Deadlines: Recipe For Stress

 by Tom Wacaster

It is Wednesday morning, and if I believed in “gremlins,” “bad luck,” or little devils that danced on the head of a pin, I would think that these have combined their forces to make for a really stressful week. There are those weeks that go so smoothly that scarcely a ripple on a nearby pond can be seen. Then there are those weeks when the wind blows and all the garbage from the neighbors’ yard end up in my bushes. So it often goes with the world around us, and so it often goes with one’s personal schedules, good intentions, and work week in general. It is not that I had a lot to do above and beyond my regular chores; its just that those little things got in the way that put me behind my regular schedule. I usually get this bulletin column written by Tuesday afternoon, and loaded into the Secretary’s computer so she can go forward with the publication of the bulletin. So much for schedules. Sometimes things get so hectic that you find yourself asking, “What next?” Perhaps we should have the patience illustrated in this story: This notice appeared in the window of a coat store in Nottingham, England: "We have been established for over 100 years and have been pleasing and displeasing customers ever since. We have made money and lost money, suffered the effects of coal nationalization, coat rationing, government control and bad payers. We have been cussed and discussed, messed about, lied to, held up, robbed and swindled. The only reason we stay in business is to see what happens next."

Stress is a condition that exists when any combination of factors come along that disrupt the psychological balance in a person's normal daily life [by the way, have you ever noticed how often we find ourselves saying, "Boy, I'll sure be glad when things get 'back to normal'"?]. When dealt with improperly, stress results in "anxiety." It would appear that a lack of faith lies at the taproot of anxiety (Matt. 6:30). That being the case, it is important to realize that anxiety is not just a little problem that has no bearing upon my spiritual well-being. Interestingly, like any other "temptation" that might come our way, God has provided a means of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). Contrary to popular opinion, stress can be managed. Suzanne Kobasa, a psychologist at the City University of New York, has identified three characteristics of individuals who effectively deal with stress: (1) They feel in control of their lives, (2) they view the unexpected as a challenge, and (3) they are committed to what they do. I suppose it is the realization that God is in control of my life, along with my commitment to Him and His Son that provides the ability to thereby face the unexpected things in life that might come my way. One of my favorite Old Testament passages is Isaiah 40:31 - "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings of eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Like an eagle that soars above the mundane things of life, able to see the overall picture rather than the immediate storm that might threaten, the child of God can take life's circumstances and deal with them in a most healthy way. He realizes that God is in control, and that in the long run, all things will work together for his good (Romans 8:28). Clovis Chapel once told this interesting story: Many years ago, a pilot was on an extended flight when he recognized the gnawing sound of a rat. If the rat chewed through a cable or a vital electrical wire, it could bring the small plane down. Knowing he was still two hours away from any landing field and unable to locate or neutralize the creature, he remembered that the rodent was designed for lower altitudes. So, he put the plane into a climb until he attained 20,000 feet. The pilot had oxygen, the rat had very little, and the gnawing ceased. Two hours later, upon landing, he found the dead rat. You see, my friend, when you trust in God, and mount up with wings as eagles, those things that worry us the most seem so insignificant in the overall scheme of things. Deadlines may be a recipe for stress, but those who remain in the fold of God can manage that stress, and turn it into stepping stones for greater service to God.

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I received another one of those circular emails this week that had been forwarded to so many people, and then forwarded to others, none of which had taken the time delete the forwards. If you are connected to the world wide web, and receive emails from your friends, no doubt you have had some of these forwarded emails arrive in your inbox. When I finally arrived at the message it was another one of the dire warnings that the some atheist organization had persuaded our Congress to pass a bill that would remove religious freedom from the airways. There have always been, and will continue to be, bogus stories which, on the surface sound plausible, but careful research proves them to be false and unreliable. This particular email was not even original. It was almost identical to the hoax perpetrated a number of years ago that Madalyn Murray O’Hair was attempting to ban religious programs from the public airways. Petition #2493 in the original had been changed to H.B. [for House Bill] 2493, and Miss O’Hair had been replaced with the name of an atheist organization; other than that, the wording was identical. This email was calling for 100,000 emails to be send to each and every one of our representatives in Washington to stop this threat to our religious freedom. Another popular hoax centered around Proctor and Gamble’s company logo. Someone started the rumor that it was a symbol of the company’s support for Stan worship. In the early 2000’s Proctor and Gamble put out a statement declaring that they did not support Satan worship, and that their company emblem was not even remotely similar to other so-called satanic signs. It is sad that someone would even begin circulating a rumor like this. But what bothers me is that good brethren would get caught up in forwarding such things without even taking the time to check them out. I make it a practice to never forward anything without checking it out. If I cannot verify it to be true, I simply don’t repeat it. In addition, if I check something out and it is proven to be false, I send an email to the one who sent me the article and I tell them that this is a hoax and they owe it to themselves and to others to send out a correction. I have, to date, NEVER had a brother send out a correction with the same ‘mass mailing’ addresses on the original hoax. What saddens me is the extent to which brethren will go to keep themselves from looking foolish. Some months ago I received a hoax email from a fellow preacher regarding some vicious lie about President Obama. I check it out, and it was proven to be false. I sent a notice to the one who sent me the email. His response? “Well, it could be true, so I’ll just let it go at that.” Beloved, let’s not be party in spreading anything that is false.

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Hypocrites in the Church

The man who says he is kept away from church by hypocrites is not influenced by them anywhere else. Business if full of them; but if he by chance sees where he can made some money, he does not hesitate because there are hypocrites making money. Society is crowded with them, and yet he never thinks of becoming a hermit. Married life is full of them, but that does not make him remain a bachelor. Hell is full of them, but he is not doing anything to keep from going there. He makes you think he is trying to avoid hypocrites; and yet, he takes not one single step towards the only place where no hypocrites can go - heaven. Honestly now, is he not being a little hypocritical? (author unknown).

Curious Facts About The Bible

House to House issue #1, Volume #18, had an article setting forth some interesting Bible facts. Of particular interest were the numbers associated with certain facts about, though not necessarily in, the Bible. There are 1260 promises in the Bible, 6,468 commands, 3,294 questions, 31,102 verses, and 773,692 words. No information is given as to who actually counted all of these various notes of interest, and I can assure you that I have no immediate (or long range plans) to authenticate the accuracy of these figures.

Digging a little deeper, I found some interesting triplets that appear in God’s word. Jude was evidently fond of using triplets and even a causal reading of that short epistle will reveal the following groups of three: “Mercy, peace, love” (verse 2); three examples of punishment seen in Egypt, disobedient angels, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (verses 5-7); manifestations of rebellion seen in “defile the flesh, set at nought dominion, and rail at dignities” (verse 8). Jude also refers to “the way of Cain...the error of Balaam, and the gainsaying of Korah” (verse 11). Each of the three members of the Godhead are mentioned in verses 20-21, and the epistle closes three words that span the entirety of our existence: “all time, now, and forever.”

On a wider scale, there are various triplets that most of us are aware of, but likely we have never considered them as belonging in groups of three. Here are a few examples: (1) The Jewish people are referred to as Hebrews (Gen. 14:13), Israelites (Ex. 4:22) and Jews (Esther 2:5). There were three God-appointed offices, namely the prophet (Jud. 6:8), the priest (Mal. 2:7) and the king. Of course we are aware that God has dealt with man in three distinct and identifiable law systems: Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian. Moving to the New Testament, there are various triads that surround the life of Jesus our Lord. He raised three persons from the dead: the twelve year old daughter of Jairus, the young man of Nain, and Lazarus. The time Jonah spent in the belly of the whale is symbolic of our Lord’s burial in the tomb (cf. Matt. 12:39-40). Jesus prophesied that after His death He would be raised in three days (Matt. 27:40). It was the third hour that our Lord was crucified, and there were three hours of darkness while He hung upon the cross. No doubt all of us are aware of the “three crosses” at Calvary. Paul referred to the essence of the gospel with these words: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). We could go on, perhaps without end, in examining the various triads contained in God’s word. But there is one more which I want you to consider.

Returning to the passage in 1 Corinthians 15, will you notice verses 1-2. Paul recalls that moment in his association with the Corinthians when he made “known...the gospel” (verse 1a). He also warned of the futility of his preaching and their obedience should they fail to “hold fast the word which I preached unto you” (verse 2). Sandwiched between these two thoughts are the following words regarding the Corinthians and their relationship to the word of God: “which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved” (15:1-2). Notice there important truths from these verses.

First, the gospel was something they had “received.” Literally, the Corinthians had “joined themselves” to the gospel, and like the Thessalonians had “received from us [the apostles] the word of the message, even the word of God, ye accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13). Unless a man receives the word, i.e. joins himself to that word, it will remain powerless to change his life. After more than 40 years of preaching I can attest to the fact that multitudes of souls simply refuse to receive the word, marching on toward eternity refusing to embrace the only thing that will matter once they have passed into eternity. While men are anxious to receive and embrace the things of this world, they sadly reject, ignore, and often ridicule the only thing that will take them safely into eternity.

Second, in order for the gospel to benefit those who might have, at one time or another, received the gospel, it must be something “wherein ye also stand” (1 Cor. 15:1b). Imagine if you will a soldier standing guard. He is vigilant, watchful, dedicated, and determined to fulfill his responsibility, even at the point of giving his own life. Such is the soldier of God. Provided with the armor for spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10-17), he stands firm, unwavering, seeking the favor of his Father in heaven rather than the favor of men. All of this and more is what it means to stand in the gospel.

Finally, the word of God saves! It is the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16-17). Another inspired writer stated, “For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). When preached, the word of God is like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces (Jer. 23:29). It is precisely because the Corinthians and Thessalonians believed in the power of the word to save their souls that they were willing and anxious to receive it, stand in it, and preach it regardless of the cost to their physical well being.

While the “facts” about the Bible referred to in the first three paragraphs of this article may not have a direct bearing upon your eternal destiny, be assured that what you do with the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 most definitely will.

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We are not ashamed to remind faithful brethren of the words of Paul: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9). “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Matthew Carver wrote and excellent article for the February issue of the Gospel Advocate, entitled “Challenges to Faith in 21st Century America.” In the article he discusses for causes for the decline of interest in spiritual matters in America. While the article as a whole is worth reading, it is the last two paragraphs that I found particularly encouraging, and which I want to share with our readers: “The challenge of the church, therefore, is to ensure that its members maintain a healthy trust in God even after they leave the worship assembly. The early days of life must be steeped in “the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). “Fear of the Lord” (Pro. 1:7; 15:33) must continually be inculcated so that wisdom and insight will hold sway in the hearts of Christian men and women even after they leave the safe and friendly confines of the home or worship assembly. Unbelief must not prevail. Faith must not waver. The successful Christian walk will be maintained only if there is a constant conviction that there is a God in heaven who loves, guides and watches” (Gospel Advocate, February 2013, page 31). As our society abandons its culture foundations at an alarming and increasing rate, let all of us determine that we will remain faithful, that we will be a shining light in this world of darkness, and that we will never, never, never, never take our eyes of God or lose trust in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Greatest Conservative Generation

by Tom Wacaster

I have borrowed the title for this week’s article from an editorial appearing in The Weekly Standard, January 7, 2013. The author, William Kristol, draws our attention to what has more recently come to be called, “The Greatest Conservative Generation.” This particular accolade— “The Greatest Conservative Generation” - is well deserved, for it was that generation that demonstrated genuine American principles that grew out of their deep respect for the Bible as well as conservative principles that serve as the very fabric of this great nation. It was that generation that volunteered to go “over there” and defeat the powers that were ravaging Europe. With no thought for their own well being, a love for country, and an even greater love for freedom and liberty, they unselfishly left family, friends, and businesses behind and carried the torch of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to distant lands. From that great generation we were blessed with truly conservative leaders whose names are quickly fading into history: Bill Buckley, James Wilson, Milton Friedman, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Ronald Regan and Jack Kemp, to name but a few. These were what the author called “the greatest conservative generation.” Quoting from the author of The Weekly Standard editorial: “It’s been almost 60 years since Bill Buckley and his colleagues founded the National Review, standing ‘athwart history, yelling STOP, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.’” How desperately we need another generation that will follow in the footsteps of those men such as Reagan, Buckley and Bork; a generation that will feel the passion of freedom and liberty; a generation that will accept responsibility, reason clearly, and lead courageously.

One more observation from Kristol’s editorial, and then some application for our consideration. In answer to the question as to why the trend in history is for each succeeding generation to drift from their roots, the author makes reference to a speech by Abraham Lincoln, delivered on January 27, 1838. In that speech Lincoln addressed the question of “the perpetuation of our political institutions.” Lincoln was convinced that the great America experiment could be passed on to the next generation, and even beyond “for fifty times as long.” Lincoln noted that the danger every generation faces is that of allowing the memory of the cause for which the previous generation made such great sacrifices to “grow more and more dim by the lapse of time.” Then Lincoln made this astute observation: “In history, we hope, they will be read of, and recounted, so long as the Bible shall be read; but even granted that they will, their influence cannot be what it heretofore has been. Even then, they cannot be so universally known, nor so vividly felt, as they were by the generation just gone to rest.” The point Lincoln made was that with each generation that passes, the personal involvement in the original movement or cause, fades proportionately. The “great generation” - those living during the time just prior to the Great Depression, and who are rapidly fading into history - will soon be only a memory to those of us who have taken up the mantle of leadership. Quoting again from Lincoln’s speech on that cold January day in 1838, “Unless we, their descendents, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason, we will lack the materials for our future support and defense.”

As I read this editorial I was struck with the point the author was trying to make as it applies to our spiritual roots. What has come to be referred to as “the restoration movement” has now spanned more than two centuries. That “great generation” consisting of such men as Thomas Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, and ‘Raccoon’ John Smith, successfully passed the torch to the next generation. David Lipscomb, Tolbert Fanning, and J.W. McGarvey took up the vision and blessed that generation with the kind of leadership essential to the on-going effort to restore simple New Testament Christianity. Through the period of the Civil War, these men led the church here in America through troubled waters as they struggled with issues arising from the war itself, and confronted the liberal element that eventually culminated in the division over the instrumental music and missionary society. As that generation faded into history, others rose to follow in their train: N.B. Hardeman, Guy N. Woods, B.C. Goodpasture, G.K. Wallace, and Foy Wallace, to name but a few. Now the torch has been passed to my generation. And in the words of Lincoln, “Unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason, we will lack the material for our future support and defense.” But time stands still for no one, and the next generation must soon take up the torch we now carry. I am encouraged by young men who are now graduating from solid preacher training schools; men who have “hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason” a vision akin to that of previous generations; a vision of the restoration of primitive Christianity; a vision of faithful Christian living, moral responsibility, and courageous leadership. When we fade into history, and we lay our armor at the feet of Jesus, may it be said that ours was “The Greatest Conservative Generation.” To that end we labor; to that end we strive!

They Call It Faith

by Tom Wacaster

Some years ago I filed the following article for safe keeping. After you read the story, I’ll make some observations.

In “Chicken Soup For the Soul”, the story is told of a man named Monty Roberts. In telling about his life, he says, “It all goes back to a story about a young man who was the son of an itinerant horse trainer who would go from stable to stable, race track to race track, farm to farm and ranch to ranch, training horses. As a result, the boy’s high school career was continually interrupted. When he was a senior, he was asked to write a paper about what he wanted to be and do when he grew up.

“That night he wrote a seven-page paper describing his goal of someday owning a horse ranch. He wrote about his dream in great detail and he even drew a diagram of a 200-acre ranch, showing the location of all the buildings, the stables and the track. Then he drew a detailed floor plan for a 4,000-square-foot house that would sit on a 200-acre dream ranch. He put a great deal of his heart into the project and the next day he handed it in to his teacher. Two days later he received his paper back. On the front page was a large red F with a note that read, `See me after class.’

“The boy with the dream went to see the teacher after class and asked, `Why did I receive an F?’ The teacher said, `This is an unrealistic dream for a young boy like you. You have no money. You come from an itinerant family. You have no resources. Owning a horse ranch requires a lot of money. You have to buy the land. You have to pay for the original breeding stock and later you’ll have to pay large stud fees. There’s no way you could ever do it.’ Then the teacher added, `If you will rewrite this paper with a more realistic goal, I will reconsider your grade.’

“The boy went home and thought about it long and hard. He asked his father what he should do. His father said, `Look, son, you have to make up your own mind on this. However, I think it is a very important decision for you.’ Finally, after sitting with it for a week, the boy turned in the same paper, making no changes at all. He stated, `You can keep the F and I’ll keep my dream.’”

Believing the impossible and seeing the unseen is a character trait that many long for, but few possesses. For the most part the masses of humanity are content to follow others, bow to peer pressure, listen to the negative and suppress the dreams that could otherwise set them apart from the run of the mill population. Consequently the pages of history are filled with examples of men and women who never lived up to their full potential, and the dustbins of history are filled with unfulfilled dreams of men and women who listened to naysayers who, like the teacher in the story above, repeatedly told them, “Your dream is too unrealistic.”

The Bible repeatedly teaches us that the “just shall live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4). Hebrews chapter eleven sets before us no less than two-dozen men and women who are said to have accomplished the unbelievable “by faith.” Have you ever noticed the number of times it is implied or stated that those men and women of faith looked at the “unseen.” It was said of Abraham that “he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). Three verses later the sacred writer reminds us: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth….But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:13, 16). It is the ability to look beyond the here and now, and focus our attention on the hereafter that sets the saved apart from the lost. Such are said to be men and women of faith.

Handley is at a crucial cross-roads in her illustrious history. She cannot afford to look back on what used to be; nor can she wallow in self defeat as to what is; but rather, she must look to the God of heaven in faith in hopes of what can be, and what will be with the help of our God. They call that faith.

By the way, Monty Roberts now owns a 4,000-square-foot house in the middle of a 200-acre horse ranch in San Ysidro, California. Oh, and he still has that school paper framed over the fireplace. He didn’t allow his teacher to crush his dream.

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The following article appeared in 'The Southwesterner,' the weekly bulletin published by the Southwest Church of Christ in Austin, Texas:

"The Cardinal's Advice"

"Of all the counseling we can possibly give to your Holiness, we reserve the more important of it to the last. We must hold our eyes well open and intervene with all of our power in the affairs we have to consider. The reading of the Gospel must be permitted as little as possible (especially in the modern languages, and in the countries under your authority). The very little that is read generally as the Mass should be enough and it should be prohibited for anyone to read more. (As long as the people are content with that small part, our interests will prosper, but from the moment that the people desire to read more, our interests will begin to suffer.) Here is the book that more than any other provoked rebellions against us, storms that have been risky in bringing us loss in fact; if anyone reads accurately the teaching of the Bible and compares what occurs in our churches, he will soon find out the contradictions and will see that our teaching is far removed from that of the Bible and more often yet is in opposition to it. If the people realize this, they will provoke us without rest until all become unveiled and then we will become the object of ridicule and universal hate. It is necessary that the Bible be taken away and snatched from the hands of the people, however, with much wisdom in order not to provoke trouble" (This advice was given to Pope Jules III of Rome in 1550 by his Cardinals. It is found in the National Bibliotheque in Paris, France. The Volume is Reserve 22719, Pages 101-102).

It has been the plea of the churches of Christ throughout her existence, that men read and study the Bible for themselves. Inspired writ demands that we "prove all things, hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:19). We are warned by the beloved apostle John, "Believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). If we cringe at such unholy and deceitful tactics as that espoused in the above article, what shall our reaction be to those who have access to the Holy Bible, and yet never take the time to read it? In the final analysis, there is no practical difference between the man who CANNOT read (for whatever reason that might be), and the man who WILL NOT read. Think about it.