Index by Subject

Desperately Seeking Relevance


The following article contains observations and perceptions that I have developed in the last few decades as a Christian and preacher.  The warnings are offered because of my concern and love for the people of God. I have tried to write cautiously, and to avoid inflamed rhetoric.  I pray my comments will be considered, and my intent understood.

Perhaps you have heard of the apocryphal “Chinese” curse, “May you live in interesting times.”  While it might seem to be a blessing, the phrase is most commonly used in an ironic sense.  It seems that times of physical peace and blessing are typically rather boring, but times of conflict and upheaval are, at least historically speaking, much more interesting.

It is our misfortune to live in interesting times!  We have rogue nations with nuclear bombs; a rapidly increasing world population, resulting in significant economic and ecological challenges; a militant faction of Muslims declaring jihad throughout the world; an extremely partisan spirit in Washington D.C. that has made our government ineffectual and unresponsive to the needs of the American people.  We have militant social activists seeking to disrupt and remake the norms of morality and decency.  We have racial unrest. Continue reading » Desperately Seeking Relevance

“And He Took Courage”

We come together not only for the purpose of worshiping God, but also for encouraging and building one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:25). Acts 28:15 says, “And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Paul had just arrived in Italy after his arduous voyage from Caesarea. He had great anxiety and discouragement since it had been so long since Paul had received word about his brethren. Continue reading » “And He Took Courage”

God’s Pattern for Edification

As previously noted in this short series about Bible Patterns, we must follow scripture in establishing authority for our religious practices.  Paul wrote, "In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility" (Titus 2:7).

There are three areas of work, commissioned by God for the church.  The church is to preach the gospel to the lost in the world (evangelism), to engage in works of physical and material charity toward needy saints (benevolence), and to encourage and build up those of the household of faith (edification).

As with all things, we must let the scriptures define for us the work of edification, and the extent of that work, as authorized by God for the church.  The Bible is clear on this matter, and we can be sure of our standing before God by adhering to the Bible pattern in the work we do in building up the body of Christ.

Continue reading » God’s Pattern for Edification

Associate Editorial: The Importance of Biblical Preaching

"Preach the word," was Paul’s instruction to Timothy, the young evangelist (2 Tim. 4:2). The apostle Peter also said, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11). Though they lived in the "Golden Age of Greece" when philosophy was so prevalent, both of these inspired apostles directed evangelists to base their preaching solidly on God’s revealed word. In fact, Paul made direct reference to the difference between human wisdom and divine wisdom when he wrote to the church at Corinth, an ancient pagan city. "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" (1 Cor. 1:20). The wisdom of the world did not acknowledge even the existence of God. "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (v. 21).

Continue reading » Associate Editorial: The Importance of Biblical Preaching

Instruction and Edification (Fifteen or Twenty Minutes at a Time)

When I was a “boy preacher” it seemed that getting enough material together for a fifteen minute sermon was almost an insurmountable task!  One who is limited in experience may feel that he has enough material to preach for an hour or more, but when his lesson is delivered, it only turns out to be ten or fifteen minutes.  We have all had those experiences in preaching, whether as the one doing the preaching or as one who is listening and seeking to encourage young men to dedicate their lives to preaching the Word of God.  My personal experiences with those efforts go back well over fifty years, and every opportunity we have, we are still trying to encourage others to take on these responsibilities.  I am most happy that I can continue to hear those ten or fifteen minute sermons from young men who are just beginning to preach the Word!

But, brethren, I am greatly disturbed, filled with perturbation, and absolutely upset emotionally when I hear of experienced and able men who have “toned down” their preaching to these fifteen, or twenty minute sermons! On top of that, they are leaving the impression with the young and inexperienced preachers that such is really what “preaching” is all about!  And if all that is not frightening enough, I am also realizing that much of this preaching is almost totally void of scripture and is nothing more than a simple story or tale of some kind, with much of the “few” minutes being filled up with jokes or humorous tales!  To call such as that “preaching” is to absolutely disgrace the concept!  It seems obvious that those who are engaged in this practice are either ignorant of what gospel preaching is all about, or else they are intentionally seeking to avoid saying anything which is spiritually instructive or edifying!  Could it be possible that they simply want to “entertain” their audience (Galatians 1:10)?  Or is it  possible that they are very limited in “intestinal fortitude” and are therefore just cowardly staying away from condemning sin, exposing error and false teaching, and refusing to  boldly encourage fellow Christians to live soberly, righteously, and Godly in this present world (Acts 20: 26-27) (Titus 2: 11-12)?

Continue reading » Instruction and Edification (Fifteen or Twenty Minutes at a Time)

"What Is Written…How Readest Thou?": Source of True Encouragement

Paul’s letters to the church at Thessalonica were written in the midst of great concern among the brethren regarding death, the coming of Christ and the hope of those in Christ. When we read 1 Thessalonians 4, it is evident that some among their number had died while awaiting the promised hope at the Lord’s coming. Some wondered if the death of those saints separated them from that hope in Christ. No doubt, the thought of faithful brethren having been robbed of their hope by untimely death was discouraging and depressing to the saints.

When viewed in terms of the present reality of their severe persecution, the obvious concern existed as to the ability of evil men to take away their hope by killing them (1 Thessalonians 1:6). After all, martyrdom was a present fact in the first century (Acts 7:59-60; 12:1-2; et. al.). In the midst of affliction, the saints in Thessalonica needed strength and comfort to help them live with joy and hope. Where could they find the real, lasting and substantive encouragement they needed? What could be the source for such?

Continue reading » "What Is Written…How Readest Thou?": Source of True Encouragement

Solid Food: Solid Food

Editor’s Note: With this issue of Watchman, we welcome aboard brother Jeff S. Smith as our Solid Food columnist. Jeff is a very talented writer, and a studious man. In my association with Jeff, I have been impressed with his logical mind, his strong spine, and his quiet good humor. While he is just now joining our magazine on a monthly basis, he has written several good articles for us in the past. We look forward to his more regular contributions! If you don’t know Jeff well, be sure to visit our page of Biographical Sketches to learn more of him and his work for the Wonsely Drive congregation in Austin, TX. Meanwhile, here is his first article under the byline “Solid Food.”

Solid Food
The Hebrew writer was compelled to interrupt his explanation of the priesthood of Melchizedek to chastise his readers, whom he surmised would find such a subject beyond comprehension. The fault for this ignorance lay not in the writer, he asserted, but the reader, whose ability to grasp the scriptures had not grown properly. Although he had much to say about Melchizedek, he was hesitant to begin because his readers had “become dull of hearing” (Heb. 5:11). Continue reading » Solid Food: Solid Food

Queries and Explications: How Do We Alert the Sleeping Faithful?

Concerning current controversies over marriage issues, Romans 14 and fellowship, a brother recently wrote:

“I need your help and suggestions. The question is, how do we alert the sleeping faithful? After talking to some of my brethren and fellow preachers, it seems that most of them have the same attitude, ‘You are just yelling wolf’. It seems that they do not think that the battle is real, nor one that will threaten them or their congregations. I feel that this is a very foolish, “bury your head in the sand” attitude. I believe the sooner we can jump into the thick of the battle and make our stand for the truth, the better.

“I have met with some of the brethren where I labor. They seem to have the attitude that I can do some sermons on the issue, but that will be enough. I feel that we need to attack this false doctrine problem with a focused, multimedia action. That is to use any articles, sermons, studies and any other medium we can get our hands on. I hate the thought of standing by and seeing my brethren fall by the wayside. Continue reading » Queries and Explications: How Do We Alert the Sleeping Faithful?

White Unto Harvest: The Great Commission – Times of Consolidation

Jesus told his disciples to go “into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15). The book of Acts gives an account of the apostles and early preachers executing this commission. Indeed, their examples give impetus for our efforts in preaching today. We sing song like “The Gospel is for All” and “Send the Light” in the spirit of such work. However, in light of this emphasis on “going,” we must not forget another and just as important part of our efforts to teach the gospel, consolidation.

Among other things, consolidation means: “The act of making, or process of becoming, solid; the act of forming into a firm, compact mass, body, or system…” (Webster’s New Univ. Unabr. Dict., p. 390). With reference to the spread of the gospel it has to do with the firm establishment of a church in a given place. By this we mean grounding converts and getting a church functioning. We see an example of this beginning in Acts 11. Continue reading » White Unto Harvest: The Great Commission – Times of Consolidation