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.