Wisdom Wins

 by Tom Wacaster

Over the span of more than 45 years of preaching, I have had the opportunity to carefully study, and even teach a series on the amazing wisdom of Solomon as contained in the book of Proverbs. Yet the wisdom of David’s son only pales in comparison to the divine wisdom demonstrated by David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Having said that, my various journeys through the Proverbs has consistently yielded an abundant harvest of rich, spiritual fruit to nourish the soul. I never grow weary of the praise that Solomon lavishes upon wisdom and the possession thereof. Here is just one example: “A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, And bringeth down the strength of the confidence thereof” (Pro. 21:22). Listen to another of Solomon’s bits of wisdom along that same line as contained in the book of Ecclesiastes:

I have also seen wisdom under the sun on this wise, and it seemed great unto me: There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroyeth much good” (Ecc. 9:13-18).

In this age where violence seems to dominate Hollywood and where nations seem to be increasingly at odds with one another, perhaps it is time for humanity to take a little advice from Solomon. History is filled with examples of great leaders who gained the upper ground over their enemies, not by force, but through wise negotiations. Let me share one such incident that illustrates the point I think Solomon was making in the two passages noted above.

Plutarch tells of an encounter between Taxiles and Alexander the Great. With a mighty army Alexander came into India. So powerful was Alexander’s army that he could cause the earth to literally shake beneath his feet. Taxiles was a prince whose territory was as large as Egypt and which contained good pasturage of fertile and arable land. Taxiles had a great army, perhaps as great and powerful as any Alexander had ever faced. Taxiles and his army presented a formidable foe for the Grecian conqueror. But Taxiles was a wise ruler, and after he greeted Alexander, he asked him, “Why should we fight battles with one another? You have not come here to rob us of water or the necessities of life, and these are the only things for which sensible men are obligated to fight. As for other kinds of wealth and property so-called, if I possess more than you, I am ready to be generous towards you, and if I have less, I shall not refuse any benefits you may offer.” Alexander was so delighted at this that he took the hand of Taxiles and said, “Perhaps you think that after your kind words and courtesy our meeting will pass off without a contest. No, you shall not get the better of me in this way. I shall fight with you to the last, but only in the services I offer you, for I will not have you outdo me in generosity.” Plutarch goes on to tell how Alexander received many gifts from Taxiles, but returned even more, and finally presented him with a thousand talents of coin.

Perhaps the same kind of wisdom can be used to avert personal problems that arise from time to time. Seldom do I read a local newspaper that does not contain a report of some domestic squabble over what, seems to me, a rather insignificant matter. Some minor disagreement stirs up emotional feelings, physical violence takes precedence over calm deliberation, and angry words all too often lead to spousal abuse. The cycle is endless, the beat goes on, and wisdom fails to get a decent hearing.

Solomon’s words are also applicable to churches, are they not? If a little earthly wisdom demonstrated by the wise counsel of Taxiles to Alexander could avert a war, how much more the wisdom that comes from above as it is applied to brotherly disputes. Paul spoke of our weapons and the warfare we are to fight as God’s people: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds), casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full” (2 Cor. 10:3-6). It is only with the wisdom that comes from above that we can ever hope to successfully engage our spiritual enemy. I wonder how many church splits could have been avoided if brethren had only used the wisdom that comes from above to address the problems of the moment.

Some years ago I was privileged to travel with an older brother in Christ to various brotherhood activities. I was living in Oklahoma at the time, and each year he and I would make the eight hour drive to Henderson, Tennessee to attend the Freed-Hardeman Lectures. I was much younger then, and he in his early years of retirement. He reminded me of Colonel Sanders with his mustache and beard, though he was much thinner than the Colonel. Those long drives provided us opportunity to visit and share stores with one another. I like to think that some of what he shared with me of life’s experiences helped me mature and grow in Christ. He told me the following story that demonstrates the truth of Solomon’s wisdom. His father had served as an elder of the Lord’s church in the community where he grew up. One of the “issues” facing the church at that time was the one-cup issue. There were strong feelings on both sides. Congregations were being troubled by those opposing the use of multiple cups, leading to splits in some of the churches. This brother told me how his father, and the other elders handled the situation, thereby defusing what could have very well split the congregation. A sister in the congregation had a communicable disease [tuberculosis, if I remember correctly], but was desirous to attend the services. The congregation actually used two cups, and it was advised that they provide a third, smaller cup for this sister to use so as to avoid any spreading of the disease. This seemed to be acceptable to the contentious party, and so a third cup was added. It was also suggested that a fourth cup be added for any brethren who might even suspect they had some like disease, so as to use all precaution against further causing illness among the brethren. It was agreed, and for several months the congregation used four cups at the Lord’s Table. Eventually one of the leaders of that little element that fought tooth-and-nail against the use of multiple cups approached the elders and conceded that their opposition to multiple containers was rather short sighted. The congregation remained at peace with one another, and when the time came to introduce the multiple cups into use at the Lord’s Supper there was no voice of opposition.

Seeing that heavenly wisdom is granted to us by the Father upon our request (Jas. 1:5), it would behoove us to search the scriptures, and become familiar with that heavenly wisdom demonstrated by Solomon, but most of all, that which was manifested in the life of our Lord and Savior.

“This Is My Blood Of The New Covenant”

by Tom Wacaster

Every first day of the week we partake of what is scripturally referred to as “the Lord’s supper” (1 Cor. 11:20).  One the elements in that “supper” is the fruit of the vine, representative of the precious blood of Jesus Christ that was shed in our behalf. Here at Handley it is a custom to read a passage before partaking of each of those elements in the Lord’s supper. Two of those passage frequently read prior to our partaking of the fruit of the vine are located in Matthew and Luke: “And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins” (Matt. 26:27-28). “And the cup in like manner after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). I want us to think for a moment about that element (the fruit of the vine) and what it represents. In so doing I am not discounting the importance of the bread as it represents the body of our Lord, for both elements are important, and together they give us a greater appreciation for the wonderful love of the Father in sending His Son, and the amazing love that Jesus has for each of us in His willingness to die on the cross.

After Jesus had died, one of the soldiers pierced the side of Jesus to make sure He was dead. John tells us that “straightway there came out blood and water” (John 19:34). It may be this particular moment to which John referred when he wrote those intriguing words in 1 John 5:8: “For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one.” That death of Jesus, along with His burial and glorious resurrection has borne witness throughout the ages of the deity of our Lord. For those willing to accept the evidence and the testimony of the four inspired accounts of the life of Jesus, that blood holds out the prospect of forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life. Truly the blood of Jesus bears witness upon this earth to the authenticity of the Christian faith. But the blood also bears witness in heaven for those who have embraced the teachings of Jesus and obeyed His will. Consider the following from Hebrews 9:11-14 and 24: “But Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?...For Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us.” It is here that the blood takes on its greatest wonder and deepest meaning. With the eye of faith we see the blood of Jesus as it flowed from His pierced hands, feet, side and head; but God, in His eternal mind, sees the blood of Jesus as the procuring agent that satisfies the divine wrath and offers the cleaning of sins for those who are willing to partake thereof. That precious blood of Jesus is before the throne right now, even as you read these lines. It will be there tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, as long as this world stands. It is the only means by which a man can receive forgiveness of his sins, and have the burden of guilt lifted from his soul. How, then, is that accomplished? How is it possible for my soul to come into contact with the blood of Jesus? Even if I could somehow go back to the cross and catch the blood of Jesus in a cup as it fell from His body, it would not, and could not touch my soul. Let me suggest the following means for getting my soul in contact with the blood of Jesus.

First, I must get into the body of Jesus. The only way you can contact my blood is to either pierce my flesh, or somehow enter into my body. So it is with the blood of Jesus. It was at His death that Jesus shed His blood. In order to contact that blood I must come into contact with His death and/or get into His body. Listen to the words of Paul regarding this matter: “Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). The same apostle wrote these words: “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13a). If theologians would take off their biased glasses of denominational dogma for just a moment and look at what the Holy Spirit is saying through this inspired apostles the question of the esseniality of baptism would never be an issue again. If you want to get where the blood of Jesus is located, you must be baptized “into His death” where He shed that blood, and “into [His] one body” where His blood is located. There is no other way.

Once inside the spiritual body of Christ we must remain in contact with His blood, remaining faithful until, i.e. even in the face of death (Rev. 2:10). While the saving power of Jesus’ life comes through the merits of His death, it is still important that each one who desires eternal life partake of that body and blood: “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me, and I in him” (John 6:54-56). Some mistakenly believe that Jesus was speaking about partaking of the Lord’s supper here. If they would finish the chapter they will see this is not the case: “It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life” (John 6:63). We “eat” the flesh of Jesus, and “drink” His blood when we abide in His word. To drink of the blood is to take into our heart the life giving power of the cross, and then to live it out in our daily life. Obedient faith is the means by which this happens. The words of Jesus are to the soul what eating and drinking is to the physical body.

In 1893 a great “Parliament of Religions” was held in Chicago, Illinois. Members of all the various cults were gathered in attendance: there were Hindus, and Buddhists, and representatives of all sorts of exotic Eastern religions. It was designed to be a great festival of tolerance and ecumenical brotherhood; but a preacher, Joseph Cook of Boston, offered a reminder that not all religions are equal. During one of the sessions he rose and dramatically announced, “Gentlemen, I beg to introduce to you a woman with a great sorrow. Bloodstains are on her hands, and nothing she has tried will remove them. The blood is that of murder. She has been driven to desperation in her distress. Is there anything in your religion that will remove her sin and give her peace?” A hush fell on the gathering. Not one of the swamis or monks said a word. In the heaviness of that silence Cook abruptly raised his eyes heavenward and cried out, “John, can you tell this woman how to get rid of her awful sin?” The preacher waited, as if listening for a reply. Suddenly he cried out, “Listen, John speaks. 1 John 1:7 - ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, purifies us from all sin.’” Not a soul broke the silence that followed; all the representatives of Eastern religions and Western cults sat speechless. Why? Because ONLY Christianity can make that statement: only the shed blood of Jesus can claim the power to forgive “all sin.”

Next time you partake of the fruit of the vine, let your mind drift back to the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross, and remind yourself that His blood, and only His blood, can cleanse your sins; and then rejoice in knowing it has been applied to your soul!

Forgot You Password?

by Tom Wacaster

Most of us are familiar with the use of, and need for, password protected accounts and websites. The more we adapt to the technological age, the  greater the need. I keep telling myself that I am going to generate one password for all of my various website accounts; that will make remembering my password simpler. Unfortunately different sites require different combinations of letters, numbers and/or symbols. One account requires the “@” symbol somewhere in my password. Other accounts allow only numbers and letters. One site calls for at least one capital letter; another small caps only. The list of requirements for generating a password for the multitude of websites that require an account and password is varied, to say the least.  With the variation in the requirements for passwords comes a proportionate inability on the part of the account holder to remember a given password for any particular website. Thankfully the gurus who develop those wonderful website accounts that require you “log on” to gain access to your “account,” have also developed a way to recover or reset a password when you forget it. A link is provided next to  the place where you enter your password that, when selected, will take you through a process by which you can eventually get access to your account and reset your password. Most sites are very particular about security, and the difficulty of gaining access to the account increases in proportion to the information stored in that website account. In an effort to cut down on having to use the “Forgot Password” feature, I have developed a little database to keep track of my “username,” “password,” and “website” with which each is associated. Presently I have 123 websites, and with each one an associated “username” and “password” that enables me to access my account information. It is inevitable that, from time to time, I will forget one of those passwords. Last week was one of those occasions when I needed to access a rather insignificant, seldom used, online account. When I attempted to log on, I was told that the password was inaccurate. I checked my database of passwords and tried again. I got the same message: “You have entered either an inaccurate username or password.” After three tries I decided it was time to hit the panic button: “Forgot Your Password?” What unfolded was frustrating, and really quite comical. First, I was asked to provide a means by which a “code” could be sent to me. It could be sent to my phone, or to an email account. I would then take that code and enter it into the blank provided which would then enable me to access my security questions to enter my account—like “What is the name of your oldest sibling?” or “What is your favorite ice cream?” I had the code sent to my email address, returned to my computer website and entered the code. So far so good. My “security question” popped up, and after entering the proper answer to my security question I got this message: “Congratulations, you have answered the question correctly. We need one more thing to guaranty your security. Please enter your old password.” But I did not know my old password! And there next to the instruction to enter my old password was the link: “Forgot Your Password?” I pressed it, and it took me through the same process, arriving at the same point where I was told to enter my old password for security purposes. I’ll tell you now that I never got access to the account; it would be much simpler to just set up another account, with a different user name and password.

The runaround I got in the afore mentioned incident is characteristic of some other things in life. Automated telephone menus are just one example; but I’ll not dwell on that right now. Right now I am thinking of someone who thought life was nothing more than one gigantic runaround: “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit hath man of all his labor wherein he laboreth under the sun? One generation goeth, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to its place where it ariseth. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it turneth about continually in its course, and the wind returneth again to its circuits. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place whither the rivers go, thither they go again. All things are full of weariness; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun (Ecc. 1:1-9). Although Solomon did not have computers, internet, websites, or passwords to remember, I have the feeling that he must have felt the same sense of frustration that often comes with all of these marvelous technological amenities we enjoy when they don’t work as we would like.

Working with people often produces the same kind of frustrations that come with forgetting and/or retrieving passwords for some online account. If you have ever tried to reason with someone caught up in error, and who apparently have no desire to come to a knowledge of the truth, the experience is quite frustrating. You find yourself on a “merry-go-round” of circular reasoning. Paul must have been thinking of the same kind of people when he asked the brethren to pray “that we may be delivered from unreasonable and evil men” (2 Thess. 3:2). Such people jump from one topic to another, “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Attempting to teach such individuals is like my vain attempt to recover and/or reset my password; I find myself right back where I started, my patience wearing thin.

Evolutionists are often guilty of circular reasoning. A classic example is the evolutionist’s dating of fossils according to the rock strata they are found in, while at the same time dating the strata according to the “index fossils” they contain. Dating a rock based on the fossil it contains only works if it is assumed that evolution is true. As one paleontologist admitted, “For most biologists, the strongest reason for accepting the evolutionary hypothesis is their acceptance of some theory that entails it.”

It is possible that a devoted, faithful child of God can be guilty of circular reasoning. In an attempt to teach a non believer why we believe the Bible is the word of God we might find ourselves thinking, “I believe the Bible is true because the Bible says it is true.” There are plenty of evidences to substantiate the inspiration of the Bible, the existence of God, and the deity of Jesus Christ. In our efforts to reason with the lost, let’s use very precaution to avoid leaving them with the feeling that they are the victims of circular reasoning. Their honest attempt to reset their “password of life” should be answered with a sound and solid “thus saith the Lord.” Peter put it this way: “but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).