Giving Thanks In Every Situation

by Tom Wacaster

Once again we are approaching that one day in the year which our government leaders of a bygone era set aside in order to emphasize thanksgiving to our Creator for His abundant blessings.  As God’s children, we realize that the giving of thanks is not an annual, but a daily part of our lives.   Perhaps it would be good this Thanksgiving Day to include the following petition in our prayer before sitting down to eat:  “God, please grant us one more blessing…a thankful heart.” 

Permit me to share with you two stories that have been in my files for more than 25 years.  The first of these tells about a circuit-riding preacher of a hundred years ago who was asked to ride miles out of his way to hold services in a church known for being tightfisted.  His text was 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” The minister preached an eloquent sermon on gratitude and stressed the need of finding a sense of thanksgiving in every situation of life.  At the close of the service, the minister passed his wide-brimmed hat for the collection. It came back empty. He turned it upside down, and then shook it, but nothing came out. As the preacher began his benediction, the congregation wondered what he could give thanks for. “Father in Heaven,” the minister prayed good naturedly, “I thank thee for many things, but especially for getting my hat back.”

Our second story comes out of the life of Matthew Henry, the well known Bible commentator.  Mr. Henry was a cheerful man, and reportedly of easy temperament. Once, when he discovered a thief had stolen his purse, he turned to his diary and entered this observation: “Let me be thankful first, because he never robbed be before; second, because although he took my purse he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

It is often difficult to find a blessing in trials and tribulation.  The problem that we face in our affluent society is that we often mistake our luxuries for necessities, and mere inconveniences as severe trials.  There is a therapeutic value to gratitude. Being grateful for the beauty of life in any and every circumstance will help us bear the burden of the moment and lift us up to face our tomorrows with a deeper appreciation for what we DO have, rather than fret over what we may have lost. 

Of course it is much easier to give thanks in times of peace and prosperity.  But at the same time there is a greater danger in affluent times to forget to give thanks.  Though given as a warning to Old Testament Israel, the truth contained in Deuteronomy 8:10-11 is fitting: “When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day.”

Should our Lord return in our life time may we be of such a frame of mind that He will find us giving thanks in any and every situation.  We hope you have an enjoyable Thanksgiving Day!

New Numbers

by Tom Wacaster

This past October 16th my wife and I celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary.   In those four plus decades we have moved a total of 26 times.  We are presently engaged in yet another move, this time to the Forth Worth, Texas area.  This move will make number 27 (if we have counted correctly).  Some of those moves have been just “around the corner,” some across town, some out of state, and at least two times from one country to another.   None of those moves has been “easy,” and some of them have been what Peter might classify as a “fiery trial.”  In each of those moves we have had to take care of those pesky “new numbers” that come into our lives:  address, zip codes, area codes, phone numbers, bank account numbers; the list seems almost endless.  It is amazing how many numbers we still remember – burned into our memory as with a “hot iron”:  1312 South Cherry, 722 West 22nd, 501 Southgate, to name but a few.   Each location has provided us with memories to last a life time. It makes no difference whether we lived there for a few months, or for a few years; we can still remember those experiences that come with raising a family, or working with God’s family in the congregation with which I was associated at the time.   Oh, the memories! 

Once again our numbers are changing.  We are acquiring a new address, new phone numbers (house, office and cell), and a new zip code that goes with the P.O. Box as well as the street address.   The change in numbers symbolizes a change in the road we travel through life’s sojourn toward that heavenly home.   Each of those new numbers reminds us of the uncertainly of life and the ever changing circumstances we experience over the years.  No doubt these new numbers will only be temporary and it will not be long ere we once gain find ourselves acquiring yet more numbers to take up space in our mind and provide our friends with information of our whereabouts. 

 The uncertainty of life reflected in those changing numbers stands in stark contrast to the permanence of our God.  He is “the same yesterday and today, yea and forever” (Heb. 13:8).  The Proverb writer noted, “There are many devices in a man's heart; But the counsel of Jehovah, that shall stand” (Pro. 19:21).  It is this realization of the sovereignty of our God that gives us hope in times of despair, patience in the face of adversity, and a firm foundation when everything around us seems to be crumbling at our feet.  No doubt W. Williams had this very thought in mind when he wrote the words to that well known hymn:

Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I a weak but Thou art mighty,
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Bear me through the swelling current,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.

Let life’s fleeting changes come and go; the saint will hold fast to the hand of his God, never losing sight of that heavenly mansion that has been prepared for the faithful.  The time will come when we lay aside this “tabernacle” for a “house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).   It may be my lot to move another dozen times before my Lord calls me to that heavenly home. But when it comes my time to depart the walks of life I will rejoice knowing that my heavenly home will be a place where there will be no “new numbers” to memorize or mail to my loved ones.   

Back In The Saddle

by Tom Wacaster

Some of you country and western fans might remember a popular song with the above title.  “Back in the Saddle Again” was the signature song of American cowboy entertainer Gene Autry. It was co-written by Autry with Ray Whitley and first released in1939. The song was associated with Autry throughout his career and was used as the name of Autry's autobiography in 1976.  The song struck a cord (no pun intended) with country and western fans, and has remained a popular musical hit reaching beyond the world of country and western music into pop and easy listening circles as well.  There is only one stanza, followed by a chorus, and a repeat of the one stanza.  Here are the words:

I'm back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly gypsum weed
Back in the saddle again

Ridin' the range once more
Totin' my old .44
Where you sleep out every night
And the only law is right
Back in the saddle again

It has been a little over seven years since I left local work to engage in mission efforts around the world. I have truly enjoyed the work, and I must confess that in all my labors to date in the Lord’s kingdom, these seven years have been among the most rewarding.  The receptivity of souls in Russia, India, Ethiopia, Nepal, and Mexico reminds us of a bygone era in America when men’s souls hungered and thirsted for the truth.  This growth of the church numerically in India reminds me of something I have read in history books about the Lord’s church and experienced only briefly in the early years of my youth.   In my seven campaigns to India we have baptized more than 2,000 souls, established more than four dozen new congregations, converted whole denominational churches, and helped in benevolent cases that have opened the doors into areas where the gospel was previously not allowed to go.  

On November 1st I officially re-entered local work.  Of course I was in Russia at the time, but my mind was turning toward what awaited me upon my arrival home on the 4th.  Sunday morning the 7th I preached my first sermon as the pulpit minister for the Handley congregation.  I will still be involved in two mission endeavors making one trip to Russia and one trip to India each year.   I have, as Gene Autry was wont to say, climbed “back in the saddle again.”  No, I have no intention of mounting a steed, but Mr. Autry has captured the sentiments of all those who, for one reason or another, have found themselves returning to something of which they are familiar, and in which they find great pleasure.  To that extent I guess you could say, I’m “back in the saddle again.”  What I love most about local work is the opportunity to preach – and to do so in one’s own language, without having to go through an interpreter.  I am not so na├»ve as to think that we will get the kind of responses I have seen in India; but I also believe that if we plant enough seed, we will reap an abundant harvest for this is something the Lord has promised.  To that end we will focus our attention, and to that end we will engage our labors.

One more thought before I close this week’s “Tom’s Pen.”  There are many once-faithful saints who, for one reason or another, have allowed the devil to delude, deceive, and destroy their faith in God.  Perhaps a weak brother or sister will read this article, and realize that with God’s great grace and His wonderful love for their soul, they will be willing to repent of their sins, and join me in repeating the refrain of that old Gene Autry song, “I’m back in the saddle again.”