Is No The Only Word In Your Vocabulary?

by Tom Wacaster

In 1994 our pet poodle died of a stroke.  My recollections of that dog are fond ones, particularly when it comes to how well disciplined she was.   After several months of rigorous training, verbal commands, coupled with punishment and/or reward, that little 12 pound canine turned out to be a decent, well behaved, and without doubt, a loving companion for the family.  It would be six years before we sought out and purchased another dog. Having had our present poodle now for that same length of time, we recall with fondness the "puppy" stage that has given way to a well trained, more mature, and sometimes lazy, canine.  We learned some lessons during the trying time that it took to produce the finished product, but it has been worth the effort.

When she was barely twelve weeks old, and still in that "puppy" mode where her jaws were constantly moving and biting, the vet assured us that this was her way of getting acquainted with unfamiliar things.  It seems that every time that little three pound ball of fluff turned around we were saying, "No Mille" (Mille is short for Millennium Cream, her registered name; she was born five minutes after midnight, January 1, 2000).   A diligent effort to house break her eventually payed off, but in the process she heard "No Mille" so many times that she may have been tempted to think that was her name.  She would chew on the carpet, our clothing, bare feet and fingers.  Likely, were she able to talk, she would have responded: "Is 'No' the only word in your vocabulary?"   I am confident that some of our more liberal thinking brethren might have somewhat to say about our tactics in raising dogs.  "Your constant, 'No this,' and 'no that,' will produce a dog with little self esteem."  Another would point out that dogs raised in such a conservative atmosphere tend to be "un-controllable."  Still another might suggest that we should "praise the dog more and criticize her less."  Well, so much for "suggestions," none of which, in this dog-trainers humble opinion, are worth more than the space used to pass this little tid-bit along to our readers.  For the most part, our fellow dog-owners realize the need for loving discipline, especially during the early years of a dog's life. 

Now, before I say anything about application, let me assure you that I am, by no means, suggesting that we ought to treat one another like "dogs." But there is a remarkable lesson to learn from my simple, but limited, experience as a dog trainer.  To the Greeks, a horse that was considered "meek," was one that had its spirit brought under control.  It was now useful to its master.  Seeing that one of the beatitudes reads, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5), it would seem that each one of us would earnestly desire to obtain meekness, i.e. self control of the spirit within and restraint of the tendency to rebellion that so often characterizes man.   What is it about man that calls for constant reminders that there are some things that we simply cannot do?  When the elders say, "We cannot do this," or the preacher says, "No, that's far enough," they are simply trying to remind us that a specific act, habit, or thought is, for lack of a better word, "a no-no" in the sight of God.  The more immature the child of God (whether because he is a new "babe" in Christ and has not had time to grow, or an uninformed older Christian), the more he will hear the words, "No, brother so-and-so, you cannot go that direction."  Unfortunately, some react in a negative way: "Your constant 'no this, or no that' is 'negative preaching,' and we will not be inundated with such 'negative preaching.'"  Others will believe the lie that discipline somehow warps character and stunts self image.   Were some to speak their mind they might ask the elders or preacher, "Is 'No' the only word in your vocabulary?"   Is there any way we can convince you that all such 'negative preaching' (as some are wont to say) is really for your benefit? 

My constant refrain of "No Mille," was an attempt to bring a little animal in line with the demands of a master who loves her and wants, in the final analysis, to provide her with a contented and happy "dog's life."  That will only be achieved through persistent discipline and a stern reminder to her that some things simply will not be tolerated.  God has communicated the same thing to you and me.  His desire is that we bring our will in submission to His so that, when the period of training and preparation has passed, we enjoy that home prepared for the saints of every age. Meanwhile, we will have to go on hearing, "No brother/sister," and realize that though we may hear those words often, they are NOT the only words in God's vocabulary.  By His demands on our life He is really saying, "I love you; will you love me in return?"

Christian Worship

by Doug Martin

What is worship?  What does God expect of me when I worship Him?  How can I do better in my worship to God?  These are great questions; and if you’ve asked these same questions, then you are on the right track, for sure!

Probably the best place to start is with Jesus’ conversation with the woman at Jacob’s well in John 4.  In verses 7-14 Jesus claims that He is the source of ‘living’ or spiritual water.  Then He confronts the woman with her sinful lifestyle with specific facts (5 husbands), convincing her that He is “a prophet.”  Changing the subject, the woman asks about the approved place of worship (4:20).  Jesus’ answer is that very soon “true worshipers” will be able to acceptably worship “in spirit and truth” anywhere and everywhere.  Note particularly verses 23-24 (NKJV):
                But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in   spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
                God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Let’s pull some helpful information from Jesus’ dialogue with the woman:

      God is the object of worship.  Not Allah, Buddha, the Pope, some image or any person.
      The Father seeks “true worshipers.”  This implies that some will not be “true” in their worship: wrong object, wrong actions, wrong mind-set, etc.  Also, in the Father’s “seeking” we catch a glimpse of God’s great desire to be worshiped properly.
      God’s nature (“Spirit”) directly affects our worship.  We worship “in spirit;” our worship is ‘spiritual.’  In context, Jesus was living under the Law of Moses, where the Jews’ worship involved specific ordinances, and they gave their sacrifices to the priests to offer on their behalf.  Jerusalem, or the synagogues of the cities were the places specified to worship.  For the Jews, worship was mostly external, physical, and indirect.  By contrast, Christian worship ushered in by Jesus would soon be internal, spiritual, direct, and not confined to a specific place.
      We worship “in spirit.”  We are to have the right attitude yes, but there’s much more.  We worship ‘spirit to spirit,’ in that our spirits yearn to contact the Spirit of God; we communicate with Him on an intense, spiritual level.  We try our best to offer Him our best – free from distractions and selfish motivations.
      We worship “in truth.”  Our focus is on God’s preference and not our own.  What has God specified for our worship to Him?  Things like prayer, praise, thanksgiving, preaching and teaching, giving of our money, reading of scripture, observing the Lord’s supper (Acts 2:42-45; 8:4; 1 Cor. 11:17-34; 14:26; 1 Tim. 4:13).  No ‘order of worship’ is given in the NT; however, we know from 1 Cor. 14:40 that our worship is to be decent and orderly.  Also we know from 1 Cor. 14:34-35 that our worship assemblies are to be led by men, not by women.

By the way, the Greek word for worship – proskuneo – means to give honor by falling on your face to the ground before the object of worship.  This implies submission, devotion, respect, awe, reverence, even a healthy dose of fear.  Note Hebrews 12:28b-29…
“…let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.”

The majority of people today are totally on the wrong track when it comes to worshiping God. 
Back in the early 1970’s I visited a Unitarian Universalist church service, where on that particular day, a teenage girl in leotards and tights did an interpretive dance to “Gypsy the Acid Queen” from the rock opera, “Tommy” – by the light of 7 candles.  I suspect a similar level of weirdness is still maintained in churches throughout the land, to some degree.  Whenever people lose respect for the authority of scripture and they impose human preference over God’s preference for worship, ANYTHING GOES!

But know this – the majority missed the boat in Noah’s day (Gen. 6-7), and according to Jesus (Matt. 7) the majority won’t find their way to heaven, either.

God is seeking “true worshipers” … What does he find in you?

Roots Or Reliability

by Tom Wacaster

A search of your ancestral tree will reveal that you may have had ancestors that hung by the neck, but never by the tail.    Multitudes are feverishly involved in searching their “roots”; for exactly what reason depends upon the one doing the searching.  Mormons search genealogies in hopes that they might find someone for whom they can be baptized; unfortunately proxy baptism is not taught in the Bible, and it is futile to search your family tree in such vain hope.  No doubt some (perhaps most) spend an amazing amount of time for no other purpose than satisfying the curiosity to know where we came from.   There is much to learn from history, and therein might lay the value of searching one’s roots.  

To some, historical “roots” are very important in selecting a religious organization with which to be identified.  Identification and participation are based upon how far back one can “trace” the beginning of that church.  Is the church a “late comer,” or does it have a long standing reputation of honesty, integrity and spiritual benefit? 

Permit me to be a little bold right here and declare that the “tracing” of some denomination's history is of no value whatsoever.  For one thing, even if you COULD find some sort of line back several hundred years, it would in no way guarantee the purity of that group's religious practice.  The past does not secure the future.  The apostle Paul foretold of a “falling away” (1 Tim. 4:1-4).  One living in the time of the “apostate” church might easily trace his roots to the time of the apostles, but so what?  The question is not “roots,” but “reliability.” 

Second, undue emphasis upon historical roots is really caused by a failure to understand the lesson of the parable of the sower. In Luke 8:4-8 Jesus told of the sower who went forth to sow. In the explanation of that parable our Lord pointed out that the seed is the word of God. If one plants a seed, any seed, he will get a crop exactly like that from which the seed was extracted.  The “history” of that seed will have no bearing upon what comes forth.  The application?  If we plant the “seed of God's word” the crop will be exactly like that from which it came!  Nothing more; nothing less.  Plant the word in an honest heart and the result will be a Christian.  My faith is the product of being born of the incorruptible seed.  I repeat, it is not a matter of “roots” but “reliability.”

In Search of a Home

by Tom Wacaster

Home!  There is something about that word.  Take those four letters and attempt to form all the English words possible and I think I can safely say that this word – “home” – is all you will get.  I did not take Webster’s Dictionary and search it out, but I think a little effort on the part of any individual will prove it true!  Those fortunate enough to have been raised in a God-fearing family understand the value of that kind of home.   Keep in mind there is a difference between a house and a home! One author captured the essence of what we say:

Home is where the heart is,
In dwellings great or small;
And there is many a stately mansion
That isn’t a home at all;
And a cottage lighted with love light
Is the dearest home of all.

Ask your neighbor where “home” is and he will likely recall the days of his childhood when life was a little slower, peace was the order of the day, and safety and protection were taken for granted.   Whisper the word “home,” and see if that does not conjure up warm feeling within your own breast. 

In 1961 the late Brook Benton released his version of “The Ballad of the Boll Weevil.”  The first stanza and chorus went like this:

Well, the boll weevil is a little black bug
Come from Mexico they say
Well he come all the way to Texas
He was lookin for a place to stay
Just lookin' for a home,
He was lookin' for a home

He was lookin' for a home,
Lookin' for a home.
He was lookin' for a home,
Well, lookin' for a home.

Since accepting the work at Handley I must admit I feel much like that boll weevil.  Temporary quarters in a two bed-room apartment are not quite like having your own house.   We knew from the time we signed the lease on the apartment that we would eventually find a more permanent place to live; and so the “search” began.   Hopefully the search will end soon, and we can set about making arrangements to make the move into more permanent quarters.   Having been through this process a number of times over the last 40 years, I continue to be impressed with the similarity of searching and securing a physical “house” with that of searching and securing that eternal mansion that awaits the faithful.  Let me explain.

First, moving from one location to another impresses upon one’s mind the temporary nature of material things.  I must admit that God has richly blessed us with comfortable houses in which to live during our 42 years of marriage.  Some of those houses have been extremely small (ask our son whose bedroom once consisted of an enclosed back porch where he shared his room with the washer and dryer, and wall to wall carpet was a “Welcome” mat.  He often said that flies had to file a flight plan to come into his bedroom).   Some of those houses in which we have lived would be considered a “mansion” by those living in other countries.   But all of those houses have one thing in common: they were only temporary dwellings which the Wacaster family occupied on their sojourn through life.  Each and every one of them were subject to fire, termites, and deterioration. 

Second, the only “house” that can bring true peace and happiness is the “mansion” that Jesus has promised the faithful.  Notice that I did not say “home”!  Peace and happiness is abundant in a home where God and Christ are more than occasional guests.  But a brick mansion without God is nothing more than that – a brick house!

Third, it takes a diligent effort to search out and secure that heavenly home promised to the children of God.  Like the boll weevil we must be about “lookin’ for a home.”  Our Lord promised that if we will “seek…ye shall fine” (Matt. 7:7a).  This is not to be a casual investigation, but a diligent effort put forth so as to acquire the desired end. 

Right now we are “searching” for a house in which to live, with the full expectation that God will provide.  But more importantly, it is our aim to continue to seek that heavenly home, “which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).  When our Lord returns to gather all the faithful and take them to heaven, the “mansion” promised will become our eternal “home,” and never again will we be in search of a home, for faith will become sight, and hope will become a reality!  Won’t that be a great day?

In Search of A Home

Singing In New Testament Worship

by Doug Martin

Why do we sing?
Why don’t we use mechanical instruments in our singing, like some did in the OT?
What if I don’t feel like singing in worship?  (Not in the mood; not a talented singer; etc.)

Singing that pleases God is not…
§  Time-filler (between communion and sermon, etc.)
§  Showing off my voice to others

If you were to do a concordance search for sing, sang, sung, singing in the NT, you’d find these passages (NKJV):
Romans 15:9  and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: "For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, And sing to Your name.
1 Cor. 14:15  What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.
Heb. 2:12  saying: "I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You."
James 5:13  Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.
Rev. 15:3  They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!
Rev. 5:9  And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
Rev. 14:3  They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.
Matt. 26:30  And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Mark 14:26  And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Acts 16:25  But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
Eph. 5:19  speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
Col. 3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

From these verses we can conclude that gospel singing is:
§  ACTIVE.  Singing is not passive.  It’s a verb; it’s something you do.
§  WORSHIP.  Singing is directed to God (Rom. 15:9; Heb. 2:12; Acts 16:25).  As such, we are to be reverent in song (see Heb. 12:28-29).
§  Both EMOTIONAL and RATIONAL (1 Cor. 14:15).  Your mind is engaged when you sing.  So are your feelings.
§  Both SPONTANEOUS and EFFECTUAL (Acts 16:25).  Ever feel like just bursting out in song to the Lord?  It’s OK!  Paul & Silas did, even while in prison; and others took notice.
§  NATURAL (Matt. 26:30 / Mark 14:26).  Evidently singing is something the disciples of Jesus did often.
§  EDUCATIONAL (Col. 3:16).  Singing is instructional, correctional, motivational – sometimes even more than the sermon is!  Singing is for your benefit, and for others as well.
§  COMMANDED (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).  Singing is just as important as any other element of worship, and is not optional for the child of God.
§  HEAVENLY (Rev. 5:9; 14:3; 15:3).  Singing is the only element of worship mentioned in heaven.  If you don’t like singing to the Lord now, would you be out-of-place in heaven?
§  JOYFUL / FUN (James 5:13).  If you’re not feeling good as you sing, you’re doing it wrong!
§  VOCAL.  No lip-syncing allowed.  Would the singing at your congregation be better – or worse – if everybody sung just like you do?

Do another scripture search in the NT for singing with instruments and you get these passages:

Tillet S. Teddlie was one of the church’s most prolific hymn writers of all time.  He wrote these favorites and many more:
§  Angels Are Singing
§  Earth Holds No Treasures
§  Heaven Holds All to Me
§  In Heaven They’re Singing
§  Into Our Hands
§  O the Depth and the Riches
§  Oft We Come Together
§  To the Harvest Fields
§  What Will Your Answer Be?
§  When We Meet in Sweet Communion
§  Worthy Art Thou
Brother Teddlie (1885-1987) was often asked what he would say to those who insisted on using instruments in worship.  Knowing that many don’t care what the Bible says on the subject, his answer was:  “The best argument for a cappella singing in worship is good a cappella singing!”

Are you doing your best when you sing to God in worship?  If not, why not?!
“When you give God your best, then you are blessed!”