In the presence of GREATNESS....

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For the past several days, I have been thinking of my beloved brother Bill Johnson; how he succeeded in starting a church in New York City, arguably one of the most difficult areas in the country.  And his work continues, with his son in the pulpit to this day!!!  I remember Bill before he was so successful; just a student in the school of preaching we attended. It took years for me to recognize the greatness of his abilities and I am blessed for having known him.  I wish that I had the sense to recognize it sooner, but I can't change the past; only learn from it!!!  But, I wonder, what if true overwhelming greatness was before me; would I recognize it or would I be just another "doubting Thomas"?  Which causes me to think about a passage from the old testament...

Isaiah, Chapter 6
 1 In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple.  2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each one had six wings. With two he covered his face. With two he covered his feet. With two he flew.  3 One called to another, and said, 
“Holy, holy, holy, is Yahweh of Armies!
The whole earth is full of his glory!”

  4  The foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  5 Then I said, “Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of Armies!” 

  6  Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar.  7 He touched my mouth with it, and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin forgiven.” 

  8  I heard the Lord’s voice, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” 

Then I said, “Here I am. Send me!” 

  9  He said, “Go, and tell this people, 
‘You hear indeed,
but don’t understand;
and you see indeed,
but don’t perceive.’
  10 Make the heart of this people fat.
Make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart,
and turn again, and be healed.”

Imagine for a moment that YOU are the prophet Isaiah.  The awesomeness of the scene would be almost too much for you to take in.  Some translations refer to Yahweh of Armies as The LORD of Hosts, but however you translate it, we are referring to someone who is very awesome indeed!!!!  Next, put yourself in the first century; you have just heard Jesus teach the people using parables.  You marvel at the teaching and then the following exchange occurs:

Matthew, Chapter 13
 10  The disciples came, and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 

  11  He answered them, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them.   12  For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he has.  13  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they don’t see, and hearing, they don’t hear, neither do they understand.   14  In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says, 
‘By hearing you will hear, 
and will in no way understand; 
Seeing you will see, 
and will in no way perceive: 
  15  for this people’s heart has grown callous, 
their ears are dull of hearing, 
they have closed their eyes; 
or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes, 
hear with their ears, 
understand with their heart, 
and should turn again; 
and I would heal them.’

  16  “But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.   17  For most certainly I tell you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which you see, and didn’t see them; and to hear the things which you hear, and didn’t hear them.

God's messenger of the covenant (Malachi 3:1ff) teaches once again the message of Isaiah chapter six, but I really don't think the disciples understood exactly who it was that was speaking to them.  "Doubting Thomas" would begin to, as his exclamation found in the gospel of John 20:28: “My Lord and my God!”.  Farther on in the Bible, we find the ultimate expression of the greatness of Jesus. 

In Revelation, chapter 19 we read:

 5  A voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, the small and the great!” 

  6  I heard something like the voice of a great multitude, and like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of mighty thunders, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns!  7 Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad, and let us give the glory to him. For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready.”  8 It was given to her that she would array herself in bright, pure, fine linen: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 

  9  He said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” He said to me, “These are true words of God.” 

  10  I fell down before his feet to worship him. He said to me, “Look! Don’t do it! I am a fellow bondservant with you and with your brothers who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.” 

  11  I saw the heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it is called Faithful and True. In righteousness he judges and makes war.  12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has names written and a name written which no one knows but he himself.  13 He is clothed in a garment sprinkled with blood. His name is called “The Word of God.”  14 The armies which are in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in white, pure, fine linen.  15 Out of his mouth proceeds a sharp, double-edged sword, that with it he should strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He treads the wine press of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty.  16 He has on his garment and on his thigh a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Remember Isaiah chapter 6?  Isaiah saw Yahweh of Armies and was overwhelmed!!!  Yahweh of Armies (the messenger of the covenant of Malachi) came to Earth and gave the people of his day the same message that Isaiah did, except that the one who spoke was GOD (John 20:28).  Recognize the greatness?  Reread Revelation chapter 19 again and acknowledge that Jesus is the word of God, Yahweh of armies and "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS".  Today, some people refer to Jesus as just a nice teacher or a prophet or just plain crazy, but the fact is HE IS GOD AND HIS GREATNESS exceeds that of any man who ever lived.  This includes real life people like Stephen Hawking and even imaginary ones like Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Phd!!  Jesus is not a king you accept into your life; he is GOD, and we submit to HIS WILL AND OBEY HIM!!!  One more thing... it is a great honor to be in the presence of GREATNESS!!!!  Think about that today... and rejoice!!!!

FUN, FUN, FUN by Gary Womack


"Are we having fun yet?" Many times we have heard those words in the face of something that is otherwise boring or perhaps somewhat unpleasant. As lighthearted as those words are intended to be, they underscore a thinking in our society that alludes to the focus on pleasure. Indeed, we live in a pleasure-mad society. If it's not fun, we just aren't living!
This thinking has permeated the ranks of those who claim to be religious. The denominational world of religion is no less pleasure-mad than the surrounding society. Sadly, many of our own brethren have followed the same philosophy that looks to fun for its means of attracting people to the Lord and holding them there once they have entered the doors of their building. This makes me think about the rebuke that Christ made to the scribes and the Pharisees when He said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." (Mt. 23:15)
It seems that most people's concept of the church and "religion" is centered around fun. For years I picked up a brother-in-Christ named Earl who lived in an assisted living facility. When I would arrive to take him to worship on Sunday, or bible study on Wednesday night, the staff would commonly say, "Have fun, Earl!" or "I hope you have a good time." Now, I don't want to be critical of their intended kindness, however, it is obvious that their concept of what we do when we come together to worship the Lord is something far from reality.
Considering what is typical of modern-day worship services in many places, it is understandable that people respond to "going to church" with "having fun." Fun isn't something that is limited to the "little people's" class any more. Part of teaching little children is helping them to associate the real life lessons of God's word to their young understanding. This is done with the use of "props" and "hands-on" activities that help them to use their five senses in order to learn the lesson that is being taught. An able teacher of young children will emphasize the importance and seriousness of the lesson being taught, using the available materials and activities to drive home the point. It would be expected that children who are in such a class under an able teacher would describe their class as "fun."
However, in today's experience, "fun" no longer exists just in the "little people's" class. The lesson being taught is no longer the focus, but has been lost to the "props" and the "activities." When teenagers and adults have to be "entertained" in order to hold their attention, something is terribly wrong! This is the indication of spiritual immaturity and dullness of hearing. The writer of the Hebrew letter accused some of his audience of being "...dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe." (Heb. 5:11-13)
Entertainment is the big draw in today's "churches" (?) as they bring in popular singing groups complete with bands, all of the lighting and sound amplification equipment. In fact, these are professional musicians that travel all over the country for their livelihood. It is quite a production! The unsuspecting person in the audience who has no real knowledge of the bible, is drawn into the thrill of the moment where the emotions are touched and then the "hook is set" to appeal to those emotions to make a "commitment to Christ." What ever happened to the power of the preached word of God? There were no entertainers on Pentecost - no music groups - no professional motivators - just lowly "Galileans," some of whom were "uneducated and untrained men." (Acts 4:13) Their message was anything but that which appeals to pleasure, but rather was "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit...and intents of the heart." (Heb. 4:12) Their message did not bring pleasure, but rather "...they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' " (Acts 2:37)
The initial introduction of the gospel to the sinner is not intended to be a pleasant experience. It is intended to prick the heart. "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation..." (2 Cor. 7:10) The joy of ones salvation follows, as we see in the rest of the account in Acts chapter 2. But many people confuse "fun" for joy.
"Fun" is defined as, "Lighthearted play or playfulness; merriment; amusement; sport; recreation; joking." (Webster) However, "joy" [chara] in the scriptures denotes "delight" and evokes happiness within the heart. While fun is temporary and transient, joy is long-lasting and remains long after the fun has ended. This is why so many people are disillusioned by what they see in "religion." After experiencing something that they perceived as good, they experience "the morning after" of a false hope that was set in the pleasures of a fleshly appeal.
The very definition of fun gives testimony to the appeal of "churches" that have ball teams, and "family life centers" [as some "churches of Christ" (?) have named them.] "Bus ministries" are used to transport "church groups" to amusement parks and "youth camps" as a means of appealing to the flesh in the name of Christ. Some "churches" have even been known to invite comedians who are billed as offering "good clean entertainment." Though their intentions may be good, their philosophy is faulty, thinking that they can draw people to the Lord or hold them close to Him by appealing to the flesh. In so doing, they become "...blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch." (Mt. 15:14) In so doing, they play into the hands of Satan's deception and fall victim to the same allurements that he used against Adam and Eve. Remember, "... The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world." (1 Jn. 2:16)
One of the things that we must always be cautious of is the fact that whatever is in the world is apt to make its way into the church. Remember, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." (Gal. 5:9) - Gary V. Womack - October 2004

FATHERS by Gary Womack


"Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, 'I have acquired a man from the Lord.' " (Gen. 4:1) Herein we have the account of the making of the first earthly father - Adam, the father of Cain.
The psalmist declares children to be a blessing from God; "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them..." (Psm. 127:3-5) These words echo Eve's declaration that she had "acquired a man from the Lord."
Fatherhood is indeed a blessing from God. It is according to God's design as part of that which makes up a family as stated by God when He said that "...a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Gen. 2:24) When He made Adam and Eve, "...God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it...' " (Gen. 1:28). Therefore, in God's grand scheme of life, He created mankind with the ability to reproduce himself wherein both man and woman, though individual souls, are dependent upon the other. This is what Paul alluded to when he wrote that "...man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.....neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God." (1 Cor. 11:8-9, 11-12) It is sad that man has perverted this divine arrangement by ignoring the sanctity of marriage in the sins of adultery (which leads to multiple marriages), as well as the abominable sin of homosexuality that defies God's natural order.
In modern society, the breakdown of the family is evident in every quarter of life. There seems to be no social barrier that is immune to the ravages of divorce and every other affront to the family as God designed it. What was once the exception to the rule has become commonplace as we find many homes whose children are missing either a father or a mother due to divorce or, as often as not, due to their having been born out of wedlock.
Wherever there is the shirking of any parent's divinely appointed responsibility, there is heartache. Many a child in our society knows this first hand. It is not uncommon to find children growing up in a home without a father. It is therefore no wonder that another generation has come along that lacks the understanding of God's pattern for the family unit.
There is more to fatherhood than having the ability to reproduce offspring. To be worthy of that title, a man must accept the responsibility that goes along with it. To be a father is to be more than a progenitor, but to be a provider, a protector, a mentor, a teacher, a confidant, and a godly example.
Fathers are given the sobering responsibility to "...not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." (Eph. 6:4) This cannot be done when the father is nowhere to be found, or is too wrapped up in his own indulgences to be there for his children.
There is many a man (?) who has fathered a child that he knows nothing of, whose child will never know his face or his identity, and whose parentage is even unknown to that child's mother. There is many a father who, though claiming his family by coming home at night (sometimes), leaves his responsibility to his children exclusively in the hands of their mother who has to "take up the slack" in his perpetual absence. This is a shame and a disgrace and ought not to be! Then there are fathers who are so blinded to their parental responsibilities by their jobs, work, and social commitments, that the brief time that remains for their children is merely a token response to their very existence.
As a result of these things, many a father has looked back and wondered why their children fail to share their convictions or return to them the love that they hoped for in their old age. It is then that the proverb comes home to roost; "...A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother." (Prov. 10:1) The fruit of their shirked responsibility is bitter indeed.
Words of advice to delinquent fathers need to be heeded, not only for the benefit of their children, but for their own future well-being. When fathers fail to "be there" for their children and to guide them with the proper loving discipline of a caring parent, they set themselves up for future heartbreak. "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother." (Prov. 29:15) "Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul." (Prov. 29:17)
On the other hand, there are those fathers who recognize the blessing they have received in their children, who faithfully (to the best of their ability), accept their God-given responsibility with enthusiasm and thankfulness, whose children never doubt their love and are comforted in the knowledge that they can depend on them to always "be there" for them. These have earned the due respect of their children and are worthy of the recognition that their children honor them with.
The authority that is divinely bestowed upon a father is to be honored by their children. "Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.' " (Eph. 6:1-3) "Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old." (Prov. 23:22)
Listen to the words of a father; "Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; For I give you good doctrine. Do not forsake my law. When I was my father's son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me: Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live." (Prov. 4:1-4)
"Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set." (Prov. 22:28) The landmarks of a godly father are the principles of all that is good that stand as monuments to their integrity and as guideposts to their children. They are the personification of godly wisdom. They are the inheritance of a godly example for future generations when those who erected them are but a memory. Thanks, dad. - Gary V. Womack - June 2005



Sixty years ago today on June 6, 1944, on the shores of Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, thirty five thousand soldiers stepped into history. Today, that invasion is known as D-Day. It marked a major turning point in the war, but not without significant loss of life.
Those who were there reported rows of tanks stretching ten miles long. One Canadian who was there, later spoke of the five thousand ships that stretched out along the coast of Normandy, saying that "It looked as if you could walk across the channel and not get your feet wet." Overhead, ten thousand planes dropped almost six million tons of bombs behind enemy lines. Following the bombing, the skies were filled with what looked like confetti as twenty thousand men parachuted to the ground. One and a half million soldiers participated in the carrying out of this infamous assault.
In the early hours of that fateful morning, the assault boats floundered in rough waters, dropping their ramps hundreds of yards off shore, forcing heavily laden infantry men to wade in pounding surf up to their armpits. German machine-guns opened fire on them from atop the cliffs overlooking the beach. Many soldiers were cut down before clearing their landing crafts. In spite of great odds, two hundred twenty five soldiers scaled the one hundred foot sheer cliffs of Pointe du Hoc. Every man was a hero.
On that morning, many young men paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Today, nine thousand seventy nine marble crosses mark the graves of those brave men. One thousand five hundred fifty seven names of missing men are engraved on a memorial near by. Three hundred seven graves mark the burial places of men whose names only God knows. Over fourteen thousand injured men were sent home, most of whom died.
As third and fourth generations grow up as benefactors of that and subsequent wars, many know little of that battle in a far-away land or of the terrible price that was paid in young lives. The dying men on that beach seem remote, the sound of crackling gun fire is silenced, and the lonesomeness that engulfed those who died far away from home and families is uncomprehended.
Were the sacrifices of that day offered in vain? Not hardly. While their memory may fade into the shadows of time as generations pass on, what they and many other men and women contributed do not go unrealized by subsequent generations that enjoy the blessings of freedom and life as we know it. In what has been called "the greatest generation," we find a mindset, a sense of commitment, and a self-discipline that has not been known since. Young men and women who experienced separation, fear and scenes of war that yet remain etched in their minds, are now aged - but their valor yet remains true to the end. We are forever indebted to their faithful calling.
There is a spiritual parallel to their heroism and the results of their sacrifice. Before Israel was to enter into the promised land, Moses spoke to the people and reminded them of the magnitude of that which they were about to receive as a gift from the Lord. But hear his warning to them as he said, "And it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant - when you have eaten and are full - then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." (Deut. 6:10-12)
We too enjoy the fruits of those who have gone before us into spiritual battle. We enjoy the fellowship of a spiritual family that we did not bring forth. We drink of the wellspring of the preached word that we did not have to dig. We have eaten of the fruit of spiritual plenty which we did not plant. But we too also have to beware that we not forget, and in our spiritual wealth take for granted what we enjoy at the hand of those who have born the heat of the day. Consider the price some of our forefathers paid. "They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented - of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us." (Heb. 11:37-40)
Each one of us who wear the name Christian is indebted to the grace of God and to someone who preceded us into the faith. Many of us were taught by godly parents. Some were led to Christ by a friend or perhaps someone who had previously been unknown to us. We are but another generation in the passing on of the baton of faith. All of us have come to this point in our spiritual pilgrimage with others who have stood along side of us and encouraged us when we were weak and struggling, who urged us to go on when we thought we could go no farther, who held up our weary arms in battle, who comforted us when we were in despair. We dare not fail to commit ourselves to the same principles of love, compassion, and courage. Let it not be said that we failed to pass on to the next generation the things that we learned and enjoyed at the hand of our progenitors.
Our conflict is one of "...principalities and powers in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12) and the battlefield is strewn with the dead and dying bodies of those who failed to resist the power of Satan's army. Do not be dismayed, but rather, "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave (like men, kjv), be strong." (1 Cor. 16:13)
As Gideon's army of thirty two thousand was reduced by God to only three hundred men, their enemies "...were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude." (Jud. 7:12) That comparatively small band of men surrounded the enemy's camp and blew their trumpets. "And every man stood in his place all around the camp." (vs. 21) As those before us, now it is our turn to stand in place. - Gary V. Womack - June 2004