Calvary, Not Bethlehem

by Tom Wacaster

It happened almost 2,000 years ago; but the residual effect is still with us today.  Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of that moment in history when the sins of mankind were laid upon the back of our Savior and the Son of God bled and suffered on Calvary that you and I might live.   But for some reason men have a desire to celebrate the birth of Christ rather than His death.  We decorate our houses with glittering lights, wrap our presents in pretty paper, and sing holiday songs for approximately 28 days, and then go on our merry way wishing each other a Happy New Year until the next “black Friday” when the latest gadgets and electronic marvels hit the shelves of Best Buy and Walmart.   While the birth of Jesus is most certainly a significant historical event, it was not God’s wish that we celebrate the birth of Jesus once a year, but that we remember His death once a week.  Every time we break the bread and drink the cup we are reminded of Calvary!  The late Johnny Ramsey so eloquently captured the idea:

On a hill far away that old rugged Cross beckons lost mankind to a nobler pursuit of life. Out of the depths of despair and ruin untold comes a clarion call from heaven that provides salvation for wayfaring men estranged from God to come back home to the Father who runs to meet the prodigals once enveloped in the pig-pen of iniquity.  The compelling love of the One who died for all (2 Cor. 5:14) draws us to a richer, fuller and purpose filled life that responds to the suffering Savior in obedience, gratitude and loyalty (The Words of Truth, April 25, 1997).

The real impact of Christianity is not found in a manger one cold December morning.  In fact, evidence suggests that our Lord was born in the early to mid Spring rather than the dead of winter.   The heralding angels, the shepherds, and the wise men all played a part in ushering the Lord and Savior into this world.    We cannot, yea would not diminish the importance of that moment when Mary gave birth to the incarnate Son of God.  Without His birth there would have been no life; and without His sinless life there would have been no value in His death beyond that of ordinary mortal men.  However, it was not His birth, but His death that provides hope. It was His death that unleashed the power of heaven to save men from their sins.  It was Calvary, not Bethlehem, to which the eyes of lost humanity must turn for hope.   It was Calvary, not Bethlehem where the price was paid for the sins of humanity.  It was Calvary, not Bethlehem, where God’s law was fulfilled, divine wrath was satisfied, and the fountain of life was opened and from whence has poured forth the cleansing blood of our Lord for almost 20 centuries.   Yes, all this happened at Calvary, not Bethlehem!

More On Miracles (part 3)

by Tom Wacaster

[If you have not read the first two parts in this series, let me encourage you to obtain a copy from the office and take a look. Let’s continue our thoughts in this week’s column].

In order to appreciate 1 Corinthians chapter 13 the Bible student must consider the overall context in which it is written. To divorce this chapter from the immediate context of spiritual gifts will cause the student to miss the main point the Holy Spirit is trying to make. As I mentioned in my last article, each gift served a particular purpose.  Together, the nine gifts would serve to mature a congregation as they grew in the grace and knowledge of God’s word. In 12:12-30 Paul likens the church to a body. All the several parts of a physical body work in unison in order to provide for the functioning of the body as a whole. Since the church is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), each member was expected to use whatever miraculous endowment he had received to help the spiritual body function as it grew unto maturity. As valuable as those spiritual gifts were, Paul closes chapter twelve with this observation: “But desire earnestly the greater gifts. And moreover a most excellent way show I unto you” (1 Cor. 12:31). That more excellent way is the way of love. Chapter thirteen will serve three purposes: (1) it provides a brief discussion on the essentiality of love; (2) it provides a discussion on the essence of love; and (3) it closes with a wonderful discussion on the endurance of love in comparison with the spiritual gifts. Each of these three points begs further consideration. 

The Essentiality of Love: There is no doubt that the church at Corinth had a serious problem regarding the gift of tongues. I get the impression they were proud, puffed up, and pugnacious with regard to their possession and use of the gift of tongues. What they were missing was genuine love. Having set forth a description of the spiritual gifts in the previous chapter, the apostle Paul now seeks to impress upon their minds the superiority of love over the gifts. The church could well function without a single spiritual gift; but without love, they were empty, vain, and nothing more than clanging brass or a tinkling cymbal. Pay close attention to 1 Corinthians 13:2. “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love I am nothing.” I have intentionally italicized three words to point out that Paul focuses our attention on three of the nine gifts as representative of all nine of the gifts. Love far excels any and all of the spiritual gifts. Without love, the exercise of the spiritual gifts is vain and void.

The Essence of Love: Each of these character traits of love deserve a much closer look than what I can give in this article. The list of character traits of love is both beautiful and practical. These are the things that make agape love what it is - the deepest degree of love possible. Many years ago I heard a preacher make the practical application of these character traits and challenged each person in the audience to insert his name where the word “love” appears, and then read the passage carefully and soberly in order to see how he or she might measure up to this heavenly admonition.

The Endurance of Love: It is this third part of chapter thirteen that is the focus of this and the two previous articles. I am seeking to answer the question as to whether or not the spiritual gifts, and consequently the age of miracles, has passed, or if we still possess the same gifts and the same ability to perform miracles as did the first century church. This chapter, and especially verses 8-13, have a direct bearing on the answer to that question.

“Love never fails.” Why would the apostle even write these words unless it be to contrast the permanent nature of love with the temporal nature of the spiritual gifts? Paul is seeking to impress upon the Corinthians that love is absolutely permanent! Love will NEVER FAIL!

Before proceeding let us notice three words in this verse.  They are prophecies,” “tongues,” and “knoweldge.”  Notice also that the “never faileth” stands in contrast to “shall be done away,” “shall cease” and “shall be done away.” But in the context, what do the “tongues,” “prophecies” and “knowledge” refer to? Without doubt, they refer to the spiritual gifts set forth in the previous chapter. Whatever else we might conclude from this verse, there is the obvious and undeniable truth that the spiritual gifts were going to cease. It is only a matter of determining when that would happen.

Paul then writes, “For we know in part, and we prophecy in part.” The words are used in connection with at least two of the nine spiritual gifts. The gift of “knowledge” was only “in part.” It was limited! It was fragmented, a part here; a part there! Likewise with prophecy, tongues, discernment, and all of the other spiritual gifts. Verse 10 serves to pinpoint the precise time when the “in part” [i.e., the spiritual gifts] would cease.  “When that which is perfect is come, that which is impart shall be done away.” The question remains, therefore, as to  precisely what this “perfect thing” is. Some seem to think that the “perfect thing” refers to Christ, and conclude that “when that which is perfect is come” is a reference to the second coming. The major hurdle in this position is the neuter gender of the “perfect thing.” Were Paul speaking of Christ and His coming, he would have used the masculine gender. I think there is a very simple way to determine what the “perfect thing” is. When “that which is perfect is come,” there will no longer be a need for the spiritual gifts of “knowledge,” “tongues,” and “prophecy.” The “perfect thing” will take the place of those gifts insofar as the purpose of the gifts are concerned. Seeing that the spiritual gifts were designed to provide the content, communication, and confirmation of the message of God, it seems natural to expect the “perfect thing” to do the same thing. The only “perfect thing” that accomplishes that purpose is the fully revealed word of God. James refers to the word of God as the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). 2 Timothy 3:16-17 helps us here: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Pay close attention to the 17th verse. The word of God provides all that is necessary to completely equip us unto every good word. This includes the content of God’s message to man, the communication of that message, and the confirmation of that message. Now let’s return to 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen.

Paul immediately follows his prophecy of the “perfect thing” with two illustrations of the point he is trying to make. The first of these is that of a child who has grown into maturity. When the church was in its infant stage it needed the spiritual gifts to bring it unto maturity. This is precisely the truth taught in Ephesians 4:8-15, a passage that deserve more attention than I have space in this article to give. So I’ll come back to that later. 

The second illustration Paul gives to the Corinthians is contained in 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.” When all that men had were the spiritual gifts it was like standing before a glass “darkly.” The full clear image could not be seen. Once again, James helps us here: “For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (Jas. 1:23-24). When the perfect thing is come, I will be able to see myself fully! That is exactly what a person sees when he gazes into a mirror: himself! James tells us that the “perfect law of liberty” is that which enables a person to see himself as he really is, spiritually speaking.

Paul closes 1 Corinthians 13 with beautiful words, “But now abideth faith, hope love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” That is because, as Solomon wrote long ago,  “Many waters cannot quench love, Neither can floods drown it: If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, He would utterly be contemned” (Song of Solomon 8:7).

More On Miracles (part 2)

by Tom Wacaster

If you have not read part one in this series, let me encourage you to obtain a copy from the office and take a look. Let’s continue our thoughts in this week’s column.

It seems that the religious world has turned Bible teaching on its head when it comes to a reasonable and rational discussion of the spiritual gifts. This is due in no little part to the sheer emotionalism that dominates the discussion of the topic of miracles and the work of the Holy Spirit. There is a reason why God provided us with a detailed discussion of the spiritual gifts, and any good Bible student will put forth the effort to carefully study those passages that address the subject. Paramount in a proper understanding of miracles is a study of 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 where we find not only a list of the spiritual gifts, but an explanation of their purpose and duration. Chapter twelve lists the miraculous gifts available to the first century Christians (see 12:8-10). Notice there were nine spiritual gifts, given here in the order in which they appear: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healings, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. It is also notable that these nine gifts can be divided into three groups, with each group consisting of three of the spiritual gifts. Before addressing these groups and their corresponding gifts, let me remind you that the overall purpose of the age of the miraculous was to confirm the word of God (cf. Mark 16:20, Hebrews 2:2-4). Do not lose sight of that fact for in so doing you will forever be lost in a proper analysis of these spiritual gifts and the purpose for which they were given.

The first three spiritual gifts—wisdom, knowledge, and faith—all relate to the content of divine revelation.  The early church did not have the printed New Testament like today. The message was “in the man” (as some are fond of saying). Inspired apostles, and evidently inspired prophets and teachers, were granted the ability to convey the message to others by utilizing one, or all, of these spiritual gifts. The word “faith” here is not personal trust and belief in God; it is more properly “the faith,” i.e. the gospel system. Jude likewise refers to “the faith” as a body of belief (Jude 3).  “Knowledge” was given to these inspired teachers in a miraculous way. Today preachers and teachers have to dig the truth out of the treasures of God’s word. Though some may claim direct knowledge from God, they are sadly mistaken, as we shall see from our study of these chapters in 1 Corinthians.

The next three spiritual gifts—healings, miracles, and prophecy—all relate to the confirmation of divine revelation. How would the apostles authenticate the message they were taking into all the world? They would do this by the use of healings, miracles and prophecy. Here the word “prophecy” is used to indicate “fore-telling” more than “forth-telling,” though prophecy included both. The miracles performed by the apostles are sometimes referred to as “signs and wonders” because of the purpose and effect of those miracles. These miraculous acts on the part of the apostles would cause the people to “wonder,” or to be “amazed” at what they were witnessing, and thereby pay closer attention to the message itself.

The third group of spiritual gifts—discernment, tongues, and interpretation of tongues—all relate to the communication of divine revelation. How, for example, would a preacher communicate with a multitude whose language he did not speak? Today I have to use an interpreter when I go to India or Russia. When the apostle Thomas went to India (as tradition suggests), he did not know Teligu, or Hindi, or any other of the dozens of languages and dialects they speak. Thus the need for tongues.  If someone in the listening audience, whose language the speaker did not know, were to ask a question or make a comment, the teachers and evangelists would have a need for someone to interpret. Discernment was the miraculous ability to determine whether or not an imposter had infiltrated the local congregation.

Each gift, then, served a particular purpose.  Together, the nine gifts would serve to mature a congregation as they grow in the grace and knowledge of God’s word. In 12:12-30 Paul likens the church to a body. All the several parts of a physical body work in unison in order to provide for the functioning of the body as a whole. Since the church is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), each member was expected to use whatever miraculous endowment he had received to help the spiritual body function as it grows unto maturity. As valuable as those spiritual gifts were, Paul closes chapter twelve with this observation: “But desire earnestly the greater gifts. And moreover a most excellent way show I unto you” (1 Cor. 12:31). That more excellent way is the way of love. Chapter thirteen will serve three purposes: (1) it provides a brief discussion on the essentiality of love; (2) it provides a discussion on the essence of love; and (3) it closes with a wonderful discussion on the endurance of love in comparison with the spiritual gifts. Each of these three points begs further consideration, which I will take up in subsequent articles.

Miracles and Modern Maladies

by Tom Wacaster

Webster gives a number of definitions for miracle, including: a phenomenon of science; a wonderful thing; an event in the physical world deviating from the known laws of nature.  The first two that I listed are really questionable insofar as true, genuine, Biblical miracles are concerned. Something may be a phenomenon of science, or even a wonderful thing, but these are most certainly not miracles. I may find a parking space at Walmart that is close to the door, but that is not a miracle.  In fact, our age has so MISUSED the word miracle, that the extraordinary nature of a miracle is no longer considered when one contemplates whether or not something is truly a miracle.  Today there are hundreds (yea, even thousands) who claim miraculous abilities, but who, at least to my knowledge, have yet to perform genuine miracles of the same magnitude as those recorded in the New Testament.  I have NOT seen nor heard of a man who, after four days in the grave, was raised to life. I have NOT seen a man have his ear cut off and restored to completeness with the touch of a hand. I have NOT seen a man born blind, and then after some thirty years be restored in an instant.  So why the apparent absence of such miracles? What was God's purpose for having miracles performed in the first place?  Was there a time limit with regard to miracles imposed by God and defined in His word?  These are questions that deserve an open, honest, and most importantly, a Biblical answer.

Think with me, for just a moment, about the purpose of miracles. When Jesus came to this earth, lived that sinless life, and died and ascended back to the right hand of God, He selected a few men through whom he would accomplish the task of sending the Gospel throughout the world. He gave them the ability to authenticate that message as having come from His throne by endowing them with miraculous powers.  While it is true that Jesus had compassion on the sick, and fed the multitudes, the primary purpose of His mighty deeds was NOT to lift man to a socially higher platform, but prove that His preaching and teaching were Divinely authorized. Reflect for a moment upon the Old Testament. Moses was given unique powers to confirm the message unto Pharaoh. There is a link between the revelation and the confirmation of that message to others. In Mark 2, Jesus would forgive the lame man. When questioned as to what authority Jesus had to forgive this man, Jesus responded with these words: But that ye may know that the Son of man hath authority on earth to forgive sins, I say unto thee, take up thy bed, and go unto thy house (Mark 2:10). When the apostles marched forth with the royal orders, how would they authenticate their message? The answer can be found in Mark 16:20. And they went forth, and preached everywhere...confirming the message by the signs that followed.Once a thing is confirmed, it forever stands. The truth being established, the miracle has accomplished its purpose.  

With the purpose in mind, it seems that the next point to be considered is exactly how the ability to perform miracles was passed along to another. Not everyone in the early church had the ability to perform miracles.  So how was this ability to perform miracles passed along to others?  One important passage to study in this connection is Acts 8:14-20. Philip (the evangelist; not apostle) had gone to Samaria to preach the word of God. One of those converts was Simon the sorcerer. In order to strengthen the church, it was necessary that this new congregation of babes in Christ be endowed with at least some of the spiritual gifts.  In order to pass along the gifts similar to those which Philip possessed, Peter and John (both apostles) were called from Jerusalem.  They  laid their hands upon a certain number of the brethren there, and at least some of them received the miraculous endowment of the Holy Spirit (verse 17). When considering this bestowal of the miraculous some questions come to mind. Why did Philip have to call down apostles from Jerusalem? What is meant by the laying on of the apostles hands? A careful investigation of these verses forces us to conclude the following: (1) Philip did NOT have the power to bestow the ability to perform miracles upon these new believers himself; (2) the particular manifestation of the working of the Holy Spirit under consideration is that of the miraculous element which existed in the church; (3) this miraculous element was passed along by the laying on of the apostles hands; (4) no indication is given that the particular ability to pass along the miraculous powers was available to any beside the apostles; (5) the death of the apostles would, of necessity, bring a cessation of the miraculous powers so prevalent in the early church.  Can we substantiate our conclusion with other passages?

Once asked, Do you believe in miracles? I responded with, Depends on what you mean by do you believe in…’” Do I believe God has performed miracles? Yes!  Did Jesus and the Apostles work miracles? Again, yes! But what we want to address right here is the question of whether or not miracles have ceased. We shall let the Bible speak. Emotions do not establish truth. Claims to have witnessed some miracle will not suffice either. If it is the case that the word of God teaches that miracles have ceased, all claims to the contrary do not make the Bible ‘not-so.’ I may not be able to explain what you saw, or what you may have experienced, but if it contradicts the plain teaching of the Bible, then at least I can tell you what you did NOT see or experience. Another important item that begs consideration is the obvious absence of miracles comparable to those recorded in the New Testament. The very absence of these powers among virtually every group claiming such is evidence enough that they have no such power.  The proof is in the pudding is applicable to more than just a confectionary delight. Claims need to be substantiated by proof. We shall share with our readers what the Bible says regarding the cessation of miracles and led them decide.  Due to the amount of space necessary to conclude this article I will resume my thoughts in next week’s bulletin. Or, as the old TV serials were fond of saying, “Join  us next week for the thrilling conclusion!”

Another Thanksgiving Day

by Tom Wacaster

It has been recorded in the pages of history, and the annals of Congress, that this nation of ours should set aside and recognize one day a year as “Thanksgiving Day.” I cannot remember a single year that has ever  passed wherein I was denied the opportunity to observe this national holiday, and most of the time those  days of celebration were spent with family.  This Thursday will be my 67th such occasion, even though the  first dozen years are not as vivid in my memory as the past dozen.  “Thanksgiving Day”!  What do those words mean to you?  What thoughts and memories do they conjure up in your mind?  To some, this day is one of back-to-back football games, early morning Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on television, and the smell of turkey cooking in the oven, and left overs at days end.  To others it is nothing more than an extended weekend, an extra day at the office, or an opportunity to spend some time in a lease waiting for  that deer to drop by your way so you can “bag” a six pointer, or tell about the one that got away. The talk show hosts are abuzz with the news that some retail giants are planning on remaining open on Thanksgiving Day in order to beat the rush on Black Friday. I suppose that is their business (literally), but personally I find it somewhat sad that this one occasion in the year when our nation should, as a nation, stop and give thanks to the Father who has blessed us so richly, is quickly becoming just another shopping day for bargains. Maybe the trend to open the doors for business is a reflection on where we as a nation are putting our priorities.  It may be that Thanksgiving Day will find you at Walmart, Macy, or the Northeast Mall fighting the crowds for a bargain or two. Who am I to deprive you of either “beating the crowd” or “joining the crowd”?  So, wherever you happen to find yourself this year when our national Thanksgiving Day arrives, why not stop and think for a moment or two about the very words used to describe this fourth Thursday of November.  

Thanksgiving!  Permit me to divide the single word into two words: “thanks” and “giving.”  And what shall we say about “thanks”?  “Thanks” is the expression of gratitude to another; a recognition that blessings received derive from some greater source than ourselves.  The very existence of this special day on our calendar implies that we, the citizens of the United States, were once cognizant of a higher source of blessing than our own initiative or ingenuity. The original Thanksgiving Day proclamation saw fit to express gratitude “with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peacefully to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”  But it seems that today the God of heaven has been replaced with the god of humanism, and thanks once offered to the Almighty has been replaced with self exaltation for our great American know-how and efficiency.   

Consider next the word “giving.”  Thanks held to oneself is not gratitude; it is ingratitude.  Though I may be grateful to another for some good deed done for me, unless expressed, the giver knows not if you are grateful.  I wonder how many tables will be spread, admired, eaten and digested this Thanksgiving Day without one word of thanks being given to the God of heaven Who blessed us with such abundance?  On the other hand, maybe I really don't want to know.  

Finally, there is “day.”  It is singular, not plural.  Though one day has been set aside in that original Thanksgiving Day Proclamation “to be devoted by the people of these states to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be,” we do not think it was the intention of President Washington, nor the Congress that approved the holiday, to limit our thanksgiving to one day in the year.  Beloved, God has not set aside only one day to bless His creatures, nor should we set aside only one day out of the year to offer thanks unto Him from whom all blessings flow.  The dawn of every morning should find us in reverent prayer, expressing our gratitude for the opportunity to witness yet another sunrise, to get out of bed and enjoy the day's activities, for our health and freedoms we enjoy, and the fact that He in Whom we live, and move, and have our very being, has granted unto us THIS DAY, one in 365, to experience the beauties of life about us.  

Thanks-Giving-Day!  May we be grateful for all it entails, and give rise to a deeper appreciation for what we have, not only today, but every day of the year. 

Regarding Time

by Tom Wacaster

You and I are limited by time.  We are moving from the “now” to “what shall be.”  Our “tomorrow” quickly becomes “today” and “today” is soon in the “past.”  So quickly do the days, weeks and years pass that we respect the words of Moses with increasing appreciation: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten, Or even by reason of strength fourscore years; Yet is their pride but labor and sorrow; For it is soon gone, and we fly away... So teach us to number our days, That we may get us a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:10).  Time is a precious commodity that each of us has in equal proportion.  Someone has said, “If you kill time it will send back ghosts to haunt you.”  John Mason is credited with writing this pithy saying:  “As every thread of gold is valuable, so is every moment of time.”  Goethe (the German philosopher) once said, “It is better to busy one’s self about the smallest thing in the world than to treat a half hour as worthless.” 

We are all given 24 hours in the day, and 365 days in a year.  We are admonished in Scripture to redeem the time wisely (Eph. 5:16). This simply means I am to buy up the opportunities that come my way, and select with great wisdom and prudence how, and upon what, I will spend those precious hours in each day.  There is an accumulative effect of the use of time. For example, in an average 70 year life span, the average person will sleep more than 23 years of his life away (assuming 8 hours of sleep per night).  Over that same 70 year life span you will spend roughly 14 years working, 6 years eating, and 5 years traveling (fortunately, not all at once).  By the same token, time wasted has an accumulative effect, and over the long haul will rob us of a great deal of what could otherwise be significant accomplishments. Think, for example, about the time we spend watching television. The average American (according to those infamous “polls”) watches TV 6 hours per day. Now that really seems a little high, so let's reduce that by 30%, and use a bench mark of 4 hours per day. That amounts to 28 hours per week, 1460 hours per year, for an accumulative total of more than 72,000 hours in 50 years. Whew! It staggers the imagination.  That is more than 8 years of television!  Now, in comparison, let us consider the “average” time spent in spiritual matters!  If we were to begin the day of our birth spending five minutes each morning and evening in prayer and meditation (which is more than most people spend), and three hours per week in church, at age 70 we would have invested a total of just over 20 months!   Someone has said, “There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week's value out of a year while another man gets a full year's value out of each week.”  What can be said of the year is just as true with regard to the week, and even our day by day activities.  “We must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work” (John 9:4).

Closely associated with how we use our time is the attitude we have toward time itself, and especially as it relates to anxiety and worry.  The Lord warned us, “Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34).  I don’t suppose any of us has managed to escape the temptation of worrying about tomorrow and fretting over yesterday’s mistakes, but with maturity that lofty goal become more of a reality in our life.  It has been more than 40 years since I first came across this little article that so eloquently addresses the need to take only one day at a time.  Unfortunately the author was not given in the article, but that does not lessen the value of the article itself:

Two Days Not To Worry

There are two days in every week about which you should not worry; two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension. 

One of these days is yesterday with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains.  Yesterday has passed forever.  All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday.  Beyond asking forgiveness of God and of your fellow man, you cannot erase a single word you said.  Yesterday is gone.

The other day you should not worry about is tomorrow with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and perhaps poor performance. Tomorrow is also beyond your immediate control. Tomorrow’s sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds, but it will rise.  Until it does, you have no stake in tomorrow, for it is yet unborn. 

This leaves only one day; today.  Any man can fight the battles of just one day.  It is only when you and I add the burden of those awful enormities, yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down.  It’s not the experience of today that drives men mad; it is remorse, or bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread of what tomorrow will bring.

Let us, therefore, live one day at a time.  As you live each day, remember that the best thing to give your enemy is forgiveness; to an employer, is service; to an opponent, tolerance; give your heart to a friend; set a good example for your children; revere your father and mother and so conduct yourself that they will always be proud of you; give to yourself the priceless heritage of self-respect and finally give charity and understanding to all men.

Those are great words of wisdom, and no doubt they are very Biblical in principle. To the words of the author I would add the following regarding the proper use of that which is called “today.”  Today has one thing in which I am equal with all men, and that is all of us have the same number of hours, minutes, and seconds to use.  How we use it will determine whether or not I truly redeemed the time.  Today each one of us should act towards others as though this will be our last day.  None of us have the promise of tomorrow, so why waste the only day of which we are given any guaranty?  Today I will not dwell on what I would or could do if things were different.  The simple fact is, they are not different.  As Doug Martin, my work associate, often says, “It is what it is.”  Today I will stop saying, “If I had the time,” and I will do all within my power to make the time.  I will begin by doing, do all within my power not to waste time, and not fret over what I did not accomplish.  

In closing, I remind each of us, that the Hebrews writer tells us, “Today, if ye shall hear his voice, Harden not your hearts” (Heb. 4:7).  Let us be busy “exhorting one another day by day, so long as it is called Today; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). 

Unloading Cargo

by Tom Wacaster

Reading the title to this week’s column, you might think that what follows has something to do with hard labor, unions, shipping, or even personal burdens that someone might be carrying around on their shoulders.  While I would be tempted to write on those things listed (and may even do so in the future, with the exception perhaps of commenting on labor unions), I will refrain from doing so at the moment.   I need to lay some background and tell you about an incident that occurred a few weeks ago.  Prior to our recent gospel meeting here at Handley I was placed in charge of preparing a newspaper ad to be run in the Fort Worth Star Telegram.  Due to my being out of town for the mission trip to India, I was running late and the deadline was staring me in the face when I got home. So I was sort of rushed to get things completed, and get the check to the Star Telegram office in order to meet the deadline. I finished the final details the day prior to the deadline, and needed to get the check to the newspaper office.  Mailing the check by snail mail was not an option; a mail courier would be a waste of money.  So I chose to deliver the check myself.   The business office of the Star Telegram is on Throckmorton St, in the heart of downtown Fort Worth; easy in; easy out.  Getting into and out of downtown Forth Worth is much easier than a city like Houston.  I’ve been there, done that, and any future trip into what is commonly called “Oil City” is not on my calendar.   The Star Telegram office closed at 5:00 pm, and when I arrived it was 4:30. Plenty of time, especially since there was a parking space right out front that was empty.  The sign at the curb read, “Unloading Cargo: Reserved for Delivery to Star Telegram; 30 minute limit.”   OK!  30 minutes to drop off a check.  I can be in and out and on my way!   The lady at the reception desk called the ad manager, located the paper work, received my check, and gave me a receipt—five minutes max!   I walked out the front door pleased that things had gone so smoothly.  Wrong!  Standing by my car was one of those policemen dressed in leotards,  who rides the streets of downtown Fort Worth on a bicycle, pen and pad in hand, writing a citation.  Since I got to the car before he left, he handed the ticket to me and proceeded to explain why he was writing the citation.  He was kind enough to inform me that I needed a permit to park there, but that I could contest the ticket if I would appear before the civil judge within 10 days at the municipal court building  a couple of blocks up the street. 

Early the next morning I headed for downtown Fort Worth; easy in, easy out!  Locating a parking space by the curb was not a problem; how to pay the meter was not as easy. Fortunately, with a little assistance I managed to purchase enough time for a visit to the municipal court, see the judge and head home.   I must admit the judge was very courteous, as she listened to my complaint that there was nothing on the sign that said “permit required.”  The judge explained to me that the area was for unloading cargo and that permits were required and that ignorance of the law was no excuse.  But since I had no prior tickets on record, and since this was evidently my first time I had a run in with the law (that makes it sound like I am some kind of common criminal; I’m thankful they did not fingerprint me, take a mug shot an put me in a line up), and that the preponderance of evidence on my part was convincing, she rendered a verdict of “not liable.”  I walked out of the municipal court building a happy man.  My $30 ticket had been overturned, and my faith in the judicial process was restored.  

Had I used a little wisdom I might could have avoided a citation in the first place.  On occasions I have made the statement that we often recognize what I call the “authority principle” in every day life.  On this occasion I was blinded by my preconceived ideas, and in my rush to drop off the check at the Star Telegram and go along my merry way I simply forgot to follow my own advice.  Now for a few observations. 

First, I assumed that the past guaranteed the present.   My first experience in dealing with the Star Telegram business office was last year.  When I dropped off the check then, I parked in the same place, conducted the same business, and  did not get a citation.  It was not because I was not breaking the law, because I was. I just did not get caught! The fact that I did not get a citation then, mistakenly reassured me that I was not in violation this time.   You might say that I was acting on tradition; misguided tradition, and even short lived tradition, but tradition just the same.  How many people, spiritually speaking, act on tradition?  Long established tradition, or even short lived tradition (as in the case of my experience) is not authoritative.  Jesus told us that the Pharisees made “void the word of God” because of their tradition (Matt. 15:6; Mark 7:13).  All that can be said about tradition is that someone did that before.  Tradition is not a safe guide for what you do in matters of religion.

Second, ignorance of the law does not make you innocent.  I was unaware that I had to have a permit sticker to park where I did; but my ignorance did not excuse my actions.  Paul warned us that our Lord will come again “in flaming fire rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7-8).  Pay close attention to the words, “them that know not God.”  Men will be lost because of sin. Unawareness of the remedy for sin does not change a person’s sinful state anymore than an unawareness of a life preserver saves one from drowning. 

Third, there is a proper standard by which all men will be judged.  Paul told us there is a day when “God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ” (Rom. 2:16).  Jesus declared, “the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).   As I stood before the municipal judge of Fort Worth she told me that the city ordinance regarding parking permits, citations, and the law was precise, clear, and distinct.  She even quoted book, chapter, and verse to me!  The judge did not say, “I think,” “I believe,” “my fellow judge said,” or “I’ll excuse you because you were sincere and honest.”  Legally speaking, I was liable!

Fourth, I was reminded that mercy can, and often does, overshadow law.  Notice I did not say mercy ignores law; there is a difference!  The judge obviously had mercy on me; exactly why I may never know.  I am grateful that God is willing to extent mercy to this poor, guilty soul.  Without His mercy I would have no hope.   I am glad that God “delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18, KJV).  But I am reminded that mercy will only be extended to those who are in Christ, who have access to the blood of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3).  

Finally, I experienced the joy that comes with knowing I have been pardoned.   OK, pardon may be too strong a word for being found “not liable.”  But there was a certain sense of relief when the judge said that the preponderance of evidence would excuse me from the penalty.  After the proceeding, she handed me a slip of paper that had this note under the section titled, “Penalty Assessed”:   “Not liable; $0 penalty.”   Beloved, is that not what our Judge will write on our eternal citation for sin?  “Zero Penalty.”  Not because I was sinless, but because mercy was extended!  I confess that when the municipal judge stamped “$0 penalty” on my release paper I felt great joy.   I will feel greater joy, immensely greater joy, when the Judge of all the earth stamps “forgiven” in the book of life and I am permitted access into that heavenly home that awaits all the redeemed.   Won’t that be a grand day?