In Search Of The King

by Tom Wacaster

Almost two thousand years ago, an unidentified number of wise men (magi, according to the Greek) observed a strange phenomenon, and followed a star to the outskirts of Jerusalem.  They were searching for He that is "born king of the Jews" (Matt. 2:2).  You know the story. The distance traveled, the inconvenience of absence from their own country, and separation from their families demonstrate a noble endeavor on the part of these wise men.  Their example of courage and commitment give us a worthy example to imitate in our search for the King of kings.  I am fully aware that there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that the first century church somehow celebrated the birth of Christ annually.  Typically, even today the churches of Christ do not "celebrate" Christmas (at least as a religious holiday).  I do read, however, of a divine memorial to the death of our Jesus as we remember His body and His blood every first day of the week (Acts 20:7).  I do not doubt that some men and women with noble intentions thought it might be good to set aside a time to remember the birth of Christ. But a close study will reveal that this holiday is a mixture of pagan custom and apostate Christian practice. 

Of particular interest to this scribe is the fact that our present "season" is really quite a paradox.  Songs are sung glorifying the King, while the masses live in rebellion to His rule. We speak of peace on earth, and the carnage on the highways by those "celebrating" produces anything BUT peace.  Religious overtones permeate the airways, but spiritual transformation simply does not take place deep within the heart.  The search for the King has become nothing more than annual lip service in the lives of the world in general.  It has become, for the most part, a search for bargain prices at some super sale so we can maintain a sense of generosity while internally we are as covetous and idolatrous as the "heathen" nations around us.

We must remind ourselves that the search for the King is not a seasonal search, but a life long endeavor.  The scriptures do not teach that the "holiday season" is the time for hearing, but rather it is "today" - any time that the opportunity avails itself (although it may include this time of the year).  The search for the King is not found amongst pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue, or the downtown rush of shoppers.  The search for the King is not a time of frolic or reveling, but a time of sober and serious self examination with regard to one's relationship to the Almighty God.  The search for the King is not a cup of eggnog, but the cup of humility demonstrated in a contrite heart and obedient life.  Like those noble Beroeans of old, may our search for the King of kings permeate our life 365 days a year.  Like the wise men from the east, let us prostrate ourselves before the Holy One of Israel and submit to His law for our life. That, dear friend, is the only true search for the King.  

The Impact of Paul On The World

by Tom Wacaster

Few men have ever lived who made the kind of impact upon humanity and history, as did Paul the apostle.  Converted in early adulthood, this enemy of the cross became the most ardent supporter and defender of Christianity.  With the exception of Christ, Paul did more to advance the cause of Christ than any other human being.  One astonishing feature of Paul's life was what he accomplished in the amount of time allotted him as apostle and preacher.  The public ministry of Paul, from the third year after his conversion to his martyrdom, spanned only a quarter of a century.  In those 25 years Paul made three great missionary campaigns with a number of minor expeditions, five visits to Jerusalem, and at least four years of captivity in Caesarea and Rome.  Even if we allow the date of Paul's death to be as late as 68 A.D., that is still less than three decades to accomplish what few men accomplish in a life time. 

Following his conversion he returned to Damascus where he began in earnest the task of saving souls.  His love for the lost and his devotion to the Lord took him to the far reaches of the Roman Empire, and eventually even to Rome.   He suffered mercilessly at the hands of the Jews who remained loyal to the tradition of their fathers.  Yet he never lost his love for his kinsmen in the flesh.   His heart ached for their conversion as a people, but deep in his mind he knew that would never happen.  His love for both Jew and Gentile motivated him to turn his back on the things of the world, and march ever onward toward that "city which hath foundation whose builder and maker is God."  His love for Jesus Christ took him to distant lands, into hostile environment, and brought upon him some of the most severe trials imaginable.    After his third missionary journey he returned to Jerusalem for the fifth and final time, where he would be rescued from an angry mob and arrested by dutiful soldiers of the Roman army.    The next five years would find Paul appealing to Caesar for a fair trial, a long and treacherous journey to Rome, and an opportunity to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the single most influential metropolis in the Empire - Rome.  His work took him into the household of Caesar, where the apostle was instrumental in converting even some of the family members of the ruler of the known world.  He would be released for a short period of time, and then arrested a second time, and eventually martyred because of his faith, thus ending his earthly sojourn. 

Volumes have been written on the life and work of Paul the apostle.  His life has convinced untold millions of the authenticity of Christ and Christianity.  His words, by inspiration, still speak to men today.  And though he be dead, he still speaks!    Phillip Schaff offered this notable tribute to Paul.  I'll close this week's article with his words:

It was the heroic career of a spiritual conqueror of immortal souls for Christ, converting them from the service of sin and Satan to the service of the living God, from the bondage of the law to the freedom of the gospel, and leading them to the fountain of life eternal. He labored more abundantly than all the other apostles; and yet, in sincere humility, he considered himself "the least of the apostles," and "not meet to be called an apostle," because he persecuted the church of God; a few years later he confessed: "I am less than the least of all saints," and shortly before his death: "I am the chief of sinners." His humility grew as he experienced God's mercy and ripened for heaven. Paul passed a stranger and pilgrim through this world, hardly observed by the mighty and the wise of his age. And yet how infinitely more noble, beneficial, and enduring was his life and work than the dazzling march of military conquerors, who, prompted by ambitions absorbed millions of treasure and myriads of lives, only to die at last in a drunken fit at Babylon, or of a broken heart on the rocks of St. Helena! Their empires have long since crumbled into dust, but St. Paul still remains one of the foremost benefactors of the human race, and the pulses of his mighty heart are beating with stronger force than ever throughout the Christian world  (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church).


I Am The New Year

by Tom Wacaster

I am the new year; three hundred and sixty five days of unspotted, unspoiled, and unused time. I am a clean slate of opportunity, a reflection of what might be rather than what has been. My diary contains unlimited resolutions, once made in earnest and then broken in haste. I am the fresh breeze of opportunity that blows across the fields of yesterday’s broken and forgotten promises. My features are a mystery, for no one can tell what is in store for tomorrow. Each day brings new insight to what I will be after I have completed my journey. I am the opportunity to achieve those things which for some reason or another were left undone in the previous year. To the financier, I am interest accumulated at a fixed percentage rate. To a student, I am that one step closer toward receiving an education. To the small child, I am another summer camp, Thanksgiving holiday, or Christmas wish. To a parent, I contain the joy of watching a child grow and mature. To the young, I am dreams and hopes dressed in daily determination. The youngster wonders why I do not come around more often; the aged wonder why I come so often. For some, this year will bring unparalleled opportunities. For others it will bring disaster and ruin. To all, it will bring us twelve months closer to eternity.

How Can I Be Sure?

by Tom Wacaster

When I was doing local work I was frequently asked the question, “How can I be sure that I am saved?” I have no doubt that those asking the question were sincere, and in many instances those asking the question were among those whom I considered to be some of the most faithful workers in the church. Why is it, then, that such otherwise strong Christians had this nagging doubt about their salvation? Why is it that we are prone to doubt when the Bible clearly tells us that we can know we have salvation?

In one sense questioning one’s status in life as well as his spiritual status with his God is healthy. The following is attributed to an Egyptian king by the name of Akhenaton: “True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubteth not; he knoweth all things but his own ignorance.” Another expressed the wisdom in doubting like this: “How prone to doubt, how cautious are the wise!” (Alexander Pope). Even some of the strongest of Bible characters had their questions and doubts. Abraham doubted God’s promise that he would have a child in his old age through whom the Lord would bless the world and sought instead to have Ishmael fill that role. Thomas would not believe the Lord had been raised from the dead until he could see it with his own eyes and touch the Lord’s side with his own hands. Even John the baptist had some very serious questions about the Lord when he (John) was facing the closing days of his life in prison. You see, doubt should drive us to deeper investigation and self examination. What, then, is the answer to our doubts and fears regarding death, salvation, and that spiritual realm wherein our hope resides as an anchor of the soul? There are at least three factors that affect the depth of our confidence: faith, facts, and feelings. These sustain an important relationship to one another and play a vital role in developing assurance in the heart of the child of God.

The Hebrews writer defines faith as “assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). The KJV reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I am interested here in the Greek word translated “assurance” (ASV) and “substance” (KJV). The word denotes support for something; something upon which a hope is based. Barclay points out three distinct areas in which faith and hope find application: (1) It is belief against the world; (2) It is belief in the spirit against the senses; (3) It is belief in the future against the present. Or as one author put it, “Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and achieves the impossible.” But we must not lose sight of the undeniable truth that our “faith” rests upon “facts.” I believe in God because of the “facts.” The KJV sums it up with the word “evidence.” When a jury sits in judgment upon an accused, they do so based upon “facts.”

Now we come to “feelings.” Feelings, or emotions, in and of themselves, are good. God created us to feel, to be moved with compassion, to shed a tear over someone else’s loss (or even our own losses). If man had been created completely void of emotions and/or feelings he would experience no sorrow; but then, neither would he experience joy and happiness. It is important to note that God warns us against the deceptive nature of feelings. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov. 16:25).

Now with all that said, it seems to this humble scribe that the absence of assurance among those who have obeyed the gospel, and who are doing their best to live a faithful Christian life is due to the failure to keep faith, fact, and feelings in proper relationship. Fact: God has promised forgiveness, along with a home in heaven, to those who obey the gospel and live a faithful Christian life. Faith: I believe what God has said because of the evidence that supports that promise. Feelings: I rejoice in that assurance, knowing that, though I fall far short of what I should be, God has promised to save me to the “uttermost” through the cleansing power of the blood of His Son. It is when men take their eyes OFF of the facts, and allow their faith to falter, that their feelings kick in and they no longer “feel” as if they are saved. Remember, “faith comes by hearing…the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Or as one put it, “Doubt comes in at the window when inquiry is denied at the door.”  

A pilot is instructed to always trust the instruments rather than the way he feels. Feelings can be deceptive. The same rule applies spiritually. Trust the instruments that God has given to us in the word. His promises are sure; the evidence incontrovertible. If the instruments contradict what you feel, then it is your feelings that are wrong and not the instruments! If you walk by your feelings rather than trust in the word of God you will rob yourself of the joy and happiness that comes with God’s promises. But worse yet, you will never rid yourself of doubt, and you will continue to be plagued by the unanswered question, “How can I be sure?”

Homosexual Marriages

by Tom Wacaster

Times have certainly changed since my childhood days. In some ways that change has been for the better. Socially, medically, technologically, and educationally, we enjoy a far greater standard of living than did our grandparents. But with the advancements in our living conditions there has come a corresponding collapse in our moral living. One area that has suffered from this moral collapse has to do with the family. In the 1950's we saw an increase in the divorce rate, an increase that has yet to peak. In the 1980's society gave up on marriage and began to move toward "live-in" partners. Universities sponsored co-ed dormitories, with little if any supervision of what goes on after classroom hours. The 1990's saw the push for "homosexual rights." Every imaginable attempt has been made to make the vile practice of homosexuality look legitimate. "You were born that way," or "What the homosexual does in the privacy of his home will not affect you," were the initial volleys that were fired over the bow of the societal norms. Like the proverbial camel that was allowed to push his nose through the door, eventually the entire camel has managed to push his way into the tent. Government leaders have coddled, cooed and compromised to the point that the very fabric of our society is now threatened. What started in Vermont, found acceptance in Hawaii, and has now been declared "constitutional" in the high courts of Massachusetts. We are speaking of the acceptance and legitimization of homosexual marriages. Our Supreme Court cracked the door more than 30 years ago when it legitimized abortion on the grounds that what one does in private in no way affects society. The Supreme Court overthrew the Texas anti-sodomy law on this same flimsy argument of personal "privacy." My friends, if this "camel" is allowed to get into the tent, then I humbly suggest to you, "there goes the tent!" Consider the following concerning homosexual marriages.

First and foremost, homosexual marriage is completely contrary to God's divine law. Marriage was instituted and defined in Genesis 2:24: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall become one flesh." This first marriage serves as a pattern for successive marriages, as implied by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6. If homosexuality is condemned in the scripture (and it is, Rom. 1:26-27, Gen. 19:1 ff) what makes us think that God will smile on the "union" of two homosexuals? He will not!

Second, homosexual marriage harms marriage in general. Proponents of gay marriage frequently argue that allowing for it would have no affect whatsoever on the institution of marriage itself. Former Harvard anthropologist Stanley Kurtz, writing in the Weekly Standard, reports on various European studies that challenge this argument. Kurtz reports that in those countries where full homosexual marriage rights have been granted, marriage and indeed concrete family structures have been considerably weakened. Mr. Kurtz writes that "same-sex marriage has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood…instead of encouraging a society -wide return to marriage…gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable."

Third, homosexual marriage fosters immorality in society in other areas. Sweden, Denmark, and Norway-all of whom have incorporated full gay marriage rights over the past ten to fifteen years-have seen jumps in out-of-wedlock births since they legalized homosexual marriage. This deterioration of the traditional family structure has ushered in an era where the majority of children are born outside of marriage. What makes us think that legalization of homosexual marriage is going to strengthen the family? To the contrary, it will weaken the family unit and usher in more radical departures from the Biblical definition of marriage. Is it any wonder that some sociologists are declaring that marriage is an outmoded, outdated, and obsolete institution?

Fourth, homosexual marriages give a false impression of respectability of homosexual unions. I wonder in my own mind, why does the homosexual even bother with marriage? What do they hope to accomplish if it is not to give some sense of respectability to this sorted and sinful behavior? If the homosexual rebels and ridicules God's law on homosexuality, what makes us think they respect God's law concerning marriage, commitment, fidelity, etc. that comes with the union of two people in marriage?

Finally, homosexual marriage is not just a political issue; it is a moral issue. In fact, it is first and foremost a moral issue. Liberals have attempted to move the issue of homosexual rights and now homosexual marriage off the moral table and classify it as a "civil rights" issue; purely political. But the child of God realizes that this is a moral issue. What is shocking is that some members of the body of Christ will support, encourage, and stand by political candidates that have made it known that they favor homosexual activity and/or marriage.

Dear friend, homosexual marriage runs contrary to all that is right and decent. It is a slap in the face of God. The homosexual community is laughing at God-fearing people in this country. Lets not be taken in by this devil's lie that homosexual marriage will not affect your or me. To believe the lie is deadly. 

Home For Sale

by Tom Wacaster

We were returning from Oklahoma City and outside Purcell we passed a house with a sign out front which read, "Home For Sale." Most of us recognize the connotation which goes with the words "house" and "home." The house is the dwelling place. It is the brick and mortar, the land, the roof, etc. The house is the material structure in which the home is built. But the home is the family. It is built (or should be built) upon the foundation of moral principles and fidelity on the part of each of the family members In light of this, it seems to me that one could sell a house, but it would be rather difficult to sell a home. Or would it? I wonder how many of the homes in our society are being sold every day. While the economic pressures have slowed down the real estate business, many of the ills of society have only stepped up the sale of the "homes." Here is what I mean.

A house is sold when the family is dissolved. Each decides they are going to take what belongs to them and go their separate ways. No matter what this might to do the psychological stability of the children (if there are children), the two consenting adults have decided that they want to sell the home. Consequently our divorce rate is running somewhere close to 50% of the marriages performed. When this happens, the "home is sold."

And then, some are selling their homes due to the spiritual bankruptcy they are experiencing. They have sown to the wind and now they must reap the whirlwind. Because of the lack of spiritual values within the home, the family will soon be putting their "home" on the market. If we would avoid the disruption of the family we must instill within our children those basic principles which God intended to guide the family; namely permanence of marriage, respect for parents, love for the children, etc.

And finally, some are selling their homes to social pressures placed upon them. The home becomes nothing more than a pit stop for refueling and checking the oil. Seldom do the parents see the children, and vice versa. We run all the time, seeking to find some sort of fulfillment in our lives. Is it any wonder that our children do the same?

Going, going, GONE! The "home" has been sold simply because of the neglect of each member to recognize the needs of the others. The home is sold on the auction block of pleasures and pressures. Take time with your family! You can sell a house, take the money, and buy another. When a "house" is destroyed it can be replaced. But when a "home" is sold, it is gone forever. When we neglect those guidelines given us in God's Word we are well on the way to placing a sign in front of our house which reads, "Home For Sale.”

How Should We Dress For Worship?

by Tom Wacaster

I came across this little tid-bit of information that you might find interesting.  A number of years ago Sears and Roebuck imposed the following dress code on its employees:  Jeans are not allowed; tennis shoes are not acceptable; shirts with writing and cartoons are not approved; hair styles must be neat, trim and clean.  Their explanation?  "There is no substitute for good judgment in appropriate dress. Our customers deserve and expect to shop in a pleasant, professional-appearing customer's environment.  Our employment relies on our ability to attract and retain the business of our customers."  In a separate article, attention was called to a list of "dress codes" for visitors to a jail house: "Attention Visitors: No person admitted unless properly dressed. 1. Shorts must be knee length; 2. No tank tops; 3. No short dresses; 4. No sun dresses; 5. No shirts with obscene language or pictures; 6. No see through clothing.  Any person that cannot abide by these rules will be refused visitation. No Exceptions."  Why is it that people in business, and even those who work with men behind prison bars, expect some kind of dress code?  It has to do with proper "decorum."  My dictionary says that "decorum" means, "Conformity to the requirements of good taste; propriety in behavior, dress."  There are few (if any) of us who would attend a funeral in sloppy jeans, shirt and/or dirty looking tennis shoes.  Common sense simply says it is not proper, and to do so would bring a sense of embarrassment upon us.  Would any of you ladies wear shorts to a wedding?  or allow your children to do so?  Men, would you be so casual in your appearance if it were your lot to visit an important dignitary in our community?  Why is it then, that week after week, it is not uncommon to witness fathers, mothers, teens, children, and otherwise sensible folks, walk into the auditorium to engage in worship to God, and be dressed in such a way that we communicate a "casual" and "irreverent" attitude toward Jehovah God?  Now before you respond, "Well, it's not what's on the outside that counts, it's what's on the inside." Where did we ever get that idea?  We certainly don't think that way when it comes to social events of great importance.  It would seem to me that Biblical principle teaches that we are to give our BEST to God. That's the best in our worship, the best of our monetary resources, the best in our participation, the best in our everyday life as a Christian, and the best in our appearance, especially when it comes to the way we dress.  Yes, a sweat shirt and jeans is acceptable in the sight of God, IF it is the best we have. But if the best we have is a suit, white starched shirt, and dress slacks, how can we say we are giving our God the best in our appearance when we leave that hanging in the closet and wear sloppy jeans to worship? When I was growing up it was not uncommon to hear the phrase, "Your Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes."  It was always the best!  No exceptions.  If the world recognizes the importance of proper decorum, and its effect on those who see us, perhaps it is time that we took some lessons from those who demonstrate wisdom in the most important area of our life!  Give it some serious thought.

What Has Become of America?

by Tom Wacaster

History has taught us emphatically that nations who turn their back on God are doomed to destruction.  But history is not authoritative, and in this case history is not the only thing that teaches us the importance of moral and holy living on the part of her citizens.  "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Pro. 14:34).  Our nation was born from the womb of a deep respect for the Bible, and nurtured and reared on godly principles set forth in the pages of Sacred Writ. The first century, while still in her youth, she rose to great strength. But that strength was not because of her armies, or her ingenuity. Her strength lie in her spiritual values and moral integrity.  Our leaders respected God.  Justice was meted out fairly.  Common sense thinking was coupled with a knowledge of the Bible.  "America the Beautiful" described more than her purple mountain majesty, her amber waves of grain, or the bountiful fruited plains.  America was beautiful on the inside.  But prosperity that was earned by the early settlers came to be expected by the "me" generation that followed World War II, and the bountiful blessings providentially given to us by God came to be viewed as the product of our own ingenuity and education.  The Bible that once sat on the desks of her noble leaders now sits on a shelf gathering dust, or in a drawer tucked away with relics that no longer belong to an "enlightened" generation.  Honesty, integrity, and responsibility have given way to greed, gain, and gusto. Corporate America consists of her World Com companies and her Enron entities who know no limits when it comes to building financial empires off the backs of those who helped them in their climb to the top. "One nation under God" is now offensive and unconstitutional, according to the West Coast liberal judges.  Prayer that once graced the lips of children in public schools, has been replaced by pornographic access via the internet at the local library under the guise of freedom of speech.  Meanwhile pedophiles are following in the steps of the homosexual community in demanding their right of access to young boys and girls for their own sexual gratification and our Supreme Court has ruled that virtual pornography (that pornography generated by computer images rather than real people) is permissible under the 1st amendment of our constitution.  What has become of America?  To ask is to answer.  A couple of years ago Judge Roy Moore, who was sued by the ACLU for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, penned the following poem:

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL  
by Judge Roy Moore  
  
America the Beautiful, or so you used to be.  
Land of the Pilgrims' pride, I'm glad they'll never see  
Babies piled in dumpsters, Abortion on demand,  
Oh, sweet land of liberty, your house is built on sand.  
  
Our children wander aimlessly, poisoned by cocaine,  
Choosing to indulge their lusts, when God has said abstain.  
From sea to shining sea, our Nation turns away  
From the teaching of God's love and a need to always pray.  
  
So many worldly pastors tell lies about our Rock,  
Saying God is going broke so they can fleece the flock.  
We've kept God in our temples, how callous we have grown,  
When earth is but His footstool and Heaven is His throne.  
  
We've voted in a government that's rotting at the core,  
Appointing Godless Judges who throw reason out the door,  
Too soft to place a killer in a well deserved tomb,  
But brave enough to kill a baby before he leaves the womb.  
  
You think that God's not angry that our land's a moral slum?  
How much longer will He wait before His judgment comes?  
How are we to face our God from Whom we cannot hide?  
What then is left for us to do, but stem this evil tide?  
  
If we who are His children will humbly turn and pray,  
Seek His holy face and mend our evil way,  
Then God will hear from Heaven and forgive us of our sins,  
He'll heal our sickly land and those who live within.  
  
But America the Beautiful if you don't, then you will see,  
A sad but Holy God withdraw His hand from thee.   

Has The World Gone Mad?

by Tom Wacaster

In his book, A Jewish Conservative Looks At Pagan America, author Don Feder tells of an interesting incident that occurred many years ago. Emperor Joseph of Austro-Hungary was required to sit through a two-hour opening session of parliament. At the time the emperor was in his eighties. At the conclusion of the parliamentary session, the emperor shuffled to the podium and uttered one single sentence in Latin: Totus mondus stultizat. That is all he said. Translated the words mean, “The whole world is growing stupid.”  One brother has pointed out that if polls in America are to be believed, “the majority of Americans are growing stupid.” It seems that with every passing generation we are losing the ability to think clearly. I am not speaking of the inability to reason properly in such areas as math, language, and/or history, though I could provide you with numerous personal cases in which public figures and laborers seem to have lost the ability to think clearly and rationally in these areas. The most apparent evidence that we are “growing stupid” is seen in the realm of moral and ethical thinking. Perhaps the inability of our national leaders to think clearly and rationally can be seen in the “stupid” decisions that have been handed down by courts and judges. A recent case has been called to my attention by a conservative organization that seeks to combat the ACLU and other liberal organizations that are seeking to destroy our freedoms. In this landmark decision by a higher court a Navy Chaplin has been court marshaled for praying in the name of Jesus Christ. The courts have, in fact, made it a federal offense for any military religious worker to make any reference to Jesus Christ, not only in public services, but in his private counseling that might be considered an extension of his work as a Chaplin. In his book, Silence Can Be Sinful, Winford Claiborne has pointed out that the word “stupid” is never used in the King James Version of the Bible. For example, in Galatians 3:1 the KJV reads, “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth?” The New English Bible reads, “O stupid Galatians.” But in the final analysis, is not he who plays the part of the fool demonstrating that he is, indeed, stupid? In less than 48 hours this year will be history. Depending upon whether you date this new century from January 1, 2000 or 2001, the past six or seven years have demonstrated an increasing stupidity on the part of Americans when it comes to their moral and ethical values. In only six years we have seen a shift in attitudes regarding homosexual marriages. Marriage in general is being considered “outmoded” and “outdated.” Euthanasia is being widely considered as an alternative to the so-called “drain” that the elderly and infirm put upon our society. Lying is widely practiced and even approved. Cold blooded murderers are plea bargaining and being released back into society in a matter of just a few years, if not months. Every time I pick up a copy of the Dallas Morning News I am astonished with the incredible stupidity of those who are writing letters to the editor.

I have been blessed to make a considerable number of mission trips over the past three years. I have visited Russia, India, Mexico, and Ethiopia, and some countries more than once. While much of the world demonstrates great wisdom in their desire to flee to God for refuge, it seems that we in America continue to demonstrate an increasing degree of folishness in casting off God and trashing the only  moral code that can lead us out of this quagmire of moral stupidity. Perhaps you have heard of the two young Quakers who were discussing social and political issues in their day. One gentleman turned to the other and said something to the effect, “Sometimes I think the whole world has gone mad, except me and thee – and I have my doubts about thee.” Maybe that Quaker was wise beyond his years.

Instruments of Music in Psalms 150

by Tom Wacaster

Those who advocate the use of instruments of music in worship to God often appeal to Psalms 150:3-5 for support of such a practice. But does the chapter lend support for instruments of music? Should we take a passage that is quite obviously Hebrew poetry, interpret it as prose, and use it for authority to bring a piano, organ, stringed instruments, or cymbals into the worship of the church? We think not; and hence the subject for our study in this week’s “Tom’s Pen.”

Praise him with trumpet sound: Praise him with psaltery and harp.
Praise him with timbrel and dance: Praise him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise him with loud cymbals: Praise him with high sounding cymbals.

These verses emphasize the depth of praise. Although we are not authorized to use instrumental music in our worship and praise to God, it is significant that there is a wide array of items used in praise unto God as noted by the Psalmist. These include (1) trumpet sound, (2) psaltery, (3) harp, (4) timbrel, (5) dance, (6) stringed instrument, (7) pipe, (8) cymbals, and (9) high sounding cymbals. The question we must entertain is whether or not these methods were intended to be perpetual. Were these instruments intended to find a place in worship in the New Testament? I suggest not, for the following reasons:

1) These things were introduced by David, and adapted by Israel; there is no indication that God ever authorized these things Himself, but that He simply ALLOWED them to be brought into the worship, much like He allowed Israel to have a KING;

2) There is not even so much as a hint that these things were used in the first century church. Neither scripture nor history gives any indication that they were used as acceptable means of worship. Instead, the New Testament authorized new methods, designed to emphasize the spiritual rather than the physical (i.e. prayer, Lord's supper, preaching, singing of spiritual songs, giving).

What, then, is the living message of this portion of the Psalm? It is poetic language; and each part of this ensemble of instruments is designed to teach us some important truth regarding our worship to God. May we suggest the following regarding the mention of each of these “instruments.”

“Praise him with the trumpet of sound” – The Hebrew word ('shophar') spoke of the curved ram's horn used by the watchman to warn of impending danger as well as the call to come to worship. The Psalmist was suggesting that the sleeper must be aroused from his sleep. The sound of the trumpet would awaken his thoughts so that he would become focused upon the obligation at hand – that of praising Jehovah. Away with sloth and indifference! Praise to God deserves and demands a sober mind focused upon the occasion of the moment. It is unfortunate that many a deluded soul enters the auditorium for worship, and sits down to pass the time, often amusing himself with activities other than worship, and on occasions drifting off into sleep. Such need to be awakened with the trumpet call to worship.

“praise him with psaltery and harp” – The “psaltery” ('nabla') was a hollow stringed instrument; perhaps like the guitar or mandolin. The “harp” ('kinnor') was another stringed instrument, but consisted of a somewhat deeper sound than the psaltery. In order to compose and play music on these instruments the worshipper would have to train and prepare himself intensely and with great determination. The point to be emphasized here is the undeniable truth that acceptable worship demands proper preparation prior to our coming into the presence of God. We should take the time to fine tune the “skill” (if I may be permitted to use that word) of worship.

“timbrel and dance” – The “timbrel” ('toph') would have been similar to our tambourine. The Psalmist links the timbrel with dance. The idea seems to be that the use of the timbrel naturally flowed down to the beat of the feet in dance. Notice that the music thus involved both the hands and feet, i.e. the whole of the worshipper. When David danced before the ark on its journey back to the Temple he did so because of the depth of his love for God. Only the best would do, and the intensity of involvement was implied on that occasion as it is clearly taught here.

“stringed instruments and pipes” – The “stringed instruments” ('men') and the “pipes” ('ugab') the Psalmist focuses the various chords and sounds that could be produced by the strings and wind instruments. The deep melody of the heart is the focus of the Psalmist. When the worshipper reaches deep into his soul and plucks the strings of his heart in worship to his Creator he has captured the focus of this verse.

“loud cymbals…high sounding cymbals” – The trumpets are sounding, the stringed instruments adding the warm and deep chords of melodic music, and the wind instruments are piped. All that remains is the crescendo that comes with the sounding of the cymbals. The point emphasized is the full and rich climax of true worship.

The full orchestra is now in place. With the mention of these instruments the Psalmist would draw the worshipper's attention to the expertise involved in worship. It is not necessary for the saint to understand the advanced techniques of music, but it behooves each and every child of God to at least put forth the effort to develop and use his ability in singing to the best degree possible. It is astonishing how indifferent we sometimes appear to be when it comes to singing a song properly. No, we are not suggesting that God measures our worship by whether or not we are “on key” or in perfect harmony with those in the assembly. But the very fact that we are singing praises unto our God should motivate us to do our best; and our best will be better if we take the time to study at least the basics of music and put forth every effort to make our singing the best possible. We must caution, however, lest the worshipper focus upon his own abilities and his pride render his worship vain. Our worship begins with the trumpet – God's word calling us to worship in “spirit and in truth” (Joh 4:24). Our hearts are poured out, the strings of our heart plucked with our love and devotion for God. As we sing our hearts swell with gratitude and appreciation for the God Who has saved us. From the depth of our hearts the “cymbals” crash as our praise to God is poured out to He Who sits on the throne!

The student who sees nothing more in these three verses than instruments of music has missed the true meaning of David’s call for praise with “the trumpet, harp, timbrel, stringed instruments, and loud cymbals.”

Holy Spirit: Comments On

Articles On The Holy Spirit
The following two articles were written on the Holy Spirit some years ago. We hope you find them helpful: 


"The Mission And Medium Of The Holy Spirit
A Needed Book for Today
by Tom Wacaster

After having re-read brother Wallace's excellent treatise, The Medium and Mission of the Holy Spirit, I was astonished at the relevance of the subject matter, and the simplicity with which brother Wallace set forth a defense of the correct means and medium of the work of the Holy Spirit upon the spirit of man. Thirty years ago the church faced a wave of emotionalism which swept across the brotherhood like a wildfire. Before it had completed its ruinous campaign, a number of congregations had been swept into Pentecostalism and lost to the cause of Christ altogether. The residual effects of that movement are still felt today, and I fear that we have not finished the battle on this front even yet. Assessing the problem, brother Wallace wrote: "It is argued that this special activity of the Holy Spirit in the form of direct impression 'illuminates' the scriptures and helps the preacher to understand 'the written word.'" The problem with that position, both then and now, is seen in the consequences of the doctrine itself. Brother Wallace stated it well: "It has been declared with dramatics that this indwelling of the Holy Spirit apart from the Word is in fact mystical but that it does not imply that the Word is incomplete and insufficient - but it does imply just that, from it no other inference can be drawn - and the two statements are contradictory and irreconcilable ... The conclusion of the whole matter is that no one claiming the personal indwelling or illumination of the Holy Spirit can express a truth, or a true thought or sentiment, on the subject of spiritual influence not already revealed in the written word." The unfortunate aspect of this "not-so-new" movement among our brethren is the reliance upon personal experience and/or gentle "leadings" or "nudgings" that accompany us along life's journey. Brother Wallace made this astute observation: "In the nature of things it is impossible for spirit to contact spirit without medium, except through miraculous process, as upon the prophets of God and the apostles of Christ, and to assert it now is to assume inspiration. The influence of the Holy Spirit is either by direct entrance into the heart or it is mediated by the truth - there is no third method thinkable or possible - nor can it be both. The appeal must be made to the Word of God itself, as the source of revealed truth, on this and all other questions." Herein, we think, lies the great challenge to those who would espouse a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the spirit of man. There are only two ways by which the Holy Spirit can influence men. One of these is what we might call the immediate. By immediate, we mean there is no intermediary, no medium. The other is the mediate, or through some intervening medium or agent. That being the case, those who would argue for some direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon man must, by necessity, concede to a direct expression and guidance as well. If not why not? No, my friends, the Holy Spirit does not operate upon you, or anyone else, directly. His medium is the word. It does no good to argue that the Word is the medium for information, and then some direct operation upon the spirit of man in an immediate way for strength or wisdom. If that were the case, then once I had a knowledge of God's will in my life, the direct operation of the Holy Spirit on my spirit in supplying strength and wisdom would be perfect and absolute. In the final analysis, whose fault would it be if I had the information, but not sufficient strength and wisdom to resist temptation? Would not the fault lie at the feet of the Holy Spirit? Can you not see the danger of such a position? We happen to think brother Wallace is right on target. He concludes: "The personal inhabitation of the Holy Spirit would mean personal Holy Spirit guidance in thoughts, words, and deeds, the logical consequence of which would necessarily prohibit and prevent apostasy, making it impossible for one so possessed to fall from grace.... If it is not true the indwelling of the Holy Spirit would be of no aid or help in the time of temptation but would abandon one at the time of his fall to re-enter him after his recovery - in him and out of him, entering and re-entering him. Else the personal Holy Spirit possession is ineffectual in that he fails the indwelling subject in the hour of need.”

What Is The Gift Of The Holy Spirit?
by Tom Wacaster

In the previous article we examined the medium by which the Holy Spirit operates. He does not, in my estimation, operate directly upon the spirit of man, whether that man is a Christian or a non-Christian. It seems to me that if the Holy Spirit operates only through the word for the non-Christian, but supplements His operation on the non-Christian with some "extra -literary" operation, then the Word of God is more powerful for the non-Christian than for the Christian. If not, why not? We have taught for years that the word of God is all sufficient. I want now to give some consideration to the gift of the Holy Spirit, as noted in Acts 2:38 wherein Peter states, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Brethren have held differing positions on the precise meaning of the phrase without causing division in the body. This was possible because we generally recognized and taught the all sufficiency of the word. Still, the question remains as to the meaning of the words presently before us, and perhaps one more article on the subject cannot hurt. I do not happen to believe that the promise here was some personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The phrase, "of the Holy Spirit" is the possessive case. The word "of" makes it possessive. When we speak of the "house of Mr. Smith," we do not mean the house that IS Mr. Smith. The language in Acts 2:38 is equivalent to saying, "The Holy Spirit's gift." The same kind of language is used in John 4:10, "If thou knewest the gift of God...thou wouldst have asked him, and he would have given thee living water." Is the gift of God there God Himself, or the "living water"? Again, in Ephesians 4:7 Paul said, "But unto each of us was the grace given according to the measure of the gift of Christ." But none would argue that Paul, in that passage, was arguing that Jesus is the gift. The passages just quoted are identical in structure with "the gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38. Brother Foy E. Wallace was correct when he pointed out, "The 'dorea of God' [gift of God, TW] in John 4:10 was that which proceeded from God... The dorea of Christ [gift of Christ, TW] was that which proceeded from Christ...On precisely the same premise the dorea of the Holy Spirit [gift of the Holy Spirit, TW] was that which proceeded from the Holy Spirit. Those who argue that "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is in the objective genitive, and therefore refer to the Holy Spirit Himself as the gift, have not, in my estimation, proven their case. A. T. Robertson, respected Greek scholar, pointed out that the "genitive" is the simple possessive. By "genitive" we mean a NOUN functioning as an ADJECTIVE! If we say, "That is Tom's office," the word "Tom" [a noun] is serving as an adjective. "The gospel of John," has "John" serving as an adjective to modify the gospel. The "accusative" in any language denotes the goal toward which the action of the verb is directed. In the phrase "gift of the Holy Spirit," the accusative is "gift." that is the object - that thing which they would receive. "Holy Spirit" is the possessive or genitive, modifying the "gift." Grammatically, in the verse under consideration, "receive" is the verb, "gift" is the objective, and "Holy Spirit" is the possessive modifier. Brother Wallace has correctly pointed out that "it is outside the range of grammatical structure to have the verb 'receive' governing both the accusative noun 'gift' and the possessive genitive noun of 'Spirit.'" The "gift of God" in John 4:10, being in the possessive genitive cannot mean that God Himself is the gift. The "gift of Christ" in Ephesians 4:7 cannot mean Christ Himself for the same reason. Why then, do we think that the "gift of the Holy Spirit," which has precisely the same construction as both of our examples, means that it refers to the Holy Spirit Himself? One position is that the “gift” in Acts 2:38 is synonymous with the “promise” in Acts 2:39. Since the “promise” has to do with salvation, it is concluded that the gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of salvation which the Holy Spirit bestows upon those who are obedient. While I do not happen to agree with him , the late brother Foy Wallace, Sr. presented and defended this position in his book, The Mission and Medium of the Holy Spirit.

Another position holds that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” is the miraculous element promised to the early church. This, I believe, to be the correct position. It must be remembered that the promise by Peter unto that audience was given in the 1st Century, not the 21st. In addition, that promise was given in the framework of the miraculous. Holy Spirit baptism was in evidence, as well as tongue speaking. The audience was witnessing the exercise of the miraculous even at the time the promise was given. With that in mind, please consider the following reasons for holding this position. First, consider the word “receive.” This same word is used throughout the NT where the miraculous activity of the Holy Spirit was evident. This word is used in John 7:39, a passage that is quite obviously a promise of the miraculous operation of the Spirit. It is used in John 20:22, where Jesus promises the apostles the reception of the HS. It is used in Acts 8:15-17 in which Peter and John went to Samaria to impart the miraculous gifts to the new converts there. It is used in Acts 19 where Paul inquired as to whether or not those brethren had “received” the Holy Spirit. John, in 1 John 2:27, referred to his audience’s “anointing" which they had “received,” a passage that obviously refers to the spiritual gifts. Since Peter, in Acts 2:38, promises them that they shall “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” it would seem that we could learn the meaning of his words by comparing them with those passages mentioned above. Admittedly the more difficult passage of all of these is Acts 2:38, as evidenced from the different positions that brethren have held through the years. By giving consideration to those passages that quite obviously speak of the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, and using them to help us interpret the more difficult passage, in this instance Acts 2:38, it would seem that the only logical conclusion would be that Acts 2:38 speaks of the same measure of the Holy Spirit, i.e. the miraculous. We conclude, therefore, that the promise in Acts 2:38 has a reference to the miraculous element promised to the early church. Second, the precise expression “gift of the Holy Spirit” occurs only twice in the Bible: here in Acts 2:38 and again in Acts 10:45, at the household of Cornelius. The second passage is without doubt the miraculous reception of the Holy Spirit, experienced by Cornelius and his household. Using the clear and unmistakable passage in which the “gift of the Holy Spirit” refers to the miraculous, we then use that to determine the meaning of the same phrase in the more difficult passage, Acts 2:38. Third, there is the word “gift.” It is interesting that this word gift (dorean) is used in Acts 8:20 to refer to the miraculous workings of the HS. Then, in Acts 10:45, it is used to refer to that which came upon the household of Cornelius. In Ephesians 3:7 Paul speaks of the “working of his power” granted unto him “according to the gift of that grace of God.”  Was Paul simply referring there to some “ordinary personal indwelling”? We think not. In Ephesians 4:7 Paul uses the same Greek word “gift” to refer to the miraculous measure of the HS. If the “gift” in other passages refers to the miraculous, why not in Acts 2:38?

Someone might respond, “Well, if that promise in Acts 2:38 is the miraculous, then we ought to have miraculous powers today?” But in Mark 16:17-20 our Lord promised that certain “signs would follow them that believe.” We have recognized that this promise was limited to the first century church. It was not a universal, on-going promise. Why can we not see, therefore, that the same limitations that apply to Mark 16:17-20 also apply to Acts 2:38? The miraculous gifts were bestowed through the laying-on-of-hands of the apostles (Acts 8:18). On Pentecost, the apostles were present, ready to distribute to the church that “gift” which would enable them to powerfully preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The setting, the use of the words “receive” and “gift,” along with the very purpose of miracles themselves, leads me to the conclusion that this “gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Googlemaps

by Tom Wacaster

For those who are not familiar with the wonderful capabilities of the internet in general, and "Googlemaps" specifically, the word "googlemaps" might seem to be nothing more than "gibberish."  Before the days of personal computers, internet service, and the world-wide-web we relied on printed material to help us navigate the highways, city streets, and locate folks we wanted to visit.  A good Rand McNally map was an essential tool to those wishing to make a long road trip.  For those needing to locate a particular city street one could obtain a "key map" to help navigate about larger cities like Houston or Dallas.  In the small country towns one need only stop and ask directions; most residents were not only willing, but even anxious to help you out.  Then there were the Yellow Pages, White Pages, and 'cross-reference' address books provided by 'Ma-bell that would provide the specifics of someone's address, phone, etc. With these three tools one could be fairly certain that he could get from one destination to another without too much hassle, or locate a specific individual or family. 

We move now to the 21st Century.  With the personal computer, we can "log-on" and, using any good search tool, we can find any number of "helps" in our search for an address, person, directions, et al.  My favorite is "googlemaps."  With a few "point and click" maneuvers, proper "data-in," and the punch of a button or click of a mouse, "googlemaps" will give you the directions from your address to the front door of your desired destiny.   There are other tools to help you find people, vacation spots, email addresses, or phone numbers.  The list is endless.  The bottom line is this:  if someone wants to find you, you cannot hide. 

Before the days of computers, the internet, and the world wide web; before ever a Rand McNally map was printed; before the existence of key-maps, telephone books, or social security numbers, it might have been possible to find some little isolated spot on the globe and become a hermit.  But despite all the efforts of an individual, he could not, and cannot, hide from God.  The Psalmist wrote, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit?  Or whither shall I flee thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.  If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee" (Psa. 139:7-12). 

There might yet remain a remote possibility that you could hide yourself from men.  But no matter where you go, God still knows where you are; and He does not need "googlemaps" to find you!

God Will Keep Thy Soul

by Tom Wacaster

In times of uncertainty the child of God has a refuge in his heavenly Father.  Indeed, the promises that God gives to His children are so abundant that the saint could read one promise a day for the entire year and not have touched the hem of the garment.  Psalms 121:7 contains just such a promise:

The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. 
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Having grown up during the tense days of the cold war, I have finally reached retirement age. One thing I have learned is that the uncertainties of the early to mid 60's have not diminished; they have only changed form.   Things are as perilous today as they were in those innocent years of the 50's and 60's.  Life remains uncertain, riches take wings, and the earthly wisdom continues to prove itself to be devilish and from beneath.   Random killings remain a mystery and politicians continue to mystify, whether for the good or bad.  There have been two crazed killers in as many days that have, once again, shocked our senses and reminded us that life is not certain.  And, again, the pundits and prognosticators are seeking "clues" as to what motivated these two men, in two separate incidents, to take the lives of slightly more than a dozen people.  Such random killings are designed to generate fear in the minds of society.  Were it not for the fact that God has promised to watch over His children, the crazed mad men of our unstable society might be successful in producing that fear even in the hearts of God's children.

In contrast, consider the promise set forth by the Psalmist.  "The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil."  To a certain degree God does protect us and shield us from the woes of this world, if for no other reason than the fact that seeds of godliness keep us aloof from the troubles that plague most men.  I know of no Christian who has been the victim of random shootings. I am not saying no Christian has ever fallen prey to senseless killings; I am just saying I know of none. But the promise that "the Lord shall preserve thee from all evil" finds its fullest application when it comes to preservation of the soul.  Regardless of what might happen in this world, the Christian has his hope set on what happens after this life.  While God is concerned about our well being this side of eternity, He is more concerned about the soul, and has promised to keep us from all evil.  When traveling, when going home and coming back, everywhere and at all times, God will watch over us.  What great comfort there is for the troubled soul in knowing that God cares for us.     As one poet put it:

In foreign realms, and lands remote,
Supported by thy care,
Through burning climes they pass unhurt,
And breath in tainted air.

When by the dreadful tempest borne,
High on the broken wave,
They know thou art not slow to hear,
Nor impotent to save.

The storm is laid - the winds retire,
Obedient to thy will;
The seas that roars at thy command,
At thy command is still.

In midst of dangers, fears, and death,
Thy goodness we'll adore;
We'll praise thee for thy mercies past,
And humbly hope for more.

Our life, while thou preserv'st that life,
Thy sacrifice shall be;
And death, when death shall be our lot,
Shall join our souls to thee" 

There is no doubt that troublesome times will remain as long as the earth remains; that is just part of life, and part of curse of sin and evil. But let come what may, the child of God rests in the promise that "God will keep thy soul."