In Search Of The King

by Tom Wacaster

Almost two thousand years ago, an unidentified number of wise men (magi, according to the Greek) observed a strange phenomenon, and followed a star to the outskirts of Jerusalem.  They were searching for He that is "born king of the Jews" (Matt. 2:2).  You know the story. The distance traveled, the inconvenience of absence from their own country, and separation from their families demonstrate a noble endeavor on the part of these wise men.  Their example of courage and commitment give us a worthy example to imitate in our search for the King of kings.  I am fully aware that there is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that the first century church somehow celebrated the birth of Christ annually.  Typically, even today the churches of Christ do not "celebrate" Christmas (at least as a religious holiday).  I do read, however, of a divine memorial to the death of our Jesus as we remember His body and His blood every first day of the week (Acts 20:7).  I do not doubt that some men and women with noble intentions thought it might be good to set aside a time to remember the birth of Christ. But a close study will reveal that this holiday is a mixture of pagan custom and apostate Christian practice. 

Of particular interest to this scribe is the fact that our present "season" is really quite a paradox.  Songs are sung glorifying the King, while the masses live in rebellion to His rule. We speak of peace on earth, and the carnage on the highways by those "celebrating" produces anything BUT peace.  Religious overtones permeate the airways, but spiritual transformation simply does not take place deep within the heart.  The search for the King has become nothing more than annual lip service in the lives of the world in general.  It has become, for the most part, a search for bargain prices at some super sale so we can maintain a sense of generosity while internally we are as covetous and idolatrous as the "heathen" nations around us.

We must remind ourselves that the search for the King is not a seasonal search, but a life long endeavor.  The scriptures do not teach that the "holiday season" is the time for hearing, but rather it is "today" - any time that the opportunity avails itself (although it may include this time of the year).  The search for the King is not found amongst pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue, or the downtown rush of shoppers.  The search for the King is not a time of frolic or reveling, but a time of sober and serious self examination with regard to one's relationship to the Almighty God.  The search for the King is not a cup of eggnog, but the cup of humility demonstrated in a contrite heart and obedient life.  Like those noble Beroeans of old, may our search for the King of kings permeate our life 365 days a year.  Like the wise men from the east, let us prostrate ourselves before the Holy One of Israel and submit to His law for our life. That, dear friend, is the only true search for the King.  

The Impact of Paul On The World

by Tom Wacaster

Few men have ever lived who made the kind of impact upon humanity and history, as did Paul the apostle.  Converted in early adulthood, this enemy of the cross became the most ardent supporter and defender of Christianity.  With the exception of Christ, Paul did more to advance the cause of Christ than any other human being.  One astonishing feature of Paul's life was what he accomplished in the amount of time allotted him as apostle and preacher.  The public ministry of Paul, from the third year after his conversion to his martyrdom, spanned only a quarter of a century.  In those 25 years Paul made three great missionary campaigns with a number of minor expeditions, five visits to Jerusalem, and at least four years of captivity in Caesarea and Rome.  Even if we allow the date of Paul's death to be as late as 68 A.D., that is still less than three decades to accomplish what few men accomplish in a life time. 

Following his conversion he returned to Damascus where he began in earnest the task of saving souls.  His love for the lost and his devotion to the Lord took him to the far reaches of the Roman Empire, and eventually even to Rome.   He suffered mercilessly at the hands of the Jews who remained loyal to the tradition of their fathers.  Yet he never lost his love for his kinsmen in the flesh.   His heart ached for their conversion as a people, but deep in his mind he knew that would never happen.  His love for both Jew and Gentile motivated him to turn his back on the things of the world, and march ever onward toward that "city which hath foundation whose builder and maker is God."  His love for Jesus Christ took him to distant lands, into hostile environment, and brought upon him some of the most severe trials imaginable.    After his third missionary journey he returned to Jerusalem for the fifth and final time, where he would be rescued from an angry mob and arrested by dutiful soldiers of the Roman army.    The next five years would find Paul appealing to Caesar for a fair trial, a long and treacherous journey to Rome, and an opportunity to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the single most influential metropolis in the Empire - Rome.  His work took him into the household of Caesar, where the apostle was instrumental in converting even some of the family members of the ruler of the known world.  He would be released for a short period of time, and then arrested a second time, and eventually martyred because of his faith, thus ending his earthly sojourn. 

Volumes have been written on the life and work of Paul the apostle.  His life has convinced untold millions of the authenticity of Christ and Christianity.  His words, by inspiration, still speak to men today.  And though he be dead, he still speaks!    Phillip Schaff offered this notable tribute to Paul.  I'll close this week's article with his words:

It was the heroic career of a spiritual conqueror of immortal souls for Christ, converting them from the service of sin and Satan to the service of the living God, from the bondage of the law to the freedom of the gospel, and leading them to the fountain of life eternal. He labored more abundantly than all the other apostles; and yet, in sincere humility, he considered himself "the least of the apostles," and "not meet to be called an apostle," because he persecuted the church of God; a few years later he confessed: "I am less than the least of all saints," and shortly before his death: "I am the chief of sinners." His humility grew as he experienced God's mercy and ripened for heaven. Paul passed a stranger and pilgrim through this world, hardly observed by the mighty and the wise of his age. And yet how infinitely more noble, beneficial, and enduring was his life and work than the dazzling march of military conquerors, who, prompted by ambitions absorbed millions of treasure and myriads of lives, only to die at last in a drunken fit at Babylon, or of a broken heart on the rocks of St. Helena! Their empires have long since crumbled into dust, but St. Paul still remains one of the foremost benefactors of the human race, and the pulses of his mighty heart are beating with stronger force than ever throughout the Christian world  (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church).

I Am The New Year

by Tom Wacaster

I am the new year; three hundred and sixty five days of unspotted, unspoiled, and unused time. I am a clean slate of opportunity, a reflection of what might be rather than what has been. My diary contains unlimited resolutions, once made in earnest and then broken in haste. I am the fresh breeze of opportunity that blows across the fields of yesterday’s broken and forgotten promises. My features are a mystery, for no one can tell what is in store for tomorrow. Each day brings new insight to what I will be after I have completed my journey. I am the opportunity to achieve those things which for some reason or another were left undone in the previous year. To the financier, I am interest accumulated at a fixed percentage rate. To a student, I am that one step closer toward receiving an education. To the small child, I am another summer camp, Thanksgiving holiday, or Christmas wish. To a parent, I contain the joy of watching a child grow and mature. To the young, I am dreams and hopes dressed in daily determination. The youngster wonders why I do not come around more often; the aged wonder why I come so often. For some, this year will bring unparalleled opportunities. For others it will bring disaster and ruin. To all, it will bring us twelve months closer to eternity.

How Can I Be Sure?

by Tom Wacaster

When I was doing local work I was frequently asked the question, “How can I be sure that I am saved?” I have no doubt that those asking the question were sincere, and in many instances those asking the question were among those whom I considered to be some of the most faithful workers in the church. Why is it, then, that such otherwise strong Christians had this nagging doubt about their salvation? Why is it that we are prone to doubt when the Bible clearly tells us that we can know we have salvation?

In one sense questioning one’s status in life as well as his spiritual status with his God is healthy. The following is attributed to an Egyptian king by the name of Akhenaton: “True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubteth not; he knoweth all things but his own ignorance.” Another expressed the wisdom in doubting like this: “How prone to doubt, how cautious are the wise!” (Alexander Pope). Even some of the strongest of Bible characters had their questions and doubts. Abraham doubted God’s promise that he would have a child in his old age through whom the Lord would bless the world and sought instead to have Ishmael fill that role. Thomas would not believe the Lord had been raised from the dead until he could see it with his own eyes and touch the Lord’s side with his own hands. Even John the baptist had some very serious questions about the Lord when he (John) was facing the closing days of his life in prison. You see, doubt should drive us to deeper investigation and self examination. What, then, is the answer to our doubts and fears regarding death, salvation, and that spiritual realm wherein our hope resides as an anchor of the soul? There are at least three factors that affect the depth of our confidence: faith, facts, and feelings. These sustain an important relationship to one another and play a vital role in developing assurance in the heart of the child of God.

The Hebrews writer defines faith as “assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). The KJV reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I am interested here in the Greek word translated “assurance” (ASV) and “substance” (KJV). The word denotes support for something; something upon which a hope is based. Barclay points out three distinct areas in which faith and hope find application: (1) It is belief against the world; (2) It is belief in the spirit against the senses; (3) It is belief in the future against the present. Or as one author put it, “Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and achieves the impossible.” But we must not lose sight of the undeniable truth that our “faith” rests upon “facts.” I believe in God because of the “facts.” The KJV sums it up with the word “evidence.” When a jury sits in judgment upon an accused, they do so based upon “facts.”

Now we come to “feelings.” Feelings, or emotions, in and of themselves, are good. God created us to feel, to be moved with compassion, to shed a tear over someone else’s loss (or even our own losses). If man had been created completely void of emotions and/or feelings he would experience no sorrow; but then, neither would he experience joy and happiness. It is important to note that God warns us against the deceptive nature of feelings. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov. 16:25).

Now with all that said, it seems to this humble scribe that the absence of assurance among those who have obeyed the gospel, and who are doing their best to live a faithful Christian life is due to the failure to keep faith, fact, and feelings in proper relationship. Fact: God has promised forgiveness, along with a home in heaven, to those who obey the gospel and live a faithful Christian life. Faith: I believe what God has said because of the evidence that supports that promise. Feelings: I rejoice in that assurance, knowing that, though I fall far short of what I should be, God has promised to save me to the “uttermost” through the cleansing power of the blood of His Son. It is when men take their eyes OFF of the facts, and allow their faith to falter, that their feelings kick in and they no longer “feel” as if they are saved. Remember, “faith comes by hearing…the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Or as one put it, “Doubt comes in at the window when inquiry is denied at the door.”  

A pilot is instructed to always trust the instruments rather than the way he feels. Feelings can be deceptive. The same rule applies spiritually. Trust the instruments that God has given to us in the word. His promises are sure; the evidence incontrovertible. If the instruments contradict what you feel, then it is your feelings that are wrong and not the instruments! If you walk by your feelings rather than trust in the word of God you will rob yourself of the joy and happiness that comes with God’s promises. But worse yet, you will never rid yourself of doubt, and you will continue to be plagued by the unanswered question, “How can I be sure?”

Homosexual Marriages

by Tom Wacaster

Times have certainly changed since my childhood days. In some ways that change has been for the better. Socially, medically, technologically, and educationally, we enjoy a far greater standard of living than did our grandparents. But with the advancements in our living conditions there has come a corresponding collapse in our moral living. One area that has suffered from this moral collapse has to do with the family. In the 1950's we saw an increase in the divorce rate, an increase that has yet to peak. In the 1980's society gave up on marriage and began to move toward "live-in" partners. Universities sponsored co-ed dormitories, with little if any supervision of what goes on after classroom hours. The 1990's saw the push for "homosexual rights." Every imaginable attempt has been made to make the vile practice of homosexuality look legitimate. "You were born that way," or "What the homosexual does in the privacy of his home will not affect you," were the initial volleys that were fired over the bow of the societal norms. Like the proverbial camel that was allowed to push his nose through the door, eventually the entire camel has managed to push his way into the tent. Government leaders have coddled, cooed and compromised to the point that the very fabric of our society is now threatened. What started in Vermont, found acceptance in Hawaii, and has now been declared "constitutional" in the high courts of Massachusetts. We are speaking of the acceptance and legitimization of homosexual marriages. Our Supreme Court cracked the door more than 30 years ago when it legitimized abortion on the grounds that what one does in private in no way affects society. The Supreme Court overthrew the Texas anti-sodomy law on this same flimsy argument of personal "privacy." My friends, if this "camel" is allowed to get into the tent, then I humbly suggest to you, "there goes the tent!" Consider the following concerning homosexual marriages.

First and foremost, homosexual marriage is completely contrary to God's divine law. Marriage was instituted and defined in Genesis 2:24: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall become one flesh." This first marriage serves as a pattern for successive marriages, as implied by Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6. If homosexuality is condemned in the scripture (and it is, Rom. 1:26-27, Gen. 19:1 ff) what makes us think that God will smile on the "union" of two homosexuals? He will not!

Second, homosexual marriage harms marriage in general. Proponents of gay marriage frequently argue that allowing for it would have no affect whatsoever on the institution of marriage itself. Former Harvard anthropologist Stanley Kurtz, writing in the Weekly Standard, reports on various European studies that challenge this argument. Kurtz reports that in those countries where full homosexual marriage rights have been granted, marriage and indeed concrete family structures have been considerably weakened. Mr. Kurtz writes that "same-sex marriage has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood…instead of encouraging a society -wide return to marriage…gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable."

Third, homosexual marriage fosters immorality in society in other areas. Sweden, Denmark, and Norway-all of whom have incorporated full gay marriage rights over the past ten to fifteen years-have seen jumps in out-of-wedlock births since they legalized homosexual marriage. This deterioration of the traditional family structure has ushered in an era where the majority of children are born outside of marriage. What makes us think that legalization of homosexual marriage is going to strengthen the family? To the contrary, it will weaken the family unit and usher in more radical departures from the Biblical definition of marriage. Is it any wonder that some sociologists are declaring that marriage is an outmoded, outdated, and obsolete institution?

Fourth, homosexual marriages give a false impression of respectability of homosexual unions. I wonder in my own mind, why does the homosexual even bother with marriage? What do they hope to accomplish if it is not to give some sense of respectability to this sorted and sinful behavior? If the homosexual rebels and ridicules God's law on homosexuality, what makes us think they respect God's law concerning marriage, commitment, fidelity, etc. that comes with the union of two people in marriage?

Finally, homosexual marriage is not just a political issue; it is a moral issue. In fact, it is first and foremost a moral issue. Liberals have attempted to move the issue of homosexual rights and now homosexual marriage off the moral table and classify it as a "civil rights" issue; purely political. But the child of God realizes that this is a moral issue. What is shocking is that some members of the body of Christ will support, encourage, and stand by political candidates that have made it known that they favor homosexual activity and/or marriage.

Dear friend, homosexual marriage runs contrary to all that is right and decent. It is a slap in the face of God. The homosexual community is laughing at God-fearing people in this country. Lets not be taken in by this devil's lie that homosexual marriage will not affect your or me. To believe the lie is deadly. 

Home For Sale

by Tom Wacaster

We were returning from Oklahoma City and outside Purcell we passed a house with a sign out front which read, "Home For Sale." Most of us recognize the connotation which goes with the words "house" and "home." The house is the dwelling place. It is the brick and mortar, the land, the roof, etc. The house is the material structure in which the home is built. But the home is the family. It is built (or should be built) upon the foundation of moral principles and fidelity on the part of each of the family members In light of this, it seems to me that one could sell a house, but it would be rather difficult to sell a home. Or would it? I wonder how many of the homes in our society are being sold every day. While the economic pressures have slowed down the real estate business, many of the ills of society have only stepped up the sale of the "homes." Here is what I mean.

A house is sold when the family is dissolved. Each decides they are going to take what belongs to them and go their separate ways. No matter what this might to do the psychological stability of the children (if there are children), the two consenting adults have decided that they want to sell the home. Consequently our divorce rate is running somewhere close to 50% of the marriages performed. When this happens, the "home is sold."

And then, some are selling their homes due to the spiritual bankruptcy they are experiencing. They have sown to the wind and now they must reap the whirlwind. Because of the lack of spiritual values within the home, the family will soon be putting their "home" on the market. If we would avoid the disruption of the family we must instill within our children those basic principles which God intended to guide the family; namely permanence of marriage, respect for parents, love for the children, etc.

And finally, some are selling their homes to social pressures placed upon them. The home becomes nothing more than a pit stop for refueling and checking the oil. Seldom do the parents see the children, and vice versa. We run all the time, seeking to find some sort of fulfillment in our lives. Is it any wonder that our children do the same?

Going, going, GONE! The "home" has been sold simply because of the neglect of each member to recognize the needs of the others. The home is sold on the auction block of pleasures and pressures. Take time with your family! You can sell a house, take the money, and buy another. When a "house" is destroyed it can be replaced. But when a "home" is sold, it is gone forever. When we neglect those guidelines given us in God's Word we are well on the way to placing a sign in front of our house which reads, "Home For Sale.”