the Gentiles

Most will remember that the Israelites left Egypt under the command of God’s servant, Moses, who led them through the wilderness forty years until they finally reached the Promised Land.

At that point, Moses died and Joshua took charge, leading the people into battle to take control of their land. Because Jehovah’s religion was to have one Lord and be free of idolatry and superstition, the faith of the heathen was a great danger. God commanded that they should be eliminated, but they weren’t.

Today, our strategy in dealing with the world around us involves conversion rather than extermination, but immersion in this life affords us the same opportunities to influence for good or to be influenced for evil. What are the dangers when we mingle with the Gentiles?

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Quote From the Past:

“Christians Must Fight” by Foy Wallace, Jr.

“The spirit of pacificism is taking the fight out of the church. But the conflict between truth and error is unending. Victory does not come by truce. God’s terms are unconditional surrender…The church grew when the fight was waged and the battle raged. When the let up came in the fight, the let down came in the church. It is said that the sectarians do not fight anymore. That is because the church has quit fighting and they have nothing to fight. If gospel preachers will fight now as they fought then…and truth will triumph as it did then. Shall we yield to the line of least resistance, or shall we challenge error in its strongholds and citadels?”

(Why did I choose to “resurrect” such a statement that is more than 50 years old? We must observe from this quote a certain truth: this sentiment is rare in our time of extreme tolerance. Times have changed and many among us have changed with it. When the preaching of the gospel is done in our time, it is very rare to hear preachers express their desire to be militant in their expression of the gospel. No one relishes the concept of “fighting” in any religious sense today. Continue reading » Quote From the Past:

Editorial: Commitment of Biblical Proportions

No doubt you have heard the following story in one form or another:

The pig and the chicken walked down the street together.  Every restaurant they passed had signs in the window advertising, “Ham and Eggs.”

“See,” said the chicken, “We’re famous.”

The pig grunted. “For you,” he said, “a plate of ham and eggs is just a cackle. For me it’s the supreme sacrifice.”

In a more concise form it is observed that when it comes to such a breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed!

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Not To Be Taken

Searching through a box of old bottles in an antique shop one day, my wife and I came upon some bottles which not only looked old, but were cast in different shapes and sizes with embossed messages and raised ribbing on the sides.  Some of the bottles were hexagon; others were octagon, while others were flat or triangular.

The sales lady told us poison bottles by law were altered in appearance to safe guard the public in both England and in the United States from 1870 to 1930.  These bottles were made with labels such as, “not to be taken internally” or simply “not to be taken.”

The poison bottles came in different colors such as green, cobalt, black or amber.  When someone in the 1800’s went to a medicine cabinet and looked for a bottle of medicine by candle light they were apt to innocently pick up a poison bottle, sincerely mistaking it for a bottle of medicine.

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Christian Senses

We should all be familiar with our senses; hear, smell, see, taste, and touch.  In general we can probably take these for granted at times.  We hear a sizzle coming from the kitchen.  We smell the odor of food cooking. We look at what is cooking on the stove top or in the oven.  We taste the food.  We touch the food as we bring it to our mouth.  We use our senses every day in a multitude of ways; to say the least.

As Christians we use these very same senses but in a completely different way.

As Christians these senses are used by those around us as we demonstrate the various attributes that these senses demand.


Taste is a sense that is truly different for each individual.  While we can all taste bitter, sweet, savory, sour and salty, each one has a different reaction; some crave sweet while others crave sour.  The life of a Christian is a flavoring to the world.  In Matthew 5:13 Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. Jesus points out that those who follow Him will be/are the salt of the earth.  They will give the earth a distinct flavoring just as salt.  Their lives are different from the lives of those in the world.

When we lose our distinctive flavoring we have lost that which separates us from the world.


Our sight is something that should be very dear and precious to us.  For those of us who have had poor eyesight we understand that this sense should not be taken for granted in any way.  Jesus speaks of this also in Matthew.  In Matthew 5:14-16 He said, 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Again, Jesus uses a sense to describe the life of a Christian.  It is not an experience that the Christian sees but those around see the Christian and his life in contrast to the darkness of the world.  Paul wrote, 8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14Therefore He says:“Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead,  And Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:8-14).

This is the very life of a Christian.  We are to walk in and with the light of the Lord.  When we do this others will see the Gospel manifested in our lives.  They will also be able to see the darkness of the world by our continual example of the truth of God’s word.


One of our most sensitive senses is the sense of smell. We can quickly detect those sweet and fragrant odors yet just as quickly, and more reactionary, those odors that offend our sense of smell.  The smell of a flower and the spray of a skunk are opposites of the spectrum for our noses and these can describe the fragrance that a Christian should have in Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 Paul wrote, 14Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.16To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? The life of a Christian is first a fragrance to God and second to those who witness their life.

Our aroma is as distinctive as life and death.  Our life smells of life as we walk in the Gospel and by direct contrast points out the smell of death to those who walk in the way of the world.


We have all probably taken a hearing test at one time in our life.  As with our other senses, our hearing is a sense that is often taken for granted; we can play music too loudly or subject our ears to damaging industrial noises.  These degrade our ability to hear.

Hearing the Gospel is something the world thinks it does but in truth they only hear a perversion of the truth.  In 2 Timothy 4:3-4 Paul wrote,3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. The implication to the denominational world is clear to those who want hear.  In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote, 1And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling (1 Corinthians 2:1-3).  We must be as Paul teaching only Jesus Christ.  Paul’s command to young Timothy was simple, Preach the word! (2 Tim. 4:2).  How can we expect anyone to believe if they have not heard; remember, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).


Our sense of touch is the one that might be the most versatile.  Our skin is by far the largest of our sense organs and we use it intensively every day.  We can feel a rock and the sensation of heat.  We can feel the softness of a feather and the cold, wetness of ice.

Under the Old Law the Israelites were not allowed to touch that which was unclean (Leviticus 5:2-3).  While we are not under the Old Law the principle still holds, that which is unclean defiles us.  What we touch is a sign of who we are and what is important in our lives.  If we touch the things of the world are we not like the world?  In 2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1 Paul quoted Isaiah then added a reminder, 17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” 18“I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.”7:1Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

This cleansing is from the ways of the world.  If we participate in the world, as the world, we show no different picture to those around us.  When we touch the world, as the world does, then all of our other influence is lost.

While we are careful not to submit to the traditions of men, 20 Therefore if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations 21“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? 23These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:20-23), we realize that just because the world justifies a thing doesn’t make that thing acceptable to God.  In all things we must go to God’s word to establish authority and then obey.

Our physical senses are important to us.  Take one away and you begin to realize the importance of that sense and the others gain value.  If our physical senses are important how much more important is it to exhibit Christian senses to the world so that that image of Christ and His word is portrayed in our lives daily.

These Christian senses keep us continually examining and testing ourselves against the standard, the Gospel, but are also experienced by those around us as our lives have an affect upon them.

Preaching the Gospel With the Jerusalem Ring

When I was just beginning preaching, I know I benefited greatly by a number of older preachers, including my own father. Though some of these were not aware of it they served as mentors to me by their reputations and examples. One I have admired in so many ways was Robert L. McDonald, Jr. At one time he told a story that bears repeating at this time and I want to use it here as the premise for this article.

The account goes like this. During the process of preaching a gospel meeting in a certain place brother McDonald had just concluded one of his sermons, which no doubt was thorough on insisting on the adherence to Bible authority. As the listeners were filing by, an elderly man approached him and referring to the sermon said, “That was a real cow bell!” This man went on to explain what he meant by this and that his comment was intended to be the highest compliment, which for our purposes now, was along the lines of understanding why milk cows used to wear loud bells around their necks. The owner of the cow could hear where his cow was when the bell sounded as it walked. This told him if his cow was close or far. So, his remark meant that the sermon brother MacDonald had preached had the sound of telling him what he needed to know, the truth.

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"What is Written … How Readest Thou?": Whether Small or Great

Asa was the third king of Judah in the divided kingdom. The two kings before him, Rehoboam and Abijah, exemplified the way of error. The inspired writer summed up the reign of Rehoboarn by saying, "He did that which was evil, because he set not his heart to seek Jehovah" (2 Chron. 12:14). Of the life of Abijah, the Bible says that he walked in "the sins of his father" and "his heart was not perfect with Jehovah" (1 Kgs. 15:3). Yet, Asa did not follow the path of apostasy, but "did that which was good and right in the eyes of Jehovah his God: for he took away the foreign altars, and the high places, and brake down the pillars, and hewed down the Asherim, and commanded Judah to seek Jehovah… and to do the law and the commandments" (2 Chron. 14:2-4).

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Associate Editorial: Why Do We Try to Make the Bible Say Stuff It Just Does Not Say?

“Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen” (1 Peter 4:11, ESV).

Does that verse say what I think it says? Whatever it is we do or say, the purpose is to insure God gets the glory. “…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” is the text. That word “everything” is no slip of the tongue. The Holy Spirit knew what He was inspiring to be written and preserved throughout eternity. He said everything and He meant everything. We are to do, and God is to get the glory for His revealing to us what it is we are to do.

Continue reading » Associate Editorial: Why Do We Try to Make the Bible Say Stuff It Just Does Not Say?

Associate Editorial: Response from Marty Pickup

Editor’s Note: Marty Pickup responded to brother Robert’s article, which appeared in the May issue of brother Robert’s mail out bulletin, The Communicator, and was reprinted in the June 2004 Issue of Watchman.  Brother Pickup’s response, and brother Robert’s rejoinder were printed in the July 2004 issue of The Communicator.  Since the initial article was published in Watchman, we thought best to publish this exchange as well.

Response From Marty Pickup

June 9, 2004

Dear brother Roberts:

Yes, you continue to grossly misrepresent me. I did not say, nor do I believe the false idea you attribute to me: “We should consider the account of the serpent was a pagan myth.” I never said in my FC lecture, nor do I believe, that the serpent of Genesis 3 might be a pagan myth. I never said, nor do I believe, that the serpent of Genesis 3 might be mythological. Such views are just as repugnant to me as they are to you.

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The Simple Gospel: In a Sound Church, Yet Without a Clue

The expressions “non-institutional” and “conservative” are commonly used by brethren today to describe an assembly of brethren who do not support the sponsoring church or human institutions, and who are not liberal-minded in their spiritual thought.  But we need to be aware that these terms are also now being used among a great many brethren to describe congregations where brethren gladly advocate and practice the false teachings of “unity in diversity”, and where the endorsement and fellowship of brethren who teach and/or practice soul destructive error is a common occurrence.

So, it had better become obvious to faithful brethren that “soundness” in teaching and practice involves a great deal more than simply describing an assembly of brethren as being non-institutional or conservative.  I am confident that we could all profit from a full examination of what constitutes the acceptance and practice of “sound doctrine” among our brethren, but for our purposes in this particular article we must recognize that a sound and faithful group of brethren will be those who abide in the doctrine of Christ, John 8:31-32, and who will not receive anyone who does not bring this teaching, 2 John 9-11.  These are brethren who have fellowship with God and one another because they walk in the light, 1 John 1:5-7, and they are very concerned and careful that they have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, Ephesians 5: 6-14.

Continue reading » The Simple Gospel: In a Sound Church, Yet Without a Clue

Scripture Studies: Seek and Destroy

"But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire" (Deuteronomy 7:5).  This is what the Lord commanded of Israel as they were about to enter the promised land.  All substance and shadow of idolatry was to be found and annihilated.  If it was done, blessings would follow.  If not done, Israel would be cursed.  We know from reading the history of Israel, they failed to do their duty, were afflicted by their enemies, as well as internal trouble, and ended up in captivity.

The Lord gives Christians the command to seek and destroy as well.

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in god for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

This is a command to attack error.  The Spirit also commands, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11).  There is to be no sharing in evil, but that is not all.  There is no position of neutrality, nor mere avoidance of evil.  Rather, it must be confronted and exposed.

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Associate Editorial: Have I Become Your Enemy?

Editor’s Note:  Brother Roberts edits the Forest Hills church of Christ Communicator, a monthly mail out bulletin.  This article appeared in the May 2004 issue of that paper.  While local references are made, the principles are timely and important for all Christians to note.  As such, we appreciate the opportunity to give his article an even wider reading in this issue of Watchman.

“Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”
(Galatians 4:16)

Jesus, the wise and perfect Master Teacher was not gladly received by all who heard him. We must realize that Jesus always had the right attitude, chose the right words, expressed the truth, and spoke with clarity. But some resented the truth that he taught. “Therefore many of his disciples when thy heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured about this, he said to them, ‘Does this offend you?'” (John 6:60-61). Without debate, we can conclude that the fault lay with the listeners, not the speaker. Jesus taught the truth and some hated him for that very reason. Continue reading » Associate Editorial: Have I Become Your Enemy?

The Simple Gospel: Natural “Revelation”

We have preached and written at length about the contention some in the Lord’s church are making that the “days” of Genesis 1 are not to be taken as literal 24 hour periods of time.   Those who make such a claim say that God’s other means of revealing himself to man, the “testimony of nature” indicates that the universe is billions of years old, and came into existence with a “Big Bang.”  I never thought I would hear it, but some are saying that the “Big Bang” theory is the Christian’s friend.

It is not surprising that “Big Bang” advocates would appeal to “natural revelation”, because the Bible clearly contradicts their contentions.  Even a casual reading of the Bible account reveals that God made the world in six days, and rested on the seventh.  Further, in looking at the genealogies in the book of Genesis and elsewhere, it is equally obvious that the Bible teaches the world to be of relatively recent origin.

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Associate Editorial: Decades of Discontent

What is wrong with the church of Christ?

If you say, “Nothing, it is the Lord’s church, and I am satisfied with what the Bible reveals about it,” you might be in a minority position. Many are ready to change the work, worship and structure of the church of Christ, including its identity as the “church of Christ.” Are you aware of what is happening?

We have been through decades in which many have sought to change the Lord’s church into something more tolerant and imitative of denominational theology. The exclusiveness of truth and those characteristics that identify God’s people from those of the denominational world are being eroded in many places. We see the evidence of it in the Tampa Bay area and around the nation. Consider some of the issues that the Lord’s people are facing:

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Associate Editorial: Brethren, It’s Time to Take a Stand

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore…” (Ephesians 6:10-14).

This admonition from the beloved apostle Paul should not be taken lightly.  He knew, because the Holy Spirit had told him “expressly” (pointedly, specifically) that some would “depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1).  He also told the Ephesians that some would be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (4:14).  This warning by our brother Paul is not for his generation only, but will be as true for us as it was for them.  “Winds of doctrine” will blow across the brotherhood and we must “take a stand” or be swept away with them.  While there are those who are content to bury their heads in the sand and refuse to acknowledge the strange doctrines that are blowing in our day, those who pay attention to the word of God realize that winds are blowing as much today as they were in apostolic times.

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Editorial: Revisiting “Let None Deal Treacherously”

The special theme section of our last issue of Watchman, (June, 2003), was entitled “Let None Deal Treacherously”:  An Examination of God’s law (and the error of men) on the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage.  The issue consisted of nine articles on the subject, establishing what I believe to be the truth, and dealing with some (though not all) of the errors which men have advocated on the subject in recent years.  All of the articles were written by me.

The series initially was printed in the local bulletin I edit for the West Side congregation here in Fort Worth.  Because of the format of the bulletin, the articles were not long, and it was not my intention for them to be particularly “in-depth.”  I was aiming for a general, concise discussion of the issue, and judging from the generous feedback I received concerning the material, some at least were satisfied with the effort.

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Associate Editorial: Unwilling to Communicate?

“Remove me from your mailing list”

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea…” (Matthew 3:1). John had a message and he proclaimed it widely and publicly — “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (v. 2).  Not everyone liked what John had to say, but he was communicating the will of God. Luke tells us that “the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him” (7:30). Experience and history tells us that communication is sometimes a one-way proposition, though it is intended to be an exchange of ideas.

It is said of Jesus: He “went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom…” Matthew 9:35. But He knew that “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priest and scribes” (Luke 9:22). The Master Teacher was unable to reach many of His day and they turned a deaf ear to the proclamation of the Good News. They crucified Him even while He was willing to communicate God’s will.

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