Some Personal Observations

By Tom Wacaster

Benjamin Franklin has been credited with a lot of wise sayings, not the least of which is this: “A little neglect may breed great mischief; for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost, and for want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by an enemy; all for the want of a little care about a horse-shoe nail.” He also is credited with having written, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” Don’t ask me the source; I filed those away a long time ago and failed to copy down the original source. Exactly what book, or online site from which I obtained Mr. Franklin’s observations is not as important, however, as the wisdom contained in the saying itself.

Throughout the years others have taken a shot at offering their personal observations. With the advent of “blog pages,” we are now inundated with millions, if not ten’s of millions of personal observations by experts and novices alike. “Blogs,” as they are often called, can be summed up with the title of a popular move from some years back: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.’  Before the advent of the internet and the ‘www’ (that means world wide web, for those of you not familiar with the designation), newspaper editors and columnists were the source of much of our news and views. Blackie Sherrod was a columnist for the Dallas Morning News (not sure if he still is an active staff writer, or if he is even alive), and he would occasionally offer some of his personal observations concerning life. Here are some of the one’s I collected during the years I subscribed to that paper: “What a wonderful world this would be if all we had to worry about was the identity of the Dallas Cowboy quarterback” - “Physicists agree it is harder to hit a golf ball 100 yards over water than 200 yards over grass” - “A foot race is the purest of all sports, at least it was until the chemists got involved” - “Your garbage pail gets better food than 50 percent of the world” - “Conscience is that something that used to keep you awake at nights” “Yesterdays luxury is today's necessity” - “Wars never are won by reasonable men” - “Remorse arrives with sunup” - “You are ready for the lap robe if you can remember when kids asked permission to leave the dinner table” - “The wise man always carries a paddle because he never knows what kind of creek he will be up.”

Now let me give you some personal observations of my own: “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is an empty desk the sign of?” - “Most days never turn out like you planned the night before” - “Chances are if you say, ‘I might use that someday,’ you won't” - “What most folks need are not New Year’s resolutions, but an internal revolution” (actually I think I got that from someone a long time ago). “Why is that when your left hand is full, that your car keys are in that same pocket, and visa versa?” - “A close corollary would be that it is almost impossible to retrieve your keys out of your right pants pocket with your left hand, and visa versa.” Now, here are some observations for those who might be contemplating a move: “No matter how well you pack your boxes, you always use more than you planned on” - “The size of your rented moving truck or trailer shrinks in direct proportion to the number of boxes you have packed” - “The front part of a moving van is always easier to pack than the last four feet” - “I can pack something in a box, label it, and tell myself that I will remember where I put that object—but I never do” - “Wrapping a breakable item in thick padding is no guarantee that it will not be broken.”

Regarding spiritual matters, here are some additional observations: “A man who claims to believe in God and fails to do anything about it is no different, practically speaking, than the most ardent atheist” - “Association with your brethren will strengthen your character, provide companionship for those rough places in life’s journey, and help you get to heaven” - “Bible study and prayer are not heaven’s suggestions to take or leave, but divine instructions and admonitions that will help you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” - “I have never known a child of God who prays regularly, reads his Bible daily, and attends faithfully, to ever fall from grace” - “Members of the local congregation that work the hardest complain the least, and visa versa” - “Spiritual growth does not come by owning a Bible, but by reading it, any more than physical growth comes by looking at pictures of healthy food in some health magazine.”

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. I’ll close this week’s ‘Tom’s Pen’ with a little quote I came across sometime back and recently reread in my study on the Sermon On The Mount: “If you were to take the sum total of all the authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene, if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out all the excess verbiage, if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon of the Mount.”   Whoever wrote that made a very, very wise observation. 

Have a good week.

Paul's Farewell

by Tom Wacaster

Good-byes are never easy. Unfortunately the closer we are to someone, the more difficult the farewell, and the more heart-rending the separation. When the final moment comes for separation words escape us and the uncertainty of the future reminds us that there is the real possibility that we may never see this loved one again this side of eternity.

The apostle Paul was no stranger to good-byes. His missionary journeys provided occasion for widening his circle of friendship. But with every new acquaintance there was the inevitable moment of separation that awaited Paul and those whom he came to love so dearly. When we read the letters of this great man of God, along with Luke’s record of Paul’s life and work, we are impressed with the great love Paul must have had for those who were so near and dear to him. Like many of us, Paul must have had his circle of especially close friends. But beyond that circle, Paul still counted his brethren among those whom he cherished above even earthly kin. To the Thessalonians he wrote, “But we were gentle in the midst of you, as when a nurse cherisheth her own children: even so, being affectionately desirous of you, we were well pleased to impart unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:7-8). Paul expressed his thankfulness for the Philippians: “I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you, always in every supplication with joy, for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3-5). We can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Paul to tell those brethren good-bye, especially when he knew that there was a  possibility that he would never see them again.

I get the distinct impression that some of those good-byes caused Paul great grief. When Paul was hastening to get to Jerusalem before Pentecost (as recorded in Acts 20 and 21), he was warned by Agabus that trials and tribulation awaited him in that city. The brethren, when they heard the words from Agabus, “besought him not to go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:12b). Paul answered, “What do ye, weeping and breaking my heart?” (Acts 21:13).

In Acts 20, the inspired penman Luke provides us with Paul’s message to a group of brethren who, in his own words, “shall see my face no more” (verse 25). Returning to Jerusalem and the fate that awaited him there, Paul and his company made a stop at Miletus. There he sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus. Notice the following points regarding Paul’s farewell to these brethren.

First, he reminded them that he had never lost sight of his aim and purpose. He could say in all clear conscience that he “shrank not from declaring...anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house” (verse 20). He “shrank not from declaring...the whole counsel of God” (verse 27). As a result Paul was “free from the blood of all men” (verse 26). Any preacher who is worth his salt will see to it that he preaches the whole counsel of God. He may not endear himself to those who do not love the truth, but to those who are like the noble Boreans, he will form a bond that will not be broken by separation in time and/or distance. Over the years this scribe has endeavored to preach the whole counsel of God without fear and favor of men. If I have failed it is not because of an unwillingness on my part, but one of oversight.

Second, Paul did not account his life as dear unto himself (verse 24). When a man can reach the point where his service to God is more important than his life, he has reached a most noble plateau in his spiritual growth. John was privileged to see in a vision that great host of the redeemed who had overcome “because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death” (Rev. 12:11, emphasis mine, TW). Those first century martyrs “had trial of mockings and scourgings, yea moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted, they were slain with the sword: they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, ill treated” (Heb. 11:36-37), yet they remained faithful. Why? Because they did not account their lives as dear unto themselves. That kind of self sacrifice will endear yourself to those who have “obtained a like precious faith.” 

Third, Paul gave the elders a charge. It was a charge to fulfill the responsibility that was theirs as elders, overseers of the flock of God (verse 28). You may not serve as an elder, but each one of us has a “charge” nonetheless. It is a charge to be faithful even in the face of death (Rev. 2:10), to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), to “present yourself a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), and it is a charge to “preach the word in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:1-2). I am confident that you will maintain your faithfulness to heaven’s call to “live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:12).

Fourth, Paul encouraged those elders, and by implication all of God’s faithful servants, to maintain loyalty to the word. “And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified” (verse 32). The Bible is your compass and guide, your owner’s manual for the proper care and operation of the spiritual man. Don’t neglect the study of it. Lay it up in your heart. Treasure it, read it, meditate upon its precepts, and never, never, never deviate from the truths contained therein.