The Imperishable Word

By Tom Wacaster

The chance of an asteroid or comet of any significant size hitting the earth in a single year is something like 1 in 300,000. Of course there are some astronomers who speak of a massive asteroid now on a collision course with earth, but they readily admit that the possibility of that "doomsday catastrophe" occurring is still pretty slim. After all, it is most difficult to be precise when said asteroid is not expected to arrive here until the year 2132. For the most part, scientists admit that this universe is very stable. So stable, in fact, that we still have to adjust our watches and chronometers every so often to bring man made time mechanisms into line with the universe. Until the Lord comes back to take us home and judge the world in righteousness, we can lay our head to rest each evening with the full assurance that tomorrow morning the sun will rise as normal, that the heavenly bodies will continue their orbits around the sun, and that winter, summer, fall, and spring will continue to come and go, all according to the divine laws that God set in motion more than 6,000 years ago. The ancients had the same confidence in a stable universe, so much so that if they wanted something that was sure and stable, they would look to the hills, or the mountains for that strength. This brings us to an interesting statement made by the Lord in Matthew 24:35: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Let an ordinary man make such a declaration and we might question his sanity. Nonetheless, there have been, and will continue to be those who have an exaggerated estimation of themselves, and they wear their pride like an ornament about their neck. The German philosopher Nietzsche was just such a man. He actually declared that he had given the deepest book to mankind and that he was the most independent spirit in Europe. I understand that Nietzsche ended his days in a mental asylum. Thomas Pain was so bold as to declare that his book, Age of Reason, would replace the Bible. Both of these men, and others like them, are nothing more than shooting stars that, for a brief moment, light up the dark skies of human philosophy, only to burn out as quickly as they come on the scene. In the end the only thing they achieve is to leave the masses questioning their sanity.

But Jesus of Nazareth? When we think of Jesus we think of the prophet's declaration that "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street" (Isa. 42:2). Jesus was not some kind of street barker, mounting the proverbial soap box to advance some social cause, or to right some injustice perpetrated on the masses by corrupt and carless politicians. It was not His assertiveness, but His quietness that caused even His enemies to declare, "Never man so spake" (John 7:46). He went forth preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and that message, which was given so quietly in a little out-of-the-way province of the Roman Empire, is still being preached in spite of all the efforts to still the pen and silence the voices of His followers. Every imaginable attempt has been made to destroy the word of God, but without success. The only kingdom that has weathered every attack, and repelled every attempt to breach its glorious gates, is the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Men have gathered their Goliaths, unsheathed their weapons, and with all the power they could muster in both word and deed, they have attacked the bulwarks of the faith, only to be defeated by the word of God - that same word that Jesus promised would last as long as this world would stand, and yea beyond that, into eternity itself. A.Z Conrad must have had the words of our Lord in mind when he penned the following:

There It Stands

Century follows century-There it stands.
Empires rise and fall and are forgotten-There it stands.
Dynasty succeeds dynasty-There it stands.
Kings are crowned and uncrowned-There it stands.
Emperors decree its extermination-There it stands.
Despised and torn to pieces-There it stands.
Storms of hate swirl about it-There it stands.
Atheists rail against it-There it stands.
Agnostics smile cynically-There it stands.
Profane prayerless punsters caricature it-There it stands.
Unbelief abandons it-There it stands.
Higher critics deny its claim to inspiration-There it stands.
Thunderbolts of wrath smite it-There it stands.
An anvil that has broken a million hammers-There it stands.
The flames are kindled about it-There it stands.
The arrows of hate are discharged against it-There it stands.
Radicalism rants and raves about it-There it stands.
Fogs of sophistry conceal it temporarily-There it stands.
The tooth of time gnaws but makes no dent in it-There it stands.
Infidels predict its abandonment-There it stands.
Modernism tries to explain it away-There it stands.
Laughed at by sycophants and scorned by scoffers-There it stands.
Free thinkers deride it-There it stands.
Devotees of folly denounce it-There it stands.
When childhood needs a standard of truth-There it stands.
Youth calls for a beacon light-There it stands.
Sorrow cries for consolation-There it stands.
Weakness searches for the sources of power-There it stands.
Old age calls for an upholding staff-There it stands.
The weary seek refuge and rest-There it stands.
The hungry soul calls for bread-There it stands.
The thirsty pilgrim yearns for refreshing water-There it stands
Do the overwhelmed cry for relief?-There it stands.
Do the lost seek salvation?-There it stands.

Every child of God can take comfort in the promise of our Lord as recorded in Matthew 24:35. Let us never forget that the "word of God liveth and abideth forever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower faileth; but the word of the Lord abideth forever" (1 Pet. 1:23-25).

Out Of Pocket

by Tom Wacaster

The website tells its visitors that until your deduction is met, you are responsible for all costs relating to doctor visits, hospital stays, or any other medical expense. In that context, “out of pocket” means all expenses not paid by someone else, come out of your pocket; hence, “out-of-pocket expenses.”

On the world wide web of information, a search for this three-word-phrase, “Out-of-pocket” produced some interesting results. I learned, for example, that a primarily American meaning of “out-of-pocket” means to “be unavailable.” That usage of the phrase dates back to 1908 where the words were used to speak of someone who was inaccessible, and thus “out of pocket.” The Oxford English Dictionary traces “out-of-pocket” (with the hyphens) when used as a noun or adjective to an 1885 law journal: “The plaintiffs incurred various out-of-pocket expenses.” Then there is the American Slang Dictionary (not to be confused with The Dictionary of American Slang), which defines “out-of-pocket” as “out from under someone’s control; not manageable.” One might say, “That guy is wild! Completely out of pocket!” Other similar uses of the word “pocket” might include: “To live in each other’s pockets” means to be a little too close, or to spend too much time together. Then there is the politician who is in someone’s pocket in order to line his own pocket with financial gain. My mama used to tell me that the quarter I got for allowance was “burning a hole in my pocket”; not literally, but figuratively, meaning that I was overly anxious to spend it.

Now that I have taken a cursory look at some of the various slang uses of the phrase “out-of-pocket,” let me get down to the reason for writing this article. I have been extremely busy moving from one house to another, the reason not being all that important. Along with my other responsibilities, my writing has suffered somewhat. What little time I could squeeze in for writing has been put toward completing the second volume of a two volume commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. So, I have truly been “out-of-pocket.” While it is true that I have had some expenses incurred in that move that are “out-of-pocket,” the entire ordeal has kept me “out-of-pocket” so far as my writing is concerned. I hope to do somewhat better in the weeks ahead; but then again, being “out-of-pocket” for one reason or the other is often beyond my control.

Being “out-of-pocket” is not all that bad. It gives us the opportunity for a little rest and relaxation. Unfortunately multitudes of lukewarm brethren have been “out-of-pocket” for longer than we can remember. They have neglected their attendance (Heb. 10:25), and failed to worship as they should (John 4:24). The longer they neglect their spiritual responsibilities, the greater the danger that they will reach that point where the heart grows cold and beyond reach of the Gospel. Those who have become negligent in their spiritual duties may have soothed their conscience in thinking that they are just temporarily “out-of-pocket,” while in reality they have placed themselves in a most precarious situation. Eventually the Judgment Day will arrive, and they will learn too late, that when it comes to that inevitable time when we will stand before God and give an account (2 Cor. 5:10) there will be no such thing as simply being “out-of-pocket.”

"My Way"

by Tom Wacaster

The closing lines to Frank Sinatra’s hit record, “My Way,” sum up not only the essence of the song, but perhaps the life of the man himself:

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels,
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows,
And did it my way.
Yes, it was my way.

Mr. Sinatra was the very embodiment of America’s changing values from the 1950’s to the present age. Following WWII our nation began a love affair with the almighty dollar, and the wealth and affluence of this nation blossomed into a mighty oak of material success. Meanwhile, the sanctity of marriage took a back seat to the pursuit of pleasure, with Mr. Sinatra and other Hollywood stars leading the way with multiple partners throughout their careers. Sinatra himself went through four marriages, as well as multiple extra-marital affairs with such stars as Ava Gardner, Mia Farrow, Lauren Bacall, and Marilyn Monroe. Honesty, integrity, and moral uprightness were cast off during the 1960’s sexual revolution, and Sinatra’s well known connection to the mob did nothing to stem the tide of rebellion toward authority. His connections to such mob characters as  Lucky Luciano, Mafia boss Willie Moretti, Bugsy Siegel, Carlo Gambino, Sam Giancana, and Joseph Fishetti glorified the world of crime and gangsters. Yes, he did it his way! And following in his steps was a generation that forgot God, and sought instead to do it their way. Humanism, materialism, evolution and a host of other “isms” found fertile soil in which to grow, and it seems that in the efforts to do it our way, the nation cast God out of her schools, public discussion, and everyday life. And, as they say, the rest is history!

The Bible gives us an inspired record of men and women who sought to do it their way rather than God’s way, and not a single one of them are held up in high esteem by heaven’s holy hall of fame.  Saul, Nadab and Abihu, Ananias and Sapphira, Dathan, Korah, Balaam, the named but seldom remembered ten spies that brought an evil report to Joshua; Pharaoh, Cain, and hundreds and thousands of unnamed men and women who were determined to do it their way! I am presently engaged in a profitable study of the prophet Jeremiah. Judah was determined to do it their way, and the preaching and pleading of the prophet fell on deaf ears.

While in the minority, there are those faithful saints who go about seeking and serving the Lord in the midst of a world of corruption. They are sojourners and pilgrims, strangers in a land not their own. They seek for that city whose builder and maker is God. They feast upon the bread of life, drink from the fountains of living water, and refuse to be conformed to this world.  The mark of distinction that sets them apart from the world that seeks to do things their way is that these faithful saints of God seek to do it God’s way.

The album ‘My Way’ sold almost a million copies. Ironically Mr. Sinatra later came to hate the song because it was, in his words, “self-serving and self-indulgent.” Perhaps he came to realize, too late, that words do have meanings, and that the message of the song epitomized him and his generation more than he wanted to admit.

Now let me tell you of another song writer and lyricist. She is a faithful child of God, seeks to serve Him every day of her life. She has written a number of spiritual hymns, some of which have graced the pages of some of our song books. I have known her all my life; she is my mother. Here is a poem she recently wrote that focuses attention on doing things God’s way, for that is the only way that will lead to eternal life:

God’s Way

God says, “If you would walk with me and stand where I stand,
Then you must do it, under the touch of my hand.”
If you are a faithful servant, the Master must be able to say,
“Come, my good and faithful servant, for you did it my way.
Because I sent my Son to bless you and call you back to me,
He promised through your obedience that He would set you free.”
Then for the sake of righteousness, if you hunger and thirst,
You must walk by His pathway, and seek His kingdom first.
If you pass through toils and troubles, and win day by day,
You will seek His face in service, for you will do it His way.

Thank you mom for your wonderful words of encouragement!

On Books And Reading

by Tom Wacaster

I have been blessed to acquire a sizable library over the past three decades. I have read most of what is in my library at least one time [excepting of course reference books; I never could catch the “plot” to Webster’s dictionary so I gave up after the first page or two].  Though some think I read too much, I can assure you that my reading accomplishments pale in comparison to some others with whom I have been acquainted. While I was living in the Houston are in the early 90’s, I had the opportunity to visit the late Burton Coffman. On that occasion he told me that he had a self-appointed goal of reading a book a week, and the fact that he achieved that goal for more than 30 years is remarkable. That adds up to slightly more than 1500 books read in that 30 year span. The late brother Franklin Camp read extensively during his lifetime, completing anywhere from 6 to 8 books per month over his illustrious 50 plus years of preaching. That is a total of 3,600 books read in his lifetime. The late Winford Claiborne, likewise, read a great deal of material. He, of course, was an avid speed reader, which explains why he could read a book in one setting. He once told me that he tries to read from three to five books per week (depending upon the size of the book). Over forty years that totals just over 6,200 books. Guy N. Woods had a personal library of more than 8,000 books. He too was an avid reader, and his extensive knowledge on a great number of subjects manifested his reading habits. I have never kept a tally of the books which I read, nor how many I might read in a week’s time (certainly nothing equivalent to what these brethren read). Brother Woods once wrote:

Books are history’s priceless heritage, the storehouse of the wisdom of the ages. Were it not for them, but little - very little - of man’s thrilling past would be known and preserved for us and the struggle of mankind through the ages only imperfectly realized. To consort with those who lived in ages past, reliving their experiences and profiting by their mistakes and rejoicing in their triumphs is surely one of the noblest and grandest privileges vouchsafed to man. Blessed indeed is he who has made books his friends. They are ever present to stir his emotions, cheer his heart and edify his mind; and, when on occasion they are neglected, they exhibit no resentment, upbraid him not, but patiently wait his pleasure to flood his heart and mind again with their precious stock of rich resources. A collection of good books is a fairyland of delight, a storehouse of treasure, providing a haven from the world’s current distresses, putting all who choose in the company of the earth’s greatest philosophers, its most profound thinkers and its wisest minds. Nor does this select company erect barriers to exclude any. Here, indeed, is one of the few areas in which the affluent and the poor are not turned away. Into what other select company of distinguished people may one appear at a time and place of his own choosing and consort with them to his heart’s content? (Gospel Advocate, 11-1991, page 32).
Solomon wrote, “of making many books there is no end.......” (Ecc. 12:12). I have learned through the years that when you finish one book, there is another one waiting for you to engage. I usually have between 50 to 100 books stacked on my shelf, the floor, or the top of my desk awaiting my attention. And yet, when confronted with the opportunity to purchase yet another good book, my desire gives in and my newly acquired book is simply added to the stack of books waiting to be read. Authors and publishing companies are pumping out the books faster than any human being can possibly read them. It seems, therefore, that you and I should be very selective of what books we read with regard to time spent and subject matter entertained. Christians should go about building a good personal library. But most important of all, he should spend time in the Book of books. All else is inconsequential so far as the value and lasting effect any single book will have upon your life.

At the close of the aforementioned article by Guy N. Woods, our beloved brother concluded:

There is, I think, no work in which man engages in which there is such great obligation to be both efficient and proficient. Great though one’s natural talents are, no man approaches his potential who is indolent in mind, who does not enjoy and use good books. He who brings within reach of lost humanity life eternal, sows the seed of immortality, contributes to the well-being of those involved in a fashion not otherwise possible and while so doing faithfully serves his Creator. To achieve these goals, one must study....Great though a man’s native talents are and respectable his formal education, I have never known one to attain to his potential in life who is mentally lazy, intellectually indolent and has little or no regard for good books. 

Take the time to do some serious reading. I really think that the more one reads, the more he will want to read. After all, “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers” (Charles W. Eliot).

21st Century: Age Of Enlightenment?

by Tom Wacaster

An increasing number of diluted and self-proclaimed philosophers have bought into the lie that modern man has finally reached the point where he no longer needs religion. Man is the sum and substance of all there is, and humanism has clothed itself in new garb and calls it "self-awareness."  The "God is dead" craze of the 1970's seems to have found a new following among the millennials who have now declared this century, "the century of freedom and enlightenment." When we speak of "millennials" we are talking about those born between 1980 and the early 2000's. This would take in those between the ages of 18 and 34. This is the generation that was saturated with humanistic thinking throughout their formative years, on into high school, and finally confirmed and solidified in the institutions of higher learning. What the millennials mean by "freedom" is not what most of the post WWII "baby boomers" think when they hear the word. The "great generation" (those born in the early part of the last century) and the "baby boomers" take "freedom" to mean freedom from tyranny, suppression, and the domination of crazed dictators and the like. To a growing number of 'millennials' the word "freedom" means freedom "from" certain social norms and/or responsibility. This is precisely why so many millennial candidates running for political office on some kind of socialist platform are finding a wide following. The Royal Society of Arts has a new motto: "21st Century Enlightenment." Unfortunately, the 21st century concept of "enlightenment" is nothing more than a rehash of humanism dressed up in new garments with a splash of cologne to make it smell a little better. Political correctness is run amuck, and the rush to avoid "offending" even the worst in society has paved the way for an "enlightenment" that is more like the centuries of the dark ages that ushered in the age of enlightenment of the 15th-18th centuries.

Until this new generation learns that truth is absolute and attainable, they will continue their trek into political, social, and moral ruin. If ever the love affair with socialism takes hold on this country this new generation will learn, too late, that they have opened up a can of worms and the proverbial Pandora's Box that they will not be able to close; and where will Bernie Sanders be when the cat is out of the bag? What it all boils down to is this matter of truth.

Pilate asked, "What is truth?"  Perhaps some of our Senate investigations of the past have been tempted to ask the same question. Now the CEO's of corporate America are being called into question for their business ethics, and it seems as if they have been infected with a case of "I-do-not-recall-itis" [if I may be allowed to coin a new term]. Much of the dishonesty, lying and cover-up that has plagued our nation, especially in politics but not limited thereto, has put a damper on a desire to know the truth and/or the ability of some to tell the truth.  It is a fact, however, that truth is truth, and all the lying and cover-up will not change a lie into truth.  Political correctness, coupled with a "relativistic" approach to life's moral, ethical, and spiritual issues may be popular in this 21st century, but it has an eroding effect upon the love for truth and the pursuit of the same in the lives of the average man. Are we really surprised to find corporate CEO's who "cook the books" to make the company look good?   For eight years we were told that moral integrity has nothing to do with job performance, and the Chief CEO in the political halls of America manifested a complete lack of respect for others while seeking his own self-gratification at the expense of the people whom he had been elected to serve. When called into question for ethical misconduct, the most influential man in government circles lied under oath, and although reprimanded for perjury, was never punished.  The American people, fueled by the liberal media and political spin masters, were convinced that morals have no bearing upon job performance. So why should we be shocked when corporate America simply follows his example? Unfortunately this disrespect for the truth has been around since the creation of man.  But by the same token, when disrespect for the truth infiltrates the very fabric and foundation of a society, self-destruction is not far away.  It was noted by one historian that America's greatness was to be found in her churches.  While we in no way condone religious division, we recognize that the spiritual make up of our founding fathers played a large part in God's providential blessings in the establishment of this nation and its preservation through the years.  I wish I could say that only the political and business circles were infected with a large disregard for the truth, but such is not the case.  The religious scandals that have rocked "Christendom" in the last twenty five years have opened the door of secrecy so that we are now getting a glimpse into the religious corruption that comes as a result of a lack of love for the truth.  From Protestantism to Catholicism and the polluted "priesthood" of America's religious leaders, it is quite evident that truth has fallen on hard times.  Lies are told in the name of religion, the "people" are duped into believing a falsehood, and the truth, once again, suffers. Is it any wonder that some prominent theologians are declaring that truth is unattainable, and that even if attained, it is changing? The American people, due in part to gullibility and in part to ignorance, have bought this notion that truth is some mystic, far away, unreachable ideology, and have long since ceased the search for truth. We have left it up to the "preachers" to do the searching for us, and we act shocked when these "religious racketeers" take us to the cleaners. Dear reader, only the truth will make you free. Forget the dishonest political leaders, the hypocritical religious leaders, the unethical corporate leaders, and the failure of so many to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and get on with searching out the truth for yourself.  Therein is freedom. Therein is life.

How Does That Make You Feel?

By Tom Wacaster

Back when I was growing up religion was affirmed and practiced by a much larger percentage of the population than today. Brother Jim Mettenbrink, upon reading an early draft of this article, commented:

Regarding your opening paragraph, when I went into the USAF in 1965, in basic training and tech school, we were in close quarters in the barracks. Three things we quickly found out about each other: (1) from which state we came, (2) from what immigrant heritage we came, and (3) what religion / denomination to which we belonged.  I do not ever recall anyone saying he was an atheist or agnostic.   That would have been a sobering impact (Jim Mettenbrink, personal email).

While there were those who saw no need for spiritual nutrition, the general attitude toward the Christian community was one of general acceptance and tolerance. The mindset of the 60’s, insofar as the religious scene was concerned, was one of “live and let live.” In the 1970’s, and 1980’s this tolerance for society’s religious element began to wane, and there evolved an “anti” religious attitude among unbelievers. The religious right, sometimes called the “Christian coalition,” or the “fundamentalist movement,” have become despised, and openly opposed. In fact, the religious element is considered in many circles to be out right “dangerous.” Much of this is the result of a pluralistic mindset in which everything is to be accepted. There is no longer truth and error, or right and wrong. In fact, the only ones who are wrong are those who claim anybody is wrong on any particular matter. Judgment is out, acceptance is in.

Some years ago I came across this little tidbit that expresses precisely the problem we face today in seeking to establish a standard of right and wrong. The author focused upon the particular attitude that has produced a “politically correct” mindset. In an attempt to address the underlying principle that has produced the present idea that there is no definite standard of authority in anything, the author took a look at the over-all picture before us: “It is not a pretty sight. From the Fabians to the postmodernists, and from the romantics to the environmentalists, the intellectual elite have been a somber bunch able to agree on only one essential premise: antipathy toward principled reason, bourgeois liberalism, determined progress, and most especially Christian ethics.” Thirty years ago Christianity was “tolerated,” but today it is under attack. In fact, thirty years ago the tide began to shift away from clear logical thinking to a more subjective type of thinking that produced thrills and chills all up and down the spine rather than a clear and concise conclusion based upon reason and evidence. A recognition of the problem helps me understand why so many, both in the church and out of the church, no longer listen to or seek for a “thus saith the Lord.” Instead, the all-important issue is, “How do you ‘feel’ about that?” Perhaps another timely quote will serve to illustrate. “Chip Blankinship, a Presbyterian preacher (US News and World Report, July 7, 1997) in a letter to the editor said, ‘I am much interested in preaching from the Bible and upholding its authority...The issue is not whether we view Scripture as authoritative but how we feel led to interpret it’.” Say again? Maybe I could try this approach next time I go shopping. If the cash register reads a certain amount, I might attempt to pay what I think is right, and then ask the cashier, “How do you feel about that?” Do you suppose it will make any difference on what I actually have to pay? I don’t think so. Or, I could try the same approach in making my bank deposits each week and simply hand the teller a deposit slip that reads $10,000 without any accompanying check or cash. When asked where the money is I could simply respond, “Well, I feel as if you should credit my account the full amount—and while you’re at it, can you give me back $1,000 in cash?” The possibilities are endless.

But this is precisely the approach that our society is taking toward religion in general and morality in particular. Unfortunately, many of our brethren think the same way when it comes to Christian responsibility. Many, if not all of those congregations of the Lord’s church that have abandoned a “thus saith the Lord,” and replaced it with nothing more than ridicule and despite for “pattern theology” have started down the road to destruction. In the final analysis, if you cast off the word of God, what is left?  What the preacher says? What my creed book says? How I “feel” about the matter? Where do you stop?

Let us take one step closer to home. Attendance is a persistent and perpetual problem among some who lay claim to faithfulness to the Lord and His church. The irony is that some of those who are so inconsistent in their attendance would be among the first to scream if the slightest hint was made to introduce instrumental music into worship. The Bible plainly says, “Forsake not the assembly.” A large number of brethren take that, not as a command, but as a suggestion, or as “permission.” That’s the way they “feel” about it, and all the scriptures brought to bear on the subject seem to have no effect whatsoever. I must confess that such reasoning and wrangling does not make sense. But then, that’s the way I feel about it!! Whether we realize it or not, all of us make decisions based upon standard of authority. It is either an absolute, objective standard that will produce orderliness in any given society, or it is a subjective, better-felt than told standard that can, and does, lead to  anarchy and a break down in morality and ethical stability.