Another Thanksgiving Day


by Tom Wacaster

It has been recorded in the pages of history, and the annals of Congress, that this nation of ours should set aside and recognize one day a year as “Thanksgiving Day.” I cannot remember a single year that has ever  passed wherein I was denied the opportunity to observe this national holiday, and most of the time those  days of celebration were spent with family.  This Thursday will be my 67th such occasion, even though the  first dozen years are not as vivid in my memory as the past dozen.  “Thanksgiving Day”!  What do those words mean to you?  What thoughts and memories do they conjure up in your mind?  To some, this day is one of back-to-back football games, early morning Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on television, and the smell of turkey cooking in the oven, and left overs at days end.  To others it is nothing more than an extended weekend, an extra day at the office, or an opportunity to spend some time in a lease waiting for  that deer to drop by your way so you can “bag” a six pointer, or tell about the one that got away. The talk show hosts are abuzz with the news that some retail giants are planning on remaining open on Thanksgiving Day in order to beat the rush on Black Friday. I suppose that is their business (literally), but personally I find it somewhat sad that this one occasion in the year when our nation should, as a nation, stop and give thanks to the Father who has blessed us so richly, is quickly becoming just another shopping day for bargains. Maybe the trend to open the doors for business is a reflection on where we as a nation are putting our priorities.  It may be that Thanksgiving Day will find you at Walmart, Macy, or the Northeast Mall fighting the crowds for a bargain or two. Who am I to deprive you of either “beating the crowd” or “joining the crowd”?  So, wherever you happen to find yourself this year when our national Thanksgiving Day arrives, why not stop and think for a moment or two about the very words used to describe this fourth Thursday of November.  

Thanksgiving!  Permit me to divide the single word into two words: “thanks” and “giving.”  And what shall we say about “thanks”?  “Thanks” is the expression of gratitude to another; a recognition that blessings received derive from some greater source than ourselves.  The very existence of this special day on our calendar implies that we, the citizens of the United States, were once cognizant of a higher source of blessing than our own initiative or ingenuity. The original Thanksgiving Day proclamation saw fit to express gratitude “with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peacefully to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”  But it seems that today the God of heaven has been replaced with the god of humanism, and thanks once offered to the Almighty has been replaced with self exaltation for our great American know-how and efficiency.   

Consider next the word “giving.”  Thanks held to oneself is not gratitude; it is ingratitude.  Though I may be grateful to another for some good deed done for me, unless expressed, the giver knows not if you are grateful.  I wonder how many tables will be spread, admired, eaten and digested this Thanksgiving Day without one word of thanks being given to the God of heaven Who blessed us with such abundance?  On the other hand, maybe I really don't want to know.  

Finally, there is “day.”  It is singular, not plural.  Though one day has been set aside in that original Thanksgiving Day Proclamation “to be devoted by the people of these states to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be,” we do not think it was the intention of President Washington, nor the Congress that approved the holiday, to limit our thanksgiving to one day in the year.  Beloved, God has not set aside only one day to bless His creatures, nor should we set aside only one day out of the year to offer thanks unto Him from whom all blessings flow.  The dawn of every morning should find us in reverent prayer, expressing our gratitude for the opportunity to witness yet another sunrise, to get out of bed and enjoy the day's activities, for our health and freedoms we enjoy, and the fact that He in Whom we live, and move, and have our very being, has granted unto us THIS DAY, one in 365, to experience the beauties of life about us.  

Thanks-Giving-Day!  May we be grateful for all it entails, and give rise to a deeper appreciation for what we have, not only today, but every day of the year. 

Regarding Time



by Tom Wacaster

You and I are limited by time.  We are moving from the “now” to “what shall be.”  Our “tomorrow” quickly becomes “today” and “today” is soon in the “past.”  So quickly do the days, weeks and years pass that we respect the words of Moses with increasing appreciation: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten, Or even by reason of strength fourscore years; Yet is their pride but labor and sorrow; For it is soon gone, and we fly away... So teach us to number our days, That we may get us a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:10).  Time is a precious commodity that each of us has in equal proportion.  Someone has said, “If you kill time it will send back ghosts to haunt you.”  John Mason is credited with writing this pithy saying:  “As every thread of gold is valuable, so is every moment of time.”  Goethe (the German philosopher) once said, “It is better to busy one’s self about the smallest thing in the world than to treat a half hour as worthless.” 

We are all given 24 hours in the day, and 365 days in a year.  We are admonished in Scripture to redeem the time wisely (Eph. 5:16). This simply means I am to buy up the opportunities that come my way, and select with great wisdom and prudence how, and upon what, I will spend those precious hours in each day.  There is an accumulative effect of the use of time. For example, in an average 70 year life span, the average person will sleep more than 23 years of his life away (assuming 8 hours of sleep per night).  Over that same 70 year life span you will spend roughly 14 years working, 6 years eating, and 5 years traveling (fortunately, not all at once).  By the same token, time wasted has an accumulative effect, and over the long haul will rob us of a great deal of what could otherwise be significant accomplishments. Think, for example, about the time we spend watching television. The average American (according to those infamous “polls”) watches TV 6 hours per day. Now that really seems a little high, so let's reduce that by 30%, and use a bench mark of 4 hours per day. That amounts to 28 hours per week, 1460 hours per year, for an accumulative total of more than 72,000 hours in 50 years. Whew! It staggers the imagination.  That is more than 8 years of television!  Now, in comparison, let us consider the “average” time spent in spiritual matters!  If we were to begin the day of our birth spending five minutes each morning and evening in prayer and meditation (which is more than most people spend), and three hours per week in church, at age 70 we would have invested a total of just over 20 months!   Someone has said, “There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week's value out of a year while another man gets a full year's value out of each week.”  What can be said of the year is just as true with regard to the week, and even our day by day activities.  “We must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work” (John 9:4).

Closely associated with how we use our time is the attitude we have toward time itself, and especially as it relates to anxiety and worry.  The Lord warned us, “Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34).  I don’t suppose any of us has managed to escape the temptation of worrying about tomorrow and fretting over yesterday’s mistakes, but with maturity that lofty goal become more of a reality in our life.  It has been more than 40 years since I first came across this little article that so eloquently addresses the need to take only one day at a time.  Unfortunately the author was not given in the article, but that does not lessen the value of the article itself:



Two Days Not To Worry

There are two days in every week about which you should not worry; two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension. 

One of these days is yesterday with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains.  Yesterday has passed forever.  All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday.  Beyond asking forgiveness of God and of your fellow man, you cannot erase a single word you said.  Yesterday is gone.

The other day you should not worry about is tomorrow with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and perhaps poor performance. Tomorrow is also beyond your immediate control. Tomorrow’s sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds, but it will rise.  Until it does, you have no stake in tomorrow, for it is yet unborn. 

This leaves only one day; today.  Any man can fight the battles of just one day.  It is only when you and I add the burden of those awful enormities, yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down.  It’s not the experience of today that drives men mad; it is remorse, or bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread of what tomorrow will bring.

Let us, therefore, live one day at a time.  As you live each day, remember that the best thing to give your enemy is forgiveness; to an employer, is service; to an opponent, tolerance; give your heart to a friend; set a good example for your children; revere your father and mother and so conduct yourself that they will always be proud of you; give to yourself the priceless heritage of self-respect and finally give charity and understanding to all men.

Those are great words of wisdom, and no doubt they are very Biblical in principle. To the words of the author I would add the following regarding the proper use of that which is called “today.”  Today has one thing in which I am equal with all men, and that is all of us have the same number of hours, minutes, and seconds to use.  How we use it will determine whether or not I truly redeemed the time.  Today each one of us should act towards others as though this will be our last day.  None of us have the promise of tomorrow, so why waste the only day of which we are given any guaranty?  Today I will not dwell on what I would or could do if things were different.  The simple fact is, they are not different.  As Doug Martin, my work associate, often says, “It is what it is.”  Today I will stop saying, “If I had the time,” and I will do all within my power to make the time.  I will begin by doing, do all within my power not to waste time, and not fret over what I did not accomplish.  

In closing, I remind each of us, that the Hebrews writer tells us, “Today, if ye shall hear his voice, Harden not your hearts” (Heb. 4:7).  Let us be busy “exhorting one another day by day, so long as it is called Today; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). 

Unloading Cargo



by Tom Wacaster

Reading the title to this week’s column, you might think that what follows has something to do with hard labor, unions, shipping, or even personal burdens that someone might be carrying around on their shoulders.  While I would be tempted to write on those things listed (and may even do so in the future, with the exception perhaps of commenting on labor unions), I will refrain from doing so at the moment.   I need to lay some background and tell you about an incident that occurred a few weeks ago.  Prior to our recent gospel meeting here at Handley I was placed in charge of preparing a newspaper ad to be run in the Fort Worth Star Telegram.  Due to my being out of town for the mission trip to India, I was running late and the deadline was staring me in the face when I got home. So I was sort of rushed to get things completed, and get the check to the Star Telegram office in order to meet the deadline. I finished the final details the day prior to the deadline, and needed to get the check to the newspaper office.  Mailing the check by snail mail was not an option; a mail courier would be a waste of money.  So I chose to deliver the check myself.   The business office of the Star Telegram is on Throckmorton St, in the heart of downtown Fort Worth; easy in; easy out.  Getting into and out of downtown Forth Worth is much easier than a city like Houston.  I’ve been there, done that, and any future trip into what is commonly called “Oil City” is not on my calendar.   The Star Telegram office closed at 5:00 pm, and when I arrived it was 4:30. Plenty of time, especially since there was a parking space right out front that was empty.  The sign at the curb read, “Unloading Cargo: Reserved for Delivery to Star Telegram; 30 minute limit.”   OK!  30 minutes to drop off a check.  I can be in and out and on my way!   The lady at the reception desk called the ad manager, located the paper work, received my check, and gave me a receipt—five minutes max!   I walked out the front door pleased that things had gone so smoothly.  Wrong!  Standing by my car was one of those policemen dressed in leotards,  who rides the streets of downtown Fort Worth on a bicycle, pen and pad in hand, writing a citation.  Since I got to the car before he left, he handed the ticket to me and proceeded to explain why he was writing the citation.  He was kind enough to inform me that I needed a permit to park there, but that I could contest the ticket if I would appear before the civil judge within 10 days at the municipal court building  a couple of blocks up the street. 

Early the next morning I headed for downtown Fort Worth; easy in, easy out!  Locating a parking space by the curb was not a problem; how to pay the meter was not as easy. Fortunately, with a little assistance I managed to purchase enough time for a visit to the municipal court, see the judge and head home.   I must admit the judge was very courteous, as she listened to my complaint that there was nothing on the sign that said “permit required.”  The judge explained to me that the area was for unloading cargo and that permits were required and that ignorance of the law was no excuse.  But since I had no prior tickets on record, and since this was evidently my first time I had a run in with the law (that makes it sound like I am some kind of common criminal; I’m thankful they did not fingerprint me, take a mug shot an put me in a line up), and that the preponderance of evidence on my part was convincing, she rendered a verdict of “not liable.”  I walked out of the municipal court building a happy man.  My $30 ticket had been overturned, and my faith in the judicial process was restored.  

Had I used a little wisdom I might could have avoided a citation in the first place.  On occasions I have made the statement that we often recognize what I call the “authority principle” in every day life.  On this occasion I was blinded by my preconceived ideas, and in my rush to drop off the check at the Star Telegram and go along my merry way I simply forgot to follow my own advice.  Now for a few observations. 

First, I assumed that the past guaranteed the present.   My first experience in dealing with the Star Telegram business office was last year.  When I dropped off the check then, I parked in the same place, conducted the same business, and  did not get a citation.  It was not because I was not breaking the law, because I was. I just did not get caught! The fact that I did not get a citation then, mistakenly reassured me that I was not in violation this time.   You might say that I was acting on tradition; misguided tradition, and even short lived tradition, but tradition just the same.  How many people, spiritually speaking, act on tradition?  Long established tradition, or even short lived tradition (as in the case of my experience) is not authoritative.  Jesus told us that the Pharisees made “void the word of God” because of their tradition (Matt. 15:6; Mark 7:13).  All that can be said about tradition is that someone did that before.  Tradition is not a safe guide for what you do in matters of religion.

Second, ignorance of the law does not make you innocent.  I was unaware that I had to have a permit sticker to park where I did; but my ignorance did not excuse my actions.  Paul warned us that our Lord will come again “in flaming fire rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7-8).  Pay close attention to the words, “them that know not God.”  Men will be lost because of sin. Unawareness of the remedy for sin does not change a person’s sinful state anymore than an unawareness of a life preserver saves one from drowning. 

Third, there is a proper standard by which all men will be judged.  Paul told us there is a day when “God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ” (Rom. 2:16).  Jesus declared, “the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).   As I stood before the municipal judge of Fort Worth she told me that the city ordinance regarding parking permits, citations, and the law was precise, clear, and distinct.  She even quoted book, chapter, and verse to me!  The judge did not say, “I think,” “I believe,” “my fellow judge said,” or “I’ll excuse you because you were sincere and honest.”  Legally speaking, I was liable!

Fourth, I was reminded that mercy can, and often does, overshadow law.  Notice I did not say mercy ignores law; there is a difference!  The judge obviously had mercy on me; exactly why I may never know.  I am grateful that God is willing to extent mercy to this poor, guilty soul.  Without His mercy I would have no hope.   I am glad that God “delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18, KJV).  But I am reminded that mercy will only be extended to those who are in Christ, who have access to the blood of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3).  

Finally, I experienced the joy that comes with knowing I have been pardoned.   OK, pardon may be too strong a word for being found “not liable.”  But there was a certain sense of relief when the judge said that the preponderance of evidence would excuse me from the penalty.  After the proceeding, she handed me a slip of paper that had this note under the section titled, “Penalty Assessed”:   “Not liable; $0 penalty.”   Beloved, is that not what our Judge will write on our eternal citation for sin?  “Zero Penalty.”  Not because I was sinless, but because mercy was extended!  I confess that when the municipal judge stamped “$0 penalty” on my release paper I felt great joy.   I will feel greater joy, immensely greater joy, when the Judge of all the earth stamps “forgiven” in the book of life and I am permitted access into that heavenly home that awaits all the redeemed.   Won’t that be a grand day?

There Is A Generation

by Tom Wacaster

I suppose that every generation tends to despise the younger. Maybe that's why Paul wrote Timothy these words of encouragement:  "Let no man despise thy youth…" (1 Tim. 4:12).  Perhaps the same advice could be given to those whose hair is graying and health is fading, "Let no man despise thy age." 

Age tends to develop wisdom, something that is often lacking in youth simply because of lack of experience.  Of course there are always exceptions.  H.L. Mencken concluded, "The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom."  The down side of growing older is the temptation to become cynical and hyper critical of the leadership and capability of the next generation.  

Having now surpassed by 67th birthday and rapidly approaching the beginning of my 8th decade upon this planet, I am determined not to become overly critical, not because of the foolishness of a generation gone awry, but because I know God is in control. 

Someone warned, "In case you're worried about what's going to become of the younger generation, it's going to grow up and start worrying about the younger generation."  The "baby boomers" are passing the torch to generation "Y" (or is it "X"?) in preparation for their social security checks, retirement, and increasing medical bills and ill health. Like the generations now passed into the dust bins of history, these "baby boomers" are anxious about where the next generation will take them.   Having aborted more than 45 million babies since 1973, the work force has reached a crisis of precisely how they are going to provide for the aging population.  But they need not worry, for the medical and scientific minds that were allowed to come to full term and somehow avoid the knife of the abortionist are now seriously considering euthanasia as a viable means of getting rid of so many unwanted senior citizens (quite ironic isn't it - or perhaps more like poetic justice). 

Since every generation needs wisdom, it seems appropriate to seek that wisdom from a source that is reliable - I speak, of course, of the Bible.  Most of our readers know that there is a book in the Old Testament called "Proverbs."  I have been meditating on some of those pithy sayings this past week, and there was one that struck me as particularly interesting, and motivated me to pen this week's article.  Listen to the words of Agur from Proverbs 30:11-14

"There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.  There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men."

"There is a generation" was Agur's assessment of either his present generation or that which was soon to follow.  Keep in mind that the Proverbs were written during a time of great affluence in Israel.  The temptation of wealth turned the heart of Israel away from God, and plunged that nation into moral corruption, the likes of which are described in these four verses.  

There is an amazing similarity between the rich and abundant years of Israel's history, and our generation - whether we are speaking of generation "X," "Y," or the baby boomers.   Youth have learned the language of Ashdod.  Honor for mother and father have fallen upon hard times and in many instances a child is no longer afraid of parents because he knows that society will protect him from discipline.   I have pity for a child, any child, who does not honor his or her parents.

This is a generation "pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness."  We have justified homosexuality, adultery, drunkenness, lying, embezzlement, cheating, gambling, and every other ungodly act known to men while claiming to be a "Nation under God."  Why is it that we become so upset when someone suggests that we should take the words, "In God We Trust" off our currency, but seem so unconcerned about the hundreds of thousands of babies being slaughtered each year? 

This is a generation that is "lofty…and their eyelids are lifted up.  "When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom" (Prov 11:2).  "In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them" (Pro 14:3).  "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov 16:18).  Pride will sully the noblest of men, and bring low the mighty.    It will render leaders ineffective, and destroy the good influence of all who are caught in its grip.   Our generation has produced great strides in science, medicine, technology and education.  But our successes and blessings have made us proud so much so that we have lifted up our eyes and declared God dead and religion a non-essential. 

This is a generation whose teeth are as swords and their jaw teeth as knives.  The violence in the theater has poured out into the streets, and our hatred for fellow man has found vent in the internet and "blog" pages of personal expression.  A recent article in the Dallas News pointed out that web sites fostering racial hatred, fascism, neo-Nazi, and anti-Semitic mentality have increased dramatically in the last ten years.  

Finally, there is a generation that devours the poor from the earth and the needy from among men.  Con artists and shysters prey on the needy and elderly.   From the dishonest salesman to the lying televangelist, this generation has its fare share of those whose only aim in life is to make a buck or get ahead, and the needy suffer as a result.

Perhaps this generation will run its course and the pendulum will swing the other way.  I like to hope this will happen. But with every passing year, I see little hope for a generation that cares only for itself, with little interest in things eternal.   Maybe, just maybe, when this generation is lying in the muck and mire of sin and ungodliness they will look to the God Who created them and long for something better and declare in hope of something better, "There is a generation…"