The Bible: What An Incredible Book

by Tom Wacaster
  
Looking back upon the history of the Bible, it is apparent that this book reveals the ongoing and ever present battle that has been waged through the years between right and wrong, truth and error. Every inch of ground has been hard fought; every truth, every doctrine of revelation, every hope held forth in God's word is bathed in the blood of martyrs. Critics of every age have sought to overthrow the Word of God, to their own destruction and shame. All the resources of infidels, skeptics, and unbelievers have been brought to bear on this marvelous book. But the citadel of truth is impregnable, and the victory goes to those 66 books that have come down to us through the ages. The very existence of the Bible declares its divine origin. It is, indeed, an incredible book. Not only does it dispel the darkness, it also holds forth the lamp for every generation, giving hope to those who long for life, and knowledge for those who seek life's answers. We share with our readers the following tribute to the Bible. Philip Schaff concluded his first volume on the history of the church with these words:

“No book has attracted so much attention, provoked so much opposition, outlived so many persecutions, called forth so much reverence and gratitude, inspired so many noble thoughts and deeds, administered so much comfort and peace from the cradle to the grave to all classes and conditions of men. It is more than a book; it is an institution, an all-pervading omnipresent force, a converting, sanctifying, transforming agency; it rules from the pulpit and the chair; it presides at the family altar; it is the sacred ark of every household, the written conscience of every Christian man, the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of light by night in the pilgrimage of life. Mankind is bad enough, and human life dark enough with it; but how much worse and how much darker would they be without it? Christianity might live without the letter of the New Testament, but not without the facts and truths which it records and teaches. Were it possible to banish them from the world, the sun of our civilization would be extinguished, and mankind left to midnight darkness, with the dreary prospect of a dreamless and endless Nirvana. But no power on earth or in hell can extinguish that sun. There it shines on the horizon, the king of day, obscured at times by clouds great or small, but breaking through again and again, and shedding light and life from east to west, until the darkest corners of the globe shall be illuminated. The past is secure; God will take care of the future”

Course Corrections Along The Pathway of Life

by Tom Wacaster
  
February 13th I will board a Northwest/KLM flight bound for Amsterdam, and then on to Bombay, India.  Having some experience in flying, I am aware that a pre-planned route is essential to reaching a desired destination.  But I am also aware that when flying it is necessary to make small corrections in one's heading all along the route from point A to point B.  This is because the plane is affected by wind drift.  Once a course has been plotted, a pilot realizes that flying a plane is not like driving a car.  An automobile contacts the road and is not affected by wind drift as is an airplane.  Consequently, a pilot knows that small adjustments are necessary along the route to his final destination.   That Boeing 747 in which I will be flying is equipped with modern computers and technology that will automatically make those small but necessary corrections.   But whether made by machines or man, those adjustments and corrections along the path will result in reaching the planned point of arrival.   Getting from where you are to where you want to be cannot be achieved by hit-and-miss guess work.  But that is the way some folks approach their religion.  They rely on feelings, better-felt-than-told experiences, rather than carefully plotting their course.  Such an approach will no sooner get them to heaven than a pilot who relies on his feelings to get him to his destination. 

The key word here is "correction."  This is an interesting word in that it describes precisely the role that the word of God plays in our journey through life.  Along the trip of life, slight adjustments are made from time to time so as to keep us on course.  A good working knowledge of the Bible and the application of its truths to our life, will adjust our course when we start to drift.    It keeps affecting the way we think, the way we draw conclusions, and the way we make our daily life decisions.  The key is that we are to lay the word of God up in our heart so that those corrections are automatic.  This is why the Psalmist acknowledged, "Thy word have I laid up in my heart, That I might not sin against thee" (Psa 119:11).

If a pilot fails to make the necessary corrections in the early stages of his journey, he will find that the small error will multiply in proportion to the distance he flies.  The first few miles he may find that he is not far off course.  But let him fly hundreds, or thousands of miles, and he will be so far off course that drastic measures would be needed to reach the destination, if he can reach it at all.  Likewise, if we fail to make corrections immediately and concisely along the road of life, we will look up one day and wonder how in the world we got where we are.  This is why the Hebrews author warned, "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them" (Heb. 2:1).   If we wait until we are so far off course to make the necessary correction we may find that getting back on course is difficult at best, and impossible at worst.

Apostasy is seldom something that occurs over night.  It is the consequence of one's failure to make those small corrections along the way.   Like the wise pilot, the child of God will make those course corrections along the pathway of life frequently and faithfully. 

Babies Made To Order

by Tom Wacaster

The news continues to give attention to genetic engineering, especially when it benefits a couple seeking to either have a baby, or to give birth to a child that is free from diseases that plague both parents. There were at least two items in the news this past week that caught my attention. One was a segment on NBC news in which it was reported that a couple seeking to conceive a child free from a genetic disorder that plagued both of the parents used the process known as in-vitro fertilization to conceive. After conception of a "suitable" embryo, the defective "gene" was successfully isolated and removed, and their child, now five years of age, is free of the defective gene they sought to eliminate. While there may be nothing inherently wrong with conception in a test tube, it is what happens along the way that frightens me. The child they finally got was not the only embryo produced. Numerous embryos were conceived, and the one embryo that met all the conditions was selected for genetic engineering. The others were discarded.

A separate story revisited the case of Lisa and Jack Nash. This couple announced some time back that their new baby had been conceived solely to be a donor of cells for his older sister. The story of how and why Adam Nash came into the world is the story of how even the best of intentions can result in the worst of evils. The story begins when the Nash's oldest daughter, Molly, was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia -- a hereditary and always fatal form of the disease. Doctors determined that the best hope for Molly was a cell transplant, from a relative whose cells matched Molly's, but without anemia. Since they had no other children, the Nashes decided to have one to save Molly. But unlike the California couple who gave birth to a child to provide their daughter with a bone marrow transplant a few years ago, the Nashes weren't taking any chances. Any child conceived naturally would be unlikely to provide Molly with the cells she needed. So, by in-vitro fertilization, they produced fifteen embryos, which they sent to a genetic testing facility. Only one of the embryos had the right genetic material. It was implanted in Mrs. Nash, who, in August of 2000, gave birth to Adam. Adam's stem cells were taken from his umbilical cord and implanted in his sister. Naturally, the Nashes are pleased at the outcome of what they call an "awesome" and "monumental" experience. But thoughtful Christians should respond differently to what has happened here. Despite all the celebration and the medical justification, the fact remains that Adam was, in the words of columnist Ellen Goodman, "conceived ..... not just to be a son, but a medical treatment." But what would have happened if Adam had not possessed the needed genetic makeup acceptable to this medical experiment? Why, he would have been rejected, and discarded like the other fourteen embryos.

When I think upon these two cases of babies made to order," I wonder, "What's next?" This newfound technology and present "world-view" that produced Adam will not be limited to such "noble" purposes like preserving life. As one writer put it, "We're fast approaching a world where kids will be seen to exist merely to enhance their parents' sense of fulfillment. And even if they aren't conceived as merely a source of spare parts, they will still -- through genetic manipulation - - be made to embody their parents' ideas of an ideal child. Parents creating the personality of their kids fits our narcissistic culture, but it is dehumanizing in the extreme." But it is MORE than simply dehumanizing. It is sinful because it is based upon a disrespect for life itself and the loss of the same. I fear that our medical and science community has turned the corner toward a dark and bleak future that will result in a repeat of what the world witnessed half a century ago. When our Supreme Court made abortion legal they opened a door to the proverbial Pandora's box, the consequences of which are frightening. Euthanasia, doctor assisted suicide, and now the discarding of unwanted embryos are but a glimpse of what lies down the road. I fear that as soon as technology permits, parents are going to be screening more and more embryos for those desirable and undesirable genetic traits. And if an embryo does not fulfill the parents' "wish list," then what? And the thought is too horrible to contemplate.

An Empty Wagon Going No Where

by Tom Wacaster
  
This past week has been a week of festivity in honor of the Hindu God. Worship services to that idol occur daily, extending into the late hours of the night during this week long festivity. It is sad to see such devotion to a false god. In contrast it is rewarding to see those who hear the truth and turn away from that false system of worship to serve the true and living God. There is one interesting feature of this week long festivity that caught my interest. During the week gifts are given to this false Hindu god, and at the end of the week’s festivity, the idol is placed on a wagon, and taken to the river and thrown in the river, along with the treasures and gifts that were given by the devotees of the idol. Many people die attempting to recover some of the treasures that are cast into the river with the idol. Every town has a number of these idols, and so when these false gods are put on the wagons, the procession can be quite lengthy. We were returning from a late night preaching appointment and passed one of those wagons that had evidently made its way to the river and was now returning to town. The decorations still draped the wagon, but the idol was gone. Gone too were the merrymaking, singing and dancing, and loud musical procession that accompanied the wagon on its way to the river. And I thought to myself, “An empty wagon going nowhere.” That adequately describes the essence of the Hindu religion. While it may carry a colorful idol, and be draped with ribbons, and surrounded with singing and dancing, it is really an empty wagon going nowhere. It is empty, vain, and futile, whether it is going to or coming from the river. Many a life can be described with the same words. All of us are on the road to eternity. Some travel the narrow way; while others march with the multitudes down that broad path that leads to eternal ruin. Some, like the Hindu idol, are surrounded with wealth, merriment, and pleasure. Some are devotees to false religion; others to no religion at all. Multitudes are marching in the long dark night of spiritual darkness to eternal separation from God. With no awareness of their lost condition, they march on. Like that idolatrous procession going to the river, the masses of humanity are marching toward the river that will forever separate them from the God Who created them and loves them. And so many of them could easily have the epitaph engraved upon their tombstone: “An empty wagon going nowhere.” How sad!

"Another Testament"?

by Tom Wacaster
  
They were very well dressed, and when they knocked on my door they asked if they could tell me of “another testament” that Jesus gave to men. Their offer puzzled me, since I did not recall any mention of “another testament” promised by either Jesus or the apostles. In fact, my Bible clearly teaches that the “faith” that was delivered to that first century church through the hands of the apostles was “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). A little study helped me to understand that Jude actually told us that “the faith” (the Gospel) was “once and for all delivered to the saints.” In like manner Peter has told us that God’s “divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). Jesus told the twelve apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all the truth (John 16:13). Why, then, would we need “another testament” such as that offered by these two “elders” now standing at my door? The answer is simple. We DON’T need “another testament.” In fact, if any man, or even an angel, were to “preach unto you any gospel other than that which we [the apostles, TW] preached unto you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8). If their “other testament” contains MORE than my New Testament, it contains too much. If it contains any LESS than my New Testament, it contains too little. If it contains EXACTLY what my New Testament contains, then why would I need it? Beware friends. It may be “another testament” they bring, but it is NOT the testament of Jesus Christ!

Genetics, DNA and God

by Tom Wacaster
  
The mapping of DNA is one of those little mysteries of life that astound even the most scholarly.  DNA, which stands for "deoxyribonucleic acid," is a sort of genetic "code" that determines not only the color of your hair, but the very physical traits that separate you from lower animals.  Every living thing, whether plant, animal, or human, contains a storehouse of genetic information, and therefore a potential 'laboratory' full of scientific knowledge.   Everything about you, including life itself, is regulated by the information contained within this DNA "code."  This is why the recent mapping of this code is so valuable to scientists.   One of the most astonishing things about our DNA [as well as that of animals and plants] is its uncanny ability to "copy" the information contained therein from one generation to the next, and that faithfully, time after time.  The Bible calls this reproduction after "kind" (Gen. 1:11-12).  Why do sparrows produce only sparrows? Or dogs, dogs?  The answer is simple:  all organisms reproduce after their own kind!  The inevitable conclusion is that this "code" or "information library" had to derive from some source.  Darrel Kautz, in his book, 'The Origin of Living Things' correctly concluded that "the DNA molecule is something utterly unique and had to have an unnatural or supernatural origin...The information in the DNA molecule had to have been imposed upon it by some outside source just as music is imposed on a cassette tape." He then adds, "The information in DNA is presented in coded form as explained previously, and codes are not known to arise spontaneously."   Folks, do you understand the implications of these statements?  There is absolutely no way that evolution and/or random chance can provide an adequate explanation for this marvelous feature of our make up.   Here is something else.  We human beings have learned to store information on paper, in databases, on film, cassettes, and even microchips.  But human technology has yet to discover how to store information chemically, as is the case with the DNA molecule.  We can only agree with Dr. E.H. Andrews: "It is not possible for a code, of any kind, to arise by chance or accident.  Even a dog or chimpanzee could not work out a code of any kind. It is obvious then that chance cannot do it. This could no more have been the work of chance or accident than could the 'Moonlight Sonata' be played by mice running up and down the keyboard of my piano! Codes do not arise from chaos" ('From Nothing to Nature,' Evangelical Press, page 28-29).   But interestingly, this discovery of DNA, its "coded information," and how to "map" this new found information, was set in motion, and even referred to when God told us that everything produces "after its kind."  I wonder why it is that the smarter our world gets, the dumber it acts by denying  the existence of God and attributing origins to chance rather than the God Who made it all!

Another Move

by Tom Wacaster
  
Moving from one location to another can be quite taxing.   Growing up, we had our fair share of family moves from one part of town to another, or from one city to another.  I suppose that mom and dad prepared me for what would be the inevitable experience(s) in the life of a preacher.   My wife and I will have been married thirty eight years this October.  In those thirty eight years we have moved a total of 24 times, and are about to make our 25th move within the next week (that wears me out just thinking about it).   I am determined that I am going to maintain the upper hand, carefully pack all my belongings, and see to it that we complete this move without so much as a scratch on any of the furniture (OK! Maybe just a couple of scratches).   I came across the following on the internet.  I can sympathize with the one who this article:

“Murphy's Laws of Moving”

1. No matter how many boxes you have, you will never have enough.
2. The more your friends promise to help, the more likely it is they will be deathly ill or out of town the weekend you are moving.
3. Whatever it is that you need, it is always in the bottom of a box that has already been taped shut.
4. Now that you are moving and no longer need it, you will always find something you have been looking for for years.
5. The tape, the scissors, the markers and the screwdriver all know how to play hide ‘n’ seek.
6. The thing that gets broken will always be an irreplaceable antique heirloom - never something cheap that you didn't like anyway.
7. Regardless of long the drought has been going on, it will always rain on moving day.
8. You will always loose your checkbook, your car keys, the remote control or the telephone.
9. If you stay up all night packing to be ready for the movers, they will be late.
10. No matter how large the new place is, it will shrink before you move in.

I fully realize that this move is not going to be my last move, since the house into which we are moving is rental property.  So, somewhere down the road, perhaps in a year or so, we will haul out the boxes that have been stored for the umpteenth time, and go through a process with which we have become all too familiar.  I also fully realize that there is a day coming when I will make my last move.  The boxes will be unpacked for the last time; personal belongings put “in their place” to remain for the duration; and pictures and plaques hung on the wall to be taken down by those to whom we will leave those sentimental items that we have hauled around lo these many years.   This may very well be that move.  Whenever that time comes, there will be two moves yet remaining – two moves the likes of which I will have never experienced in this life.  The first move will involve no deposits, no U-Haul truck, or packing and taping of boxes.   It will be unplanned and unscheduled.  My body will be borne by others who will also console those whom I have left behind; my final resting place marked by a tombstone that might bear a few words that will sum up the many years the Lord has given me upon this earth.   The second and final move will be my journey to meet my Lord and Savior in the air, where I will be escorted to the throne of the Father, to spend eternity with the redeemed of every age.  That will be a glorious occasion, not only because I will rest from my labors, but because I will arrive at that final destination knowing that never again will I have to make “another move.” 

Do We Want A Church That Flies?

by Tom Wacaster
  
A rather interesting article appeared in one of the more liberal periodicals sometime back that deserves an open and honest investigation.  The author's comments serve as a good example of the present effort on the part of change agents to remodel and restructure the Lord's church of our generation into something that is "functional," though not necessarily in accord with the "form" of the New Testament pattern.  The author of that article draws a parallel between the progress in aviation and the supposed progress now being offered the brotherhood.  He argues that our first attempts at flight failed because we sought to "imitate" the birds rather than develop the principle of flight.  In like manner, he argues, we [those who would demand a 'thus saith the Lord'] have sought to imitate the first century church rather than build a church that is functional.   He writes:  "Like the ornithopterists of old, we assumed that 'function' was inextricably bound to 'form', that to fly with the first century church required us to fly like it.  In our minds, a restoration of the first century spirit and dynamic would only be possible when we gave the modern church the same 'equipment' as its ancient counterpart...Many of us are growing frustrated with a modern church that may look like the ancient church in the particulars but fails to function with anything like its power and life-changing dynamic."  Let us take a close look at our misguided brother's plea.

First, functionality and form cannot be separated when it comes to divine and holy matters.  God so decreed that to be the case.  In short, when God designed the church He designed it to function according to His purpose, and with "his good pleasure" in mind (Eph. 1:5).  It makes no difference what generation we may live in, or what culture might surround us, truth remains truth and no man can add or successfully altar God's form without incurring God's wrath and displeasure.  We need to remind ourselves that  Galatians 1:8-9, Revelation 22:18-19 and 1 Corinthians 4:6 are still in the Bible. 

Second, functionality is not to be defined by men.   I find it interesting that the change agents have no clear definition of where they want to take the church.   This is because they do not know themselves where they want to go.   Many of them are like the pilot who told his passengers, "We are casting off the compass, and throwing out the radio, but we can rejoice in knowing that all engines are running and it is full speed ahead."  The Bible provides a clear cut pattern for the church both in its identity and its purpose.   Yes, there are minute details as to what the church should look like, but there are also plain and positive passages as to her purpose, and how that purpose is to be accomplished.  If I read my Bible clear we are to preach and teach the lost, build up and edify the body of Christ, and provide assistance to those in need as the opportunity arises.  God reminds us that if we will trust in Him, and build the church as He has instructed, it will function properly.  The error among those who seek to change the church is that they do not trust in God's design. Some would have you believe that if you build it according to God's pattern, it will not fly!  Two thousand years have proven otherwise.  If it worked in the first century [and it did], what makes us think we can improve upon God's design? 

Third, any problem or failure that might happen to arise lies not in the design of the craft that God has built, but the ones who might happen to be at the helm.   Placed in capable hands, an airplane can and will operate properly.  Pilot error is the cause of much of aviation's mishaps.  Likewise when God's church is placed in capable hands it will meet all of the divine specifications and it will operate properly and function at peak performance.  If the church is not functioning as it should, blame is to be laid at the feet of elders who will not shepherd the flock as they should, preachers who will not preach the truth without fear and favor of men, and members whose lives are not in harmony with God's will. 

One closing thought.  The article to which I refer is a clear call to abandon that pattern set forth in God's word in exchange for something that is "functional."  It is the age old argument that the end justifies the means.  And so this misguided author concludes:  "Central to this endeavor is a willingness to disconnect form from function, to assert that function is primary, and to suggest that it is possible to build a contemporary church that pleases God even if it does not look exactly like the church of the first or the nineteenth century."   In the final analysis I prefer a church whose feet are on the ground, standing on the Rock of Ages, as opposed to one that would soar through the skies with no direction, no compass, and no certain destination.



Church Marquees

by Tom Wacaster
  
The June 2007 issue of Reader's Digest had a two page article titled, "It's A Sign!"  in which a half dozen or so church  "message boards" were featured for the interest of its readers.  "At churches across America, some messages have to be seen to be believed!" is how the lead-in statement read.  It caught my eye, so I read on:  "You spot them along highways and byways, those sturdy little signs standing outside houses of worship, sharing information and exhortation - and occasionally, a delightfully light touch."   Out of the six messages the RD article featured, here were my favorite three:

"Walmart isn't the only saving place in town"
"It wasn't the apple it was the pair"
"Don't give up, Moses was once a basket case"

You can learn a lot about an institution by what is displayed on the marquee sign out front, if perchance they happen to have one.   I heard of a muffler shop that had the following on their marquee: "No appointment necessary; we'll hear you coming."   One sign in front of an optometrist's office read: "If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."   One of my favorite appeared at the Electric office:  "We would be delighted if you send in your bill. However, if you don't, you will be."

Message boards can also be used to teach important lessons, and when plain and pointed, can drive a point home.  One congregation of the Lord's church in south Texas put the following on their marquee:  "Be not deceived: neither fornicators...nor effeminate, nor homosexuals shall inherit the kingdom of God."  That sign generated a lot of interest, as well as phone calls and threatened law suits. 

While traveling to Virginia this past month, I came across the following three marquee messages that spoke volumes about the churches out front of which they stood:

At a Baptist church: "NASCAR legend Morgan Shepherd speaking tonight"
At a Pentecostal church: "Skate board ministry, Thursday nights at 7:00"
At an Evangelical church: "Shorts and Sandals?  No problem"

If each of the congregations of the churches of Christ were to place such marquees in front of their building adequately depicting the "heart" of that congregation, I wonder what we might find:

"Marriage and Divorce: Like Whataburger, you can have it your way"
"Worship services to suit every life-style!"
"If you don't like our eldership now, cast your vote in this coming November election!"
"Unity in diversity - the key to maintaining union in the bond of compromise"
"Upcoming workshop: How to chizzle the name 'Church of Christ' off your building and avoid damaging the bricks"
"Class on the Holy Spirit: If you don't choose to come, He'll directly influence you to come - either way, we'll see you there"

Yes, I wonder!