What Ever Happened To Randolph Scott?

by Tom Wacaster

I had to make a stop at Best Buy today to check out the latest technology in computer-tablet combinations.  I had received advanced notice that a unique computer-tablet device was coming out that I thought might be useful in my travels, especially when I am making one of those long mission trips and have some time while sitting in airports to do a little writing and study.  As it turned out the latest technology is so new that even the Geek Squad at Best Buy had never heard of it.  Now that is new!   But this week’s “Tom’s Pen” actually has nothing to do with the latest technology. It has more to do with the passing of a generation that is so much different than the culture we are witnessing today.   Let me fill you in with some details.

After questioning the Geek Squad regarding this newest device of which I wanted to know more, I was getting ready to exit and a young man who worked in the store stopped me to do a little sales pitch.   He asked me if I was a Charter cable customer and if so he had something he wanted to show me that he thought I might be interested in.   It was a new “package” being offered by Charter in coordination with Best Buy to provide its customers with a new array of television channels.  I used to think that 120 channels was more than anyone would ever need.  How anyone could ever get around to watching 120 different TV channels still remains a mystery to me.  With advanced technology, new cable services offered exclusively by Charter, it is now possible to sign up for service with Charter that will provide you with—get this—more than 500 viewing channels, plus HBO, Showtime, Movies on Demand, Netfilx, Amazon streaming, and, as the late Andy Griffith would say, “Who knows what’all.”   After the young man’s initial “spill,” I kindly informed him that I had pulled the plug on cable television more than 20 years ago and about the only thing I actually watch on TV anymore is Wheel Of Fortune on Wednesday evening as I am getting ready to leave for services (and that only because it is available for no charge and the Channel 11 tower is less than a mile from my house).   When he asked why I had “pulled the plug” on TV, I told him, “There is nothing descent to watch anymore.”   The blank look on his face made me think to myself: “Does this young man even know what I mean when I say descent?”   Unless he had something to compare it with, there is no way he could understand.  But as so many critics have pointed out, gone are the days of “Ozzie and Harriet,” “Leave it to Beaver,” “My Three Sons,” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.”  Indeed, times have changed, and not for the better.

One more incident that occurred this same day, and then I’ll make a closing observation or two.  I had a doctor’s appointment this morning.  While sitting in the waiting room I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was a few years my junior, but who quite obviously had more health problems than myself.   We discussed a number of matters in the half hour or so we sat there visiting.  It seems that he was quite troubled about the direction our country was going morally.   His anxiety showed, and his inability to grasp the real cause was demonstrated in where he sought to place the blame:  “Politicians, over zealous religious fanatics, too much involvement in the world’s problems” were among those things he blamed for our present social plight.  Any attempt to discuss humanism, evolution, our educational system, or American’s love affair with “things” seemed to get the same response I got from the young man at Best Buy.   I realized after talking with these two men that, if they are any representation of our country’s citizenship, we are in a moral vacuum in our country, and not only do we as a country not know what to do about it, we have no idea how we got here.  But it is not just America; the present situation is a universal problem. 

There are a lot of factors that have contributed to the present moral vacuum that exists in our world.  Among these would be humanism, with its atheistic, "no-God" mentality, evolution that has taught for more than a century now that man is nothing more than a glorified monkey, modernism that has sought to somehow provide man a "utopia" with unlimited pleasure to the sensual man, and false religious doctrine that has robed God of His rightful place in our lives and substituted it with the doctrines of men that make void the word of God.  

Jesus warned us of false teachers in Matthew 7:15-17.   Among other things, He told us that we can tell a tree by its fruit.   The fruit that I am seeing with regard to morals, speaks volumes about exactly what or who presently controls our media, our institutions of  higher learning, our school systems, and our entertainment industry.  It has not been that long ago that our nation was at peace within, and stood strong against the enemies without.   Religion was respected, and even promoted by the media, our public schools, and even our law makers in Washington.  Almost without exception our public schools would begin the day with a Scripture reading and prayer.   Those were simple days; but they were happy days.   If men are incapable of discerning the difference in our society today and that of a mere fifty years ago, what makes us think they can lead us in the right direction with all of their legislative policies that no longer place importance on what God's word says?  

A few months back I closed one of my articles with the following comments which are as appropriate here as then.   Several years ago the Statler Brothers produced a song entitled, "What Ever Happened To Randolph Scott."  The chorus had these words:  "Whatever happened to Johnny Mack Brown, and Alan Rocky Lane? Whatever happened to Lash LaRue? I'd love to see them again.  Whatever happened to Smiley Burnett, Tim Holt, and Gene Autry? Whatever happened to all of these has happened to the best of me. Whatever happened to Randolph Scott has happened to the industry."  

Along that same line, may I suggest that "Whatever happened to Randolph Scott" has happened to the world in general and our beloved country in particular. 

What Is The Difference Between A Christian and A 'Sinner'?

by Tom Wacaster

It seems that our pluralistic society has adapted a philosophy that everyone makes mistakes, so none have the right to address the moral shortcomings of others.  It is the devil's misuse of one of the more popular sayings of our Lord, “Judge not that ye be not judged.”   If you have listened to the “spin” that liberals use to address the issue of moral responsibility then you have, no doubt, heard this argument over and over:  “Well, all of  us make mistakes, so who are we to judge?”   This kind of thinking has crept into the church, and an ever increasing number of our brethren are ceasing to contend earnestly for the faith for fear that they might be labeled as being judgmental.  Distinctive preaching and holy living suffer as a result, and the church becomes more and more like the world with every passing generation.   A failure to understand how terms are used, and a misunderstanding as to the kind of judgment that is here condemned, have combined to give unto us a spirit of timidity and cowardice.  I want to briefly address both of these points.

First, it is important that we give consideration to terms as they are defined in the Bible.  A “Christian” is one who had identified himself with the tenets of Christ, has obeyed the Gospel, and is endeavoring to live faithful before his God.  The disciples were called “Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).  I have heard the flimsy argument that this name was given to the followers of Christ out of derision by the enemies of the cross.  But a closer examination of the text will show that this is simply not the case.  The Greek 'chrematizo' (“call”) is aorist, infinitive active, meaning to “utter a divine communication, to be divinely instructed, receive a revelation or warning from God.”  Reese says that the word is “almost always used in the New Testament to mean divinely called.”  Bauer says of this word, “Of God, impart a revelation or injunction or warning; of oracles.”  The late Guy N. Woods noted that every Greek Lexicon consulted “gives the basic and root meaning of the word under study as a divine calling.”  Also, the construction of the text supports this view.  The whole of the passage for consideration reads, “And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”  There are three verbs in the passage that are of utmost importance.   The FIRST verb (in the Greek) is passive, the second and third active.  It is amazing that the translators, almost without exception, have reversed the order and rendered the first verb “assembled” as an active verb (which is actually passive), the second verb as active (and properly so), and the third as passive (which is actually active). The question that arises is, “Why such a mishandling of the text?”  I believe that brother Woods is right on target: “These men believed in the propriety of wearing human names in religion as identifiers...In order to do this, they fragmented one sentence into two, changed the active voice into passive, an infinitive into an indicative, and the accusative into the  nominative!”   Were the text properly translated it would read, “And it came to pass...they taught many people and they called the disciples Christians first in Antioch.”   “They” has reference to Paul and Barnabas. “They taught...they called” the disciples in Antioch.  Hence, by divine inspiration the “disciples” were properly designated as “Christians.”

The second term for consideration is the word “sinner.”  More often than not this word is used to describe someone who is living IN sin, and APART from God.  Such is its use in Romans 5:8— “But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  While it is true that the child of God can and does occasionally sin (1 John 1:8), it is NOT the case that this word “sinner” can be used to describe the faithful child of God.  A “sinner” is more accurately described by Paul as one who is “separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel [spiritual Israel, TW], strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).   We think it is scriptural to describe such a one as an “alien sinner.”  Therein lies the distinction between one who is a Christian, and one who is a sinner.  While the former is IN Christ, the latter is OUTSIDE the body; while the former is in a saved relationship with the Godhead, the latter is LOST!  The one [Christian] enjoys all spiritual blessings, the other [sinner] has no spiritual blessings whatsoever (Ephesians 1:3). 

Terms defined, we turn our attention to what our Lord meant when He instructed us, “Judge not that ye be not judged.”   In the context He was addressing the hypercritical judgment; judgment of motives, disposition of heart, and/or judgment based upon one's own standard of judgment rather than the divine standard of God's word.  The very passage from which these words were taken imply a certain degree of judgment in that Jesus instructed them not to give “that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine” (Matt. 7:6). How can we avoid such while refusing to make any kind of judgment at all with regard to who is a “dog” or a “swine.”  The answer lies in understanding the KIND of judgment we are to avoid, and the KIND of judgment we are to practice.  It is our sacred obligation to judge actions as being either pleasing in God's sight, or displeasing.  That is what our Lord calls “righteous judgment” (John 7:24).   While we may (and in fact must) pass judgment on things that are right or wrong, we cannot judge the motives and heart of another.  It is that hypercritical judgment of one's inner person that is condemned, and which we must avoid. 

Flim-Flam Men

by Tom Wacaster

Hollywood has produced a number of movies that focus on the shenanigans of con artists.   One such move was actually titled, “The Flim Flam Man,” and starred George C. Scott.  Paper Moon was another, but I would caution someone watching this one to obtain a filter device of some kind.   One of my favorite, however, was a 1956 production of The Rainmaker (not to be confused with the 1996 movie with the same name with Dustin Hoffman, which I never saw and really have no interest in watching).   The 1956 Rainmaker was produced when movies were entertaining, decent, and capable of being watched without a clear-play DVD player, TV-guardian, or other such devices that “filter out” the bad language, sex scenes, and “adult situations.”   The Rainmaker is a fantasy about a con-man in the mid-west, a snake oil salesmen, going from town to town selling his miracles (whatever you need – tornado protection, drought relief through rain, anything) until he’s seen to be the charlatan he is and is run out of town, or arrested.  Starbuck (the con-man) eventually meets up with Lizzie (played by Katherine Hepburn) who has dreams of love and marriage but at this stage in her life she has almost given up on that hope.  The enduring quality of the movie is its emphasis upon the possibilities for those who have a dream and refuse to allow life’s circumstances to quench those dreams.    The movie is really a paradox because as the story develops it is actually the con artist who is the hero, and whose flamboyant character eventually leads the heroine to believe in her dreams and, as we are left to believe, to accomplish those dreams.   Such, of course, is only “in the movies,” and reality is often quite different.  Let me explain.

The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is filled with stories of con-artists, flim-flam characters, and charlatans who prey on the unsuspecting.   The serpent was the first, but he certainly was not the last.  His deception was carefully planned and craftily carried out.  With only one word he changed God’s promise to a lie, and the impossible became possible, if only in the mind of the woman: “You shall be as God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).   But we know from the sacred record that the devil lied; he was the original flim-flam con-artist.  

Dathan, Korah and Abiram were con-men who worked together in an attempt to get Israel to turn their backs on Moses (and God), and allow them (Dathan, Korah, and Abiram) to lead Israel back into Egypt where they would find true freedom as servants of Pharaoh.   Preying upon the unsuspecting, these three men gained a following who rose up against Moses.  Their rebellion was their own demise, and along with the con-artists who sought to seize authority from Moses, were swallowed up by the earth.  

The list of Old Testament con-artists would include Nadab and Abihu, Absalom, King Saul, the false prophets of both Israel and Judah.  The list seems almost endless. The thing all of these men have in common is their ability to deceive innocent souls into believing their bogus promises; men and woman who were chasing a dream, but looked in all the wrong places.   Peter reminds us, “ But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1).  Jesus warned of false teachers (Matt. 7:15) who certainly fit the description of flim-flam men.  The bottom line is they are not what they appear to be on the outside.   They are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”  Jude describes them as “hidden rocks in your love feast” and “shepherds that without fear feed themselves” (Jude 12).   Like the victims of so many con-artists, those who imbibe the false doctrine from these spiritual flim-flam men will find themselves on the loosing end.   When the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch of destruction (Matt. 15:14).   Therein is the tragedy.  The con-artist will work his deception to rob his victims of their material possessions, the spiritual flim-flam man will rob his victim of something far more valuable—his soul.  

Sometime back I came across the following tactics of a con-artist.  They are extroverted, talk fast and want to move quickly.  They have a lot of charm, magnetism and charisma.  They present themselves as heroes with high morals and philosophy.  They tend to be great experts on any topic being discussed.  They are master wordsmiths, even expert storytellers and poets.  They invent bizarre tales, say and do grandiose things and blatantly re-write history.  They deliver intriguing and hypnotic monologues that deceive and fool their victims.  They can create stories on the spur of the moment that are impossible to confirm or deny.  They rely on claims that cannot be proven or validated to create a false sense of authority.  They seem to possess a high degree of “spirituality” or “special” knowledge.  Finally, they take risks others wouldn’t and then use their risk-taking to intimidate and outsmart their victim.   Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Mary Baker Eddie all fit into this group, as well as our modern day “tele-evangelists” who prey on the poor, unsuspecting and ignorant souls. 

The apostle Paul captured all of these traits in one single passage regarding false teachers: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent(Roman 16:17-18).

Beloved, do not fall prey to those who rob you of your inheritance.  Study God’s word, remain vigilant, and beware of spiritual flim flam men.

I find it rather ironic that in this day of increased knowledge the human race, in their worldly wisdom, are actually becoming more foolish.   Let me give you an example.   Thomas Paine, a Quaker preacher and firm believer in God and the Bible while in America, went to France in 1787 and became an infidel. He wrote a book, The Age Of Reason, which he said would destroy the Bible and Christianity. Paine died in 1809, his book is seldom remembered, and the Bible which he fought still exists.  Ironically, his call for "reason" led to his own demise.   Our modern age is the epitome of reason and research.  We question everything. Well, almost everything.  The one area that we too seldom question is religion.   Why do we fear investigation?  Heaven's call is that we "reason together" (Isa. 1:18).  Paul "reasoned of righteousness, and self-control, and the judgment to come" (Acts 24:25).  Why is it that men are so reluctant to mount the polemic platform and publicly discuss matters of utmost importance?  The generation preceding mine often met in religious debate. Issues were discussed, beliefs challenged.  And while there may have been an occasional "mishandling" of such public discussion, by in large they were conducted with great nobility and manifestation of genuine Christian character.  There is great value in public discussion or religious matters if conducted properly.  More information can be gleaned in a one night debate than in weeks, perhaps months of sermons.   A century ago men sought to know right from wrong, and truth from error.  Indeed, religiously speaking, theirs was the true "age of reason."  Perhaps we can, with God’s help, reverse the trend, and witness in our life time a revival of the spiritual interest of a bygone century.  To this end we labor, and for this we pray. 

He Looked For A City

By Tom Wacaster

Abraham is often referred to as the “father” of the faithful.  The adage is not just a worthy approbation for that great man of faith, for even the apostle Paul affirmed, “And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29).   Every student of the Bible, whether a novice or a seasoned scholar, is well aware of the great faith of this man who became the progenitor of two physical nations, and a fitting example for all those who seek to walk in the steps of Abraham toward that heavenly home that awaits all the faithful.  Perhaps the faith of this man was best summed up by the Hebrews writer in the eleventh chapter of that great epistle.  If you want to know the marks of a great man, pay attention to what the inspired writer said about Abraham in this chapter:  “By faith Abraham, when he was called,  obeyed” (11:8).  “By faith he became a sojourner….” (11:9).   In another passage the apostle Paul made a most significant observation regarding Abraham and his connection with those of us who live in the Christian dispensation.   Abraham is “the father of circumcision to them who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham which he had in uncircumcision” (Romans 4:12).  The force of Paul’s word serve as a wonderful encouragement to those of us who are not of Jewish stock, which, by the way, happens to be the larger percentage of faithful Christians throughout the generations.  My favorite character trait of Abraham is in Hebrews 11:10, from which we derive the title of this week’s article, and upon which I want to elaborate: “For he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” 

In view of the “present distress” that is upon us, I think it would be good to revisit this trait of Abraham.   You may ask, “What present distress”?   Unless you are like the proverbial ostrich that has stuck its head in the sand, you are fully aware of what I speak.   It is astonishing the depth of degradation to which our nation has sunk in the last 50 years.   Behavior that was labeled “vice” half a century ago has now become the norm.  Homosexuality, for all practical purposes, has been accepted as normal behavior.   Alcohol has been a blight on our citizenry since the repeal of Prohibition, but is now considered a part of the social norm.  Now marijuana has been legalized in two states, and at least another dozen are considering following Washington and Colorado down the pathway of self destruction by legalizing not only “pot,” but other illegal drugs as well.  Gambling has become an accepted form of “entertainment,” and “poker champions” are glorified and placed in the same category as sports heroes (though I would not give you a plug nickel for most of the sports figures today).   America has reached the point where she is not only unashamed to blush, but our government leaders simply refuse to enforce the laws they think are unjust or contrary to their “toleration” level.   If Lot was “sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked” (2 Pet. 2:7), it is only normal for every faithful child of God to be “distressed” by what surrounds him today (if he is not then he needs to do some serious soul searching).   But the “present distress” goes far beyond the immorality of those who surround us.   Dark clouds continue to gather as Satan marshals his forces for the destruction of those “that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).  Atheism is becoming more militant, federal judges who hate God, ignore the Constitution, and have absolutely no respect for the Bible, are being appointed to life-time positions of power, and our “leaders” in Washington continue to demonstrate an earthy wisdom that exacerbates the problems that surround us. With increasing frequency we are reading of court decisions that are unfavorable to someone seeking to live a Christian life.   Slowly, but certainly with increasing intensity, laws are being put into place that deny religious freedom, and ere too long all of us shall feel the sting of Satan’s onslaught.  Oh yes, the “present distress” is upon us! 

Abraham lived in a world much like what I have described above.  And this is where our passage in Hebrews 11:10 comes in.   Abraham did not have his eyes fixed on the here and now.  He “looked for the city which hath the foundations whose builder and maker is God.”  Consider the following:

First, Abraham believed there was a “city which hath foundations” that lay beyond the veil of death.  He fully expected to enter that city some day. Time was not important to him, nor was he wearied by the distance he had to travel to get there.   Take careful note, dear reader,  that the sacred writer did not say Abraham looked for just any city.  The definite article suggests that it was a definite city to which Abraham had cast his heart and his eyes, and in that precise order.  The only way he could have known about that city was by divine revelation, although the precise details of that revelation are not contained in Scripture.    Unlike Lot who had cast his eyes toward Sodom, Abraham had cast his eyes toward a place far beyond the bounds of earthly ties, fenced cities, or walled fortresses.  Unseen with human eye, that city was real to Abraham.

Second, Abraham looked for that city with great intensity with the full expectation of it becoming a reality some day.  Robertson (Word Pictures) tells us that the original word is “picturesque progressive imperfect, his steady and patient waiting in spite of disappointment.” The same word is used in Hebrews 10:3 to describe the full expectation that our Lord had regarding victory:  “henceforth expecting till his enemies be made the footstool of his feet” (Heb. 10:3).  Is our search for that city and our  journey to it as intense as that of Abraham?

Third, Abraham realized that, so far as his earthly life was concerned, he was a “stranger and pilgrim on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).   I have made extensive trips to various parts of the world to do what I can to promote the cause of Christ.  With the exception of two years in South Africa, I have never opened a bank account in any of those countries, never purchased property, and on only one occasion did I purchase an automobile.  The reason for such was that I knew I would only be there for a short time.  That land was not my home, and I was only a sojourner in the midst of a people not my own.   We have been warned that “they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare  and many hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Tim. 6:9).  It is important to note that one only need to be “minded to be rich.”  Once this world becomes my home and my life’s ambition is to improve the well being of the physical man while neglecting the well being of the spiritual man, I have started down that road to destruction.  In short, I have taken my eyes off that city whose builder and maker is God, and I have focused my attention on things that are temporal, decaying, and someday to be destroyed.  I have, for all practical purposes, stopped walking in the steps of Abraham. The pressing question for each of us to consider is this: “Are you looking for the city which hath foundation, whose builder and maker is God”? 

A song often sang at funerals has words most fitting here, and perhaps its message needs to be ingrained in our hearts on a daily basis and not just on occasions of the death of a loved one.  “I am going to a city, where the streets with gold are laid.   Where the tree of life is blooming, and the roses never fade.  Here they bloom but for a season, soon their beauty is decayed.  I am going to a city, where the roses never fade.”

If a child attends every class provided by the local congregation, and depends upon those learning opportunities for the totality of his religious training, he or she is starving spiritually.   Two classes a week (Sunday AM and Wednesday PM), if each were a full 45 minutes long, would amount to only 1.5 hours a week in religious training.  Taking out time for summer vacation and travels, holidays when the family “hits the road,” and other interruptions such as sickness, it is likely that a child only receives about 62 hours of religious training per year.  In comparison, the average child attends public school classes about 6 hours a day.  That is 30 hours per week.   In two weeks the average child receives more instruction in worldly matters that religious instruction in a whole year. But the influence of the world does not stop when that child gets home.  Some years ago it was revealed that a child between the ages of 5 and late teen averages 4 hours a day watching TV.  That is 28 hours a week.  No wonder we are losing so many young people to the world.  Parents, you owe it to your children to conduct home Bible study on a daily basis.