Scriptural Answer or Human Experience?

by Tom Wacaster

Among the many false doctrines that have occupied the minds of men is that of the necessity of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of an individual in order to procure salvation.   Such are the fruits of Calvinism.  Once you adopt John Calvin’s doctrine of election, the outgrowth of such false doctrine is the necessity of God to somehow operate directly upon those who have been “predestined” to salvation so as to “get them saved.”  It is what the Quakers and Pentecostals refer to as a “religious experience.”   David Lipscomb, in “The Life and Sermons of Jessie Sewell” demonstrated the absurdity of relying upon a spiritual experience for one’s assurance of salvation.  It seems that a fair, honest working famer of remote Tennessee had come in contact with brother J.J. Trott, a gospel preacher.  This famer had just returned from a “revival” where he had shared his “experience” with those present.  He told them that he had a vision wherein he was taken up by a great bird to the top of a high mountain.  The bird had held him over a precipice and let him go.  The man fell upon a bed of downy softness, and a feeling of his sins being forgiven overcame him.  Such was the man’s “experience” upon which his confidence in forgiveness rested.  Brother Trott asked, “Do you mean a large bird actually took you up?” to which the farmer replied, “Oh, no sir; it was only imagination…a vision if you will.”  Brother Trott responded: “Imagination of something that was not actually true?”  “Yes sir,” replied the farmer.   Brother Trot then asked him, “Were you really carried to the top of a high mountain?”  “Oh, no sir; again, I only imagined I was.”  Again brother Trott replied, “You again imagined what was not actually true?” “Yes sir,” the man replied.  Continuing, brother Trott asked, “Did you really find yourself on a bed of downy softness?”  Again came the farmer’s reply, “Oh, no sir, I only imagined I was.”  Quickly brother Trott responded, “You again imagined what was not true?”  “Yes sir,” the farmer replied.  Brother Trott then concluded, “Then your experience consists of imagining four things you know to be falsehoods or imagination.  How do you know but that the fifth item, that is that your sins were forgiven, is not also a mere imagination?” 

This story shows the absurdity of relying upon one’s feelings to determine whether one can be certain of his salvation.  Yet there are untold thousands, yea millions who rely upon such religious “experiences” in one form or another.   The subjective approach to spiritual matters is scattered across the landscape of every imaginable form of religion that the fertile minds of men have created.   Many a deluded soul will take the “feeling in his heart” over the rock sold truth that is recorded in the Bible.   I once had a man with whom I was studying, and before whom I had placed an open Bible, push my Bible back at me and tell me that he would not trade the feeling he had in his heart for all the Bibles in the world.   Mormons pray for that warm feeling in the heart; Pentecostals seek the overwhelming of the Holy Spirit; and much of the denominational world seeks for the “religious experience” so prominently upheld by false teachers as the panacea for the soul’s hope and assurance of a heavenly home that awaits the faithful. 

The Lord’s church has not escaped the ravages of Calvinism.  Twice in my lifetime I have witnessed movements within the churches of Christ that we would label Post-Calvinism.  The misunderstanding of the work and nature of the Holy Spirit has driven otherwise sensible thinking brethren into the same kind of mind set addressed above.  Rather than rely upon the word, they depend upon how they “feel” at the moment.   How else can you explain the actions of those who, knowing the will of God, plunge headlong into doctrinal and moral error?  Casting the word of God aside, they trust in their emotions, all the while exclaiming, “The Holy Spirit is leading me in this direction.”  Such is simple tomfoolery and sophisticated silliness.  The Scriptures never once encourage the honest seeker of God to search for a “feeling” or “experience.”  Quite the contrary, the Bible warns us, “that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23).   Again, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, But the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pro. 16:25).  Rather than rely upon feelings, or some tingling sensation within, it seems more reasonable and much smarter to trust in the Lord (Pro. 3:3-5).   “Be ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).

Let us remain loyal to the word of God, for therein is the power unto salvation and the only means by which the man of God can be complete, furnished completely unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:16017). 


by Tom Wacaster

“For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).  The world is made up of so many kinds of personalities. I suppose this is good, for it would indeed be a boring life if we were all alike.  But amidst all the various types of personalities, our God has selected to classify them into one of two categories.  These two classes of men are sometimes referred to as the “saved,” or the “lost.”  On other occasions in the Bible they are called the “goats” and the “sheep.”   God’s word has also classified them as the “wise” and the “foolish.”  “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good life his works in meekness and wisdom” (Jas. 3:13a).  “The fool has said in his heart there is no God” (Psa. 14:1).   This particular classification is quite revealing, for it places all men into one of two categories based upon their own acceptance or rejection of God’s word.   To those that are saved God’s message is the power to save the souls of men.   The “wise man” not only knows the word of God, he applies it to his life (Matt. 7:24-27).   As a consequence, the wise man will “show by his good life his works in meekness of wisdom” (Jas. 3:13b).  The “wise man” will conduct himself in accord to God’s word.    The “fool” is quite the opposite.  To those who are perishing, God’s word is foolishness.  The fool consists not only of those who disbelieve in a God, but those who refuse to build upon the word of God, and who, in turn, trust in their riches (Luke 12:16-21).  Of particular interest in the passage to which we referred at the beginning of this article is the fact that Paul said “to them that perish” the word of the cross is “foolishness.”  It would be interesting, and beneficial, to observe how this “lostness” and “foolishness” fit together. Let’s think along this line for a moment.

First, let us consider the atheist.  To him the story of a resurrected Savior simply does not make sense.  He will accept nothing he cannot see with his physical eyes; he will believe nothing that cannot be experienced with the five senses.  He refuses to believe viable witnesses who claim to have seen Jesus nailed to the cross, laid in a tomb following His death, and then raised from the death three days later.  The atheist ignores the evidence of design, and in his foolishness, he brands himself as a fool in the sight of God.   It is not so much the fact that the atheist denies the existence of God that makes him a fool; it is that he does so in the face of such incredible evidence that cries out, “There IS a God in heaven!”  

Second, those who “are perishing” would include the ignorant.  To the ignorant, God’s word is unimportant. Oh sure, he believes in God – of some sort!  He may also believe that he ought to respect that God – in one form or another.   But his service consists of worshipping and serving God in a manner that is self centered; what Paul calls “will worship” (Col. 2:23).   Unwilling to reject the existence of a Divine being, he has progressed beyond the status of the atheist, but because of his ignorance of God’s word, he is still considered as foolish in the sight of the Almighty.  All those who look upon the word of God as some book of rules only to be ignored and broken fall into this category.  Those who are deceived by false teachers, ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth, fall into this category.  They study, but they are deceived by false teachers into believing something that simply is not true.  They follow men and put their trust in human wisdom.  Unwilling to abide by God’s simple design and pattern, they launch out into the vast ocean of human stupidity in an attempt to satisfy the inner conscience while ignoring the very Book that can lead them to the Father.  

Finally, there are the unfaithful, unruly, rebellious, indifferent, lukewarm members of the body of Christ.  Members of the family of God? Yes!  Faithful?  No!  Like the atheist, who ignores the word of God, and the ignorant who change or pervert the word of God, these who once “were enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:4-5), now find themselves in the same category.  They are fools, for they have turned their back on the only means of salvation. They have done despite unto the precious blood of Christ.  By their actions they have put themselves down as foolish in the sight of God.  

Oh yes, to those who are “perishing” – the atheist, the ignorant, and the apostate child of God – God’s word is simply not important.  To them it is foolishness.  The question you must entertain is: “Am I wise, or am I foolish?”   Dear reader, how do you regard God’s word?  

Time: How Are You Using It?

by Tom Wacaster

While doing mission work in South Africa, we had opportunity to make a trip to Zimbabwe.  One thing that impressed me about the “local” citizens (by local, we mean those who still lived in remote areas of the country), was the absence of any concern about time and/or schedules.   You might tell them that worship would be at 9:00 in the morning, but that did not mean anything to them.  Oh, they would do their best to abide by the “white man's” time frame, but most of them did not own a watch, taking the events of the day as they got to them.  But somehow the absence of watches did not stand in the way of their arrival on time. In fact, for the most part, the brethren would get there before we missionaries, and would be waiting for you when you arrived.  I asked brother Mitchell, local missionary in Mutare, if their lack of concern for hourly appointments ever presented any problems.  He assured me that the bushmen probably got more done in a day's time without their watches, than you and I got done with our watches.  Why was that the case?  It was a matter of proper management of time.  The local bushman realized that there was only a limited amount of time between sunrise and sunset, and he would use it wisely and prudently as the day progressed.  The following recently came to me via the internet.  “Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with 86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course!!!!  Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the 'tomorrow.' You must live in the present on today's deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success! The clock is running. Make the most of today.”  That is precisely what those native Zimbabweans did.  They made the most of today.    Another has made this observation:

“To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train.
To realize the value of ONE-SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.”

The Psalmist writer put it this way:  “So teach us to number our days, That we might get us a heart of wisdom” (Psalms 90:12).  If a man in some remote corner of the world can “number his day” without the aid of a watch, or a calendar, so as to make the most of every moment, why is it that you and I, with the assistance of precise clocks, fail to get done what needs to be done?  Perhaps the problem lies not in the awareness of time increments, with its hours and minutes, but in how we use that which has been given to us.  

There Is No Shortcut To A Knowledge of God's Word

by Tom Wacaster

We live in an age of quick fixes, instant oatmeal, and disposable diapers.  Get-rich-quick schemes abound, and con artists are having a heyday on the unsuspecting and gullible.  Some years ago a man was asked if he had read the newest release of Random House Dictionary, to which he replied, “I’m waiting for the film version.”   Patience and hard work have fallen upon hard times.   Entitlements from Uncle Sam are demanded by the electorate, and it seems our government officials are scrambling to see who can provide the most for their constituents, regardless of the price tag or inability to fund those government perks.  I watched a small clip on the internet in which Jessie Jackson, Jr. proposed that the constitution ought to be changed to include the right to “laptops, Ipads, and decent housing” for every American (I’m serious…he really believes this nonsense).    This Century may very well witness the complete demise of the Western world, if for  no other reason than the fact that we wanted to take some short cut to those things that our parents and grandparents worked a life time to achieve.   

Sadly, this “short cut” mentality exists with regard to spiritual things as well.  In 1982 the Reader’s Digest came out with a condensed version of the Bible, cutting 55% out of the Old Testament, and 35% from the New. With the exception of Philemon, 2 John, 3 John and Jude, every book of the Bible was condensed to some degree.   Theirs was a futile attempt to provide a short cut to a knowledge of God’s word.  The Denominations print their church manuals in order to provide a short cut to a working knowledge of the doctrines and by-laws of the denomination.   Oh yes!  The Devil has done a remarkable job of providing the short cuts for those who are not interested in spending the necessary time to come to know the Word of God.   Unfortunately some of those reading this week’s bulletin may have fallen prey to the “short cut” mentality when it comes to a study of the Bible.   If the only spiritual instruction you receive is a one hour dose of Bible class topped off with a thirty minute sermon once or twice on Sunday, you are not getting the spiritual nutrition necessary for spiritual growth.   Even if you order the “full meal deal” and come on Wednesday night, and yet neglect private study during the week, you are still attempting a short cut to spiritual growth and maturity.  I think it was the late N.B. Hardeman who was once approached by a lady after a meeting one evening.  She remarked, “Brother Hardeman, I would give the world to know the Bible like you do.”  Brother Hardeman replied, “That is exactly what it will cost you.” 

Paul instructed us to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  Someone may reply, “But brother Tom, the original does not really mean study.”  This is true, but the original word ‘spoudazo’ most certainly implies serious study.  The Greek means “to be diligent, to make effort” (Strong), the end result of which is to “rightly divide the word of truth.”  If someone can explain to me how it is possible to give diligence so as  to rightly divide the word without study, I would like to know how to go about doing it and save myself some time!    

Beloved, there is no short cut to a good knowledge of the Bible.  It requires (1) reading a portion of the Bible daily; (2) taking advantage of every single opportunity available to hear the word proclaimed by attending Bible classes and worship on a regular basis; (3) memorizing passages that will help you ward off temptation.  There is no quick gimmick to a knowledge of God’s word. If you want to know His truth for you then you must determine to search it out by careful and diligent study.   Simply put, there is no short cut to a knowledge of God’s word!

Is It Worth It?

by Tom Wacaster

It has been more than 25 years since I sat behind the controls of a Cessna 172 and enjoyed the thrill of flying.  I have even thought of renewing my pilot’s license, but then reality catches up with me and I know that at this stage in my life I should leave the flying to those with quicker reflexes (not to mention the cost of renting a plane these days).     Maybe it is my love for flying, or perhaps a simple fascination of aerodynamics that makes me want to “look up” when I hear the roar of an airplane overhead.   Every time I watch a plane in flight I still stand in awe that such machines are able to stay aloft; and the bigger the plane, the greater the fascination.  

Over the years I have had the opportunity to attend various and sundry air shows hosted by a local flying club, or some well known flying group such as the Confederate Air club or the USAF Blue Angels.   Now that may not excite you, and you may wonder why in the world anyone would pay money to sit in bleachers, endure the heat, twist your neck in all sorts of contortions, and suffer through the noise of roaring engines.  I am aware that not everybody enjoys watching airplanes take off, land, do loop-de-loops, or barrel rolls; but for those who are aircraft enthusiasts, there is something about enduring all the inconveniences that go along with watching a pilot skilled in aerobatics take the control of an airplane and maneuver that aircraft with such precision.    Some years ago I attended a Confederate Air Show.  For the most part the planes were vintage aircraft from WWII.   I can well remember some of the “stunts” those pilots performed; and I can also remember that I came away from that air show with a sore neck, sunburn from the exposure, and a headache from all the tension and noise.   But I learned some important lessons.   It matters little with regard to the surrounding circumstances if one is determined to enjoy himself.   I enjoy airplanes and I get an immense thrill out of watching them perform.  Perhaps it is the joy that overrules the necessary inconveniences that makes attending an air show worthwhile.   There is something to be learned in all this, is there not?

First, attitude is behind so much of my outlook on life.  This is true with regard to our secular occupation, the various circumstances we face in life, and/or family relationships.  But it does not end there.  How I view the church will have a direct bearing upon whether or not I truly enjoy my association with brethren or the worship services of the church.  What is my attitude toward the church?  Do I perceive of it as being dull?  Then it will be dull!    Unimportant?  Then it will be unimportant! Exciting and fulfilling?  Then it will be exciting and fulfilling.  The same is true regarding a number of areas having to do with the work of the church.  Second, I learn that the rewards of life are worth the inconveniences and sacrifices I have to make to achieve the end result.  This is especially true with regard to the Christian life.  The inner peace of mind, the thrill of serving Christ, and the expectation of heaven help me to sing, “Surely heaven will be worth it all.”   When we are tempted to be negligent in our responsibilities, or if the going gets rough, or if there seems to be a lack of love among my brethren, or any other number of inconveniences, just remember that the joy of living the Christian life will help you to bear up under the difficulties.  

With the realization that (1) attitude is behind much of my outlook on life, and (2) that the rewards are worth the sacrifices, then perhaps I can say with the Apostle Paul, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.”   Indeed, when life is over we will look back at our brief time upon this earth along with the sacrifices we had to make, and the inconveniences we had to endure, and declare with the redeemed of every age, “It was truly worth it!”

God's Fellow Workers

by Tom Wacaster

“For we are God’s fellow workers: ye are God’s husbandry, God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9).  The Corinthians had just been rebuked for their carnality as evidenced in the divided allegiance they held.  Some said they were of Paul, others of Apollos (1:10-12).  Paul reminds them: “What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him” (3:5).  It seems that Paul wanted to emphasize the preeminent roll which God played in all their labors.  It was God Who gave the increase, not men.  It should be God, therefore, who receives the glory.  Two times Paul declares, “It is God that giveth the increase.”  Recognizing that vital truth the question naturally arises, “What roll do you and I play in the growth of the church?  Exactly how important are you and I in the work of the Lord?”  While it is proper and fitting that God receive the glory for the increase of the body, we must not go to the other extreme and conclude, therefore, that we are of no importance; that we play a completely insignificant roll in the growth of the church.  God does not want us to claim preeminence, or somehow credit the growth of the church to our various programs.  But neither does He want us to feel so insignificant that we fail to become involved.  Thus, under three illustrations, Paul explains how important we are in the work of the Lord.

First, we are God’s fellow workers. The King James Version reads, “We are labourers together with God.”   Without us the job will not get done.  Figuratively speaking, we are the “hands” and “feet” of the Lord.  If we fail to “go” and to “plant” then God’s work will not be done.   There is a certain sense of pride in knowing that I am God’s fellow worker.  I am not in it by myself, but rather we are all in this together with God.  That partnership makes up a powerful combination that can defeat the enemies of the cross and bring increase to the kingdom. 

Second, we are God’s husbandry. The American Standard foot note reads, “tilled land.”   This is a strange metaphor in view of the fact that the “seed” (God’s word) is planted in the hearts of men thereby giving increase to the body of Christ.  There is, we think, a reason why the Holy Spirit selected this beautiful metaphor.  Imagine if you will a garden, carefully laid out and freshly tilled.  The laborers in this garden go about planning seed that will eventually germinate and grow.  It is in this garden that they concentrate their labors.   When the garden comes to fruition those who observe the fruit of the husbandman’s labors stand in awe at the wisdom of the husbandman.   The application is simple.  We are God’s “tilled land,” the church, the body of Christ.  Consequently it is in the church that God gives the increase of saved souls.  No wonder Paul (actually the Holy Spirit through Paul) wrote: “Unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:21).  It is in the church that our God is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20). 

Third, we are God’s building.  We know that God is not confined to a building.  The church is not the building that is situated at 3029 Handley Drive in Fort Worth, Texas. Why, then does Paul use the metaphor of a building?    People come to your house to see where you live.   If allowed to spend a lot of time at your house, to observe how you live at home, they would come to learn a lot about your personality, hobbies, and how much you care for your family.    It is in that house that much of your personality unfolds in the sight of others.   If people visit the church and see a well ordered, morally pure, friendly, loving people, they will see Christ living in us, and get a glimpse, a small glimpse, of what our Father is like.   By telling us we are God’s building, God’s house, or God’s temple, we learn that we are a part of the family of God and the recipients of His Divine grace and mercy.   That speaks volumes about the church, does it not?

Perhaps it is knowing that we are God’s fellow workers, husbandry, and building that encourages us to greater faithfulness and dedication in God’s service.   If not, it should!   We may not be indispensible, but neither are we insignificant.  “Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

The Peril of Small Steps

by Tom Wacaster

A careful study of church history is important if for no other reason than the fact that it will give the student  a deep appreciation for the abundant blessings that God has given to him.  Abraham Lincoln is credited with having said, “The person who does not respect the past has very little to offer the future.”  While it is true that those who forget history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, it is also true that a knowledge of past history will serve as a safeguard against apostasy in the present.   The first five-hundred years of church history say a lot about men in general and religious movements in particular.   Before the pen of inspiration was laid to rest, the apostle Paul warned the brethren at Thessalonica that the “mystery of lawlessness doth already work” (2 Thess. 2:7).  To the elders of the church at Ephesus that same apostle warned, “I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29).  It is no surprise, therefore, that before the church barely had time to get its feet on the ground, the devil was actively involved in his attempt to destroy “her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).  By the 5th century A.D. primitive Christianity had, for the most part, been replaced with the wisdom of men, and the bride of Christ had slipped into obscurity and isolation.   A comparison of the church envisioned by Christ and revealed by the inspired apostles with that religious system of the later part of the 4th century presents quite a contrast, does it not?  There can be little doubt that “the falling away” foretold by the apostle Paul (2 Thess. 2:3) had become a reality within a very short period of time.   One can only wonder, “How could such occur in so short a period?”    Or, to put it another way, “How can men be so foolish as to allow such a radical departure from truth?”  The answer is found in small increments.  For you see, beloved, men do not generally awake on any given beautiful day and determine that they will set out on a journey to leave the Lord, or to depart from their religious and/or moral roots.  Apostasy is taken one step at a time. 

In his attempt to destroy the church, Satan first struck at her organization.   In small, seeming innocent steps, he led the church down the path of error, replacing God’s wisdom with man’s wisdom, and subverting heaven’s plan at every corner.  The eldership, or presbytery, was rapidly jettisoned for a form of church government more in line with the political structure of the day.   Unsatisfied with the oversight by the divinely authorized body of men known as elders, churches began to elevate one man above the other elders, and by 185 A.D. that one man, known as “the bishop” exercised authority over the other presbyters.   Another 60 years would pass before the next small step would be taken, occurring under the influence of Cyprian, bishop of Carthage.  According to Cyprian (248-58 A.D.), the Episcopal authority of the bishops was linked to apostolic authority.  Robbing the churches of their autonomy, the “bishops” became the ultimate authority in matters pertaining to the doctrine and structure of the church.  Once that small step was taken, it provided the Catholic church the opportunity to gain complete control over the common man.  By 606 A.D. the universal church plunged, unchecked, into the mire of error resulting in the complete and full abandonment of God’s pattern and design for church organization.  It would be almost a full millennium before men would come to recognize the error and take steps to reform the church.   We can only imagine the courage and conviction of those early reformers who, in the mid 1500’s, challenged what had become the “norm” of their generation.   The Roman Catholic Church had, for more than 1,000 years, held sway over the world, ruling with an iron hand while hiding the truth from the common man.  With the Bible in hand, and God as their guide, those early reformers shook the religious world into the sobering realization that what was the “norm” was not what was taught in the Bible.   It was soon realized that the small steps of the first five centuries of the church’s existence had resulted in the great apostasy foretold by Paul.  

The devil’s tactics have not changed in the intervening 450 years.  Even today, that great movement we sometimes call the “Restoration of New Testament Christianity” has suffered from the foolishness of men who have abandoned the faith of our forefathers, and taken small, seemingly insignificant steps, away from God and His pattern for the church.   Our generation has witnessed a significant portion of the brotherhood take small steps that have resulted in wholesale abandonment of the truth.  It is sad, but it is a reminder that apostasy is seldom taken in one large step. 

I do not have opportunity to watch a lot of television, but one program that I have truly enjoyed over the four or five years of its existence is "DOC."  It is the story of a country grown boy that finds himself practicing medicine in New York after his graduation from med school.  A close associate of Doc Cassidy is Nate, a policeman of outstanding moral qualities and true character.   In one particular episode, Nate was tempted to lie in order to protect a fellow policeman who was pilfering money from drug busts.  But Nate would not give in, and in the end honesty and integrity won out over greed and covetousness.   At the end of each weekly segment Doc Cassidy writes to his mentor back in Wyoming via email.  His comments speak volumes:  "Even in the little things, do what is right, cause a soul is seldom sold in one great auction.  Instead it is bartered away in a thousand tiny trades, a little bit at a time." 

What DOC said with regard to individual compromise and failure is just as true with regard to a church and/or a movement.  The apostasy of the first century, and the present apostasy of our generation reminds us of the peril of small steps.

Following Instructions

by Tom Wacaster

This past December I decided that it was time to replace the old DVD player with an updated player that had “blue ray” feature.  When I unpacked the box there were four manuals (one in English, one in Spanish, one in French, and one in German), a special HTML cable to route the “blue ray” signal to the television, and some extra paraphernalia for first one thing and then another.    Everything was included in the box that would give me an “enjoyable experience” with my new DVD player (they even included the batteries).  Most manufactures of electronic equipment have figured out that many of their customers are anxious to “get started” and so they include, along with the owner’s manual, a “quick start guide” that enables the customer to get his equipment up and running, even if he does not know what he is doing once he does get it going.   Once the customer has his equipment up and running he is encouraged to take the time to read the owner’s manual.   But if I know the human race, by this time most of the new proud owners of the latest in electronic gadgetry are saying to themselves, “Who needs the owner’s manual? What do they think I am, a dunce? I can do this on my own.”    This same mind set kicks in when it comes to consulting a map to figure out where you are, putting together a complicated piece of lawn equipment, or following instructions for any number of complicated, or not so complicated, items.   Were this mind set limited to the temporal and physical realm in which we live, we might only have to suffer an occasional embarrassment, or at worst, like Tim “the-tool-man” Taylor, make a visit to the hospital now and then.   But tragically this same kind of mind set seems to have infected the masses when it comes to listening to, or consulting with the God of heaven in matters of religion.   I have, on a number of occasions, referred to the Bible as our soul’s “owner’s manual.”  Within the pages of this book are instructions that will provide us with a peaceful and happy life here on earth (Phil 4:7), better health and overall happiness (1 Pet. 3:10), our daily provisions of food, clothing and shelter (Matt. 6:19-33), and the hope of life everlasting when this life is over (Rom. 8:25, 1 Cor.13:13, Gal. 5:5).   When we examine the religious landscape about us it is rather obvious that the “many” (Matt. 7:13) have gone about seeking to establish a system of religion based upon their own wants and desires rather than taking the time to read and study the owner’s manual.  “I don’t need that manual,” or “I’m smart enough to figure this out on my own” seem to permeate the thinking of mankind spiritually speaking.  It seems to me that there are at least four classifications of those who have failed, or are failing, to read the manual.

First, there are those who have never even heard of the manual.  Living in the dark recesses of the earth, they are completely unaware of the Bible, the message contained therein, or it’s Great Giver.  These need not live in Africa, or the Congo, for there are some even within the borders of our own United States who have never heard of God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, or the plan for man’s salvation.  Millions upon millions living in India bow at the feet of their Hindu gods while millions here in America bow at the shrine of material gain without so much as an inkling of an idea of who God is or the wonderful blessings that await them through His Son Jesus Christ.  
Second, there are those who know about the manual, but have not taken the time to study it carefully.  These have some vague idea as to the system of Christianity, but at some point in time they decided that they do not need God, nor do they need to take the time to read the Bible, or comply with the commandments contained therein.  That “manual” may have been good enough for mom and dad, but after all, “I  have more important things to do than to waste time reading some manual; I can figure this out for myself.”

Third, there are those who want a “quick start” in their “Christianity,” and, rather than read the manual itself, have relied upon others to read it for them.  Heed is given to their “pastor,” or “preacher” upon whom they rely for instructions in religion and the exercise thereof.   The false teachers, with their “smooth and fair speech…beguile the hearts of the innocent” (Rom. 16:18), and these careless souls are carried away with every wind of doctrine imaginable (Eph. 4:14); all for the lack of taking the time to read the instructions.

Finally, there are those who have quickly read the manual or a small portion thereof, and who care not what the Book says but are intent on doing it their way.  “I like it,” or “I want it” are the twin manifestations of a selfish heart that despise the narrow-minded pattern of God’s word.  Rather than confine themselves to the instructions from above, they are determined to walk in the path of their own foolishness.  They ignore the warning of old, “O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23).  To them, how to worship God is not so important as their desire to worship him. Sincerity trumps truth, and feelings outweigh facts. From those caught up in denominational error to those who have been deluded by the change agents within the body of Christ, the end result will be the same, for “if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into the pit” (Matt. 15:14).

When it comes to life, and the eternal destiny of the soul, it is imperative that you take the time to read the instructions and follow them cautiously and carefully.  You may be able to eventually figure out how to operate that new piece of electronic equipment.  You may even be able to figure out “how to get there from here” without consulting a map.  But beloved, you are NEVER (I repeat, “Never”) going to make it to heaven if you do not take the time to read and follow the instructions.

My Old Bible

Though the cover is worn,
And the pages are torn,
And though places bear traces of tears.
Yet more precious than gold,
Is this book worn and old,
That can scatter and shatter my fears.

This old book is my guide.
This is a friend by my side
It will lighten and brighten my way;
And each promise I find,
Soothes and gladdens my mind,
As I read it and heed it each day.

To this book I will cling,
Of its worth I will sing,
Though great losses and crosses be mine;
For I cannot despair,
Though surrounded by care,
While possessing this blessing divine.

Dog Ears

by Tom Wacaster

This may seem like a strange title for this week’s article.  Before I get to the point I want to make, let me tell you something about my little five pound poodle.  Millie is eleven years old, and stands about eight inches tall.  Although she occasionally barks at strangers, her bark is worse than her bite.  I really think she is begging for attention.   Millie loves to have her ears scratched.  Occasionally she will climb up in the chair next to me, and position herself in such a way that my hand naturally lands across the top of her head.  The natural inclination is to scratch her head and behind her ears.   In response she will raise her head a notch or two in order to get the full effect of my hand scratching.  Should I quit, she’ll either lift her head another notch or two, or turn and look at me as if to ask, “Why did you quit?”    I came across this little observation relative to my personal experience:

Have you ever seen a dog that loved to have his ear's scratched?  There are dogs that just love to have their ears scratched. They don't care who does it, as long as it is being done.  This kind of dog will go up to anyone, just hoping that the person will reach down and scratch his ears. It doesn't matter if the person is his owner. It doesn't matter if the person is a complete stranger. This dog will just sit and let the person scratch his ears. If the person scratching stops, the dog will put his nose up to the person's hand indicating that he wants the person to continue scratching. If the person gets up and walks away, the dog will follow the person. The dog will continue to follow the person until the person finally decides to scratch again; unless, the dog can find someone else to scratch his ears.  You see, the dog is not loyal to the first scratcher. He is just loyal to whoever will scratch his ears. He is not choosy about the kind of person scratching his ears. He only wants his ears scratched (author unknown)

The apostle Paul stressed the importance of preaching the word, whether in season or out of season: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables”  (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  Spiritually speaking, such individuals might be said to have “dog ears.”   There are some observations that beg closer consideration.

First, those who have spiritual “dog ears” will not endure the truth.  Their love for truth vanished long before their abandonment of the same.  Because of their distaste for the spiritual milk that is without guile (1 Peter 2:2), they run recklessly after anyone who will scratch their spiritual ears.  Tragically, such individuals bring upon themselves a spiritual hardening that blinds them to the truth and prepares them for the wiles of the devil.  “And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie” (2 Thess. 2:11) simply because they “received not a love for the truth” (2 Thess. 2:10).

Second, there is no loyalty to the Master, but a heaping up of false teachers who will bow to their increasing demand of having someone scratch their spiritual “dog ears.”    It matters not whether the truth is spoken – in fact there is an ever increasing abhorrence toward truth eventually leading to a willful exchange of the truth for a lie (Rom. 1:21-25).  Heaping to themselves such false teachers, “they will accumulate a hand-picked little conglomerate of ‘clergy’ that will play any ‘fiddle tune’ that is requested” (Wayne Jackson). 

Third, the motivation for such foolishness lies in their selfish desire to have their “ears scratched.”  I have watched my dog, and other dogs for that matter, attack an “itch” with such vigor and vitality that one would think the ear might fall off.  Humans are like that – occasionally I get an itch in a spot that I cannot reach with my arm or hand, and I search for some way to alleviate the discomfort.   The desire to have one’s spiritual “dog ears” scratched in the manner here described by the apostle derives not out of a longing for the truth, but rather to fulfill one’s own desires and lusts (James 1:14). 

Finally, spiritual “dog ears” that long to be scratched by whatever means available will lead a person to ruin.  Things will go from bad to worse, and the end result is that the individual will find himself turning unto fables to satisfy the itch within.  The Greek word here translated “fables” is ‘muthous’ and means “that which lacks the substance of reality.”  I never cease to be amazed at the sophisticated silliness that men will embrace when once they have abandoned truth.  In an effort to fill the “void” within they will believe almost anything – and the more bizarre, the greater the number who seem to follow such nonsense.  No wonder that men have so widely embraced the foolish notion that a frog or tadpole can, given enough time, evolve into a man.  Such tickles their ears and satisfies their inner stupidity!

It comes down to this: Each one of us has within our hearts a strong love for the truth, with ears attuned to the word of God, and motivated by no other desire than to please God.  Or like the proverbial pooch that will follow anyone so long as they scratch their itch, they can only be described as those who have spiritual dog ears!  

What Happened to Efficiency

by Tom Wacaster

“Postage by Mail!”  That was the banner on the mass mail out by the United States Post Office a few years ago.  Imagine the convenience; avoiding long lines at the post office; you could conduct all your business through the mail using the little order form that was attached.   You could even purchase your 1st class stamps by filling out the form indicating how many books you wanted and then multiply it by the 41 cent cost of each stamp. The only problem was, the cost of 1st class stamps had gone up to 44 cents by the time we received the offer with its enclosed form.  It reminds me of the time the Postal Service wanted to conduct a workshop somewhere in the upper mid-west in order to explain to Mr. Average Joe some of the problems within the Post Office and get some input from the man on the street on how to improve efficiency.  The only problem was the announcements on the workshop were not sent out until four days AFTER the deadline for participants to sign up.  Efficiency!  What has happened to efficiency?  No doubt you have heard someone moan, “The service here is just not what it used to be!”   We have more products on the market than ever before.  But things wear out faster than ever before, too. 

Now, before you criticize the Postal Service, or your local merchant, let's ask ourselves if WE are as efficient and punctual, and “quality-minded” as we ought to be.  Someone noted, “Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”  The late Vince Lombardi wrote, “The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”   Quality in our service to the Lord demands the same degree of intensity and dedication as is demanded in any other walk of life.  The difference is that our eternal destination will be determined to a large degree by our willingness to put forth the effort to achieve such lofty heights.  The apostle Paul expressed the depth of our soul’s devotion with these words:  “And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us...let us give ourselves to our ministry…he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom. 12:6-8).  And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ” (Phil 1:9-10).   The effectiveness of this congregation, or any congregation of God’s people, will be in direct proportion to the total number of members who are determined to provide the highest quality of service to the Lord.   A fellow preacher shared this most fitting illustration:  While on a trip to Switzerland, an American businessman was watching a Swiss clockmaker carving the case of an ornate cuckoo clock.  As the businessman watched the clockmaker carve out the case, he was astounded at his slow rate of progress.  The business man finally said, “My good man, you’ll never make much money that way.”  The clockmaker replied, “Sir, I’m not making money, I’m making cuckoo clocks.”

Perhaps the quality of our devotion to the Lord would improve if each of us gave greater consideration to exactly what it is we are to do as God’s children.   Solomon admonished his readers: “Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might” (Ecc. 9:10).   It is unfortunate that this Biblical ethic has been lost in what we sometimes call “progress” and/or “development.”  Too many are satisfied with “good enough.”  How many of us give our best in every situation?  Oh, perhaps in our service unto others we attempt to couple quality and service together.  On the job we are quite proficient; some are even perfectionists.  But let’s take a look at another area of our lives, and consider this question.  Do you give your best to God?   Do I give my best to God in my attendance with the saints?  Am I diligent in putting forth an effort to “forsake not the assembly,” or do I allow first one thing and another to interfere with that important obligation?  When I habitually miss services can I honestly say that the quality of faithfulness is what it ought to be?   When I am called upon to help in a public way, do I make every effort to be there?  What about my Bible study? Am I really giving my best to grow in the grace and knowledge of my Lord?   And what shall I say about my appearance on Sunday morning?  Is my dress such that it reflects an effort put forth to make myself presentable to God?  Or do I just throw on some casual clothes, careless about my appearance before God and my example before others?   You see, my friend, when we become careless in our service to God, and become satisfied with “good enough,” we contribute to the demise of efficiency.   I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that once my quality of service to God begins to decline, it is not long before service to my fellow man suffers as well.  For if we are not careful with regard to the more important matters of eternity, what makes us think we will be concerned about the temporal matters that have no lasting value?  Take a close look at yourself in the “mirror” of God’s word (Jas. 1:24) and ask again, “What has happened to efficiency?”  Think about it!

Is God Really Real?

by Doug Martin

David, the man after God’s own heart, had a better understanding and appreciation for God than most of us will ever hope to have.  Notice what David wrote in Psalm 19 about how God declares Himself to mankind…
        1 ¶ The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.
        2 Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.
        3 There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.

First, David affirms that God reveals Himself through His creation.  This planet -- and the whole universe -- shouts the truth that God exists, that He is real.  And in verse 3 David says that this truth is universally understood.  No matter where one lives or what language one speaks, evidence of the God of creation is so abundant that one would have to have help to misunderstand.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1 that God expects mankind to accept the fact that He is real.  In fact, God will punish in His wrath everyone who would dare to deny almighty God.  Note verses 18-20…
        18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
        19 ¶ because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
        20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being    understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they                 are without excuse…

David and Paul are both in agreement that God has provided more than enough information through His creation to convince anybody that He is who He claims to be!  Paul says that if anyone would deny God’s existence, he is “without excuse.”

The writer of Hebrews echoes this same thought.  Notice 11:6...
        But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He                 is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
If you don’t believe that God exists, you cannot please Him.  And if you don’t seek Him diligently, God cannot reward you.

Speaking of rewards, let’s go back to Psalm 19.  David has said that God has revealed through His creation enough evidence for any (honest) person to know OF God, of His existence.  But there’s more!  God has also provided what we could call “special” revelation, that is, through His written word.  Notice verses 7-11…
        7 ¶ The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure,       making wise the simple;
        8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is       pure, enlightening the eyes;
        9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and        righteous altogether.
        10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey     and the honeycomb.
        11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.

David appreciated God’s creation, but he really appreciated God’s revealed law.  Notice the blessings he lists for those who would heed God’s law – wisdom, rejoicing, enlightenment, better than gold or honey, and warning.  Through God’s revealed word, we can go from knowing about God, to knowing God.  And in keeping God’s law there is “great reward.”

However, some folks choose NOT to acknowledge the reality of God’s existence, for whatever reason.  I suspect most of these folks don’t want to be held accountable for their ungodly attitudes and actions, IMO.
Did you know that according to the Bible, there are no dead atheists* or agnostics*?  Note Philippians 2:10-11…
        10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on                earth, and of those under the earth,
        11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the            Father.

Surely this refers to the Day of Judgment.  Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Everyone with a knee, everyone with a tongue.  Everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.  Everyone!  One can go his whole life denying God all he wants to, but after he dies, he will know the truth – but for him it will be too late.

Finally, notice the company that the unbeliever will keep throughout all eternity.  John lists in Revelation 21:8 what I like to call “the Who’s Who of Hell” …
        "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters,            and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the            second death."

I’ve been told by those who know, that in prison the greatest source of dread / stress is not the prison itself, or the food, or the fact of being locked up.  It is the fear of other inmates – people who want to do you harm; those you don’t dare turn your back to.  Imagine having to spend eternity with all those in John’s list, with absolutely no hope of pardon, parole or escape! 

Add in the pain of fire and brimstone, and that’s a combination you want no part of!  BTW, brimstone is what’s on the tip of a match-head; it ignites with just a little friction, and burns very hot.  Years ago, one of the boys in our youth group was jogging to a friend’s house after school with a box of kitchen matches in the pocket of his cargo pants.  As you can imagine, those matches started striking and burning … he couldn’t get out of his pants fast enough!  Right there on the street, with people watching – he didn’t care!  He still has burn marks on his leg.

The choice is simple, really.  Believe and obey the God of creation, who reveals Himself in the Bible, His inspired word – and be blessed, rewarded.  Or deny / disrespect / ignore God, and rob yourself of His blessings; and in eternity – suffer His wrath.

*Atheist:  One who denies that God exists
*Agnostic:  One who is not sure that God exists