Old Paths For A New Year

by Tom Wacaster

2006 is almost history.  Twelve months have passed, and we find ourselves standing at the threshold of yet another year.  Looking in two directions, we reflect on the old year with its joys and sorrows, its successes and failures, and we look forward to the new year with its storehouse of opportunities and uncertainties.  As we enter the new year, the words of Jeremiah come to mind:  "Thus saith Jehovah, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way" (6:13a).   The faithful adhered to the plea. But there were those in Jeremiah's day, as there are in ours, who said, "We will not walk therein."  Rebellion is not peculiar to modern man.   Someone once noted, "The age of the path does not assure its being good, for sin and error are almost as old as mankind.  The old paths must not be confused with just any old path.  As many mistakes are made by blindly following an old path as by blindly striking out on a new one."  There is a great temptation with every generation to consider tradition as equivalent to the "old paths."  I have great admiration for the reformers and restorers of a bygone era, but they are not the authority, and they do not determine the path in which we are to walk.   For those of us living this side of the cross, the "old paths" are those trod by our Lord and His apostles, and clearly defined and marked by the inspired writers of the New Testament.   It is a proud and egotistical generation that says, "We will not walk therein."  On the other hand, it is faith which manifests itself in loyalty to God and Jesus that submits and obeys.  Walking in the old paths will not be easy.  It never has been. The further society moves away from God, the more the old paths will be ridiculed.  Intellectual snobbery will seek to dispense with the "legalism" of the ancient gospel, and the old will be replaced with the "new."  Change in doctrine will give way to the collapse of moral absolutes, situation ethics and relativism.

As we enter this new year let us determine that we will walk in the "old paths."  More than twenty-five years ago, brother Morris Thurman wrote the following advice:  "The old paths will continue to be difficult to travel.  They are steep, ever leading toward God; they are thorny, hedged about with the cares, riches and pleasures of this life; and they are straight, narrow, and unpopular, traveled only by the few that find them.  But stand, see and ask, that the old paths, the good way, may be found and walked, 'and ye shall find rest for your souls.'"  

I wrote the following more than a decade ago. I share it again with our readers by request:
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.

The Bible: What An Incredible Book

by Tom Wacaster
Looking back upon the history of the Bible, it is apparent that this book reveals the ongoing and ever present battle that has been waged through the years between right and wrong, truth and error. Every inch of ground has been hard fought; every truth, every doctrine of revelation, every hope held forth in God's word is bathed in the blood of martyrs. Critics of every age have sought to overthrow the Word of God, to their own destruction and shame. All the resources of infidels, skeptics, and unbelievers have been brought to bear on this marvelous book. But the citadel of truth is impregnable, and the victory goes to those 66 books that have come down to us through the ages. The very existence of the Bible declares its divine origin. It is, indeed, an incredible book. Not only does it dispel the darkness, it also holds forth the lamp for every generation, giving hope to those who long for life, and knowledge for those who seek life's answers. We share with our readers the following tribute to the Bible. Philip Schaff concluded his first volume on the history of the church with these words:

“No book has attracted so much attention, provoked so much opposition, outlived so many persecutions, called forth so much reverence and gratitude, inspired so many noble thoughts and deeds, administered so much comfort and peace from the cradle to the grave to all classes and conditions of men. It is more than a book; it is an institution, an all-pervading omnipresent force, a converting, sanctifying, transforming agency; it rules from the pulpit and the chair; it presides at the family altar; it is the sacred ark of every household, the written conscience of every Christian man, the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of light by night in the pilgrimage of life. Mankind is bad enough, and human life dark enough with it; but how much worse and how much darker would they be without it? Christianity might live without the letter of the New Testament, but not without the facts and truths which it records and teaches. Were it possible to banish them from the world, the sun of our civilization would be extinguished, and mankind left to midnight darkness, with the dreary prospect of a dreamless and endless Nirvana. But no power on earth or in hell can extinguish that sun. There it shines on the horizon, the king of day, obscured at times by clouds great or small, but breaking through again and again, and shedding light and life from east to west, until the darkest corners of the globe shall be illuminated. The past is secure; God will take care of the future”

An Open and Shut Case

by Tom Wacaster
Mystery writers produce plots that, more often than not, revolve around some heinous crime such as murder. Some of the more successful fictional sleuths include such notable characters as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Peroit, Mark Slone, Colombo, and Jessica Fletcher. Real live detectives (and even the fictional ones) enjoy cases that are “open and shut.” That means the evidence is so simple, so obvious and so abundant as to make the case exceptionally easy to solve. I enjoy watching Colombo for the simple reason that when the police first arrive on the scene the murder appears to be an “open and shut case.” Of course Colombo “doth not think so,” and hence, the unfolding of the story as the apparently inept Lieutenant goes about solving the mystery. We sometimes use the same terminology to express the simplicity of a problem. “It’s an open and shut case!” But I want to use these five words to help us focus on a passage in God’s word that has nothing at all to do with the work of a sleuth. Consider these words of our Lord as recorded in the book of Revelation: “To the church at Philadelphia write: These things saith he…that hath the key of David, he that openeth and none shall shut, and that shutteth and none openeth” (Rev. 3:7). We can only surmise what prompted these words to the Christians living in the city of “brotherly love” – saints who had faithfully kept the word; who did not deny the name of Christ. In the first century the church endured some of the most severe persecution in the history of Christianity. These Christians may have been tempted to capitulate on the basis that the battle was not going well for the church; that the door of opportunity was not there; that no one would listen. Perhaps the church had ceased to grow as it should, and rather than compromise the truth for the sake of “numbers,” these faithful disciples stayed the course. Jesus reminds them that it is He Who opens the doors of opportunity and it is He Who shuts those doors. This truth was demonstrated with ancient Israel when, upon failing to enter the Promised Land by faith, the door was closed and that disobedient generation could not reopen that door, try as they may. Whatever the situation in Philadelphia our Lord reminded them that He has the “key of David.” It is He who has the power to open doors; not Rome; not the synagogue of Satan; not the enemies of the church. When once our Lord opens a door, none can shut; and once He has shut the door, none can open. He opens the door of opportunity for His churches; He opens the heart through the teaching and preaching of the gospel; He opens a door of admission into His church, laying down the terms of entrance and fellowship. He also shuts the door, when He pleases. He shuts the door of opportunity and the door of utterance, and leaves obstinate sinners shut up in the hardness of their hearts; He shuts the door of fellowship against unbelievers and profane persons; He shuts the door of heaven against the foolish virgins who have slept away their day of grace; He shuts the door against the workers of iniquity, how vain and confident they may be.

There are dark clouds on the horizon! Where the bright light of freedom once shined, the dark clouds of error and sin are now blocking and blinding the eyes of men. Right is now called wrong; sin is glorified and honored. It seems as if the liberal leaders of our land are going about to get their wicked deeds “on the books” and written into law so as to suppress, intimidate, and incarcerate those who would dare speak out against the sins of homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, fornication, and marriage and divorce. The door into the hearts of men is being shut; the gospel rejected; God’s love requited. You and I may be tempted to think that the “unholy trinity” of Congress, the White House, and the Judicial branch of government are closing the doors to our liberty; that the wicked leaders of our generation have successfully silenced the gospel. But when I read these words of Jesus to the saints in Philadelphia I am reminded that all the governments of the world cannot close the doors unless our God permits it! I know not what is in store for this nation, but I fear that our Lord is closing the doors in our country much as He did in Russia in the last century; as He has in Muslim countries around the world; as He has in China, and other places where men have determined in their own mind that we will not bow to the King of kings. We dare not capitulate in the face of adversity. Stay the course brethren; keep your faith in God. And should our God decide to take these freedoms from us, to bring upon this land a famine of the word, to allow our Bibles to be banned, and the truth evil spoken of, let us not forget that our God will accomplish His purpose and He will be glorified. Let come what may, never forget that it is, as our title suggests, “an open and shut case.”

Course Corrections Along The Pathway of Life

by Tom Wacaster
February 13th I will board a Northwest/KLM flight bound for Amsterdam, and then on to Bombay, India.  Having some experience in flying, I am aware that a pre-planned route is essential to reaching a desired destination.  But I am also aware that when flying it is necessary to make small corrections in one's heading all along the route from point A to point B.  This is because the plane is affected by wind drift.  Once a course has been plotted, a pilot realizes that flying a plane is not like driving a car.  An automobile contacts the road and is not affected by wind drift as is an airplane.  Consequently, a pilot knows that small adjustments are necessary along the route to his final destination.   That Boeing 747 in which I will be flying is equipped with modern computers and technology that will automatically make those small but necessary corrections.   But whether made by machines or man, those adjustments and corrections along the path will result in reaching the planned point of arrival.   Getting from where you are to where you want to be cannot be achieved by hit-and-miss guess work.  But that is the way some folks approach their religion.  They rely on feelings, better-felt-than-told experiences, rather than carefully plotting their course.  Such an approach will no sooner get them to heaven than a pilot who relies on his feelings to get him to his destination. 

The key word here is "correction."  This is an interesting word in that it describes precisely the role that the word of God plays in our journey through life.  Along the trip of life, slight adjustments are made from time to time so as to keep us on course.  A good working knowledge of the Bible and the application of its truths to our life, will adjust our course when we start to drift.    It keeps affecting the way we think, the way we draw conclusions, and the way we make our daily life decisions.  The key is that we are to lay the word of God up in our heart so that those corrections are automatic.  This is why the Psalmist acknowledged, "Thy word have I laid up in my heart, That I might not sin against thee" (Psa 119:11).

If a pilot fails to make the necessary corrections in the early stages of his journey, he will find that the small error will multiply in proportion to the distance he flies.  The first few miles he may find that he is not far off course.  But let him fly hundreds, or thousands of miles, and he will be so far off course that drastic measures would be needed to reach the destination, if he can reach it at all.  Likewise, if we fail to make corrections immediately and concisely along the road of life, we will look up one day and wonder how in the world we got where we are.  This is why the Hebrews author warned, "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them" (Heb. 2:1).   If we wait until we are so far off course to make the necessary correction we may find that getting back on course is difficult at best, and impossible at worst.

Apostasy is seldom something that occurs over night.  It is the consequence of one's failure to make those small corrections along the way.   Like the wise pilot, the child of God will make those course corrections along the pathway of life frequently and faithfully. 

Babies Made To Order

by Tom Wacaster

The news continues to give attention to genetic engineering, especially when it benefits a couple seeking to either have a baby, or to give birth to a child that is free from diseases that plague both parents. There were at least two items in the news this past week that caught my attention. One was a segment on NBC news in which it was reported that a couple seeking to conceive a child free from a genetic disorder that plagued both of the parents used the process known as in-vitro fertilization to conceive. After conception of a "suitable" embryo, the defective "gene" was successfully isolated and removed, and their child, now five years of age, is free of the defective gene they sought to eliminate. While there may be nothing inherently wrong with conception in a test tube, it is what happens along the way that frightens me. The child they finally got was not the only embryo produced. Numerous embryos were conceived, and the one embryo that met all the conditions was selected for genetic engineering. The others were discarded.

A separate story revisited the case of Lisa and Jack Nash. This couple announced some time back that their new baby had been conceived solely to be a donor of cells for his older sister. The story of how and why Adam Nash came into the world is the story of how even the best of intentions can result in the worst of evils. The story begins when the Nash's oldest daughter, Molly, was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia -- a hereditary and always fatal form of the disease. Doctors determined that the best hope for Molly was a cell transplant, from a relative whose cells matched Molly's, but without anemia. Since they had no other children, the Nashes decided to have one to save Molly. But unlike the California couple who gave birth to a child to provide their daughter with a bone marrow transplant a few years ago, the Nashes weren't taking any chances. Any child conceived naturally would be unlikely to provide Molly with the cells she needed. So, by in-vitro fertilization, they produced fifteen embryos, which they sent to a genetic testing facility. Only one of the embryos had the right genetic material. It was implanted in Mrs. Nash, who, in August of 2000, gave birth to Adam. Adam's stem cells were taken from his umbilical cord and implanted in his sister. Naturally, the Nashes are pleased at the outcome of what they call an "awesome" and "monumental" experience. But thoughtful Christians should respond differently to what has happened here. Despite all the celebration and the medical justification, the fact remains that Adam was, in the words of columnist Ellen Goodman, "conceived ..... not just to be a son, but a medical treatment." But what would have happened if Adam had not possessed the needed genetic makeup acceptable to this medical experiment? Why, he would have been rejected, and discarded like the other fourteen embryos.

When I think upon these two cases of babies made to order," I wonder, "What's next?" This newfound technology and present "world-view" that produced Adam will not be limited to such "noble" purposes like preserving life. As one writer put it, "We're fast approaching a world where kids will be seen to exist merely to enhance their parents' sense of fulfillment. And even if they aren't conceived as merely a source of spare parts, they will still -- through genetic manipulation - - be made to embody their parents' ideas of an ideal child. Parents creating the personality of their kids fits our narcissistic culture, but it is dehumanizing in the extreme." But it is MORE than simply dehumanizing. It is sinful because it is based upon a disrespect for life itself and the loss of the same. I fear that our medical and science community has turned the corner toward a dark and bleak future that will result in a repeat of what the world witnessed half a century ago. When our Supreme Court made abortion legal they opened a door to the proverbial Pandora's box, the consequences of which are frightening. Euthanasia, doctor assisted suicide, and now the discarding of unwanted embryos are but a glimpse of what lies down the road. I fear that as soon as technology permits, parents are going to be screening more and more embryos for those desirable and undesirable genetic traits. And if an embryo does not fulfill the parents' "wish list," then what? And the thought is too horrible to contemplate.

An Empty Wagon Going No Where

by Tom Wacaster
This past week has been a week of festivity in honor of the Hindu God. Worship services to that idol occur daily, extending into the late hours of the night during this week long festivity. It is sad to see such devotion to a false god. In contrast it is rewarding to see those who hear the truth and turn away from that false system of worship to serve the true and living God. There is one interesting feature of this week long festivity that caught my interest. During the week gifts are given to this false Hindu god, and at the end of the week’s festivity, the idol is placed on a wagon, and taken to the river and thrown in the river, along with the treasures and gifts that were given by the devotees of the idol. Many people die attempting to recover some of the treasures that are cast into the river with the idol. Every town has a number of these idols, and so when these false gods are put on the wagons, the procession can be quite lengthy. We were returning from a late night preaching appointment and passed one of those wagons that had evidently made its way to the river and was now returning to town. The decorations still draped the wagon, but the idol was gone. Gone too were the merrymaking, singing and dancing, and loud musical procession that accompanied the wagon on its way to the river. And I thought to myself, “An empty wagon going nowhere.” That adequately describes the essence of the Hindu religion. While it may carry a colorful idol, and be draped with ribbons, and surrounded with singing and dancing, it is really an empty wagon going nowhere. It is empty, vain, and futile, whether it is going to or coming from the river. Many a life can be described with the same words. All of us are on the road to eternity. Some travel the narrow way; while others march with the multitudes down that broad path that leads to eternal ruin. Some, like the Hindu idol, are surrounded with wealth, merriment, and pleasure. Some are devotees to false religion; others to no religion at all. Multitudes are marching in the long dark night of spiritual darkness to eternal separation from God. With no awareness of their lost condition, they march on. Like that idolatrous procession going to the river, the masses of humanity are marching toward the river that will forever separate them from the God Who created them and loves them. And so many of them could easily have the epitaph engraved upon their tombstone: “An empty wagon going nowhere.” How sad!

"Another Testament"?

by Tom Wacaster
They were very well dressed, and when they knocked on my door they asked if they could tell me of “another testament” that Jesus gave to men. Their offer puzzled me, since I did not recall any mention of “another testament” promised by either Jesus or the apostles. In fact, my Bible clearly teaches that the “faith” that was delivered to that first century church through the hands of the apostles was “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). A little study helped me to understand that Jude actually told us that “the faith” (the Gospel) was “once and for all delivered to the saints.” In like manner Peter has told us that God’s “divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). Jesus told the twelve apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all the truth (John 16:13). Why, then, would we need “another testament” such as that offered by these two “elders” now standing at my door? The answer is simple. We DON’T need “another testament.” In fact, if any man, or even an angel, were to “preach unto you any gospel other than that which we [the apostles, TW] preached unto you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8). If their “other testament” contains MORE than my New Testament, it contains too much. If it contains any LESS than my New Testament, it contains too little. If it contains EXACTLY what my New Testament contains, then why would I need it? Beware friends. It may be “another testament” they bring, but it is NOT the testament of Jesus Christ!

Genetics, DNA and God

by Tom Wacaster
The mapping of DNA is one of those little mysteries of life that astound even the most scholarly.  DNA, which stands for "deoxyribonucleic acid," is a sort of genetic "code" that determines not only the color of your hair, but the very physical traits that separate you from lower animals.  Every living thing, whether plant, animal, or human, contains a storehouse of genetic information, and therefore a potential 'laboratory' full of scientific knowledge.   Everything about you, including life itself, is regulated by the information contained within this DNA "code."  This is why the recent mapping of this code is so valuable to scientists.   One of the most astonishing things about our DNA [as well as that of animals and plants] is its uncanny ability to "copy" the information contained therein from one generation to the next, and that faithfully, time after time.  The Bible calls this reproduction after "kind" (Gen. 1:11-12).  Why do sparrows produce only sparrows? Or dogs, dogs?  The answer is simple:  all organisms reproduce after their own kind!  The inevitable conclusion is that this "code" or "information library" had to derive from some source.  Darrel Kautz, in his book, 'The Origin of Living Things' correctly concluded that "the DNA molecule is something utterly unique and had to have an unnatural or supernatural origin...The information in the DNA molecule had to have been imposed upon it by some outside source just as music is imposed on a cassette tape." He then adds, "The information in DNA is presented in coded form as explained previously, and codes are not known to arise spontaneously."   Folks, do you understand the implications of these statements?  There is absolutely no way that evolution and/or random chance can provide an adequate explanation for this marvelous feature of our make up.   Here is something else.  We human beings have learned to store information on paper, in databases, on film, cassettes, and even microchips.  But human technology has yet to discover how to store information chemically, as is the case with the DNA molecule.  We can only agree with Dr. E.H. Andrews: "It is not possible for a code, of any kind, to arise by chance or accident.  Even a dog or chimpanzee could not work out a code of any kind. It is obvious then that chance cannot do it. This could no more have been the work of chance or accident than could the 'Moonlight Sonata' be played by mice running up and down the keyboard of my piano! Codes do not arise from chaos" ('From Nothing to Nature,' Evangelical Press, page 28-29).   But interestingly, this discovery of DNA, its "coded information," and how to "map" this new found information, was set in motion, and even referred to when God told us that everything produces "after its kind."  I wonder why it is that the smarter our world gets, the dumber it acts by denying  the existence of God and attributing origins to chance rather than the God Who made it all!

Are You Sure?

by Tom Wacaster

A number of years ago I made arrangements for the funeral of an older member in the congregation where I worked.  The problem was, she was not dead, simply away on vacation in California.  Read on. Our sister Winnie Myers was visiting relatives in Bakersville, California.  I received a telephone call from a Miss Margie Myers (from  some small town in California), who had just arrived in town along with the body of her deceased mother, informing me of her mother Winnie's death, and requesting permission to hold a service at the congregation were I presently worked.  Of course I reacted with surprise and asked, "Winnie Myers passed away?" Now the Winnie who died did not have the last name of Myers, but her daughter (who DID have the last name of Myers) in her distraught condition merely responded, "Yes."  I expressed my sorrow, hung up the phone and told our secretary that Winnie Myers had passed away in California. "Are you sure?" came the response.  Well, all the facts were in! Of course I was sure.  So we began making arrangements for the funeral of our sister Myers.  It was not until later that afternoon when I stopped at the funeral home that my mistake became apparent.  Talk about backtracking!  While the consequences were more embarrassing than harmful, it impressed upon me the importance of getting facts straight before acting.  By the way, there was no kinship between the two Myers families, and our sister Winnie Myers found the incident somewhat amusing.

It Is "Inevitable"

by Tom Wacaster

Since the death of Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, former heads of terrorist operations in Iraq and elsewhere, there have been a series of suicide bombings in other parts of the world.  The most recent concern among those “in the know” is that Al Quieda may have been weakened in Iraq, but seems to be gaining power in Africa.  Recent bombings in Libya would appear to support that conclusion.  Such bombings around the world have killed dozens and left hundreds, if not thousands, wounded and suffering.  We read of the insane acts of those who would strap explosives to their body, or hide them in their shoes, and walk into a crowded restaurant or climb onto a bus, and blow themselves up along with as many as might be within their immediate proximity. The repeated, almost daily barrage of suicide bombers in Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya, seem so far away.  It is as if we are isolated from such insane acts.  But the consensus among politicians and public leaders is that it is inevitable that we, too, will experience such violence in our country.  Former FBI director Robert Mueller has gone on record (5-21-02) as stating that suicide bombers are inevitable.  Here are his words: "It is inevitable that suicide bombers like those who have attacked Israeli restaurants and buses will strike the United States [and] we will not be able to stop it."  Such language, to say the least, is a little unsettling.  With the exception of the Civil War, American citizens, since the founding of this nation, have been exempt from war on our home soil.  Unlike Europe, Africa, Japan, China, and other nations, we have not experienced an invasion of the enemy, occupation by another nation, or the threat of physical harm as a result of warfare on our homeland.  Those sentiments are no longer true.  Dan Rather, shortly after the attack on the World Trade Centers on September 11, 2001 observed that the words in the fourth stanza of "America, The Beautiful" read thus:

O Beautiful for patriot dream,
That sees beyond the years.
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.
America, America! God shed His grace on thee.
And crown thy good with brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea.

The words “undimmed by human tears” were the focus of Rather’s comments.  In tears he pointed out that now our cities have been dimmed by human tears. We have experienced first hand the invasion of an enemy.  And we are afraid! That fear is heightened by the uncertainty of time and place.  As former FBI Director Robert Mueller noted, "I believe it is going to come...Now, is it going to happen today, to morrow or two years?  We're not certain."  Meanwhile we have our own form of terrorism here in the United States.   Unbalanced and unhinged (and I might add, unlawful) individuals seem to think that taking innocent lives in order to make some kind of “statement,” or gain some twisted form of notoriety, take it upon themselves to enter a movie house, or post office, or former place of work, and gun down innocent bystanders.   Will it happen again?  Probably!  Will we get any warning? Probably not!   This was precisely Muller’s point.  Of course Mueller can only "guess" at what lies down the road.  We need not become unsettled because of one man's opinion, nor should we live in fear that some mad man is going to walk into the local Walmart and "pull the string."  Now to the point of this article.  Why is it that folks can become so unsettled over something that may or may not ever happen, yet totally ignore the warnings of something that really is inevitable?  Let me explain.

There is an event, the precise date unknown to men, to the angels in heaven, and even the Son of God Himself, that awaits the whole of mankind.  Of course you know of what I speak.  "Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment" (John 5:28-29).   "For we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).  "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh the judgment" (Heb. 9:27).  "But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only" (Matt. 24:36). 

Why is it that our reaction to the announcement of an 'inevitable' threat to our physical well being has such a profound effect on our emotions, while we give so little thought to another 'inevitable' promise that faces all mankind, past present and future generations?   Comparing the two events, consider the following:

First, there is the possibility factor.  Even with all the input from some of the top government agencies at his disposal, Mr. Mueller can only make an educated guess.  It may turn out that he is right, and that indeed suicide bombers ARE inevitable. But neither he, nor his constituents have the ability to look into the future. On the other hand, our God is omniscient. He has proven His power in this area by predictive prophecy that has come true 100% of the time.  As to the possibility of the judgment, you can rest assured, that day will occur.

Second, there is the time factor.   The FBI director admits, "We're not certain."  All available information is brought to bear, and still, "We're not certain."  Who knows the mind of a terrorist, what time frame that might constrain him, or events and circumstances that may bring about the opportunity for his intended actions.  Who among men can predict that some madman will walk into his workplace and shoot innocent victims?  As for the judgment, "no man knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son."  Why is it, then, that men think they see the "signs" of the Lord's return in judgment?  The precise moment of the judgment cannot be determined, and men manifest their arrogance and foolishness when they attempt to pre guess or circumvent God. 

Third, there is the purpose factor. Why does the FBI, CIA and other intelligent agencies think it important to provide advance notice of an "inevitable" attack by terrorists?  The answer is obvious.  So that we can be alert, prepared and ready for such an event and thereby minimize the loss of life.   God has warned us of the judgment. He has even told us that He is not willing that ANY should perish (2 Peter 3:9).  Additionally, He has provided a "way of escape" (1 Cor. 10:13).  He has promised to see us through if we will but trust and obey.   How grateful we are that God has warned us of that 'inevitable' event.

I am puzzled, however, that so few give serious consideration to the Divine warnings concerning that coming day of Judgment.   The only conclusion I can come to is that they must not really believe that the Judgment day is 'inevitable.' 

Another Move

by Tom Wacaster
Moving from one location to another can be quite taxing.   Growing up, we had our fair share of family moves from one part of town to another, or from one city to another.  I suppose that mom and dad prepared me for what would be the inevitable experience(s) in the life of a preacher.   My wife and I will have been married thirty eight years this October.  In those thirty eight years we have moved a total of 24 times, and are about to make our 25th move within the next week (that wears me out just thinking about it).   I am determined that I am going to maintain the upper hand, carefully pack all my belongings, and see to it that we complete this move without so much as a scratch on any of the furniture (OK! Maybe just a couple of scratches).   I came across the following on the internet.  I can sympathize with the one who this article:

“Murphy's Laws of Moving”

1. No matter how many boxes you have, you will never have enough.
2. The more your friends promise to help, the more likely it is they will be deathly ill or out of town the weekend you are moving.
3. Whatever it is that you need, it is always in the bottom of a box that has already been taped shut.
4. Now that you are moving and no longer need it, you will always find something you have been looking for for years.
5. The tape, the scissors, the markers and the screwdriver all know how to play hide ‘n’ seek.
6. The thing that gets broken will always be an irreplaceable antique heirloom - never something cheap that you didn't like anyway.
7. Regardless of long the drought has been going on, it will always rain on moving day.
8. You will always loose your checkbook, your car keys, the remote control or the telephone.
9. If you stay up all night packing to be ready for the movers, they will be late.
10. No matter how large the new place is, it will shrink before you move in.

I fully realize that this move is not going to be my last move, since the house into which we are moving is rental property.  So, somewhere down the road, perhaps in a year or so, we will haul out the boxes that have been stored for the umpteenth time, and go through a process with which we have become all too familiar.  I also fully realize that there is a day coming when I will make my last move.  The boxes will be unpacked for the last time; personal belongings put “in their place” to remain for the duration; and pictures and plaques hung on the wall to be taken down by those to whom we will leave those sentimental items that we have hauled around lo these many years.   This may very well be that move.  Whenever that time comes, there will be two moves yet remaining – two moves the likes of which I will have never experienced in this life.  The first move will involve no deposits, no U-Haul truck, or packing and taping of boxes.   It will be unplanned and unscheduled.  My body will be borne by others who will also console those whom I have left behind; my final resting place marked by a tombstone that might bear a few words that will sum up the many years the Lord has given me upon this earth.   The second and final move will be my journey to meet my Lord and Savior in the air, where I will be escorted to the throne of the Father, to spend eternity with the redeemed of every age.  That will be a glorious occasion, not only because I will rest from my labors, but because I will arrive at that final destination knowing that never again will I have to make “another move.” 

Do We Want A Church That Flies?

by Tom Wacaster
A rather interesting article appeared in one of the more liberal periodicals sometime back that deserves an open and honest investigation.  The author's comments serve as a good example of the present effort on the part of change agents to remodel and restructure the Lord's church of our generation into something that is "functional," though not necessarily in accord with the "form" of the New Testament pattern.  The author of that article draws a parallel between the progress in aviation and the supposed progress now being offered the brotherhood.  He argues that our first attempts at flight failed because we sought to "imitate" the birds rather than develop the principle of flight.  In like manner, he argues, we [those who would demand a 'thus saith the Lord'] have sought to imitate the first century church rather than build a church that is functional.   He writes:  "Like the ornithopterists of old, we assumed that 'function' was inextricably bound to 'form', that to fly with the first century church required us to fly like it.  In our minds, a restoration of the first century spirit and dynamic would only be possible when we gave the modern church the same 'equipment' as its ancient counterpart...Many of us are growing frustrated with a modern church that may look like the ancient church in the particulars but fails to function with anything like its power and life-changing dynamic."  Let us take a close look at our misguided brother's plea.

First, functionality and form cannot be separated when it comes to divine and holy matters.  God so decreed that to be the case.  In short, when God designed the church He designed it to function according to His purpose, and with "his good pleasure" in mind (Eph. 1:5).  It makes no difference what generation we may live in, or what culture might surround us, truth remains truth and no man can add or successfully altar God's form without incurring God's wrath and displeasure.  We need to remind ourselves that  Galatians 1:8-9, Revelation 22:18-19 and 1 Corinthians 4:6 are still in the Bible. 

Second, functionality is not to be defined by men.   I find it interesting that the change agents have no clear definition of where they want to take the church.   This is because they do not know themselves where they want to go.   Many of them are like the pilot who told his passengers, "We are casting off the compass, and throwing out the radio, but we can rejoice in knowing that all engines are running and it is full speed ahead."  The Bible provides a clear cut pattern for the church both in its identity and its purpose.   Yes, there are minute details as to what the church should look like, but there are also plain and positive passages as to her purpose, and how that purpose is to be accomplished.  If I read my Bible clear we are to preach and teach the lost, build up and edify the body of Christ, and provide assistance to those in need as the opportunity arises.  God reminds us that if we will trust in Him, and build the church as He has instructed, it will function properly.  The error among those who seek to change the church is that they do not trust in God's design. Some would have you believe that if you build it according to God's pattern, it will not fly!  Two thousand years have proven otherwise.  If it worked in the first century [and it did], what makes us think we can improve upon God's design? 

Third, any problem or failure that might happen to arise lies not in the design of the craft that God has built, but the ones who might happen to be at the helm.   Placed in capable hands, an airplane can and will operate properly.  Pilot error is the cause of much of aviation's mishaps.  Likewise when God's church is placed in capable hands it will meet all of the divine specifications and it will operate properly and function at peak performance.  If the church is not functioning as it should, blame is to be laid at the feet of elders who will not shepherd the flock as they should, preachers who will not preach the truth without fear and favor of men, and members whose lives are not in harmony with God's will. 

One closing thought.  The article to which I refer is a clear call to abandon that pattern set forth in God's word in exchange for something that is "functional."  It is the age old argument that the end justifies the means.  And so this misguided author concludes:  "Central to this endeavor is a willingness to disconnect form from function, to assert that function is primary, and to suggest that it is possible to build a contemporary church that pleases God even if it does not look exactly like the church of the first or the nineteenth century."   In the final analysis I prefer a church whose feet are on the ground, standing on the Rock of Ages, as opposed to one that would soar through the skies with no direction, no compass, and no certain destination.

Is Pope John Qualified For Sainthood?

byTom Wacaster

In an article appearing on Reuters website, Phillip Pullella wrote, “The Vatican may have found the ‘miracle’ they need to put the late Pope John Paul one step closer to sainthood.” According to the article, Pope John Paul allegedly healed
a French nun who suffered from the same Parkinson’s disease that afflicted him. But the details of that healing are quite revealing, as are the “conditions” for the Pope’s sainthood. Let us take a closer look.

First, it is claimed that the “nun” prayed to Pope John Paul after he had died, and was then inexplicably cured of her Parkinson’s disease. It should be noted that the New Testament never authorizes anyone to pray to a man for any reason whatsoever. Jesus taught us that we are to pray thus: “Our Father who art in heaven” (Mat. 6:9). In addition, if this woman was “inexplicably cured” of her Parkinson, how does she know that it was Pope John Paul who somehow healed her? At best it is pure subjectivism. The Hindus in India claim they were healed when they prayed to their Hindu god, but that does not make it so.

Second, the alleged healing is being “investigated” by the church authorities. Why is it necessary to “investigate” any
healing if indeed it is a true healing? In the New Testament times the miracles of the apostles were so powerful and convincing that even the enemies could not deny that a notable miracle had taken place. Nor could they question who it was that performed the miracle. And how, we might ask, are “church authorities” to go about investigating the matter? Do  they call the late Pope John Paul to the witness stand and ask him if he were the active party in the healing?

Third, even if it could be confirmed that the nun was healed as a result of her praying to the deceased Pope (something we affirm cannot be proven), how does that put the Pope “one step closer to sainthood”? I read of nothing in the New Testament that suggests that sainthood is something achieved in increments. Quite the contrary! When a person becomes a Christian he at one and the same time becomes a saint. That is because a saint is one who has been “sanctified.” Here is what the inspired apostle Paul wrote on the matter:

Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Note that these Christians in Corinth were sanctified when they were “washed” and “justified.” The same is true with regard to all Christians. That is why you read of the “saints in Rome,” the “saints in Philippi,” the “saints in Ephesus,” and the “saints in Colossae,” to name just a few.

Fourth, according to the article “another miracle would be necessary between beatification and eventual sainthood.” Another miracle? How many miracles does it take to convince someone that the message has been authenticated? And if it takes yet “another miracle” to move the late Pope closer to sainthood, then why not a third, fourth, fifth miracle, ad  infinitum? Oh reader, do you not see the futility and foolishness of such a doctrine?

Fifth, “only those ‘miracles’ which occurred after the Pope’s death can be investigated and eventually used as proof of holiness.” Wait a minute. I thought all faithful Catholics considered the Pope as holy prior to his death! They called him “Holy Father” prior to his death (something that is without authority in and of itself)! They bowed the knee and kissed his hand and ring! In the eyes of every Catholic the Pope is the epitome of holiness.   Now we are told that it will take another miracle from somewhere beyond the realms of the earthly to prove the man’s holiness!

Sixth, the month after John Paul died, Pope Benedict dispensed with the “Church rules and put him on the fast track to sainthood.” That speaks volumes of the present Pope (as well as all past Popes). The man presently reigning over the Catholic church is not concerned with rules . The end justifies the means.

Why is it that men cannot be satisfied with doing Bible things in Bible ways? Of course history tells us that the Catholic church has never had much concern about doing things as the Bible directs, for if they did, the Catholic church would not exist. In the final analysis, if Pope John (or any man for that matter) was not a “saint” when he died, he cannot be “made a saint” sometime thereafter. If I read my Bible correctly, the state in which a man dies “spiritually speaking” is the state in which he is going to spend all eternity, time without end. Perhaps the world would be better off if they were not so concerned about some make believe process that can make their deceased heroes saints, and were a little more concerned about what it means to live a saintly life in the sight of God now, while there is still time.

Church Marquees

by Tom Wacaster
The June 2007 issue of Reader's Digest had a two page article titled, "It's A Sign!"  in which a half dozen or so church  "message boards" were featured for the interest of its readers.  "At churches across America, some messages have to be seen to be believed!" is how the lead-in statement read.  It caught my eye, so I read on:  "You spot them along highways and byways, those sturdy little signs standing outside houses of worship, sharing information and exhortation - and occasionally, a delightfully light touch."   Out of the six messages the RD article featured, here were my favorite three:

"Walmart isn't the only saving place in town"
"It wasn't the apple it was the pair"
"Don't give up, Moses was once a basket case"

You can learn a lot about an institution by what is displayed on the marquee sign out front, if perchance they happen to have one.   I heard of a muffler shop that had the following on their marquee: "No appointment necessary; we'll hear you coming."   One sign in front of an optometrist's office read: "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."   One of my favorite appeared at the Electric office:  "We would be delighted if you send in your bill. However, if you don't, you will be."

Message boards can also be used to teach important lessons, and when plain and pointed, can drive a point home.  One congregation of the Lord's church in south Texas put the following on their marquee:  "Be not deceived: neither fornicators...nor effeminate, nor homosexuals shall inherit the kingdom of God."  That sign generated a lot of interest, as well as phone calls and threatened law suits. 

While traveling to Virginia this past month, I came across the following three marquee messages that spoke volumes about the churches out front of which they stood:

At a Baptist church: "NASCAR legend Morgan Shepherd speaking tonight"
At a Pentecostal church: "Skate board ministry, Thursday nights at 7:00"
At an Evangelical church: "Shorts and Sandals?  No problem"

If each of the congregations of the churches of Christ were to place such marquees in front of their building adequately depicting the "heart" of that congregation, I wonder what we might find:

"Marriage and Divorce: Like Whataburger, you can have it your way"
"Worship services to suit every life-style!"
"If you don't like our eldership now, cast your vote in this coming November election!"
"Unity in diversity - the key to maintaining union in the bond of compromise"
"Upcoming workshop: How to chizzle the name 'Church of Christ' off your building and avoid damaging the bricks"
"Class on the Holy Spirit: If you don't choose to come, He'll directly influence you to come - either way, we'll see you there"

Yes, I wonder!