Polecat In The Parlor

by Tom Wacaster

The late evangelist Billy Sunday is reported to have said, “Put a polecat in the parlor: which changes first? Parlor or polecat?” Please permit me to define a couple of words before I seek to make application of “Billy’s bold assertion.” A “polecat” is a sophisticated way of referring to a skunk. It is unlikely that folks in Texas and Oklahoma have heard such elevated terminology to refer to that little fury scavenger that few have ever seen up close except in their efforts to dodge the remains of what some poor unfortunate driver left in his tracks for you to thus endure. A “parlor” could refer to any meeting place where the air has a sweet aroma, produced by artificial air fresheners, perfumed women, and men with a heavy dose of “Old Spice” or “Brute” cologne. Now, try to imagine, if you will, just such a “parlor” that has been invaded by one of our West Texas skunks - it does not take a lot of imagination to envision the outcome, not to mention the hasty retreat of those in the parlor upon the arrival of the polecat, i.e. “skunk.”

One need not be a Solomon to realize that there have been some mighty drastic changes in the past thirty years with regard to the thinking and behavior of the Western world. There is little doubt that radical changes in sociology, politics, morality, and even religion, have opened the door for polecats to invade the parlor.  Consider the following.

First, in the realm of judicial expediency, swift and prudent punishment of the evil doer has been replaced with a greater respect for the criminal than the victim. Crooked lawyers, liberal judges, and a silent population have combined to produce a polecat in the parlor that is simply unbearable to those who have in years gone by enjoyed the sweet fragrance of judicial and social uprightness. The polecats of the liberal left have hijacked our constitution, harassed the law-abiding citizens, and hood-winked the people. All that remains is a stench of a political system that, in many cases, is as strong and repulsive as the road kill on our Texas highways. A case in point is the decision some years ago at the Department of Justice to expunge all references to Islam, jihadist, or “radical Islam” from the transcripts used to describe various known terrorist activities within our boarders. The common man wonders what has happened to the sweet aroma of judicial prudence that serves as a solid foundation of the nation for whom those judges serve.

Second, when it comes to ethics and morality, some things once labeled as “sin” have become socially and religiously acceptable. Political correctness seems to have expunged the three letter word from our vocabulary. It used to be that adultery and fornication were abhorred, homosexuality was an absolute “no-no,” gambling a vice, and drunkenness a shame to society; and they were all labeled S-I-N!  But the “polecats” have gotten into the parlor, and you can guess which has suffered. Men now glory in their ungodly behavior. “Gay pride” and “good times” have robbed our society of that pure and fresh aroma of moral decency that once filled our spiritual nostrils with a sense of moral integrity and righteousness. Indeed the moral consensus of our land is not what it used to be. In light of this it is refreshing to come across a news item that gives some glimmer of hope to a nation that has allowed the “polecats” to run rampant. I came across a little item on Fox news website this week that reported a sharp increase in the last ten years of teens who chose sexual abstinence over promiscuity. May their number increase!

Third, the “polecats” have made a stench of the sacred institution of marriage. Some no longer view marriage as a viable institution. Others chose to enter marriage, but not as a life-long commitment. Still others have perverted the Biblical arrangement, calling for a variety of family styles, including but not limited to same-sex marriage, multiple partners, and in one case, marriage of a man to his horse! The list goes on, but a “polecat” by any other name is still a polecat.

Finally, the “polecats” have infiltrated the realm of the sacred and holy. Modern day “televangelists” as well as the hypocritical religious elite have wreaked havoc upon the word of God. John has told us to “try the spirits, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). I wonder if Billy Sunday had this inspired passage in mind when he asked the question about the “polecats in the parlor”? It is incredible the naivety of the human race. It seems the more ridiculous a religion, the more the unbelieving and ignorant are anxious to embrace its tenants.  The Bible speaks of such as those who have closed their spiritual eyes and ears to the truth. But can I be so bold as to suggest that such masses of deluded souls suffer from some kind of spiritual sinus infection in which they simply cannot (or will not) smell the stench of error that is repulsive to our God and truth loving men and women! Tragically, religious perversion has done more to discredit Christianity in the eyes of an unbelieving world, than perhaps any other single effort on the part of Satan. During my first visit to Russia in September of 1993 I was asked on more than one occasion what I thought about a certain “prophet” who had predicted the world would end in November of that year. Curiously, I had also been asked a similar question on our trip in 1994 on a prophecy of the second coming in November of THAT year. Well, we are all aware of the fact that Jesus did not come in 1993 OR 1994. Nor did the world come to an end in April of this  year as still another prognosticator made a wild guess as to when the world would come to an end. The late Bobby Duncan made some very significant remarks about the effect of such foolishness upon those who have never taken the time to investigate the Christian faith. He wrote, “Is it any wonder that so many intelligent people reject anything that claims to be based on the Bible? When people claiming belief in God and allegiance to the Bible take such ridiculous positions, it causes people who are unfamiliar with the Bible to think the Bible is a ridiculous book.” Those of us who are members of that glorious institution called the church enjoy the fragrance of Christianity as it should be. Too bad some of the “polecats” have infiltrated some of our congregations and made a mess of all that is holy.

Before I leave this “stinkn” article with you, maybe a word needs to be said about the gradual desensitization that is taking place in our country, yea the world. A skunk evidently has become so accustomed to his odor that it does not seem to bother him in the least. I have been told that someone who lives with the animals soon grows accustomed to the smell. What really scares me is the fact that too many politicians, social workers, and so-called religious leaders have grown accustomed to the stench that has been left by the polecats in the parlor!

"Bid Me Come Unto Thee"

By Tom Wacaster

Over the course of a few short years the twelve men whom Jesus had chosen began to grow and mature into the material that God could, and would use to proclaim the gospel to a lost humanity. The more time they spent with Jesus, the stronger grew their faith. Their courage often amazes us; their weaknesses puzzle us. Consider the background of the request Peter made as expressed in the five words of the title of this article. The twelve had witnessed one of the most astonishing miracles of our Lord. From a few fish and handful of loaves, the Lord fed thousands; 5,000 men to be exact, not counting the women and children. Any estimation of the total number of people fed would be mere speculation. 10,000? 15,000? The number staggers the imagination. The reaction of the multitude was not unexpected. Living under the thumb of the tyrannical rule of the Roman rulers, Israel longed for freedom. Perhaps the time had come for a King to arise in Israel, cast off the restraints of that oppressive government, and restore the Davidic kingdom of old. Could this be the man of the hour? The miracle of the loaves and fishes triggered that inner desire for an earthly king and they acted on their impulses. So strong were their intentions that Jesus had to compel His disciples to immediately leave and head for the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The short journey across the sea would normally take only a few hours at most. But on this occasion an unexpected storm would arise, slow their progress, and threaten their very lives.

Out of the darkness of the night, and in the midst of the blinding storm, there appears an image, walking toward them. They were in the midst of the sea, and there comes an image walking on the water. What unfolds tickles our imagination, increases our faith, and encourages us in our times of despair when the storms of life crash in upon us. When Peter realizes that the figure walking on the water is the Lord, he crises out, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water” (Matt. 14:28). “Bid me to come unto thee!” Five simple words; yet words that express the sentiments of the heart of a man who found himself in the midst of a threatening storm. This is not an invitation from God to man, but the request of a man to his God. I’m not denying the divine invitation that heaven extends to me. Jesus could have easily said, “Peter, come unto me,” and the results would likely have been exactly the same. But what we see is Peter beseeching the Lord, “Bid me come unto thee.” Three important thoughts beg consideration.

Consider the word “bid”! This is a request for a privilege. Common sense tells us, “Men cannot walk on water!” Some have tried it, but all have failed. A recent news item reported that Jonathan Mthethwa was killed by three crocodiles as he attempted to walk on water as a demonstration of his faith. Witnesses say the clergyman prayed the whole week, but something went terribly wrong when he placed his feet into the water. Peter, in great humility, recognized that should Jesus grant his desire, he would be privileged to join the Lord on the water. Every child of God has the distinct privilege of praying to the Father for untold blessings. Humility of heart will help us realize that our prayers are a request for great privileges granted by the Father.

Next, Peter also recognized the personage whom he addressed. “Lord, if it be thou!” I do not think Peter questioned the deity of Jesus. To be honest, I do not know the intent of Peter’s words. But this I do know: Peter realized that Jesus, and only Jesus, could grant such a request that he was about to make. Men usually recognize the respect owed to those of importance. Peter did not demand. He was not arrogant or haughty. He was humbled in the presence of greatness. What about us? “Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God” (1 Pet. 5:6). Only when men recognize the greatness of the Personage of the One Who can still the storm will they be in a position to receive the blessings available to them.

Finally there must be a realization of the depth of one’s problem before he will ever ‘walk on the water’ of faith’s possibilities. A quick search on the internet of everyone who ever walked on water will reveal only two names: Jesus, and Peter. The sacred record was not recorded to instruct us to seek the ability to literally walk on water. It is, rather, a lesson on the possibility of faith in overcoming the obstacles that confront us in life and how to find refuge in the storms of life.

I’ll close this little article with the wonderful words of Mozi Lister in a song made famous by Bill Gaither:

In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place.
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry
Keep me safe till the storm passes by.

Many times Satan whispered, “There is no need to try
For there’s no end of sorrow, there’s no hope by and by”
But I know Thou art with me, and tomorrow I’ll rise
Where the storms never darken the skies

When the long night has ended and the storms come no more
Let me stand in Thy presence on the bright peaceful shore
In that land where the tempest, never comes, Lord, may I
Dwell with Thee when the storm passes by.

Chorus:
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by

"And They Were Astonished

By Tom Wacaster

Near the close of His earthly ministry our Lord made one final journey to Galilee. His first stop on that tour was in Nazareth, the city where He grew up. Matthew's record of this visit to Nazareth appears in 13:54-58. Upon entering into the city it is said that our Lord "taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished" (13:54). Should that surprise us? Do you recall that moment recorded by John when the officers were sent by the Pharisees and chief priests to arrest Jesus, and those men returned and declared, "Never man so spake" (John 7:46). The opinion of those officers was not borne out of hearsay, or conjecture, or mere guess. They heard Jesus for themselves, and from that experience they boldly declared that there was no one who ever spoke as did Jesus. No one!

Over the centuries there have been great orators who have gained the respect of those who heard them. Among those are Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, orator and writer. He is ranked #18 on the list of the most enlightened leaders in world history. Marcus Cicero, Roman philosopher, politician, and lawyer. According to one writer, "the influence of Cicero upon the history of European literature and ideas greatly exceeds that a of any other prose writer in language." Other great orators might include men like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Ronald Reagan, known as "the great communicator." One of the most well-known statesmen of the closing years of the 1800's and early 1900's was William Jennings Bryan, well known Senator, author, and candidate for the Presidency. Time and space would fail us if we were to tell of Pericles, Abraham Lincoln, Patrick Henry, Daniel Webster, and others. No doubt the officers who came to arrest Jesus on that occasion were familiar with the famous orators of their age, and likely had studied those of the past who had influenced Roman and Jewish thinking alike. Now, take the lump sum of all of the famous orators of any and every age. Cull from their speeches and writings the best of the best, put it in a volume of philosophy and human wisdom and advice, and it would pale in comparison to the wisdom and communication ability of our Lord. Truly, "Never man so spake"!

One of best known tributes to our Lord was that offered by Napoleon Bonaparte: "I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but upon what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."

Albert Einstein is credited with having said this about Jesus: "No man can read the gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus."

Here is an amazing quote from Vincent van Gogh:

It is a very good thing that you read the Bible. The Bible is Christ, for the Old Testament leads up to this culminating point. Christ alone has affirmed as a principal certainty, eternal life, the infinity of time, the nothingness of death, the necessity and the raison d'ĂȘtre of serenity and devotion. He lived serenely, as a greater artist than all other artists, despising marble and clay as well as color, working in living flesh. That is to say, this matchless artist made neither statues nor pictures nor books; he loudly proclaimed that he made living men, immortals."

Sholem Asch, a Jewish author wrote concerning Jesus:

Everything he ever said or did has value for us today and that is something you can say of no other man, dead or alive. There is no easy middle ground to stroll upon. You either accept Jesus or reject him.

Among my favorite is this tribute by Philip Schaff:

Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of school, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.

If the student desires a good sampling of the amazing wisdom of Jesus, let him spend time meditating on the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7. In my notes on chapter five I provided you with a beautiful quote from John T. Fisher. It bears repeating here:

If you were to take the sum total of all the authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene - if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer immeasurably by comparison.

What Fisher had to say about the Sermon on the Mount could be said about every word that ever came out of the mouth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He spoke with wisdom, for He is the very embodiment of heavenly Wisdom. Let us listen, respect, and obey His words that we might have the life He has promised to the faithful.

Tradition: Like A Fiddler On The Roof

By Tom Wacaster

“Tradition! Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as...as a fiddler on the roof!” Tradition, simply defined, is the passing down or the handing down of a teaching from someone else.” Tradition can be good or bad. I suppose it could even be neutral. Carried to an extreme, even good tradition can be wrong, and when any tradition interferes with, or goes contrary to the will of God, it is always wrong. Often a practice that has been passed down from generation to generation over a long period of time can unknowingly become a tradition, and even imagined to be law. How does that happen? Actually it is quite simple. An action or practice is introduced to meet a circumstance or emergency. That action is repeated on similar occasions until it becomes accepted as allowable in all similar circumstances. Over a long period of time and with repeated usage, that tradition obtains an equal status with the authorized word of God, perhaps even thought to be taught in God’s word as an essential element to faithfulness. The final step in the process is when the tradition takes precedence over the word of God and is honored in place of it.

I’m not suggesting that all tradition is bad. To the contrary, it provides a certain sense of balance in our life. The leading character in The Fiddler On The Roof - Tevye - described the importance of tradition when it comes to a balanced life, while at the same time capturing the frailty and danger of blindly following tradition:

A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask, ‘Why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous?’ We stay because Anatevka is our home... And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word... Tradition!

We admit the role that tradition has played (and continues to play) in our lives. Some traditions are so ancient that it would be impossible to trace their beginning; others so new that we question their validity. It is true, nonetheless, that tradition is more widespread than we care to admit. As Tevye put it:

Here in Anatevka we have traditions for everything...how to eat, how to sleep, even, how to wear clothes. You may ask, how did this tradition start? I’ll tell you - I don’t know. But it’s a tradition... Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do.

Divine wisdom dictates that we recognize what is inspired tradition and what is human tradition, and maintain a healthy respect for the difference between the two. It will truly help us to have balance socially. But more importantly, it will help us maintain balance in our relationship with God. Or as Tevye put it, “Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as a fiddler on the roof!”