Whatever Happened To Good Old Fashioned Morality?

by Tom Wacaster

There is no doubt that when Jesus walked upon this earth that it was a time of immorality and ungodliness.  Matthew provides us with our Lord’s very own words regarding the sinfulness of those who lived at that time:  “But he answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the heaven is red.  And in the morning, It will be foul weather to-day: for the heaven is red and lowering. Ye know how to discern the face of the heaven; but ye cannot discern the signs of the times.  An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of Jonah. And he left them, and departed” (Matthew 16:2-4).   Of particular interest are the words, “evil and adulterous generation.”  Even the most superficial study of the  history of the Roman Empire, and particularly the Empire during the time of Christ, will affirm the words of our Lord.    But as Solomon observed, “there is nothing new under the sun,” and with but a few exceptions in the history of mankind those two adjectives used by our Lord are a fitting description of the human race throughout history.  

Since about the mid 1960’s our nation has been undergoing a cultural revolution that now threatens the very existence of our nation.   All one need do is take a newspaper or listen to the evening news to get an idea of  how wide spread are sexual perversion, political corruption, and  unethical practices in business world.   The sexual revolution of the 60’s (as it was wont to be called by those of that generation) cracked open the door.  It has been a downhill slide since then, and the “Hippies” who cast off their clothes, rejected marriage, smoked their pot, and rebelled against the “establishment, are now ruling in Washington and sitting on the judicial benches from one end of this country to the next.  Why should it surprise us that, despite the assurance from religious and political leaders alike, things have gotten worse?  In 1974 Paul Harvey wrote an article which was published in a number of newspapers and magazines across our country. His article, “They’ Misled Us,” pinpoints many of America’s moral and spiritual problems.

‘They’ told us that, if we’d relax about sex, take our clothes off and not get all uptight about it, there would be no more sex crimes. So we let it all hang out--and the incidence  of rape has increased 10 percent every year. Maybe we’d better question some of the other advice ‘they’ gave us. ‘They’ told us we’d been too tough on criminals, that we should go easy on them. So we went easy on them--and the rate of violent crimes has increased 47 percent since 1968; increased six percent last year; is increasing 15 percent this year .’ ‘They’ said the churches were ‘old-fashioned,’ that they must modernize, liberalize, rationalize, and compromise. And those that compromised most are shrinking  fastest . Who are these ‘they’ who’ve been misleading us? ‘They’ are the materialists  who deify the finite sciences. ‘They’ meant well, but their good intentions are paving the  road to hell! Now I’ve quit commentating and gone to preaching. I don’t mean to, but I  cannot separate goodness and badness from today’s news and explain it. Every ugly  headline in today’s newspaper—and yesterday’s and tomorrow’s—is somebody’s emotions gone out of whack. He might be as smart as all get-out, but if he’s emotionally colorblind, he is an unguided missile destined to self-destruct.”  

Paul Harvey was in a class all his own and his wisdom that was based on good-old fashioned Biblical principles is in sore need today.   The voice of Paul Harvey has been silenced by death, but the voice of righteousness and uprightness is being silenced through indifference of the masses, and laws cranked out by Congress.  Even as I write this article [Tuesday, January 26, 2013] the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether or not “marriage” can be  restricted to a man and a woman.   Had you told me at the time Johnnie Ann and I got married that within my lifetime our society would have difficulty deciding what marriage is I would not have believed you.  When preachers of God’s word seek to warn about the evils of fornication, drinking, or any other “work of the flesh,” they are immediately vilified for being too “negative.”  No wonder our society is so confused as to what is right and wrong! Winford Claiborne shared the following with his readers regarding the moral vacuum that exists in our society:

Television--especially television talk shows--movies and other media have contributed--whether intentionally or otherwise--to the confusion over moral values. Homosexuality, bisexuality, premarital sex, and even incest are glorified in many media outlets. Phil Donahue invited six women to serve on a panel for his show. At least three of them were either engaging in prostitution at the time they were on the show or they had done so in the past. Three of the women on the panel had formed an organization to protect prostitutes or to legalize prostitution or both. One sixty-year-old prostitute was from Switzerland; one was from Italy; one was Margo St. James who had established an organization called COYOTE. The word COYOTE is an acronym which stands for Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics. What message did Phil Donahue convey to the young people of America? It said, “Girls, if you are having difficulty getting an honorable job, you can always turn to prostitution. After all, sex sells. Prostitution is the ‘oldest profession’ and an honorable way to make a living. Besides, prostitution pays well, sometimes several hundred dollars per night.” Phil Donahue’s message to boys was: “If you are having sexual difficulties at home or if you like sexual variety, you can always turn to a prostitute.” Not only is such a message morally wrong; it is physically dangerous. In some places, as many as fifty percent of prostitutes are HIV positive. Does Phil Donahue or Sally  Jessy Raphael or Jenny Jones care? (Winford Claiborne, FHU Lectures 1994).

There are a lot of factors that have contributed to the present moral vacuum that exists in our world.  Among these would be humanism, with its atheistic, “no-God” mentality, evolution that has taught for more than a century now that man is nothing more than a glorified monkey, modernism that has sought to somehow provide man a “utopia” with unlimited pleasure to the sensual man, and false religious doctrine that has robed God of His rightful place in our lives and substituted it with the doctrines of men that make void the word of God.  

Jesus warned us of false teachers in Matthew 7:15-17.   Among other things, He told us that we can tell a tree by its fruit.   The fruit that I am seeing with regard to morals, speaks volumes about exactly what or who presently controls our media, our institutions of  higher learning, our school systems, and our entertainment industry.  It has not been that long ago that our nation was at peace within, and stood strong against the enemies without.   Religion was respected, and even promoted by the media, our public schools, and even our law makers in Washington.  Almost without exception our public schools would begin the day with a Scripture reading and prayer.   Those were simple days; but they were happy days.   If men are incapable of discerning the difference in our society today and that of a mere fifty years ago, what makes us think they can lead us in the right direction with all of their legislative policies that no longer place importance on what God’s word says?  

Several years the Statler Brothers produced a song entitled, “What Ever Happened To Randolph Scott.”  The chorus had these words: 

Whatever happened to Johnny Mack Brown, and Alan Rocky Lane?
Whatever happened to Lash LaRue? I'd love to see them again.  
Whatever happened to Smiley Burnett, Tim Holt, and Gene Autry? 
Whatever happened to all of these has happened to the best of me.
Whatever happened to Randolph Scott has happened to the industry.”  

Along that same line, may I suggest that “Whatever happened to Randolph Scott” has happened to good old fashioned morality!   Truly it breaks the heart.


You Can't Get There From Here

by Tom Wacaster

My first local work was in a small country town in south central Oklahoma.  Being new to the state, and the city, I found myself frequently asking, "How do I get to so-and-so's place?"  One of the members was fond of saying, "You can't get there from here!"   No doubt you have had the same kind of response from time to time, and you know that someone was simply being facetious.  In fact, you COULD get there from your present location, but you needed proper directions.  In the 70's we relied on a good county or city map.  But today we have all sorts of technological devices that can provide you with accurate directions that can direct even the novice traveler to his destination. 

Two months ago my wife bought me a GPS for my birthday.  GPS stands for "Global Positioning System."   Plug it into your automobile power jack, punch in the address of your destination, and press "Go," and in a flash you are provided step by step instructions on how to "get there from here."  The little box attaches to your window shield, and a little voice tells you how far it is to your next turn, the direction of your turn, and when you arrive at you destination.  Wow! What a modern age in which we live!

On one of my recent road trips I stopped at a station to refuel and grab a snack before returning to my motel room for the evening.  As I stepped out the front door I encountered a gentleman attempting to give instructions to a woman who was obviously lost.  It was apparent that the man attempting to give her instructions was as confused as she was, and both of them were quite obviously at their wit's end.   Wanting to assist in some small way, I asked the lady if she had the physical address of her destination.  If so, I had a new GPS device and could provide her with accurate directions to her destination.  What followed was a lesson in human nature, with some practical application when it comes to our sojourn through this life toward our eternal abode.  

On our way to my car she stopped and picked up a pencil to take notes.  She realized that this little electronic device would provide precise directions to her destination and she was not about to take any chances in being misdirected.  She wrote down the directions, checked and double checked her notes, thanked me, and went on her way.  As I drove away I found myself asking, "Why can't people be as concerned about getting directions to heaven?"  From this simple incident in life I learned some important lessons.

First, if a person is going to "get there from here," he must realize that he is lost.  This woman was lost, and she knew she was lost.  Each one of us are sojourners traveling to one of two destinations.  Spiritually speaking, the masses of humanity are much like the woman who needed help.  But unlike that woman, they either do not know they are lost, or they do not care. Their spiritual senses have been dulled by the glittering lights of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life.   For some, the God of heaven is nothing more than a vague memory of childhood days when they attended the church where their grandparents were members.  For others God is some kind of talisman in times of danger or distress.  Like so many rabbit's foot charms, God is put back in the box once the danger had passed. These individuals wander through life, squandering every blessing, unconcerned about their spiritual condition, and ignorant of their need for a Savior. 

Second, there are those who recognize their spiritual need but, like the woman whom I met outside that store, they have turned to the wrong source for an answer to the lostness of their soul.  Our modern theologians keep the masses confused and their minds clouded because, like their parishioners, they have no idea how to get to heaven themselves.  When the blind lead the blind, both will end up in the ditch.  Those in error can never lead those who are lost to that heavenly shore.

Third, there are precious souls out there who will, upon exposure to the truth, rush to embrace its teaching. They will examine every word, jot down every detail, and check and recheck the instructions provided in God's GPS.  Those who "hunger and thirst after righteousness" will not leave one stone unturned.  Indeed, they, like the Beroeans, will examine the scriptures to see whether these things are so (Acts 17:11). 

Fourth, the sojourner on his way to heaven will not rely upon his emotions.  They are interested in the facts, not feelings.  Like our lost traveler, we will take notes (if not with pen and paper at least mentally), check and recheck those notes, and determine to follow precisely, to the letter, each step that God would have us take to get to heaven.  We will not argue with truth, or dismiss the obvious. 

There is one more point I want to make before I leave this article with you.  When I became aware of the plight this woman was in, it dawned upon me that I had it within my power to help this woman get to her destination.  I was willing to volunteer and do all within my power to render assistance to this woman.  I wonder, why is it that we don't put forth the same effort when we happen to meet someone who has become spiritually lost and who is crying out for help?  Could it be that we do not care about the lostness of humanity?  Do we doubt that we have it within our power to properly direct those who are lost to that heavenly home?  You and I hold within our hands God's "GPS."  It is "God's Power unto Salvation," the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Maybe it's time we renewed our concern for the lost, and determined that we would step in to render assistance when someone is obviously looking for help. 

Since we are admonished to "give an answer to every man that asketh a reason for the hope that is within" (1 Pet. 3:15), let's be about telling the world that, indeed, "you can get there from here!" 

Dogs, Blessings, and Burdens

by Tom Wacaster

While perusing the internet I came across the following observation about dogs:  “Dogs take each moment at a time and enjoy it; they don't hold grudges; they are everyone's best friend. Dogs savor the simple things in life--a walk in the neighborhood, a pat on the head, a quiet moment in nature. ” 

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and many observations come as a result of an individual’s own limited personal experience.    Our next door neighbor just recently acquired two new dogs.  One is what I call a ‘yapper,’ the other a ‘snarler.”   While they both bark at me when I am in my back yard, the ’yapper’ appears to have a bark worse than his bite, wagging his tail all the time he is barking.  The ‘snarler’ on the other hand, not only barks—he shows his teeth and his hair stands up on the back of his neck.  Both are pretty good indications that I best not reach my hand over the fence to pet him.  Be that as it may, most domesticated dogs fit into the mold described at the beginning of this article .   That’s why they are called “domesticated”!  

It is not my aim in this week’s column to write about dogs, though I think  I could come up  with some heart warming stories about dogs in general, and specific dogs I have owned over the years.   Referring back to the quote provided, why is it that a “dog’s life” conjures up a mental picture of peace and serenity?   Do you remember that old Television series, “The Life of Riley”?   He was fond of talking about living a dog’s life; though the situations he often found himself in were anything but the life of ease that Mr. Riley sought. 

One of the most popular songs in our hymnal was written by Johnson Oatman, Jr.  Mr. Oatman was one of the most prolific gospel song writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was born near Medford, New Jersey, on April 21, 1856.  As a child he became acquainted with spiritual hymns through the singing talents of his father.  At the age of nineteen Oatman joined the Methodist Church and several years later was granted a license to preach in local Methodist congregations. Though he wrote over 5,000 hymn texts, Oatman was busily engaged throughout his life in a mercantile business and later as an administrator for a large insurance company in New Jersey.   He wrote several songs that have appeared in almost every hymnal our brethren have produced, including “Higher Ground” and “No Not One.”  His most popular song, “Count Your Blessings” is the focus of this article.   The song has been translated into various languages, and is among the most favorite of spiritual songs ever published.   The brethren in Syktyvkar, Russia love to sing the song, and though I cannot understand the words in Russian, the tune is easily recognizable.   The tune has a joyful upbeat, and the words convey a message about God’s care for His children:

When upon life's billows You are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged Thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings Name them one by one,
And it will surprise you What the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care,
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear.
Count your many blessings every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing As the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised You His wealth untold.
Count your many blessings Money cannot buy,
Your reward in heaven Nor your home on high.

So amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged God is over all.
Count your many blessings Angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

Count your blessings Name them one by one.
Count your blessings See what God hath done.
Count your blessings Name them one by one.
your many blessings See what God hath done.

The second stanza is of particular interest.   Counting one’s blessings helps bear the burdens we face from time to time.   It is unfortunate that so many in our world are of such a sour disposition that they allow the burdens in life to blind them to the very blessings they have at their fingertips.   Rather than view their burdens as blessings in disguise, their myopic vision can see only the burden they might face at any given moment.    The one talent man in Matthew 25 was of just such a disposition.  He viewed the blessing (the one talent) as a burden, failed to use it, and ended up being lost because of it.    Parents who have the ability to bear children should consider that a great and wonderful blessing.  But too often the very children they are blessed to bring into this world are looked upon as a burden; something they must now tolerate and raise. 

When it comes to opportunities to gather together for Bible Study and worship, some immature members of the Lord’s body have allowed two wonderful opportunities to be turned into burdens.   They struggle to make it to Bible class and worship services.  Getting up, getting the family ready, and getting to class on time is a frantic rush and an inconvenience on their schedule.   In this land of unparalleled freedoms, we should consider it a great blessing to be able to assemble without fear of reprisal from governmental authorities.  Sadly, some view such as nothing more than a burden that interrupts their own personal life style.   They have turned a blessing into a burden. 

As I close this article let me assure you that I am not suggesting that the church has gone to the dogs.  But it seems to me if we follow the advice  in that wonderful hymn by Johnson Oatman, those things said about dogs might find some application in the life of every child of God.   With a little editing the message conveyed is quite sobering, and certainly truthful:

“The child of God takes each moment at a time and enjoys it; they don't hold grudges; they are everyone's best friend. Christians savor the simple things in life--a walk in the neighborhood, a pat on the head, a quiet moment in nature. ”  

So you see, there are some things to be learned from dogs, burdens and blessings!

Country Music Mentality

by Tom Wacaster

I have never been a fan of country music.  I have known some individuals who have every single dial on their automobile radio set to a country music station.  The CD’s in their glove compartment have popular country singers such as Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams, Hank Snow, George Strait, et al.   I have tried listening to Hank Williams and must confess to you that, while he has some songs that are catchy, for the most part the nasal twang for which he was so popular simply does not resonate in my ear.    So far as lyrics are concerned, there have been some great country songs over the years that inspire and uplift.  Unfortunately, the devil dominates the thinking and lyrics of most country singers.  The themes of modern day country music have to do with drunkenness, adultery, and rebellion. They are anti-God and anti-Christian in the values they communicate.  This, of course, is not limited to country music; most of the modern day music scene is not fit to listen to and the child of God would do good to simply turn the dial to another station when such a song is broadcast over the air.    Some years someone asked me, “You know what happens when you play a country song backward?”   When I responded in the negative, I was told, “You sober up, get your spouse back, all your money is returned to you, and you once again find joy and peace in your life.” 

It has been noted by more than one person that if he could choose the music a country would listen to he could determine the road that nation would travel [not those exact words, but you get the idea].   Discerning minds realize that our country is spiraling into the abyss of ungodliness and immorality.   To deny this is to be blind to the evidence.    Were you to ask me why our culture is changing from one of a relative respect for God and His word to one that not only ignores His word, but openly opposes it, you might take a look at the lyrics of modern day music, country music not withstanding.

Some years ago Steven Cline wrote an article titled, “We don’t care what God won’t allow, we’re going to play our organ anyhow.”  The country song on which he based his article was popular at that time, and admittedly, it was a catchy and cute tune, but the attitude that is manifested in the song is so typical of today’s culture.  Here is just a portion of the lyrics:

Mama don’t allow no guitar playing around here
Mama don’t allow no guitar playing around here
Well we don’t care what mama don’t allow
We gonna play the guitar anyhow

Mama don’t allow no fiddle playing around here
Mama don’t allow no fiddle playing around here
Well we don’t care what mama don’t allow
We gonna play the fiddle anyhow

Mama don’t allow no music playing around here
Mama don’t allow no music playing around here
Well we don’t care what mama don’t allow
We gonna play the music anyhow

Brother cline then made the application with regard to instrumental music: “The rebellious attitude of many in the church toward the use of mechanical instruments of music in praise to God is growing faster than toadstools in a dark and damp cellar.  So many brethren are are deserting the scriptural position of singing songs of honor to God apart from the instrument and are now seeking the companionship of denominationalists and digressives who have long been saying, ‘We don’t care what God don’t allow, we’re gonna play our organ anyhow’” (Power Bulletin, December 1997, page 1).

But the message portrayed in the lyrics of that song have had a much broader impact in our society.  Is it not true that the mind set addressed by brother Cline dominates our society?   It is not just religion; this mindset has affected everything from the family structure, to the halls of Congress, and the very seat in the Oval Office of the White House.   Every day brings another revelation (at least from some sources) that our President is simply ignoring the Constitution in order to pursue an agenda of his own.   Muslims throughout the world are pushing for their own law to rule; liberals are talking about a Constitutional Convention to rewrite the Constitution; liberals and modernists are casting off law; and post modernists are declaring “there is no law.”  

Scripture abounds with statement after statement of the authority of our Lord and His word: “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).  And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:17).   Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John  9).   He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).   And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). 

I am not so optimistic to think that simply quoting these passages will change our society’s mindset from doing what they want to do, and immediately start doing what God wants them to do.   They must be taught.   Meanwhile, while the world may not care what “mama don’t allow” or what “God don’t allow,” we will be content with following the teaching of our Lord.  Anything else spells only disaster.