Songs and Devotions of David: Study of Psalms

by Tom Wacaster

If you are looking for a series of books on the Old Testament book of Psalms, take a look at my series, available in printed form and in E-Reader format.  Brother Jackson wrote:

“Tom Wacaster, a splendid Christian writer, has produced a wonderful Seven Volume set covering all 150 Psalms of the Old Testament. The Songs And Devotions of David is one of the finest studies of the Psalms that I’ve encountered. Each of these inspired psalms is provided with an “Introduction,” an overall “Analysis,” of that document, and a verse-by-verse commentary. There could be no finer way to work your way through this marvelous Old Testament library of poetic literature.”

 Wayne Jackson

Ed. Christian Courier
 
You can purchase a printed format from my website by going to My Store 
Or to view my E-Reader formats, click here 
 
Thanks for your interest.
 
Tom Wacaster
 
 

When Wickedness Is Established by Law

by Tom Wacaster

There is an interesting verse in the 94th Psalm which adequately describes the way a number of people think. The verse reads, "Shall the throne of wickedness have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by statute?"  (verse 20).  The context of the Psalm is a consideration of the wicked and their foolish opposition to God.   But these were not just your run-of-the-mill participants in evil.  The Psalmist was not writing to the "heathen,” but to those who should have known better.  Those to whom the Psalmist wrote were God’s chosen people.  They had, somewhere along the way, cast off all restraint, reaching a point in their downward plunge into apostasy that was characteristic of the "nations” about them.  Arrogant and proud, they actually boasted themselves in their iniquity.   There was little regard for life.  They despised their heritage.  The widow and fatherless were a nuisance, so much so that they thought it advantageous to slay and murder those less fortunate than themselves.  Injustice was the order of the day. The widow, sojourner, and the fatherless were imperiled (verse 6).  And just about the time one would think they could go no lower, the writer informs us that "they say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it” (verse 12). 

Could it be that Israel had arrived at this point in time where they regarded the God of heaven as nothing more than the "God of Jacob.”  Was He not their God as well?   Oh, how the mighty had fallen.  According to verse 20, the "throne” itself had become corrupt. The leadership was corrupt from its head to its toe.  The Psalmist seeks to remind the people that God does not have fellowship with such a corrupt nation. But what is shocking about all of this is the fact that this corrupt nation had actually passed certain statutes which "legalized” their mischief.  What a perverse way of thinking. It is the kind of thinking that says human law overrides God’s law; that man is in a better position to determine right and wrong than is the Almighty; that a mere stroke of the pen can turn that which is wicked into that which is right!  Israel needed to be reminded that such a "throne of wickedness” stands squarely against God! They will NOT have His blessings! 

Oh how our beloved nation needs to hear this lesson.  In the last 100 years we have seen the legalization of drinking, the sale of alcohol, para-mutual betting, abortion on demand, homosexual rights, the lottery, casino halls, houses of ill repute, etc. Now politicians clamor for legalization of drugs, homosexuals in the military and homosexual marriages, and the "Freedom of Choice Act” (making it completely legal to kill children still in the womb).  The philosophy seems to be, "If we can just get it on the books, ratify it by the States, and get it signed by the President, it is right and acceptable.”  Have we become so foolish as to think that God does not see or hear? 

If you are not aware of what occurred on Wednesday night of the Democratic Convention in  Charlotte , N.C. let me provide you with a summation from Catholicculture.org regarding God and the platform of the DNC:

In drafting the original platform, Democratic leaders had removed references to God (and to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel). They didn’t merely forget to mention God; in updating previous party platforms, they made a conscious decision to remove Him (emphasis mine, T.W.). When that decision was brought to the attention of ordinary American voters, outside the orbit of the Democratic Party apparatchiks, it was unpopular. It didn’t play in Peoria. Belatedly, the Democratic leaders realized that they should put God back in the picture. So an amendment to the platform was place on the convention’s agenda. And here’s where things get interesting: That amendment was controversial! Quite a few delegates opposed the mention of God. Some, no doubt, were primarily concerned about the mention of Jerusalem. Party leaders might have simplified matters by introducing two separate amendments: one to restore a mention of God, the other to name Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But that tactic would not have suited the purposes of the party strategists. They didn’t want an open debate on God (or on Jersualem) during the convention. They didn’t want to give American voters the opportunity to see just how radical the Democratic party has become. They wanted the amendment approved quickly.

The article went on to point out that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio  Villaraigosa quickly called for a floor vote on whether or not to put God back into the party platform.   Numerous recordings of the delegates’ verbal "vote” revealed that at least half, and perhaps more than half voted to keep God OUT!   When Villaraigosa lowered the gavel and declared that it was decided by verbal vote that God would be put BACK INTO the platform, the audience "booed.”  Dear reader, I want you to think long and hard about what happened in Charlotte, N.C. on that Wednesday night of the DNC.   One of the major parties, from which come a large percentage of our national leaders, including President, Vice President, Senate Majority Leader, and at least four Supreme Court appointees, has moved so far away from the principles of our founding fathers that they think they can simply VOTE GOD out of their lives.   I am not suggesting that ALL members of that party agreed with what happened; but one should take note of the fact that the party of which they are a member continues to move further and further away from God.  How long will someone with any sense of dignity and responsibility continue to support such foolishness?  

There is one more verse in this Psalm that gives a clear indication of the fruits of this kind of thinking. The 21st verse reads, "They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.” When enough laws are passed "legalizing” the mischief in which men desire to participate, the righteous element in society will actually become the enemy.   I fear that we may have already arrived at such a point in our nation’s trek away from God.  Those who oppose immodesty are labeled "prudish.”   Opposition to drinking and/or gambling classifies one as being "judgmental.”  If you say anything about the homosexual movement you are a "homophobe.”   Anti-abortionists are "radicals.”  We could go on, but I think you get the picture.   Liberal lawmakers are doing their best to "frame mischief by a law.”  Bills pending, waiting for examination and approval, will move us further and further away from the God of heaven.   When the Psalmist asked the question, "Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee....” he was asking a rhetorical question, the answer to which is a resounding "No!”  I do not know how long God will wait before He renders judgment on this nation.  But there is a point in time when His patience will run out, and "he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; yea, the Lord our God shall cut them off.”   America, prepare to meet thy God!

Coming Home

by Tom Wacaster



Returning from  a mission trip brings its challenges, not the least of which is the physical adjustment to a time zone that is almost eleven hours behind the place you just left.  Sometimes I really struggle with adjusting my biological clock to the clock on the wall, and the reality that, while your body tells you it should be six o’clock in the morning, the sky outside tells you it is nigh unto dusk.   When I woke up in Bangaluru Thursday morning it was 6:00 A.M. there, but it was 7:30 P.M. Wednesday night here at home.  It would be  almost 40 hours before I would be able to lay my body down for a decent rest.   Going that far, that fast, does not seem to be a part of what God intended for our physical bodies.  Of course, the “slow boat to China” may be easier on the body, but it really chews up a lot of time.    So, until my body adjusts to the Central Time Zone, I’ll take advantage of those wee hours of the morning when I can’t sleep to get some reading, study and meditation under my belt.   I figure that just about the time I am used to getting up at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning instead of 2:00 or 3:00  that it will be time for Daylight Savings to kick in, and I’ll have to roll back the clock and find myself getting up yet one more hour earlier.   

But there are other challenges that I face when I come  home.  For one thing there is the readjustment to a daily schedule that is disrupted when I make a mission trip to Russia or India.   At home there are those constant reminders that there is a sense of “permanence” here that is not present when travelling over seas.   Medical appointments, mowing the lawn, paying bills, and weekly shopping, to name but a few.   When I leave all this behind and immerse myself in preaching and teaching, I tend to forget those things that await me when I come home.   For several days after my arrival home I am busy catching up with bills, correspondence, writing, and reading.; and the longer I have been gone, the more there is to catch up with.  Sometimes it is simply overwhelming.  

Another challenge is readjusting my emotional barometer (if I may call it that).   The opportunities for preaching and teaching the gospel in some places are abundant;  and in some  cases simply astonishing.   Take for example my  recent work in India.   Brother J.C. Bailey first went to India to present the pure message of Christ to a people steeped in idolatry.  The response was so astonishing that brethren back home simply did not believe there were so many being baptized.   The response was in the 100’s, and in some cases in the 1,000’s.   Churches of Christ were being established throughout India, especially in the south eastern part of that country.   After  fifty years the rate of growth does not seem to have abated.   The receptivity of the gospel continues to this day.  Large audiences, open hearts, and precious souls responding  give a visiting missionary a spiritual “high” that lifts his spirit and gives him a deeper appreciation for the work of those who have “beautiful feet” [see Romans 10:15).   When I come home there is a return to the reality that the soil for planting the seed of God’s word that exists in India on a wide scale is not present in much of the Western world.   Wealth, prosperity, humanism, atheism, self indulgence—pick what you want; these are the things that have hardened the hearts of so many in our country so much so that trying to  find the good and honest heart is like the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack.   I realize that work in this “mission field” we call the United States is difficult, disheartening and often discouraging.; but we rest on the promise that we shall reap if we faint not.  

Finally, there is a challenge of readjustment to a society that is literally saturated with sin and ungodliness.  From the head to the foot (to borrow the words of Isaiah) the moral climate in America is in the cesspool.    I am not suggesting that India is a sinless society, but it seems that here in America sin is flaunted openly and without any shame on the part of the people and the politicians.   America wears her pride on her sleeve.  Humility is an endangered species.  Right or wrong, my perception is that in India there is a sense of moral responsibility and humility of heart that makes the preaching of the gospel such a success. 

I can adjust my biological clock fairly quick;  I can adjust to my daily routine here at home.  But I find it much more difficult to face a world that seems bent on slapping God in the face.  Therein is the great challenge of coming home.

Can The Christian Drink Alcohol?

by Tom Wacaster

Determining right and wrong is not always set out in what we might call "direct statements" (i.e., "thou shalt, thou shalt not").  This is where discernment comes in.  We are to use wisdom to discern right and wrong (Heb. 5:12), and "prove all things" (1 Thess. 5:21-22).  Principles learned from a careful study of God's word are then applied to the decision making process.   This is particularly true when it comes to partaking of alcoholic drink.  The world's attitude can be summed up with five words: "Nobody thinks anything about it."   But how do you know that?   And what if it could be proven that nobody thinks anything about drinking alcohol - what people think is not our standard.   A careful study of the Bible leaves the distinct impression that the child of God is to stay as far away from the things of the world rather than seeing how close he can get to it without sinning!  Paul told Timothy "flee these things," which in the context suggests abstinence from anything and everything that would war against the soul. May I suggest to you some reasons why the child of God should abstain from alcoholic beverages?

First, because of the fruit associated with the drinking of alcohol.  Physically, alcohol does irreparable harm to the body that God has given us.   The leading cause of death among alcoholics is due to the effects that alcohol has on the cardiovascular system. Brooke Allen made the following observation: "Many of the body's physiological functions can be affected by the use of alcohol. Recent evidence proves that a variety of diseases are brought about by a substance  that coats the body's red blood cells causing them to stick together in clumps. These clumps are called 'sludge,' and are created by the ingestion of alcohol."  It has been proven beyond dispute that when ingested, alcohol destroys brain cells, and brain cells are the only cells in the body that do not regenerate.  When brain cells die, they can never be replaced.   But physical harm is not the only damage that imbibing alcohol produces.  There is also the social harm. Clayton Pepper [deceased] served as family counselor for many years.  Here is what he had to say:

I know of no other factor that contributes more than drinking to family problems, divorce, juvenile delinquency and to the degrading of man. It breaks my heart to see the fruits of alcohol. I see children naked and hungry, whose mothers and fathers waste their earnings on alcohol.  A four-year-old child was brought into court for being drunk on the street.  A teen-age girl whose mother is dead spent the night on the porch because she was afraid of being molested by her drunken father. A boy, after his drunken father ran him away from home, stole money to buy food. A mother had a baby which weighed less at three months of age than when it was born. She took money given to her to buy milk and bought alcoholic beverages instead. Twelve teen-agers were arrested at a disorderly Halloween party where beer was served. I have seen as many as six children taken away from a drunken mother. A Nashville newspaper carried the story of the slaying of a 14 year old girl by a 17 year old boy whose 17 year old wife was expecting a child soon. The boy was quoted as saying that all this would not have happened if he hadn't been allowed to go to a club and drink. He shouted from his cell: "They ought to padlock that place and burn it to the ground."

In his book, Broken Homes and Handicapped Children , V.E. Howard documented the fruits of alcohol socially more than three decades ago and it has not gotten any better since then.   My friends there is so much wrong with the fruit of beverage alcohol that it would be impossible to put it into the limited space we have in this bulletin.   The question we might ask is, "What good has it ever done?" It's fruit, both ancient and modern, is entirely on the wrong side of the ledger.  Why in the world would any Christian seek to defend this vicious killer which has created more false hopes and generated more social ills than any one thing?  

Second, drinking alcohol is wrong because of what it does to the soul.  Peter wrote, "Beloved, I beseech you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" (1 Pet. 2:11).  Ask yourself, "Does drinking of alcohol contribute to or lessen any of the following?"  Does it give one a greater degree of love for the Bible and increase his study  habits?  Is one who drinks alcohol more prone to pray or meditate on things that are good and  holy?  Can the drinking of alcohol provide spiritual growth and development of Christian character?  To ask is to answer!  Put in the form of a simple syllogism:  Major Premise: All things which war against the soul are things from which the Christian is commanded to abstain.   Minor Premise: The drinking of intoxicants is a thing which wars against the soul.  Conclusion: Therefore, the drinking of intoxicants is a thing from which the Christian is commanded to abstain.

Third, drinking of alcohol is wrong because of what it does to your influence and Christian example. Hear the word of the Lord:  "Walk in wisdom (or circumspectly) toward them that are without, redeeming the time" (Col 4:5). "Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works" (Matt. 5:16).  "Let no man despise thy youth but be thou an example toward them that believe in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12).   "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity" (Matt. 13:41).  "Give no occasion of stumbling to Jew or Gentile" (1 Cor. 10:32).  Can a person really expect to bring a lost soul to Christ while holding a Bible in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other?  I think not!

Finally, drinking alcohol is wrong because all of the so-called "defenses" for social drinking are nothing more than a grasping at straws in the wind.  Space will not allow us a close examination of the arguments presented by those who might imbibe strong drink.  My observation over the years has been that every single argument in defense of social drinking is an appeal to subjectivism, feelings, "I think," or "I feel," rather than a carefully thought out and logical examination of the subject.  Jesus never did turn water into intoxicating wine, all the sophisticated foolishness to the contrary.   Any degree of drunkenness is still drunkenness, and one drink of alcohol still begins the process of drunkenness .  The biggest problem with these so-called defenses is that they are never based on a thus saith the Lord; and therein is the problem at it's roots!





Capital Punishment


by Tom Wacaster

On May 13, 1981, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Bobby Grant Lambert was walking out of a Safeway supermarket in Houston, Texas. An assailant approached Lambert and put his hand into Lambert’s rear pocket. When Lambert resisted, the assailant pulled out a pistol and held it to Lambert’s head. Lambert dropped his groceries and the assailant shot him in the chest. As the assailant fled, Lambert stumbled back into the grocery store, where he died. The robber got away with the change from a $100 bill, although police later found $6000 in $100 bills on the victim’s body.  Graham was arrested, convicted and sentenced to be executed.  Hollywood elites took interest in Graham’s case, and along with various “rights” advocates, every attempt was made to stop the execution of Graham.  Consequently it gook almost 20 years before Graham would be executed by lethal injection.  

On the evening of July 19, 1976, Gary Gilmore robbed and murdered Max Jensen, a Sinclair gas station employee at 168 East and 800 North in Orem, Utah. The next evening, he robbed and murdered Bennie Bushnell, a motel manager at City Center Inn at 150 West and 300 South in Provo. He murdered these people even though they complied with his demands. As he disposed of the .22 caliber pistol used in both killings, he accidentally shot himself in the hand, leaving a trail of blood from the gun all the way to the service garage where he had left his truck to be repaired shortly before the murder of Bushnell. Michael Simpson witnessed Gilmore hiding the gun in the bushes, seeing the blood and hearing on a police scanner of the shooting at the nearby motel, wrote down Gilmore's license number and called the police. Gilmore was charged with the murders of Bushnell and Jensen, although the latter case never went to trial, apparently because there were no eyewitnesses.  Gilmore was tried and convicted, and executed on January 17, 1977 at 8:07 a.m. by firing squad at Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah. 

Karla Faye Tucker, after having spent the weekend of May 12, 1983 doing drugs with her boyfriend Danny Garret, burglarized the home of Jerry Dean, and in the process played a part in the gruesome murder of Dean.  Both Tucker and Garret were tried and sentenced to death in September of that year.  The interesting thing about Tucker’s imprisonment was her conversion to “Christianity” and her subsequent marriage to her prison minister.  She was executed on February 3, 1998.  She was the first woman to be executed in Texas since the Civil War. 

The list of “notable” and “not-so-notable” executions could go on, enough to fill dozens, if not hundreds of bulletin pages this size.  Every time an execution takes place those opposed to the punishment lift their voices in horror suggesting that “capital punishment does not work.”   Of course it would depend upon the motive behind capital punishment as to whether or not it “works.”   Capital punishment advocates suggest that it is a deterrent, and that the very existence of capital punishment has served as a successful element in reducing crime.  It has long been acknowledged that the absence or uncertainty of punishment is an encouragement to do evil.  The wise man Solomon tells us that "because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11).  Those who oppose capital punishment argue that it does not serve as a deterrent. Among the most outspoken are those on death row who scream at the “unfair” and “cruel” judicial system for the situation in which they now find themselves. To this I would make three observations: First, convicted criminals would not be in favor of capital punishment for obvious reasons.  Second, the proof of a death penalty deterrent will be found in the many who actually refrained from such violence due to the fear of death.  Finally, the death penalty has lost much of its designed force due to the failure of, or capricious manner in its application and administration.  Those who oppose capital punishment will often pick up on a case of wrongful conviction to which the death penalty was the attached punishment, and will plead that it is unjust because it takes the life of an innocent person.  Of course there are those who plead “cruel and unusual punishment.”   The one element that so many fail to realize (or choose to forget) is that capital punishment is just that  -  “punishment.”  It is the penalty one pays for taking the life of another.  For Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher correctly pointed out, “People who go out prepared to take the lives of other people forfeit their own right to live. I believe that the death penalty should be used only very rarely, but I believe that no-one should go out certain that no matter how cruel, how vicious, how hideous their murder, they themselves will not suffer the death penalty.”  Whether or not it serves as a successful deterrent is not the issue when it comes to determining the right and wrong of the practice.  Even if it could be proven that it has no effect in deterring crime, it should still be administered as punishment to those who take the life of another!

Capital punishment was first authorized by God in the days of Noah in Genesis 9:5-6: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: For in the image of God made he man.”  In Exodus 21:12 it is stated, “He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.”   If one responds that these are Old Testament passages and thus not applicable in this situation we would point out that the sacredness of life and capital punishment are clearly taught in the New Testament as well.  “Thou shalt not kill” is found five times in the New Testament (Matt. 5:21, 27; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Rom. 13:9; James 2:11).  By using the familiar commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” in New Testament application it is obvious that some sort of punishment is to be meted out to those who take the life of another.  What is that punishment?  Paul tells us something about the authority of government in these matters in Romans 13:4:   “For he is the minister of god to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”  The sword was an instrument of death.  If one is going to argue Biblically as to the divine authority for capital punishment he must give careful and serious consideration to these words by Paul.

I’ll close with this astute quote from Theodore Roosevelt:  As regards capital cases, the trouble is that emotional men and women always see only the individual whose fate is up at the moment, and neither his victim nor the many millions of unknown individuals who would in the long run be harmed by what they ask.” 

The Point Of No Return

"The Point of No Return"
by Tom Wacaster

A plane, flying across the ocean, will eventually reach the "point of no return."  It is a real and definite point, beyond which it is better, in case of mechanical problems, to proceed than to attempt a return to the origination point.  In the mind of the pilot, it is "impossible" to turn back.  There are a number of passages which seem to indicate that it is possible for someone to reach a point in his plunge into apostasy and/or sin, so that it is impossible to be brought to repentance.  Consider the following sobering words: "But these, as creatures without reason, born mere animals to be taken and destroyed, railing in matters whereof they are ignorant, shall in their destroying surely be destroyed, suffering wrong as the hire of wrong-doing; men that count it pleasure to revel in the day-time, spots and blemishes, revelling in their deceivings while they feast with you; having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin [emphasis mine, TW]; enticing unstedfast souls; having a heart exercised in covetousness; children of cursing" (2 Peter 2:12-14).  "For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance [emphasis mine, TW]; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (Hebrews 6:4-6).   How do we reconcile such passages with those that express God's wonderful longsuffering and patience?  For example, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).  Let me make three observations, which I hope will clear up the difficulty, while at the same time, serve as a serious warning to each and every one of us with regard to living faithfully in our service to God.

First, there is along the pathway that leads away from God, a point, which once passed, that spells final doom for the hardened and impenitent heart.  It is a real point.  Once this point is reached, it is virtually "impossible" to reverse the direction one is traveling spiritually.  Is this because God will not forgive?  No. It is because the heart becomes so hardened that it can no longer be touched with the Gospel.  The problem lies not in the power or willingness of God to forgive, but in the inability of the heart to turn away from sin. 

Second, realization of such a point ought to motivate us to turn away from sin while it is still within our power to do so.  I have had occasion over the last two or three decades, of attempting to persuade individuals to turn away from sin and obey God, whether to become a Christian or to be restored to their first love.  Some have obeyed. But a far greater number have convinced themselves that there is plenty of time, and that "someday" they would come to God.  I have also witnessed a number of souls delay their return so long that eventually they simply no longer have the desire to give the least bit of consideration to their spiritual plight. They have, spiritually speaking, passed the point of no return.

Third, if you are outside the safety fold of God's gracious love and salvation, and if you, at this very moment, are giving consideration to a return to your Lord, I would strongly encourage you to act on that desire, even while it is called today.  Your delay moves you ever closer to the point of no return. 

I cannot think of anything more tragic, or that will bring more remorse to the lost when, having entered into eternity, they remember the numerous opportunities that was theirs to come home to the Lord, but neglected that open door provided by their gracious God.  If you would be saved, delay not till the morrow, for tomorrow may be too late!

Reconciliation

by Tom Wacaster

There are certain words in the Bible that astound the mind and thrill the heart. Words like “redemption,” “forgiveness,” “grace,” and “salvation” are among those words. The worldly minded can never appreciate the magnitude nor the depth of those words as they relate to matters eternal. But those who have been rescued from the bondage of sin have an appreciation that cannot be expressed in words. The word “reconciliation” is another word that falls into that category. It is not a difficult word, nor is it hard to understand. Webster defines the word “reconciliation” as meaning “to restore to friendship or harmony, to settle or resolve.” When applied to people it means to get two separated people back together again. It may refer to a husband who wants to be reconciled to his wife, or a father who wants to be reconciled to a wayward son. But when we use the word to refer to a sinner who wants to be reconciled to God we have come upon the richest use of the word in all of human language. Reconciliation occurs when sinners are brought into a state of favor with God. You may speak of material blessings, abundance of riches, or great and abundant possession in this life. But when you talk about reconciliation with God you have exhausted the meaning of what it means to be blessed.

While it is not difficult to understand the meaning of the word, it may be difficult to put reconciliation into practice, so far as human relations are concerned. It can be difficult, and even sometimes impossible, to get two family members who are at odds with one another to be reconciled to each other. Alan Smith shared this humorous story with his readers some years ago: A man once went to a preacher because he was having some family problems. He wasn’t a very well-educated man and sometimes got his words confused. He said, “Me and my wife need a re-cancellation.” What he meant to say was reconciliation, but the word re-cancellation wasn’t a bad choice. Because there can be peace for those who have been separated only when sin has been canceled. As sinners before a righteous God, we need a “re-cancellation”. And that’s exactly what Jesus made available when he died on the cross (Alan Smith, www.TFTD-online.com).

Our English words “reconcile,” “reconciled,” or “reconciliation” appear ten times in the New Testament (Matt. 5:24, Rom. 5:10, 1 Cor. 7:11, 2 Cor. 5:18, 5:19, 5:20, Eph. 2:16, Col 1:20, 1:21, and Heb. 2:17). Some of these passages speak of reconciliation between two human individuals; some speak of God’s act of reconciling the lost to Himself; and some speak of man’s responsibility to “be reconciled” to God. It is 2 Corinthians 5:18 that I want to focus our attention on for this article: “But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation” (emphasis mine, TW). Let us notice the following truths relative to reconciliation as presented in this passage.

First, Paul speaks of the ministry of reconciliation. The very focus of our labors in the kingdom is that of reconciling men to God. So often we lose sight of our purpose as the body of Christ. God has given unto us the task of saving the souls of men. This should be the focus of our labors in all that we do. If we manage to encourage one another, to uplift the body, or organize and conduct a dozen or more fellowship meals each year, but neglect the salvation of the souls of men we have not accomplished what God wants us to accomplish. Ours is not a ministry to improve the physical man, maintain a soup kitchen, cloth the naked, pay electric bills, water bills, or stock and operate a pantry for the homeless. Paul clearly points out that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. Our task is to save the souls of men. If we neglect that part of our work as the body of Christ, nothing else really matters.

Second, Paul sets forth the terms of reconciliation. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature” (5:17). In another passage Paul tells us that we are reconciled unto God “in one body…through the cross” (Eph. 2:16). The important word in both of these passages contains only two letters. It is the word “in.” It is IN Christ that we are reconciled to God; it is IN Christ that we become a new creature; it is IN Christ that men come to have salvation. If we are to fulfill the “ministry of reconciliation” we must be about telling men how to get INTO Christ. If we do not fulfill that responsibility, then it will not get done. The religious world does not teach the truth on this matter and men in general have no idea as to how to get INTO Christ! When Paul told the Romans that they were baptized “into Christ” (Rom. 6:3-5), and the Galatians that those who are baptized “into Christ” did put on Christ (Gal. 3:27) he forever settled the question as to the importance of baptism in God’s scheme of redemption.

Third, Paul sets forth the results of reconciliation. “Wherefore if any man is in Christ he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new” (5:17). Love of the world gives way to the love of God and Jesus; old views are replaced by new ones; new aims take the place of worldly goals; treasures are laid up in heaven rather than upon the earth. A man once said that since he had become a Christian that all things had NOT become new because he still had the same wife, and same old sun shone every morning. That man missed the thrust of Paul’s words. All things have become new in that the new creature no longer lives unto himself, but unto Him Who died for him (2 Cor. 5:15).

Fourth, Paul tells us about the method of reconciliation. “Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). If a man is estranged from his wife, he might be able to bring about reconciliation with some flowers and a large dose of humility. But when man sins against God, his “iniquities” will hide God’s face from him, and separate him from his Father in heaven. All the flowers in the world cannot atone for sin. We were not purchased with “corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). The vicarious suffering of our Lord is the method by which God would save man. Thus, as the innocent suffered for the guilty, suffering what sin deserved to suffer, God could be just and the justifier of them that believe (Rom. 3:26). Voluntary substitution is in perfect harmony with justice, provided every step is voluntary – the substitute in offering, the government in allowing, and the criminal in accepting. Seeing that none of us have it within our power to pay the price for our sins, the very offer from the eternal God of grace to provide a substitute should drive us to our knees in grateful appreciation for this method of reconciliation! C.C. Crawford once wrote:

This principle of vicarious suffering is the foundation upon which civilization has been built - in fact upon which all society has been built, civilized or uncivilized. It is also the essential principle of human progress towards that one, far-off event, towards which the whole creation moves. Not so many years ago there went forth from our homes thousands of fine young men. They crossed the rolling deep and pitched their tents on Flanders fields and in the valleys of the Argonne. When they started out, many thought it would be a lark. But the poetry of war soon vanished, and nothing was left but the prose. They lived in dug-outs. They marched and ate and slept in mud. They rushed into living hells. They had ribs fractured, eyes put out, lungs filled with gas, limbs shot away. Thousand cried for water as they lay dying on the battlefields, and received it not. They were cold and weary and homesick. No one but Almighty God knows the length and breadth and depth of the awful anguish and suffering of those who fought, bled and died on those European battlefields. Why did fathers leave their homes and go to the front? Why did young men, postponing the day of marriage, press the last, long, lingering kisses upon the lips of the sweethearts, and then rush away into war with its uncertain future? I am still convinced that they died for a principle. I refuse to believe that it was all in vain - that a sacrifice is ever in vain. There may have been greed, graft and corruption mixed up with all of it, but there was nobility, too! Autocracy had to be overthrown, lest our own wives and daughters might have to suffer what the innocent women and children of Belgium and France suffered. The war had its sordid side, of course; but surely all this bloodshed was not meaningless! A thousand times; yea, ten thousand times - no! I still believe that these men suffered to advance the cause of democracy and freedom. As for me I glory in the crimson line. I am thrilled when I read its suggestive meaning in the cup of the Lord’s Supper. I am moved with an unexplainable ecstasy when I see the ancient altars dripping with the blood of the slain lambs. Now I understand why the destroying angel who passed over Egypt at the hour of midnight, passed over those houses where the blood was sprinkled on the door-post. Now, I know to whom Isaiah refers, when he writes of One “in red apparel coming in dyed garments”; whom John the Revelator refers to, when he describes that heavenly chieftain whose vesture was dipped in blood; what Simon Peter means when he writes of that precious blood which cleanseth from all sin; and what the writer of our text has in mind when he declares that “apart from shedding of blood there is no remission.” I want to say to you, with all the power of emphasis and persuasion of which I am capable, that by the precious blood of Jesus you will be saved, or you will never be saved at all. In all ages God has never pardoned a single sin-sick soul except on the merits of our Savior’s precious blood, and He never will. That lonely hill back of Jerusalem was the battleground of which the Prince of heaven fought with the powers of darkness, and won. There God turned an evil thing into a channel of blessing. There, Sin, in slaying the Son of God, slew itself.

Beloved, if mere men are willing to suffer for the betterment of mankind, how grateful that our Lord was willing to suffer and die for us. How wonderful, indeed, is the ministry of reconciliation that has been placed in our hands!

The Silencing of the Voice of Opposition

by Tom Wacaster


For slightly more than one year the Handley church of Christ has placed an article in the Meadowbrook News advertizing our services, location, and focusing on a wide variety of subject matter. Attempting to develop a lengthy discussion on any particular subject is futile in what limited space we were allotted. So, I would occasionally write two or more articles on one particular topic and run these in a series. The Meadowbrook News is not the only paper in which I have used the opportunity to place a weekly or bi-weekly article. Almost every place I have done local work we have used the power of the printed page to encourage the community to think and reason with us. Such articles, though short in nature, provide an opportunity to keep the church out before the public while teaching the truth on a wide variety of topics that are important to society in general, and to individuals in particular.

I have learned over the years that some topics seem to receive a “ho-hum” response. If I write on the church, the plan of salvation, or other topics that focus on the distinctive nature of the church and her doctrine, the response is often one of apathy and/or indifference. With but few exceptions, folks simply no longer care what the Bible teaches. Let me run an article titled, “What Does The Bible Really Teach on Baptism,” and the majority of those who may take the time to flip through the Meadowbrook News will simply pass the article by. The thinking in the mind of some is summed up in two words: “So what?” There have been exceptions, as was the case about ten years ago when a series of articles in the Mt. Pleasant Tribune led to a four night debate with a denominational preacher on the subject of baptism. The wide-spread apathy on such matters is the result of post modern thinking. Truth, to some, no longer matters, and rather than attempt to provide an answer to those who challenge error, the thinking is, “Let’s just ignore it and it will go away!”

Articles that are more personal in nature may receive some interest on the part of those who peruse the paper. That is because the article makes them feel good. Unfortunately, when we happen to write on the spiritual blessing of grace, hope, salvation, etc., few seem to realize that those spiritual blessings are located only in Christ, and they simply fail to put two and two together and properly conclude that they must obey Christ in order to receive those great blessings.
And then there are those topics that run completely contrary to the moral standard of those who are caught up in sin. Let a preacher write an article, or preach on television or radio on such subjects as abortion, homosexuality, the exclusive nature of salvation, et al, and he will find himself castigated, criticized, and if possible, run out of town on the proverbial rail! Some years ago I ran a series of articles on abortion in a small paper in Ada, Oklahoma. I pointed out in those articles that abortion was not a political, or even a Constitutional issue, but a moral issue. The decision of the Supreme Court to legalize abortion was not only contrary to the spirit of the Constitution of the United States, but a direct violation of the teachings of God’s word. In short, I logically and reasonably laid out the argument that abortion is sin at best, and murder and shedding of innocent blood at worst. I even had the “audacity” (as one angry reader said) to speak against the decision of the highest court in this land. The response to that series of articles was, for the most part, negative. I was called a “male chauvinist,” a “woman hater,” a bigot, and anti “pro-choice.” I have always considered it strange that those who preach toleration for varying opinions and diversity of thought are the one’s who are the first to be so intolerant. I suppose that will always be the case. But we press on in our undaunted efforts to present the truth on all matters, whether our preaching be in season or out of season.

This brings me to the point in this article. Most of you are aware that I had written and submitted four articles to the Meadowbrook News on the subject of homosexuality. After the first article ran, I received an email stating strong opposition to the article. I was called “hateful,” “unreasonable,” and opposed to people being able to pursue “happiness” as set forth in the Constitution. For some reason I do not think the framers of the Constitution had in mind the practice of homosexuality or some other form of deviant behavior as being the “pursuit of happiness.” Shortly before running the second article I receive a second email from a different source. The respondent said that I should take another look at the Bible on the subject and if I studied with an open mind and a loving heart that I would come to realize, as that respondent had, that homosexuality was not only approved, but encouraged in God’s word. My, my, what twisted reasoning. After the second article was run two weeks later, the emails and complaints become more frequent, and accusations of “hate,” “trouble maker,” and “homophobic” mentality were cast upon me. The third article was run two weeks later, and the president of the Business Association of Meadowbrook sent me a letter telling me that I was engendering hatred in the community, and that this would not be tolerated by the Meadowbrook community. Wow! Such kind and tolerant words for someone who is supposed to be unkind and intolerant! The bombshell came in a registered letter dated January 30th, 2012, from the President of the Greater Meadowbrook News informing us that “The Greater Meadowbrook News has always prided itself on being a family oriented, Eastside paper, promoting what is good about the people and this community...Therefore, as of this date...we are terminating your contract with Greater Meadowbrook News.” Our voice has been silenced because of the pressure that was evidently brought upon the Meadowbrook News by those who hate having their sin exposed. Like so many in today’s politically correct society, Mr. Conlin (President of the Meadowbrook News) has no idea of how “family oriented” the truth is when it comes the practice of homosexuality. By silencing the truth, the family is hurt, and society takes one step closer to complete destruction, as was the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. The tragedy is that the voice of truth on the matter of homosexuality and the sinfulness thereof has, for all practical purposes, been silenced. Radio stations, television stations, and newspapers will not tolerate an open and honest examination of such immoral practices. Ten years ago, Babara Walters made this amazing, but enlightening statement: “We have done a great many programs about gays and lesbians. We hope that we've opened some minds -- and if they're not open, we just don't care anymore” (ABC News talking-head Barbara Walters, accepting a GLAAD [Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation] Media Award for a "20/20" feature touting gays as parents). Most denominational preachers (and even some so-called preachers for the Lord’s church) will no longer preach on the subject of homosexuality or abortion because it produces too much controversy. So, it is left up to you and me to proclaim the truth of the matter—to our friends, our neighbors, our children and anyone who will listen. There is too much at stake to remain silent on the matter. The voice my have been silenced by the enemies of truth, but that does not change the truth—and all of those who helped to bring about such silencing of the truth will give account to God on the Judgment day.

A City of Light In A World of Darkness

by Tom Wacaster

You might say that this is a "tale of two cities."   The first city that I want to tell you about is Las Vegas, Nevada.   Any attempt to adequately describe the brightness of this "gambling capital of the world" would be feeble at best.   Daytime in the midst of night time is an understatement.  Standing outside the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas at 11:00 P.M. could be likened to standing outside in the early morning hours at Anytown USA.   While it may not be as bright as the sky at high noon, it is bright enough to dispel the darkness and leave the distinct impression that it is anything BUT nigh unto midnight.   Two years ago the citizens of Las Vegas erected a canopy over a four block stretch of one downtown street.  Inside this canopy are more than 2,000,000 lights, and every hour on the hour from dark to dusk the city provides a computerized, motion picture type light show. The glitter and glamour of this Nevada town is without equal.  Here is a city bathed in lights, but one that sits in darkness.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and informed them, and us, that "they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that are drunken are drunken in the night" (1 Thess. 5:7).  If there was ever a word which might describe the spiritual status of that city, it is the word darkness.  This is a kind of darkness that does not come with the setting of the sun, but sin within the soul.  It is spiritual and intellectual darkness.   This darkness cannot be dispelled with electric lights, florescent bulbs, or light extravaganzas blinking on and off.  This is the darkness of a Christ-less life. It is the darkness of ignorance and immorality.  It is the darkness of enmity toward and separation from God.  It is the darkness of wickedness, wherein is partying, drunkenness, adultery and wild abandonment.   But most interestingly, it is a darkness that is chosen above light by the masses of humanity.   People who are enslaved to this darkness actually love that darkness, and avoid the light.    Here is how our Lord described it:  "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, lest his works should be reproved. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God" (John 3:19-21).  Our Lord came to deliver us from darkness (Col. 1:13).

Now let me tell you about another city.  This is a "city set on a hill" (Matthew 5:14). It is the "heavenly city," that one day will be called home to heaven, away from this world of darkness and sin.  It is a city whose light must shine so as to provide light for a world that sits in darkness.  I am speaking of the church of our Lord.   We have been called "out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).  We are to have no fellowship with the "unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph. 5:11-12).   Even as we drove down the "strip" so bathed in lights, and watched the crowds who were enamored with the glitter of the hour, my heart ached because of the countless thousands who wandered the streets with their eyes blinded by the brightness of the Las Vegas lights. 

All men live in one of two cities.  They either live in the "Las Vegas" of this world, or the city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God.  I do not know who wrote the following, but I shall close with its clear and concise message:  

 "If there were no other light in the world, I would let my light shine.... If there were darkness everywhere, it would take only one, small candle - perhaps mine - to begin pushing back the darkness.... If there were no one to join with me in pushing back the darkness, I have a God-given obligation to do what I do to the best of my ability for as long as I can.... If there were no one to walk in the light, but only the rumblings of those who curse the darkness from the shadows, my light will not be discouraged.... If this were all there is to life... to knowledge... to relationships with our fellow man, then even the lighting of one candle with conviction is significant."


Working With Jell-O

Working With Jell-O
By Tom Wacaster

Senator John Boehner used this analogy some months back when referring to attempts to “negotiate” with the President and his staff in matters concerning the economy, taxes, and balancing the budget.   More precisely the Speaker of the House pointed out, “Dealing with them the last couple months has been like dealing with Jell-o,” Boehner said. “Some days it’s firmer than others. Sometimes it’s like they’ve left it out over night.”   I have been preaching for almost four decades now, and I can attest to the frustration that comes with trying to reason with folks in a logical, analytical manner.   Some folks simply cannot be taught; not because they are incapable of receiving the facts, but because they have become so close-minded that the truth cannot penetrate their thick skull.  Pride and selfishness play an important role in hardening the heart and closing the mind to truth.   It is even possible for a person to so harden his heart that he no longer loves the truth (2 Thess. 2:10).  When a man reaches that point in his life, “God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:11-12). Frankly, that frightens me!  

 I used to say that reasoning with some folks is like trying to wrestle with an octopus – about the time you get hold of one arm in an attempt to tie the creature down, another one grabs you from an altogether different direction.   Liberalism has a way of avoiding truth while making you think it is addressing the issue.  Politicians are good at this.   If you have some time to waste, tune in to CNN or C-SPAN and listen to the news conferences with any of our leading politicians on any issue whatsoever.    Try to pin a politician down on any issue and you will quickly learn that it really is like trying to work with Jell-O.    You might take a moment to tune in to one of many talk show programs.  It is astounding how a liberal can call in, be asked a simple “yes” or “no” question by the host, and in an attempt to answer the question actually avoid the question all together!   Every attempt to press the point of the discussion is like – well, like working with Jell-O!

Liberals in politics have their counterpart in the sphere of religion.  Trying to reason with purveyors of false doctrine is like working with Jell-O; you can’t pin them down on any single issue, and simple “yes” or “no” questions are avoided like the plague!  I have had opportunity to conduct two public debates in more than forty years of preaching.  One thing I have learned from those debates is the inability (or unwillingness) of my opponent to stay with the subject.   It is like working with Jell-O, and most of the time it is Jell-O it its liquefied state!   Reason flies out the window, emotion takes hold of the disputant, and you end up chasing rabbits more than addressing the subject at hand.  It can be frustrating! 

This week I had the opportunity to discuss a religious matter with someone I met while eating breakfast at Whataburger.  I have learned from practical experience that “arguing” with someone over a religious topic accomplishes little.   So, when I come across a prospective student, I attempt to get an appointment to come into their home and have an open Bible study.  This will provide opportunity for the student to see what the Bible teaches, rather than listen to what I might think on the matter.    On this particular occasion I asked the question, “Why do you suppose there are so many strange churches popping up everywhere?”   Rather than address my question, he took the same kind of approach a politician might take on a sticky issue, and commenced to discuss how his fiancĂ© has some really “weird” ideas about religion.  When I asked him what might motivate a person to pursue such radical and far-fetched ideas, he asked if I believed in prophets today.  Attempting to keep him on the subject and move toward an in-home Bible study, I asked if he would like to see what the Bible had to say on the matter.  He changed the subject again – this time he wanted to discuss the unreasonableness of some women when it comes to having a normal conversation on husband and wife responsibilities.  I felt like I was trying to work with Jell-O.    It was difficult (if not impossible) to pin him down on any single point, and our conversation ended with an invitation to visit our worship assembly or public Bible study opportunities.   As expected, there was no definite commitment, but the typical response, “I might just do that someday!”    “Someday” – but then that’s a topic for another discussion. 

Some weeks back I watched a portion of Walt Disney’s “Alice In Wonderland.”  It reminded me, in an amusing way, of how illogical some folks can be.   Some years ago Jefferson Airplane produced a song titled, “White Rabbit” – a definite reference to Alice in Wonderland and the complete lack of logic demonstrated in the story.  The last stanza of the song is thought provoking:

“When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's "off with her head!"
Remember what the dormouse said;
‘Keep YOUR HEAD’”

Next time you are in a discussion with someone who cannot seem to stay on the subject, “keep your head,” and remember – trying to reason with some people is like working with Jell-O!