The Bible, God's Precious Gift To Us

by Tom Wacaster

I recently obtained a copy of the Ninth Annual Shenandoah Lectures, entitled "A Handbook on Bible Translation."  It is a veritable 'gold-mine' of information pertaining to translation methods, with a review of some of the modern English translations now on the market.  There is also information on the Bible itself, with lessons on the subject of inspiration, the reliability of the Bible, and the indestructible nature of God's word.  It is comforting to know that our God is in control of all things, and that He can, and does, preserve His word.  Through Peter our God  has resassured us that His word will "live and abide forever" (1 Pet. 1:22-24).  Among other things of interest in the lectureship book, was this tribute that Henry VanDyke wrote, perhaps the most noble words ever ascribed to the Bible. I share them with you:  "Born in the East and clothed in Oriental form and imagery, the Bible walks the ways of all the world with familiar feet and enters land after land to find its  own everywhere.  It has learned to speak in hundreds of languages to the heart of man.  Children listen to its stories with wonder and delight, and wise men ponder them as parables of life.  The wicked and proud tremble at its warnings, but to the wounded and penitent it has a mother's voice.  It has woven itself into our dearest dreams; so that love, sympathy, devotion, memory, and hope put on the beautiful garments of its treasured speech.  No man is poor or desolate who  has this treasure for his own.  When the landscape darkens, and the trembling pilgrim comes to the valley of the shadow, he is not afraid to enter; he takes the rod and staff of scripture in his hand; he says to friend and comrade, 'Goodbye; we shall meet again'; and, confronted by that support, he goes toward the lonely pass as one who walks through darkness to light" (Lectureship book, page 246-247).

How grateful we should be for the precious word of God.  We should read and study it as a hungry man longs for food, or a thirsty man for water to sooth his dry, parched lips.  Here is the manna for our soul, the light for our path, and the strength for the hour.  Do not neglect it, for it will judge you in the last day. 

God's Marvelous Grace

by Tom Wacaster
"For by grace have ye been saved though faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory' (Eph. 2:8-9). These words have been the center of controversy for as long as I can remember. Denominational theologians, and in recent years some of our own brethren have suggested that man is saved solely on the basis of grace; that no man can "contribute one whit to his salvation." This of course is false on the very surface of it. One need simply take a look at the numerous passages which lay at the feet of each and every individual the responsibility to act on that which he has come to know and believe (Phil. 2:12, 2 Thess. 1:7-9, Acts 17:30-31, 2 Cor. 5:10). If man plays absolutely no role whatsoever in his salvation, then all men must eventually be saved for "the grace of God hath appeared unto all men" (Titus 2:11).

Yes, the doctrine of salvation by grace has been abused, maligned, and perverted. But we must avoid the temptation to swing too far to the right while attempting to make a correction toward center. Balance demands the recognition of both parties involved in salvation, namely the divine and human sides of salvation. When we speak of God's grace, we are speaking of the divine side of salvation. Someone has said, ""Grace is that quality of God which gives us what we do not deserve while mercy is that quality which does not give us what we do deserve." God saves us by grace, not by obligation. The only obligation that God has to save man is that obligation that is self imposed. He is not obligated by outside forces. What you or I do in compliance to God's commands does not in any way obligate God, or place Him in debt to us. But since He has promised that He will save those who believe and obey, He has placed upon Himself the obligation to follow through on His promises. What great comfort there is in knowing that we serve a God Who never lies, and Who always keeps His promises. There is great consolation in knowing that we do not have to depend upon our own self righteousness to make it to heaven. Were that the case, then quite frankly, none of us would ever see so much as the shadow of that heavenly portal to which we have set our hopes and our hearts. The key here is this little word "depend." It is a matter of in what or in Whom we place our trust and confidence. It is summed up in the word "faith."

Paul clearly states that we are saved by grace, through faith. Faith is the medium by which we gain access to the wonderful grace of God. Here is the human side of salvation. When the two are combined, the result is man's salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. Clovis Chappell once wrote, "God measures us not by our achievements, but by our longings to achieve. He judges us not by what we have in our hands, but what we have in our hearts. He crowns us not for the great task that we actually accomplished, but for the great task that we long to accomplish." The beloved poet Browning said, "It is not what man does, but what man would do that exalts him." When we sing the words, "My Savior pardoned me and now I onward go; I know He'll take me thro' tho' I am weak and poor," we are speaking of God's Marvelous Grace.

For My Sake

by Tom Wacaster
Bobby Key tells of a little dog that President Theodore Roosevelt owned, which was always getting into fights. The little fellow always took a beating. One day he tackled a mangy cur and took a real whipping. A man standing nearby said, "Mr. Roosevelt, your dog isn't much of a fighter." Teddy replied, "He is a good fighter, but he is a poor judge of dogs."  When I was growing up it was my intention to remain aloof of the little scuffles that may have arisen in school.  I despised a fight! Partly because of my size, but mostly because mom and dad taught us to avoid such things.  But good intentions never won an argument, and as hard as I tried, I still managed to get into my share of trouble.  When I was in Junior high, attending John B. Hood school in a northern suburb of Dallas, there was this tall, rather husky fellow who liked to demonstrate his brute strength.  In short, he loved to pick a fight with those smaller than himself (which would encompass the whole of the P.E. class).   As I recall, we were sitting in the bleachers, listening to one of those long winded coaches deliver a lecture. Unknown to me, this overgrown social misfit decided he would tie my shoe laces around one of the metal brackets on the bleacher.  When the lecture was over, and we got up to leave, I fell flat on my face, snapped the laces off at the shoe, and suffered injury to my body, and my pride. Honor was at stake here!  Somehow I managed to open my mouth, and things would be settled after school that afternoon.  I'll not tell you how things turned out, but I determined from that day forward that I would learn to be a peace maker.  I have never enjoyed controversy. I don't suppose any of us do.  But there are times when we must stand for that which is right, face the enemy square in the eyes, and let come what may.  Our Lord was a controversialist. He did not run from confrontation, nor did He ever allow the truth to suffer at the hands of the enemy.  Beloved, the very nature of truth is controversial. And if our Lord suffered reproach, ridicule, and rejection from His own, what makes us think that we will escape the same?  So when do we fight, and when do we turn and walk away? Our Lord provided the key: "Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, FOR MY SAKE" (Matthew 5:11).  If at any time the truth is at stake, or the honor of the Lord is threatened, then it is time to stand in the gap and let courage prevail.  Sometimes wisdom dictates that we simply walk away from an argument and let the fool be known by his folly.  When our personal feelings are at stake, or when pride is threatened, it might be good to be a peace maker.  Too many congregations have been divided over petty differences.  Matters of opinion often are treated as matters of doctrine.  Though sometimes it is difficult to determine what constitutes opinion vs. doctrine, it is essential that we recognize the difference - even if it means withholding judgment until we are certain it truly IS a matter of doctrine.  But when the truth is at stake - when the clear teaching of God's word is threatened - then we must, like our Savior, draw the sword and march into battle.  Fear must give way to faith, and courage must prevail.  We must be willing to face the enemy with the full thrust of God's word, holding back nothing, pitying none, and loving God and His word above all else.  The late J.W. McGarvey noted, "Where the hottest fire of the enemy is, thither the return fire must be directed" (J.W. McGarvey).  Let us encourage those who are determined to preach the truth, and let us determine that we will do all within our power to let our lives demonstrate a courage that is willing to die "for His sake."   We'll close with the following poem

The World Needs Men

The world needs men who love the truth
And hold ideals others spurn;
Who work to conquer social ills
And make mankind their great concern.
It pleads for men whose thoughts are right,
Who give the pure and noble wings;
For they alone can lift the race
From baser thoughts to which it clings.

The world needs men-- men unafraid
To face the marching hordes of might;
With well-trained mind and ready voice
To speak courageously for right.
It calls for men who walk with God;
Who make the cause of Christ their own,
And in this flippant, careless age,
All other lifeless gods, disown.

--George W. Wiseman
( in Doran's Ministers Manual, 1945)

Following Instructions

by Tom Wacaster
About a month ago I decided that it was time to replace the old DVD player with an updated player and recorder combo. When I unpacked the box there were four manuals (one in English, one in Spanish, one in French, and one in German), a package of wires included for routing the TV signal through the DVD player, a wire for use with digital cameras, and some extra paraphernalia for first one thing and then another. Everything was included in the box that would give me an “enjoyable experience” with my new DVD player/recorder (except batteries, of course). Most manufactures of electronic equipment have figured out that many of their customers are anxious to “get started” and so they include, along with the owner’s manual, a “quick start guide” that enables the customer to get his equipment up and running, even if he does not know what he is doing once he does get it going. Once the customer has his equipment up and running he is encouraged to take the time to read the owner’s manual. But if I know the human race, by this time most of the new proud owners of the latest in electronic gadgetry are saying to themselves, “Who needs the owner’s manual? What do they think I am, a dunce? I can do this on my own.” This same mind set kicks in when it comes to consulting a map to figure out where you are, putting together a complicated piece of lawn equipment, or following instructions for any number of complicated, or not so complicated, items.

Were this mind set limited to the temporal and physical realm in which we live, we might only have to suffer an occasional embarrassment, or at worst, like Tim “the-tool-man” Taylor, make a visit to the hospital now and then. But tragically this same kind of mind set seems to have infected the masses when it comes to listening to, or consulting with, the God of heaven in matters of religion. I have, on a number of occasions, referred to the Bible as our soul’s “owner’s manual.” Within the pages of this book are instructions that will provide us with a peaceful and happy life here on earth (Phil 4:7), better health and overall happiness (1 Pet. 3:10), our daily provisions of food, clothing and shelter (Matt. 6:19-33), and the hope of life everlasting when this life is over (Rom. 8:25, 1 Cor.13:13, Gal. 5:5). When we examine the religious landscape about us it is rather obvious that the “many” (Matt. 7:13) have gone about seeking to establish a system of religion based upon their own wants and desires rather than taking the time to read and study the owner’s manual. “I don’t need that manual,” or “I’m smart enough to figure this out on my own” seem to permeate the thinking of mankind spiritually speaking. It seems to me that there are at least four classifications of those who have failed, or are failing, to read the manual.
First, there are those who have never even heard of the manual. Living in the dark recesses of the earth, they are completely unaware of the Bible, the message contained therein, or it’s Great Giver. These need not live in Africa, or the Congo, for there are some even within the borders of our own United States who have never heard of God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, or the plan for man’s salvation. Millions upon millions living in India bow at the feet of their Hindu gods while millions here in America bow at the shrine of material gain without so much as an inkling of an idea of who God is or the wonderful blessings that await them through His Son Jesus Christ.

Second, there are those who know about the manual, but have not taken the time to study it carefully. These have some vague idea as to the system of Christianity, but at some point in time they decided that they do not need God, nor do they need to take the time to read the Bible, or comply with the commandments contained therein. That “manual” may have been good enough for mom and dad, but after all, “I have more important things to do than to waste time reading some manual; I can figure this out for myself.”

Third, there are those who want a “quick start” in their “Christianity,” and, rather than read the manual itself, have relied upon others to read it for them. Heed is given to their “pastor,” or “preacher” upon whom they rely for instructions in religion and the exercise thereof. The false teachers, with their “smooth and fair speech…beguile the hearts of the innocent” (Rom. 16:18), and these careless souls are carried away with every wind of doctrine imaginable (Eph. 4:14); all for the lack of taking the time to read the instructions.  

Finally, there are those who have quickly read the manual or a small portion thereof, and who care not what the Book says but are intent on doing it their way. “I like it,” or “I want it” are the twin manifestations of a selfish heart that despise the narrow-minded pattern of God’s word. Rather than confine themselves to the instructions from above, they are determined to walk in the path of their own foolishness. They ignore the warning of old, “O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). To them, how to worship God is not so important as their desire to worship him. Sincerity trumps truth, and feelings outweigh facts. From those caught up in denominational error to those who have been deluded by the change agents within the body of Christ, the end result will be the same, for “if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into the pit” (Matt. 15:14).

When it comes to life, and the eternal destiny of the soul, it is imperative that you take the time to read the instructions and follow them cautiously and carefully. You may be able to eventually figure out how to operate that new piece of electronic equipment. You may even be able to figure out “how to get there from here” without consulting a map. But beloved, you are NEVER (I repeat, “Never”) going to make it to heaven if you do not take the time to read and follow the instructions.

My Old Bible

Though the cover is worn,
And the pages are torn,
And though places bear traces of tears.
Yet more precious than gold,
Is this book worn and old,
That can scatter and shatter my fears.
This old book is my guide.
This is a friend by my side
It will lighten and brighten my way;
And each promise I find,
Soothes and gladdens my mind,
As I read it and heed it each day.
To this book I will cling,
Of its worth I will sing,
Though great losses and crosses be mine;
For I cannot despair,
Though surrounded by care,
While possessing this blessing divine.

Faith Comes By Hearing

by Tom Wacaster
"And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7). What an amazing verse, filled with a wealth of truth for our benefit and spiritual growth. The apostles had been beaten for preaching the gospel. Instead of complain, the scripture tells us that they considered themselves "worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name" (Acts 5:41). During that same period of time, internal conflict arose in the Jerusalem when "there arose a murmuring of the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration" (Acts 6:1). As you well know, the apostles saw the need to appoint deacons to serve tables in order that the "ministry of the word" might continue. Consequently, we are told that the "word of God increased; and the number of disciples multiplied" (Acts 6:7). Take note of the order. The "word....increased and the disciples multiplied." Cause and effect are thus presented. Until we grasp that simple lesson, growth will continue to elude us and precious souls will enter eternity without ever hearing the soul-saving message. This is precisely why brethren have seen the necessity of keeping the Great Commission on the front burner of their work. Congregations that have grasped the significance of that Divine order (hearing, believing) are usually out front leading the effort to take the gospel to foreign fields and emphasize evangelism at home.

This order is suggested elsewhere in the New Testament. "So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word" (Romans 10:17). "The sower went forth to sow his seed...The seed is the word of God...and that in the good ground, these are the good and honest heart, having HEARD (emphasis mine, TW), hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience" (Luke 8:5, 11, 15). That is the Divine order and any attempt to circumvent that order will not produce the desired effect. We think it is significant that according to the Biblical pattern, the physical is subordinate to the spiritual. Serving tables was not neglected; but the apostles recognized the superior need to preach the word. The wisdom of that choice is seen in the principle noted above. It is only through the preaching of the word that growth will come. Temporary "swelling" may occur with emphasis upon the flesh, but genuine, solid, sound, Biblical growth, both numerical and spiritual, can only come through the preaching of the gospel. Our generation must learn this simple truth. Unless every member of the body works together to the planting of the "seed," disciples will not multiply, the church will not grow.

It is also noteworthy that neither EXTERNAL persecution, nor INTERNAL disruption hindered the proclamation of the gospel. External opposition to our preaching the truth should be ignored, for we must obey God rather than men. Internal disruption must be adequately dealt with before progress can continue. It is the later which so often hinders our evangelistic efforts. Murmuring, false teaching, internal strife, etc. so often keep elders and preachers stamping out "brush fires" and, consequently, evangelism is retarded, if not completely stifled. Men of God must deal with those things forthrightly, and scripturally, and get on with the task before them. The great commission must be fulfilled. The gospel must be preached. Then, and only then, will the disciples multiply.

The Cluttered Desk

by Tom Wacaster

Having just arrived home from my latest mission endeavor, I now find myself facing the dubious task of "catching up" with the backlog of correspondence, reading and filing, and bills. I have not yet figured out how to keep up with all of these things when my office is located in East Texas and I am half way around the world teaching and preaching; to take my office with me is an impossibility, and to stay at home is not an option. Unfortunately, even when I am home my office tends to get cluttered with first one thing and then another. Occasionally I have to take time and clean my desk off so that I can see what I am doing. As I type this article there are thirteen books laying dormant on my desk in various stages of readiness, one file full of illustrations, a notebook for keeping track of activities during my day, several markers and pens, a stack of the last five months of Reader’s Digest, an unread copy of the Dallas Morning News (now at least two months old), a scratch pad or two, and pieces of mail (mostly junk advertisements) all cluttering up the desk. Strangely enough, I do not remember getting some of those things out, or for what purpose I put them there. They are just there, interfering with those more important things that I must get done.

Many a life is nothing more than a cluttered desk! In a frantic effort to get to those really important matters, we must first fight the time-wasting, insignificant things that hinder us at every turn. The tragedy is, most of us never DO get to the really important things in life. We allow the television, pleasure, self interests and the pursuit for things (all of which perish with the using), to distract us from taking care of the most important business of all, preparing for eternity. Were we to stand back and take an honest look at what has cluttered up our lives, we might wonder how in the world they got there in the first place, or what purpose they serve. They are just there! And deep inside we know we must clear them out of the way and tend to those important matters while there is still time.

A number of years ago Walt Disney Studios produced a full length animated movie titled, "Lion King." The theme song contained some very thought provoking words:

From the time we arrive on the planet,
And blinking, step into the sun;
There is more to see than can ever be seen,
More to do than can ever be done.

Seeing that we will never be able to see all there is to see, or do all there is to do, does it not seem reasonable that we would want to make sure we got the truly important things done first? Once we recognize this logical and obvious truth, perhaps it will serve to motivate us to pay attention to that cluttered desk, or whatever else it might be that hinders us from accomplishing the truly important things in life. 

Shall We Cause Them To Stumble?

by Tom Wacaster
When we were raising our children there were a number of times that we would not allow them to go with their friends to a certain activity. We felt that it was not in their best interest morally, or spiritually. Time has proven our actions wise. Though they could not understand our motives at the time, they have more than once expressed appreciation for the restraint that we placed upon them. I am certain that most have had to repeat those oft dreaded words, “Because I told you so,” and have likewise restrained little hands and feet from participating in questionable activities. Though children cannot understand at any given moment exactly WHY we parents must restrict their actions, from the parents’ perspective we realize that we will answer should we permit them to travel in a path detrimental to their spiritual well being. Jesus warned us, “But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). It is serious business to cause innocent minds and hearts to go astray.

Were I to ask the question that serves as the title of this article, I am confident that each and every one of us would answer with a resounding “NO!” None of us wants to see our children stumble. This being true, why is it that parents, and church leaders, often allow our youth to travel down a path that is, at best, questionable, and often DEAD WRONG? Consider the following examples.

First, young, impressionable minds are allowed to attend movies and listen to music that is filled with bad language, violence, etc. I do not attend movies much any more, for the simple reason that most of what is produced is not fit to watch. Not long ago my wife and I went to watch a G rated movie. After purchasing the tickets and walking into the movie, I was shocked to see the number of children going with their parents into PG-13 movies. Then there is the music that is designed to appeal to youth. Music albums and CD’s have covers and contents that eyes and ears should not consume. Heaven only knows how many children watch the garbage that is dumped into our homes during prime time TV. The list goes on. Parents should be very selective in what they allow their children to watch. But in addition, parents should be selective in what they watch.

Second, there is an ever increasing absence of supervision of children in their daily activities. “Latch-key-children” has become a household word used to describe children who arrive home from school long before their parents get home from work. Wholesome role models have all but disappeared in the inner city, and “single-parent” families” are much more common than they used to be.

When it comes to the church, elders, preachers, parents and teachers have a great responsibility of seeing to it that our youth are given proper direction and guidance. Sometimes we have to make decisions that are not favorable to the youth themselves. It is astounding to me that some leaders within the church have bought into the lie that a youth activity hosted by some neighboring congregation is wholesome just because it is sponsored by area churches. Those who would lead the church into apostasy are not stupid. If the youth can be changed, it is only a matter of time until the whole of the church will be changed. Young minds cannot discern the error in religious matters any more than they can discern some of the moral ills that surround and tempt them every day. They need guidance and direction. We should be selective in those activities in which we allow our youth to participate, realizing that we may be responsible for what effect it has upon their impressionable minds, as well as their eternal destiny. May it never be said of us that we were negligent in training our children. And may it never be said that any one of us caused one of these little ones to stumble.