The Bible, God's Precious Gift To Us

by Tom Wacaster

I recently obtained a copy of the Ninth Annual Shenandoah Lectures, entitled "A Handbook on Bible Translation."  It is a veritable 'gold-mine' of information pertaining to translation methods, with a review of some of the modern English translations now on the market.  There is also information on the Bible itself, with lessons on the subject of inspiration, the reliability of the Bible, and the indestructible nature of God's word.  It is comforting to know that our God is in control of all things, and that He can, and does, preserve His word.  Through Peter our God  has resassured us that His word will "live and abide forever" (1 Pet. 1:22-24).  Among other things of interest in the lectureship book, was this tribute that Henry VanDyke wrote, perhaps the most noble words ever ascribed to the Bible. I share them with you:  "Born in the East and clothed in Oriental form and imagery, the Bible walks the ways of all the world with familiar feet and enters land after land to find its  own everywhere.  It has learned to speak in hundreds of languages to the heart of man.  Children listen to its stories with wonder and delight, and wise men ponder them as parables of life.  The wicked and proud tremble at its warnings, but to the wounded and penitent it has a mother's voice.  It has woven itself into our dearest dreams; so that love, sympathy, devotion, memory, and hope put on the beautiful garments of its treasured speech.  No man is poor or desolate who  has this treasure for his own.  When the landscape darkens, and the trembling pilgrim comes to the valley of the shadow, he is not afraid to enter; he takes the rod and staff of scripture in his hand; he says to friend and comrade, 'Goodbye; we shall meet again'; and, confronted by that support, he goes toward the lonely pass as one who walks through darkness to light" (Lectureship book, page 246-247).

How grateful we should be for the precious word of God.  We should read and study it as a hungry man longs for food, or a thirsty man for water to sooth his dry, parched lips.  Here is the manna for our soul, the light for our path, and the strength for the hour.  Do not neglect it, for it will judge you in the last day. 

Arrivals And Departures

by Tom Wacaster

It was late Friday afternoon, and I was tired and exhausted from a sleepless night before I ever began this journey, followed by a long ten hour flight from Moscow to JFK airport in New York.  In spite of the fact that we made good time from Moscow and arrived almost an hour early in New York, I was still facing a five and a half hour lay over before catching the last leg of my journey from the “Big Apple” to Dallas.   With time to kill, I tried to amuse myself by “window shopping” in the airport shops, reading, and even trying to catch a cat nap in a futile effort to alleviate the groggy feeling that naturally comes with traveling so far, so fast in our modern day jets (they call it “jet lag” – the effect on the body where you biological clock says it is later than you think).   I am always amazed that the people would spend their hard earned money to purchase T-shirts, electronic gadgets, and even leather goods from those little shops in an international airport.  The prices are always higher than at the most expensive malls, and if something goes wrong with the item you purchased you have no recourse to make amends with the dealer (unless, of course, you stand ready to purchase another airline ticket to some far off destination in order that you can “pass through” the same airport and take care of any complaint you might have).   

After clearing customs and catching the escalator to the upper floor where you enter the terminal for connecting flights a passenger can obtain information by consulting the “big board” (as some are wont to call it) for arrivals and departures.  Other than the airport employees, security personal, and shop owners, every person in that terminal had an interest in the information on that board, specifically the information having to do with their “departure.”  It was interesting how that information affected the behavior of those seeking to make a connecting flight.  If running late, you would find them scurrying through the airport with little or no time to stop along the way to shop, eat, or visit.  Those with plenty of time to spare could be found in a restaurant, browsing in a shop, or relaxing in a chair.  But no matter what they might have been doing, in the back of their mind they were thinking of their “departure.” 

I took the time to stop at Wendy’s and order a hamburger, and as I sat there watching the passengers heading to their “departure,” I was struck with the thought that each one of us will face our eventual “departure” from this world into eternity.  I wonder how many of those passengers had given any thought at all to that moment in time when they will face death and pass from this life into the eternal abode of the soul?  

Eternity!  Men have attempted to capture the essence of eternity, but their attempts are weak at best, and completely inadequate.  Here is how someone sought to describe eternity:  “If you can imagine an ant marching around a steel globe the size of this planet.  How long would it take that ant to wear a path one inch deep in that steel globe?  How long would it take to wear a path one foot deep? Ten feet deep?  The time it takes is only an inkling of eternity.”  But friends, even that illustration measures activity related to time.  In eternity, there is no time.  How can we even begin to grasp the concept of eternity?  If we could but capture its essence, it would be but for a fleeting moment, for we are quickly drawn back to the temporal; the here and now.  But will you, for just a moment, imagine yourself standing before the judgment bar of God, as you hear the sentence pronounced, “Depart, I never knew you.”  Now will you try to imagine that you find yourself, like the rich man who refused to give unto Lazarus the things for which that beggar lacked, opening your eyes in “torments.”  And so begins the punishment that you must now endure forever, time without end.  If your punishment were to be for a million years, you might could bear it, for after that first year you would know you have only nine-hundred-ninety-nine-thousand-nine-hundred-ninety-nine years to go.  There would be a ray of hope that someday, though far, far removed, you would eventually be released from that torment.  But my friend, in hell there is NO hope; NO release to be expected; NO cessation of the punishment that you will receive for your disobedience to God.  Oh what despair!  No longer will that television program have any importance.  How you did in the stock market will be completely insignificant.  The closing balance of your bank account will seem so little, regardless of the dollar figure the bottom line might show.  Those things that we placed so much importance on in this life will seem so trivial, so completely unimportant.       

When Sir William Russel was sentenced to die, someone recorded that along the way to the scaffold he handed his watch to a friend and said, "Will you kindly take my timepiece and keep it? I have no use for it.  I am now dealing with eternity."  When the time comes for us to enter eternity there are a lot of things we will no longer have any need of.  One second after my heart beats its last beat, and I breath my last breath, I will realize that much of what I valued in this life will pale in comparison to what I will value in the life to come.  One drop of water was of great value to the rich man; but alas he could not obtain it.  And while he fared sumptuously every day while living upon the earth, he was a pauper the other side of death.  Let us keep our priorities straight in this life, and when it comes time to depart the walks of this earth, may each one of us calmly and victoriously cast off those things that we cannot take with us, with the glorious expectation that we shall embrace that which is of lasting value when once we cross over the Jordan river into that eternal abode that awaits those who are faithful in this life.  The question we must entertain now is, “Am I ready for my departure?”

Has The Time Come For Judgment On America?

by Tom Wacaster

No nation in the history of this world has been as richly blessed as the United States of America.  God has turned the horn of plenty upside down upon our heads.  For more than 230 years we have enjoyed unparalleled prosperity, freedom, and world-wide influence.   I believe I can say without fear of contradiction that the Lord’s church in America over the last two centuries has done more to spread the gospel world wide than any other single nation during the same time frame.    For decades we have enjoyed the highest concentration of New Testament Christians anywhere upon the face of the earth.  It was estimated that during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s that between one third and one fourth of our citizenry were members of the church of Christ.   The nation was a shining light of democracy to those men and women who longed to be free.  At the same time, and certainly more importantly, the Lord’s church was a shining light of salvation to those lost in sin and longing for forgiveness.   Four or five decades ago the churches of Christ were the fastest growing religious group in America.   Souls were heeding the gospel’s call; the church was growing; and God was continuing to bless America.  We may very well have reached the peak of America’s greatness and the growth of the Lord’s church in our country sometime during the mid to late 60’s.   

The last four decades has seen a decline in America’s greatness.  And while she remained militarily strong, and economically sound, within she was dying.  The sexual revolution of the late 60’s brought about a “new morality” that set men free (so they thought) from rules and regulations of Bible thumping evangelists.  That rejection of heaven’s moral code opened the door, and evolution and humanism rushed in to fill the gap of moral emptiness that developed in the 70’s and 80’s.   The Bible was stripped from our public schools, religion increasingly became less popular and the baby boomer generation put God on the back burner in their mad rush for more earthly comforts.   Crass materialism became the order of the day.      Women entered the work force in large numbers so as to provide even more “things” that satisfy the flesh.    Slowly at first, and more rapidly with the turn of the century, our families began to crumble.  The divorce rate increased at an alarming rate.   Children were sacrificed on the altar of greed as parents shuffled their little ones off to some Day Care Center not because the family was in dire straits, but because a larger house, better clothes, the latest electronic gadgets, faster cars, and more and more exciting entertainment kept pressing upon our increasingly secular and materialistic society.   Meanwhile there was this gnawing feeling among the citizens that this country was not going in the right direction.   Things were broken but nobody knew how to fix the problem.  With the exception of a few brief moments of reprieve, we rushed headlong toward the precipice that now confronts us.   Godly men and women have been asking, “When is God going to render judgment upon America?”   Less than two years ago I answered that question with the following:  “God is rendering judgment on America right now. He is screaming at us to repent or suffer the consequence of every other nation that has gone the way of godless societies.”    I fear that God’s patience has run out and applying the words of the prophet to our time and circumstance, “ America, prepare to meet thy God.”   

I am not speaking of the financial crisis, though that in and of itself is enough to bring us to ruin.   A nation can survive a financial crisis if her foundations are strong and her trust is in God.  Unfortunately our citizenry no longer has the spiritual strength to endure a plunge into economic chaos.  She has become weak, imbibing the philosophy of the world to the extent that she winks at abortion, tolerates and promotes homosexuality, and ignores the moral inequities of our leaders.  She no longer has the basis to survive something akin to the Great Depression of the 1930’s.     Meanwhile, lurking in the dark shadows is something of far greater concern to this scribe than the economic “crisis” we face.    Half of our nation cannot discern what is happening in this election process currently under way.  Literally half of our nation has been so enamored with Senator Obama that they either do not care or cannot see that the Democratic candidate poses one of the greatest threats to our way of life.    The real story of Barack Obama is gradually coming to light, and the more we hear about him, the more frightening it becomes.  Here is a man who has associated with the darker side of our society for decades.   Names such as Wright, ACORN, Ayers, and Rezo belong to an element that hates America, hates God, hates capitalism, hates freedom and hates moral codes and ethical responsibility.   These are the associates of Barak Obama.  Were that not enough, information is just now coming to light (Wednesday, October 8) that Senator Obama has connections with Muslim terrorists in Kenya; that he has aligned himself with radical terrorists who sought to overthrow the Kenyan government and replace it with a socialist, Muslim government.  Here is a man that has used his power and influence in Washington to encourage, and even instruct a radical Muslim element in Kenya on how to disrupt elections and oppose the will of the people.    Senator Obama has studied well the policies of communist organizer Alyinsky, and is now putting those policies of aggressiveness into action so as to squelch the will of the people here in America and obtain the highest office in our land by hook or crook. 

There is so much more that could be said about the man that is dangerously close to becoming the leader of the free world, but I think most of my readers know of these things, though they were done in a corner and every effort has been made to cover up the details of this man’s history.   If this man is elected to the Presidency of this nation, and if the Democratic party gains just ten more seats in the Senate and House, the godly element will be silenced and our voice will not be heard.   With Nancy Palosi over the House, and Harry Reed over the Senate, and Barack Obama on the “throne,” I predict there will be a swift movement to bring bills to motion that will enshrine abortion in stone, legalize homosexual marriage and force them upon our society, restrict free speech, and remove tax exempt status from churches and/or drive them underground.

The time may very well have come for God’s gavel of judgment to fall on this great nation and Mr. Obama may be the catalyst to bring about the kind of “change” that will not be pleasant to any of us, but will, by God’s just and holy decree, be the means by which America as you and I have known it, is brought to its knees.     May God have mercy upon the United States of America!

The Day America Became A Socialist Country

by Tom Wacaster

Writing on political matters is not what one expects from a preacher. And I will freely admit that writing on political issues is not my favorite topic. However, when politics crosses the path of spiritual truths and human rights that are “endowed by their Creator,” it becomes inevitable that we preachers quit preaching and go to meddling (as one country boy was fond of saying). When our country elected Barak Obama, America officially crossed the threshold of democracy into socialism. No, it will not be immediately apparent with regard to the change that comes with such a reversal in philosophical thinking; that will take time for the fruit to be forthcoming from the seeds that we have sown this past week. The polls indicate that a large percentage of the populace of America no longer believes in hard work, entrepreneurship, and free market economy. The polls are revealing. If the following is anywhere near accurate then it proves my point. A Rasmussen report informs us: (1) “44% Of Americans agree with Obamas statement that affirms Karl Marxs statement „from each according to their ability to each according to their need.” (2) Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters under 30 agree with Obamas statement affirming Marxs “from each according to their ability to each according to their need.” (3) Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Democrats think their candidate is right. (4) A majority of those who earn less than $40,000 a year agree with Obama about spreading the wealth around, while most of those who earn more than that disagree. Entrepreneurs are strongly opposed while a slight plurality of government employees agree.”

When the populace went to the polls this week they voted to usher in a “new age,” a “change” from free market economy to a socialistic approach to government; a change from personal responsibility to the selfish notion that government is here to give me handouts and take care of my every need. Unfortunately, that vote for change will usher in an era in which worship to God will become less popular, and the control of our lives by government will become the encompassing goal of government itself. Why is it that we have not learned from history? During the Bolshevik Revolution here in Russia the government was changed by force. This past week we opened the door for the “Bolshevik revolutionists” to take control of our government but we did it by choice; by vote, if you will.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article entitled, “Has the Time Come For God To Bring Judgment Upon America?” I am confident that I can say without any fear of contradiction that the question has been answered in the affirmative. From here it will be only a downhill slide into the abyss wherein freedom will diminish, and economic hardships will be the outcome. It is not a matter of “if,” only a matter of time. History has proven this to be true. From the Backwater Report we have this excellent observation: “For you Christians that believe that socialism is a perfectly acceptable form of government that Christians should support, allow me to inform you that socialism is a system that steals God’s sovereignty in order to invest it in the state. Socialist systems teach and believe that in the state we live and move and have our being. The State is our provider, or protector, and our omnipotent caretaker. Further, socialist systems are completely predicated upon violating the 8th commandment, stealing from those who work hard producing wealth, in order to redistribute that wealth. The effect of this redistribution of wealth is to shrink the pie of wealth as people lose incentive to create wealth. The consequences of this is not the raising up of people without wealth to wealth, but rather the pulling down of people with wealth to the status of not having wealth. Equality is achieved but it is the equality of the miserable. My fellow Americans, in the name of all that is excellent, do you realize that by embracing socialism you are embracing the canker worm, the end of opportunity, and the end of freedom? Does it not matter to you that with the embrace of socialism you are embracing slavery?”

My generation has enjoyed the benefits of a country established upon the truths of God’s word. But we have grown lazy, and we have failed to teach our children why we enjoy what we enjoy. We have failed to teach them that this country has been blessed by God and instead have allowed the atheists to teach them there is no God. We have enjoyed prosperity, only to have humanists teach them that prosperity is wicked and evil. We have enjoyed freedom of speech, only to have our opinions suppressed by the media and liberal government. We have enjoyed peace and happiness that comes with a right standing with God and a reliance upon His word, only to have men like Barak Obama tell us that we only think we are happy and that true happiness comes when we trust him and those who think like he thinks.

Yes, on November 4th America became a socialist nation, forever expelling God from our national government, and embracing the philosophy of Karl Marx. Now we shall see what America gets for her foolish reasoning, her ungodly ways, and her inability to discern good from evil.

God's Marvelous Grace

by Tom Wacaster
  
"For by grace have ye been saved though faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory' (Eph. 2:8-9). These words have been the center of controversy for as long as I can remember. Denominational theologians, and in recent years some of our own brethren have suggested that man is saved solely on the basis of grace; that no man can "contribute one whit to his salvation." This of course is false on the very surface of it. One need simply take a look at the numerous passages which lay at the feet of each and every individual the responsibility to act on that which he has come to know and believe (Phil. 2:12, 2 Thess. 1:7-9, Acts 17:30-31, 2 Cor. 5:10). If man plays absolutely no role whatsoever in his salvation, then all men must eventually be saved for "the grace of God hath appeared unto all men" (Titus 2:11).

Yes, the doctrine of salvation by grace has been abused, maligned, and perverted. But we must avoid the temptation to swing too far to the right while attempting to make a correction toward center. Balance demands the recognition of both parties involved in salvation, namely the divine and human sides of salvation. When we speak of God's grace, we are speaking of the divine side of salvation. Someone has said, ""Grace is that quality of God which gives us what we do not deserve while mercy is that quality which does not give us what we do deserve." God saves us by grace, not by obligation. The only obligation that God has to save man is that obligation that is self imposed. He is not obligated by outside forces. What you or I do in compliance to God's commands does not in any way obligate God, or place Him in debt to us. But since He has promised that He will save those who believe and obey, He has placed upon Himself the obligation to follow through on His promises. What great comfort there is in knowing that we serve a God Who never lies, and Who always keeps His promises. There is great consolation in knowing that we do not have to depend upon our own self righteousness to make it to heaven. Were that the case, then quite frankly, none of us would ever see so much as the shadow of that heavenly portal to which we have set our hopes and our hearts. The key here is this little word "depend." It is a matter of in what or in Whom we place our trust and confidence. It is summed up in the word "faith."

Paul clearly states that we are saved by grace, through faith. Faith is the medium by which we gain access to the wonderful grace of God. Here is the human side of salvation. When the two are combined, the result is man's salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Clovis Chappell once wrote, "God measures us not by our achievements, but by our longings to achieve. He judges us not by what we have in our hands, but what we have in our hearts. He crowns us not for the great task that we actually accomplished, but for the great task that we long to accomplish." The beloved poet Browning said, "It is not what man does, but what man would do that exalts him." When we sing the words, "My Savior pardoned me and now I onward go; I know He'll take me thro' tho' I am weak and poor," we are speaking of God's Marvelous Grace.

For My Sake

by Tom Wacaster
  
Bobby Key tells of a little dog that President Theodore Roosevelt owned, which was always getting into fights. The little fellow always took a beating. One day he tackled a mangy cur and took a real whipping. A man standing near by said, "Mr. Roosevelt, your dog isn't much of a fighter." Teddy replied, "He is a good fighter, but he is a poor judge of dogs."  When I was growing up it was my intention to remain aloof of the little scuffles that may have arisen in school.  I despised a fight! Partly because of my size, but mostly because mom and dad taught us to avoid such things.  But good intentions never won an argument, and as hard as I tried, I still managed to get into my share of trouble.  When I was in Junior high, attending John B. Hood school in a northern suburb of Dallas, there was this tall, rather husky fellow who liked to demonstrate his brute strength.  In short, he loved to pick a fight with those smaller than himself (which would encompass the whole of the P.E. class).   As I recall, we were sitting in the bleachers, listening to one of those long winded coaches deliver a lecture. Unknown to me, this overgrown social misfit decided he would tie my shoe laces around one of the metal brackets on the bleacher.  When the lecture was over, and we got up to leave, I fell flat on my face, snapped the laces off at the shoe, and suffered injury to my body, and my pride. Honor was at stake here!  Somehow I managed to open my mouth, and things would be settled after school that afternoon.  I'll not tell you how things turned out, but I determined from that day forward that I would learn to be a peace maker.  I have never enjoyed controversy. I don't suppose any of us do.  But there are times when we must stand for that which is right, face the enemy square in the eyes, and let come what may.  Our Lord was a controversialist. He did not run from confrontation, nor did He ever allow the truth to suffer at the hands of the enemy.  Beloved, the very nature of truth is controversial. And if our Lord suffered reproach, ridicule, and rejection from His own, what makes us think that we will escape the same?  So when do we fight, and when do we turn and walk away? Our Lord provided the key: "Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, FOR MY SAKE" (Matthew 5:11).  If at any time the truth is at stake, or the honor of the Lord is threatened, then it is time to stand in the gap and let courage prevail.  Sometimes wisdom dictates that we simply walk away from an argument and let the fool be known by his folly.  When our personal feelings are at stake, or when pride is threatened, it might be good to be a peace maker.  Too many congregations have been divided over petty differences.  Matters of opinion often are treated as matters of doctrine.  Though sometimes it is difficult to determine what constitutes opinion vs. doctrine, it is essential that we recognize the difference - even if it means withholding judgment until we are certain it truly IS a matter of doctrine.  But when the truth is at stake - when the clear teaching of God's word is threatened - then we must, like our Savior, draw the sword and march into battle.  Fear must give way to faith, and courage must prevail.  We must be willing to face the enemy with the full thrust of God's word, holding back nothing, pitying none, and loving God and His word above all else.  The late J.W. McGarvey noted, "Where the hottest fire of the enemy is, thither the return fire must be directed" (J.W. McGarvey).  Let us encourage those who are determined to preach the truth, and let us determine that we will do all within our power to let our lives demonstrate a courage that is willing to die "for His sake."   We'll close with the following poem

The World Needs Men

The world needs men who love the truth
And hold ideals others spurn;
Who work to conquer social ills
And make mankind their great concern.
It pleads for men whose thoughts are right,
Who give the pure and noble wings;
For they alone can lift the race
From baser thoughts to which it clings.

The world needs men-- men unafraid
To face the marching hordes of might;
With well-trained mind and ready voice
To speak courageously for right.
It calls for men who walk with God;
Who make the cause of Christ their own,
And in this flippant, careless age,
All other lifeless gods, disown.

--George W. Wiseman
( in Doran's Ministers Manual, 1945)



Following Instructions

by Tom Wacaster
  
About a month ago I decided that it was time to replace the old DVD player with an updated player and recorder combo. When I unpacked the box there were four manuals (one in English, one in Spanish, one in French, and one in German), a package of wires included for routing the TV signal through the DVD player, a wire for use with digital cameras, and some extra paraphernalia for first one thing and then another. Everything was included in the box that would give me an “enjoyable experience” with my new DVD player/recorder (except batteries, of course). Most manufactures of electronic equipment have figured out that many of their customers are anxious to “get started” and so they include, along with the owner’s manual, a “quick start guide” that enables the customer to get his equipment up and running, even if he does not know what he is doing once he does get it going. Once the customer has his equipment up and running he is encouraged to take the time to read the owner’s manual. But if I know the human race, by this time most of the new proud owners of the latest in electronic gadgetry are saying to themselves, “Who needs the owner’s manual? What do they think I am, a dunce? I can do this on my own.” This same mind set kicks in when it comes to consulting a map to figure out where you are, putting together a complicated piece of lawn equipment, or following instructions for any number of complicated, or not so complicated, items.

Were this mind set limited to the temporal and physical realm in which we live, we might only have to suffer an occasional embarrassment, or at worst, like Tim “the-tool-man” Taylor, make a visit to the hospital now and then. But tragically this same kind of mind set seems to have infected the masses when it comes to listening to, or consulting with, the God of heaven in matters of religion. I have, on a number of occasions, referred to the Bible as our soul’s “owner’s manual.” Within the pages of this book are instructions that will provide us with a peaceful and happy life here on earth (Phil 4:7), better health and overall happiness (1 Pet. 3:10), our daily provisions of food, clothing and shelter (Matt. 6:19-33), and the hope of life everlasting when this life is over (Rom. 8:25, 1 Cor.13:13, Gal. 5:5). When we examine the religious landscape about us it is rather obvious that the “many” (Matt. 7:13) have gone about seeking to establish a system of religion based upon their own wants and desires rather than taking the time to read and study the owner’s manual. “I don’t need that manual,” or “I’m smart enough to figure this out on my own” seem to permeate the thinking of mankind spiritually speaking. It seems to me that there are at least four classifications of those who have failed, or are failing, to read the manual.
First, there are those who have never even heard of the manual. Living in the dark recesses of the earth, they are completely unaware of the Bible, the message contained therein, or it’s Great Giver. These need not live in Africa, or the Congo, for there are some even within the borders of our own United States who have never heard of God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, or the plan for man’s salvation. Millions upon millions living in India bow at the feet of their Hindu gods while millions here in America bow at the shrine of material gain without so much as an inkling of an idea of who God is or the wonderful blessings that await them through His Son Jesus Christ.

Second, there are those who know about the manual, but have not taken the time to study it carefully. These have some vague idea as to the system of Christianity, but at some point in time they decided that they do not need God, nor do they need to take the time to read the Bible, or comply with the commandments contained therein. That “manual” may have been good enough for mom and dad, but after all, “I have more important things to do than to waste time reading some manual; I can figure this out for myself.”

Third, there are those who want a “quick start” in their “Christianity,” and, rather than read the manual itself, have relied upon others to read it for them. Heed is given to their “pastor,” or “preacher” upon whom they rely for instructions in religion and the exercise thereof. The false teachers, with their “smooth and fair speech…beguile the hearts of the innocent” (Rom. 16:18), and these careless souls are carried away with every wind of doctrine imaginable (Eph. 4:14); all for the lack of taking the time to read the instructions.  

Finally, there are those who have quickly read the manual or a small portion thereof, and who care not what the Book says but are intent on doing it their way. “I like it,” or “I want it” are the twin manifestations of a selfish heart that despise the narrow-minded pattern of God’s word. Rather than confine themselves to the instructions from above, they are determined to walk in the path of their own foolishness. They ignore the warning of old, “O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). To them, how to worship God is not so important as their desire to worship him. Sincerity trumps truth, and feelings outweigh facts. From those caught up in denominational error to those who have been deluded by the change agents within the body of Christ, the end result will be the same, for “if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into the pit” (Matt. 15:14).

When it comes to life, and the eternal destiny of the soul, it is imperative that you take the time to read the instructions and follow them cautiously and carefully. You may be able to eventually figure out how to operate that new piece of electronic equipment. You may even be able to figure out “how to get there from here” without consulting a map. But beloved, you are NEVER (I repeat, “Never”) going to make it to heaven if you do not take the time to read and follow the instructions.

My Old Bible

Though the cover is worn,
And the pages are torn,
And though places bear traces of tears.
Yet more precious than gold,
Is this book worn and old,
That can scatter and shatter my fears.
This old book is my guide.
This is a friend by my side
It will lighten and brighten my way;
And each promise I find,
Soothes and gladdens my mind,
As I read it and heed it each day.
To this book I will cling,
Of its worth I will sing,
Though great losses and crosses be mine;
For I cannot despair,
Though surrounded by care,
While possessing this blessing divine.

Our Fine Tuned Universe

by Tom Wacaster
  
Since the mid 1920's our nation has been fed a steady diet of humanism, evolution, and atheism.  Every attempt has been made to get Jehovah God "out" of the picture, and put man at the center, and science as the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful "god" that instructs, enlightens, and informs.   The particular point of focus in the battle for the minds of men has been our educational system.  For the past sixty years the liberal, humanistic, anti-God haters have dominated the class rooms of our public education system.  Consequently we are witnessing the collapse of moral integrity and Biblical ethics that were the mainstay of our society for the previous 200 years.  The battle has been waged in the class room as both sides of our present cultural war have sought to get the upper hand and capture the minds of our youth.  There are signs, however, that the pendulum is beginning to swing back toward center.  From one end of our nation to the other, states are taking a closer look at "intelligent design" as a plausible explanation of the origin of our universe and man.  Some States now require that evolution be taught as a "theory" and not scientific fact.  Others, such as Kansas, have introduced "intelligent design" into the classrooms of their public schools.  Of course the media, along with liberal organizations such as the PTA and NEA, are refusing to go down without a fight.  When one watches the main stream media it is rather astonishing that those being interviewed are extremely biased toward anything that has any religious overtones to it, in spite of the fact that evidence abounds for intelligent design and against evolution.  I am fully aware that the politically correct notion is that "anybody who has any intelligence at all" knows that evolution is a fact, and Genesis 1 is nothing more than "myth."   But for just a moment, let's forget about being "politically correct," and let’s put on our thinking caps and consider the evidence that points to design as the only logical explanation for this world, the universe, and mankind. 

Physicist Paul Davies, in his book God And The New Physics (page 189), observed:  "It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in numbers, has been rather carefully thought out…The seemingly miraculous concurrence of these numerical values must remain the most compelling evidence for cosmic design."   Even the most hardened of atheists (such as the late Carl Sagan) have admitted that the conditions on our planet are "just right" to sustain life.  It is an undeniable fact that the balance of the fundamental laws of physics are such that our universe appears to have been "fine tuned" in order to provide a place for life to exist as we know it.  So much so, in fact, that one noted scientist observed that "it appears as if this world was actually created in order to prepare a place for man to dwell."   Lee Strobel likens it to the following: 

I like to use the analogy of astronauts landing on Mars and finding an enclosed biosphere, sort of like the domed structure that was built in Arizona a few years ago.  At the control panel they find that all the dials for its environment are set just right for life.  The oxygen ratio is perfect; the temperature is seventy degrees; the humidity is fifty percent; there's a system for replenishing the air; there are systems for producing food, generating energy, and disposing of wastes.  Each dial has a huge range of possible settings, and you can see if you were to adjust one or more of them just a little bit, the environment would go out of whack and life would be impossible.  What conclusion would you draw from that?

While science has, to a large degree, been dominated by non-believers, we are seeing a new generation of scientists who are taking a closer look at the evidence.  Over the past three decades scientists have discovered that just about everything about the basic structure of our universe is balanced on what one has called, "a razor's edge for life to exist."  Noted atheist turned believer, Fred Hoyle admitted, "Someone has been monkeying with the physics."  The gravity or our world, the location of the earth in relation to the sun, the moon and other planets, and even the eco-system of this world in which we live all "scream" that some intelligent mind was behind it all.  Let's borrow one example from Lee Strobel's book, The Case For A Creator:

The [cosmological] constant, which is a part of Einstein's equation for General Relativity, could have any value, positive or negative…[A]stronomical observations show that the cosmological constant is quite small, very much smaller than would have been guessed from first principles…The fine tuning has been estimated to be at least one part in a hundred million billion  billion billion billion.  That would be a ten followed by fifty-three zeroes.  That's inconceivably precise.  Put it this way.  Let's say you were way out in space and were going to throw a dart at random toward Earth. It would be like successfully hitting a bull's eye that's one trillionth of a trillioneth of an inch in diameter.  That's less than the size of one solitary atom.

When we consider the conditions that go into making our world a suitable place for human habitat, we stand amazed at the intelligence that it demonstrates.  We are awed at the God Who could so "fine-tune" our world so as it make it a suitable place for human life.   Only the "fool" would say, "There is no God." He is a fool for the simple reason that he has the same evidence staring him in the face, and still refuses to see God. 

Faith Comes By Hearing

by Tom Wacaster
  
"And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7). What an amazing verse, filled with a wealth of truth for our benefit and spiritual growth. The apostles had been beaten for preaching the gospel. Instead of complain, the scripture tells us that they considered themselves "worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name" (Acts 5:41). During that same period of time, internal conflict arose in the Jerusalem when "there arose a murmuring of the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration" (Acts 6:1). As you well know, the apostles saw the need to appoint deacons to serve tables in order that the "ministry of the word" might continue. Consequently, we are told that the "word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied" (Acts 6:7). Take note of the order. The "word....increased and the disciples multiplied." Cause and effect are thus presented. Until we grasp that simple lesson, growth will continue to elude us and precious souls will enter eternity without ever hearing the soul-saving message. This is precisely why brethren have seen the necessity of keeping the Great Commission on the front burner of their work. Congregations that have grasped the significance of that Divine order (hearing, believing) are usually out front leading the effort to take the gospel to foreign fields and emphasize evangelism at home.

This order is suggested elsewhere in the New Testament. "So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word" (Romans 10:17). "The sower went forth to sow his seed...The seed is the word of God...and that in the good ground, these are the good and honest heart, having HEARD (emphasis mine, TW), hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience" (Luke 8:5, 11, 15). That is the Divine order and any attempt to circumvent that order will not produce the desired effect. We think it is significant that according to the Biblical pattern, the physical is subordinate to the spiritual. Serving tables was not neglected; but the apostles recognized the superior need to preach the word. The wisdom of that choice is seen in the principle noted above. It is only through the preaching of the word that growth will come. Temporary "swelling" may occur with emphasis upon the flesh, but genuine, solid, sound, Biblical growth, both numerical and spiritual, can only come through the preaching of the gospel. Our generation must learn this simple truth. Unless every member of the body works together to the planting of the "seed," disciples will not multiply, the church will not grow.

It is also noteworthy that neither EXTERNAL persecution, nor INTERNAL disruption hindered the proclamation of the gospel. External opposition to our preaching the truth should be ignored, for we must obey God rather than men. Internal disruption must be adequately dealt with before progress can continue. It is the later which so often hinders our evangelistic efforts. Murmuring, false teaching, internal strife, etc. so often keep elders and preachers stamping out "brush fires" and, consequently, evangelism is retarded, if not completely stifled. Men of God must deal with those things forthrightly, and scripturally, and get on with the task before them. The great commission must be fulfilled. The gospel must be preached. Then, and only then, will the disciples multiply.

The Cluttered Desk

by Tom Wacaster

Having just arrived home from my latest mission endeavor, I now find myself facing the dubious task of "catching up" with the backlog of correspondence, reading and filing, and bills. I have not yet figured out how to keep up with all of these things when my office is located in East Texas and I am half way around the world teaching and preaching; to take my office with me is an impossibility, and to stay at home is not an option. Unfortunately, even when I am home my office tends to get cluttered with first one thing and then another. Occasionally I have to take time and clean my desk off so that I can see what I am doing. As I type this article there are thirteen books laying dormant on my desk in various stages of readiness, one file full of illustrations, a notebook for keeping track of activities during my day, several markers and pens, a stack of the last five months of Reader’s Digest, an unread copy of the Dallas Morning News (now at least two months old), a scratch pad or two, and pieces of mail (mostly junk advertisements) all cluttering up the desk. Strangely enough, I do not remember getting some of those things out, or for what purpose I put them there. They are just there, interfering with those more important things that I must get done.

Many a life is nothing more than a cluttered desk! In a frantic effort to get to those really important matters, we must first fight the time-wasting, insignificant things that hinder us at every turn. The tragedy is, most of us never DO get to the really important things in life. We allow the television, pleasure, self interests and the pursuit for things (all of which perish with the using), to distract us from taking care of the most important business of all, preparing for eternity. Were we to stand back and take an honest look at what has cluttered up our lives, we might wonder how in the world they got there in the first place, or what purpose they serve. They are just there! And deep inside we know we must clear them out of the way and tend to those important matters while there is still time.

A number of years ago Walt Disney Studios produced a full length animated movie titled, "Lion King." The theme song contained some very thought provoking words:

From the time we arrive on the planet,
And blinking, step into the sun;
There is more to see than can ever be seen,
More to do than can ever be done.

Seeing that we will never be able to see all there is to see, or do all there is to do, does it not seem reasonable that we would want to make sure we got the truly important things done first? Once we recognize this logical and obvious truth, perhaps it will serve to motivate us to pay attention to that cluttered desk, or whatever else it might be that hinders us from accomplishing the truly important things in life. 

Shall We Cause Them To Stumble?

by Tom Wacaster
  
When we were raising our children there were a number of times that we would not allow them to go with their friends to a certain activity. We felt that it was not in their best interest morally, or spiritually. Time has proven our actions wise. Though they could not understand our motives at the time, they have more than once expressed appreciation for the restraint that we placed upon them. I am certain that most have had to repeat those oft dreaded words, “Because I told you so,” and have likewise restrained little hands and feet from participating in questionable activities. Though children cannot understand at any given moment exactly WHY we parents must restrict their actions, from the parents’ perspective we realize that we will answer should we permit them to travel in a path detrimental to their spiritual well being. Jesus warned us, “But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). It is serious business to cause innocent minds and hearts to go astray.

Were I to ask the question that serves as the title of this article, I am confident that each and every one of us would answer with a resounding “NO!” None of us wants to see our children stumble. This being true, why is it that parents, and church leaders, often allow our youth to travel down a path that is, at best, questionable, and often DEAD WRONG? Consider the following examples.

First, young, impressionable minds are allowed to attend movies and listen to music that is filled with bad language, violence, etc. I do not attend movies much any more, for the simple reason that most of what is produced is not fit to watch. Not long ago my wife and I went to watch a G rated movie. After purchasing the tickets and walking into the movie, I was shocked to see the number of children going with their parents into PG-13 movies. Then there is the music that is designed to appeal to youth. Music albums and CD’s have covers and contents that eyes and ears should not consume. Heaven only knows how many children watch the garbage that is dumped into our homes during prime time TV. The list goes on. Parents should be very selective in what they allow their children to watch. But in addition, parents should be selective in what they watch.

Second, there is an ever increasing absence of supervision of children in their daily activities. “Latch-key-children” has become a household word used to describe children who arrive home from school long before their parents get home from work. Wholesome role models have all but disappeared in the inner city, and “single-parent” families” are much more common than they used to be.

When it comes to the church, elders, preachers, parents and teachers have a great responsibility of seeing to it that our youth are given proper direction and guidance. Sometimes we have to make decisions that are not favorable to the youth themselves. It is astounding to me that some leaders within the church have bought into the lie that a youth activity hosted by some neighboring congregation is wholesome just because it is sponsored by area churches. Those who would lead the church into apostasy are not stupid. If the youth can be changed, it is only a matter of time until the whole of the church will be changed. Young minds cannot discern the error in religious matters any more than they can discern some of the moral ills that surround and tempt them every day. They need guidance and direction. We should be selective in those activities in which we allow our youth to participate, realizing that we may be responsible for what effect it has upon their impressionable minds, as well as their eternal destiny. May it never be said of us that we were negligent in training our children. And may it never be said that any one of us caused one of these little ones to stumble.

1982: Not So Long Ago

by Tom Wacaster

I was looking for an illustration to make a point. So when I ran a check on my computer it took me to the 1982 Fort Worth Lectureship book, "Difficult Texts Of The Old Testament Explained." One thing led to another and I soon found myself perusing the book and looking at the names and the pictures of the speakers for that series of lectures. Some of those men have long since passed into eternity and their "works do follow them." Winfred Clark, Bobby Duncan, W.T. Hamilton, Guy N. Woods, and J.Noel Merideth, to name but a few, have laid down their swords at the gates of death and are now enjoying their rest. Others still living are now showing their years but remain faithful to their Master: Robert Taylor, Hardeman Nichols, Flavil Nichols, Jerry Moffitt, William Woodson, and Garland Elkins. Sadly there are a couple among those featured speakers who have, for one reason or another, denied their Lord and traded their inheritance for a mess of pottage, perhaps the most notable being Rubel Shelly.

And as I closed that book and contemplated once again the date of that series, I thought: "1982! That was not that long ago." Ronald Regan had been in office less than a year. The country was in a deep depression. I was still living in Ada, Oklahoma and our children were barely teenagers. I had been preaching full time for less than ten years and the turn of the century seemed so far away. No doubt those who have passed the third decade of their life could share personal stories and memories of what all of us would agree was "not so long ago." As you look back, what stands out most clearly in your mind? Is it not that so much of the proverbial water has passed under the bridge? Do you not find yourself asking, if only in your mind, "Where have the past twenty eight years gone?" I think all of us have done just that. Now let’s turn our faces toward the future. Where will we be when another twenty seven years have passed? 2038 is as near in the future as 1982 is in the past. Those who now enjoy the later years of their retirement will, like those faithful men listed above, likely have passed to their reward. Our teens will likely be married and have small children of their own. Parents will be grandparents, and grandparents will be great grandparents. And just as certain as is the sunrise and sunset of today and the swift passing of these past twenty seven years, so will be the coming of the Judgment Day when each one of us will stand before God and give an account of how we have used the short amount of time that God has given us upon this earth. It will not be long till we bid 2010 good-bye. Nor will it be long, when measured against the backdrop of eternity, till we will bid this world goodbye. The words of the Psalmist press upon our minds with increasing frequency: "For our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten...for it is soon cut off, and we fly away...So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalms 90:9-10, 12). "Seeing that these things are thus all to be...what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy living and godliness...?"

Biting And Devouring One Another

by Tom Wacaster
  
Before I am branded as being soft on the truth, or compromising the faith once for all delivered to the saints, let me point out that "biting and devouring one another" is NOT to be equated with a strong stand for that which is right.  It is not exposing error or false doctrine.  Having preached for almost four decades I am saddened to say that the Lord's church has yet to overcome the strife and party spirit that plagued the church of the first century.   When Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia he warned, "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another" (Gal. 5:15).  A.T. Robertson points out that the original words here translated "bite" and "devour" are two common verbs often used together to describe wild animals that seek to devour one another.  Here in east Texas folks are fond of saying, "They fight like cats and dogs."  Paul was saying, "If you keep fighting like cats and dogs you are going to destroy one another" (if I can be permitted to paraphrase).

The churches of Galatia were in danger of destroying the church from within.  This was not just a local isolated problem.  It was evidently affecting the church throughout the region of Galatia.  Biting and devouring one another is the result of letting the flesh control one's emotions and thinking.   It fosters hatred among brethren, zaps a congregation of its enthusiasm, and alienates brethren one from another.  When biting and devouring spills over into neighboring congregations the result is a negative impact on the church's ability to be the salt and light God intended it to be.  Too often the fleshly spirit within congregations manifests itself in the contentious nature of its members and leadership.  If this fleshly spirit goes unchecked, those who envision themselves as stalwart defenders of the faith only contribute to the problem by using unkind and cutting words; slander, gossip, name calling, and impugning the motives of others can only alienate brethren.  At worst it will drive brethren into a corner where pride and haughtiness keeps them from honestly looking at the facts; something that can happen to either party on a particular side of a controversy.

It has been eight years since Alan Highers wrote these words in an editorial in the Spiritual Sword:  "Surely there is a way that we can engage in self-criticism when needed, and exposure of error in the church, without rendering asunder the body of Christ and alienating brethren into separate, warring camps, and cliques."   Ignoring the problems in the brotherhood is not the answer; yet some seem to have taken this position.  Like the proverbial ostrich that buries his head in the sand, some have ignored the mountain of evidence that is presented regarding the root of the problems.  But brethren, attacking a faithful brother and suggesting that he has somehow become "soft on the truth" because he is fighting the battle on a different front only contributes to the problem.  Because a brother chooses not to become embroiled in a certain conflict in the brotherhood does not mean that he has compromised the truth; nor does it suggest that he has somehow aided and abetted the enemy.   The following scenario would actually present a problem of fellowship to some:  Brother "A" was on lectureship "X" with brother "B" who himself appeared on lectureship "Y" with brother "C," who last year appeared on lectureship "Z" with brother "D," who has taught error concerning marriage and divorce.  Conclusion?  Brother "A" has become soft on the truth because he was associated with brother "B" who himself fellowshipped brother "C" who evidently was not concerned about what brother "D" teaches on marriage and divorce!

Here is another scenario that has caused good brethren to "withdraw" from another:  Brother "A" serves as a missionary in the church.  But this brother has never once publicly said anything about Dave Miller or the AP controversy.  Hence, this brother has been accused of being no better than "Max Lucado" or "Jeff Walling" - in fact, he is even worse because at least the flagrant false teacher is more easily recognized.

What has happened to the spirit of kindness, gentleness, and longsuffering?  "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you (Eph. 4:31-32).  "And the Lord's servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forebearing, in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves" (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

Perhaps our readers have never read the poem by Eugene Field.  Here it is for your consideration:

The Duel
(The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat)
by Eugene Field

The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
'Twas half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t'other had slept a wink!
The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
(I wasn't there; I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The gingham dog went " Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Me-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
While the old Dutch clock in the chimney place
Up with it hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
(Now mind: I'm only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)

The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh dear! What shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfullest way you ever saw-
And oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
(Don't fancy I exaggerate!
I got my news from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole the pair away!
But the truth about the cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock, it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.)