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). 

There Is A Generation

by Tom Wacaster

I suppose that every generation tends to despise the younger. Maybe that's why Paul wrote Timothy these words of encouragement:  "Let no man despise thy youth…" (1 Tim. 4:12).  Perhaps the same advice could be given to those whose hair is graying and health is fading, "Let no man despise thy age." 

Age tends to develop wisdom, something that is often lacking in youth simply because of lack of experience.  Of course there are always exceptions.  H.L. Mencken concluded, "The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom."  The down side of growing older is the temptation to become cynical and hyper critical of the leadership and capability of the next generation.  

Having now surpassed by 67th birthday and rapidly approaching the beginning of my 8th decade upon this planet, I am determined not to become overly critical, not because of the foolishness of a generation gone awry, but because I know God is in control. 

Someone warned, "In case you're worried about what's going to become of the younger generation, it's going to grow up and start worrying about the younger generation."  The "baby boomers" are passing the torch to generation "Y" (or is it "X"?) in preparation for their social security checks, retirement, and increasing medical bills and ill health. Like the generations now passed into the dust bins of history, these "baby boomers" are anxious about where the next generation will take them.   Having aborted more than 45 million babies since 1973, the work force has reached a crisis of precisely how they are going to provide for the aging population.  But they need not worry, for the medical and scientific minds that were allowed to come to full term and somehow avoid the knife of the abortionist are now seriously considering euthanasia as a viable means of getting rid of so many unwanted senior citizens (quite ironic isn't it - or perhaps more like poetic justice). 

Since every generation needs wisdom, it seems appropriate to seek that wisdom from a source that is reliable - I speak, of course, of the Bible.  Most of our readers know that there is a book in the Old Testament called "Proverbs."  I have been meditating on some of those pithy sayings this past week, and there was one that struck me as particularly interesting, and motivated me to pen this week's article.  Listen to the words of Agur from Proverbs 30:11-14

"There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother.  There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men."

"There is a generation" was Agur's assessment of either his present generation or that which was soon to follow.  Keep in mind that the Proverbs were written during a time of great affluence in Israel.  The temptation of wealth turned the heart of Israel away from God, and plunged that nation into moral corruption, the likes of which are described in these four verses.  

There is an amazing similarity between the rich and abundant years of Israel's history, and our generation - whether we are speaking of generation "X," "Y," or the baby boomers.   Youth have learned the language of Ashdod.  Honor for mother and father have fallen upon hard times and in many instances a child is no longer afraid of parents because he knows that society will protect him from discipline.   I have pity for a child, any child, who does not honor his or her parents.

This is a generation "pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness."  We have justified homosexuality, adultery, drunkenness, lying, embezzlement, cheating, gambling, and every other ungodly act known to men while claiming to be a "Nation under God."  Why is it that we become so upset when someone suggests that we should take the words, "In God We Trust" off our currency, but seem so unconcerned about the hundreds of thousands of babies being slaughtered each year? 

This is a generation that is "lofty…and their eyelids are lifted up.  "When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom" (Prov 11:2).  "In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them" (Pro 14:3).  "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov 16:18).  Pride will sully the noblest of men, and bring low the mighty.    It will render leaders ineffective, and destroy the good influence of all who are caught in its grip.   Our generation has produced great strides in science, medicine, technology and education.  But our successes and blessings have made us proud so much so that we have lifted up our eyes and declared God dead and religion a non-essential. 

This is a generation whose teeth are as swords and their jaw teeth as knives.  The violence in the theater has poured out into the streets, and our hatred for fellow man has found vent in the internet and "blog" pages of personal expression.  A recent article in the Dallas News pointed out that web sites fostering racial hatred, fascism, neo-Nazi, and anti-Semitic mentality have increased dramatically in the last ten years.  

Finally, there is a generation that devours the poor from the earth and the needy from among men.  Con artists and shysters prey on the needy and elderly.   From the dishonest salesman to the lying televangelist, this generation has its fare share of those whose only aim in life is to make a buck or get ahead, and the needy suffer as a result.

Perhaps this generation will run its course and the pendulum will swing the other way.  I like to hope this will happen. But with every passing year, I see little hope for a generation that cares only for itself, with little interest in things eternal.   Maybe, just maybe, when this generation is lying in the muck and mire of sin and ungodliness they will look to the God Who created them and long for something better and declare in hope of something better, "There is a generation…"

From Every Walk Of Life

by Tom Wacaster

My first local work was in Tupelo, Oklahoma.  The town had a population of just over 500, and likely this little community has not grown much in the past thirty years; in fact, it may very well have shrunk due to the by-pass that was constructed around the town some years back.   Most of the folks in that part of the world grew up in Oklahoma, and many of them had never travelled more than a couple of hundred miles from home.  The extent of their travels was to neighboring counties, with an occasional excursion to another state for a family visit.  Consequently, social contacts were mostly with folks of their same dialect, same interests, and same cultural background as their own.  Beyond the boarders of their small town and/or neighboring states is a world so “unlike” the small world in which they live. 

My first experience with travel outside my own little “world” was when I left home to join the Coast Guard.  Since that time my travels have taken me to places I never dreamed that I would go, or visit places the likes of which I have been to in the past twenty-five years or so.   Air travel has introduced the globe traveler to what has come to be known as “air-travel-hubs.”  These are the larger, centrally located cities in various parts of the world where major routes dump their travelers for connecting flights to remote areas not serviced by these major routes.  One thing I have learned after dozens of trips to various parts of the world is that you can meet folks from virtually every walk of life at these major airport hubs.  My recent trip took me through Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  In fact, much of this article is being written as I sit in a chair awaiting my flight to DFW International Airport.  On my way to India I landed in mid morning here at Dubai and barely had time to get to my gate before boarding and subsequent departure.  My return trip on October 2nd landed me in Dubai at 11:00 p.m.  My final leg home was not scheduled to leave until 3:00, so I had a little time to wander the corridors of Dubai International Airport.  One would think that at 2:00 a.m. in the morning the halls would be empty and the shops closed; wrong!  This international “hub” was as crowded as DFW at noon the day before Thanksgiving; perhaps even more.   The shops were jammed with travelers who had more money than common sense.  I have never understood why anyone would pay the prices charged in these airport shops.  Some years ago I stepped into one of those airport “malls” just to get a glimpse at the prices.  Perfume: $100 a bottle.   Men’s Arrow shirt (one that you can buy at Sears for $25 or so) sold for $85.00.   Why would anyone buy a suit in an international airport shop at a cost of three times what you could get one at Men’s Warehouse?  Electronics, including laptops, cell phones, ipads and ipods—all were overpriced.  I have concluded that if a merchant puts up a sign that reads “duty free” folks will somehow think they are getting a real bargain.   But, that is the subject for another article.

With the time I had I thought I would get me a cup of coffee at Starbucks (not that I frequent Starbucks; I just don’t like their coffee that much).  Before I left home someone had given me a gift card for Starbucks.  When the clerk told me they did not take gift cards, and when I calculated the cost of a single cup of coffee in dollars rather than United Arab currency, I decided that $5 for a cup of coffee was just too much.   So I purchased a bottle of water in a little shop, and sat down and observed the people around me.  There were, literally, people from every walk of life.  Across the table to my left I noticed two men who looked like they must have grown up in San Francisco during the Hippie craze.  Adjacent to my table I noticed a couple from some oriental country; Korea, Japan, or perhaps even Viet Nam.   I saw the well dressed, and the not-so-well dressed.  There were young; there were old.  There were some very alert, and energetic; and there were others, like myself, who had been awake for almost 24 hours (or longer), and given the opportunity, could easily slip off into dream land at the blink of an eye.  There were the sober; there were drunkards.  There were the polite and the impolite; the friendly and the not so friendly.   Yes, there were folks from every walk of life about me.   Looking out into the corridor from where I sat, as far as one could see there were masses of people, all going somewhere or heading home from some far away destination.  I have often found myself asking, “Were the Lord to come today, how many of these precious souls would be gathered with the saints to meet our Lord in the air?  How many of them would enjoy the beauties of heaven, and the joy of hearing their Lord say to them, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joys prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” On the other hand, how many of these precious souls will never even hear the gospel message?  How many of them, given the opportunity, would be interested in the least of hearing of what awaits all mankind when our Lord comes again?   And even as I ask that question, I am cognizant of the answer. 

Most of the people sitting around me would reach their destination within a few short hours; some perhaps in a day or so.   But in the twinkling of an eye, as a tale that is told, every single one of those who are presently enjoying some snack as they await their connecting flight will eventually reach their eternal destiny as well.  Heaven will be the home of the faithful; hell the eternal misery of the lost. 

As each one now picks up their bags, and disposes of the trays, scraps, and sacks in the various dispensers about the food court, and begin moving toward their connecting flight one wonders what tomorrow will bring.   I too, would soon be making my way to my gate to board my flight home.  As I made my way to gate 32 I was reminded that people come from all walks of life.  Our challenge is to walk along side and try to point the way to Jesus.