A General Imposter

By Tom Wacaster

How many times have we read or heard about Impostors who, for one reason or another, pawn themselves off as something other than what they really are?   A quick search on the internet  uncovered more than 100 famous "Impostors" who donned the identity of someone else, real or fictitious.  Among the most recent was Jerry Alan Whittredge, who, in 1998, gained access into NASA during a shuttle operation.  He was dubbed the "Great Astronaut Impersonator."  In the 1970's a man by the name of Frank Abagnale passed himself off as a pilot, doctor and lawyer.  He scammed banks, credit card companies, and even his own father.   Other well known Impostors include Gerald Barnbaum, Ravi Desai, Anna Anderson, and a  host of others who masqueraded as various personalities.   Perhaps one of the most famous impostors was Ferdinand Waldo Demara, Jr., best known as "The Great Impostor." He impersonated a wide variety of people from monks to surgeons to prison wardens.  He was the subject of a movie, The Great Impostor, in which he was played by Tony Curtis.    This past Sunday the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported yet another Impostor whose "military tale even fooled his relatives."  A little over 18 months ago Brig. General G.B. McDowell passed away on Veterans Day 2011 near Seattle.  Condolences were sent to his son, Michael Douglas McDowell, a self proclaimed Colonel in the United States Army from some well known military figures, including Maj. Gen. J.T. Furlow and Retired Gen. David Petraeus.   The problem?   Colonel McDowell's father never served in the military.  The letters from Furlow and Petraeus were fake, as was the on-line obituary about McDowell's father.   In addition Colonel McDowell  himself was a fraud, having never served in the Army or any other branch of the military.   The younger McDowell passed himself off as a CIA agent and often carried official looking folders in his brief case labeled "Top Secret," "President's Eyes Only," and "Classified Documents."   Seized items included what appeared to be military records and a Purple Heart recipient license plate.   McDowell fooled his ex-wife, his fiancĂ©, and public officials in the Fort Worth Police Department for well over a decade.  

While such stories are interesting, sometimes bordering on the bizarre, it leaves us wondering how in the world some of these Impostors can get by with their scams, impersonations and out and out lying.    Just as intriguing is the "Why?"    Some have suggested that the impersonators often seek recognition that they otherwise do not receive in true life. So they live in a dream world; a world of fantasy and make believe.   The recognition and notoriety that was not achievable in the real world is easily obtained in their own little world of make believe.   Most eventually get caught; some manage to keep the proverbial wool pulled over the eyes of their victims (and even acquaintances) without any detection at all.  

Jesus warned of such con-artists and spiritual impostors.  "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves" (Matt. 7:15).  Careful note should be given to the word "beware."  Teaching error is not child's play, nor is the false teacher a harmless and innocent person simply espousing his own opinion.  Jesus likens him to a "wolf."    Like his physical counterpart, the false teacher will take on the appearance of something he is not, and do it in such a way that he will appear legitimate, and even honorable.  "For such men are  false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ.  And no marvel; for even Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing therefore if his ministers also fashion themselves as ministers of  righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works" (2 Cor. 11:13-15).   Michael McDowell is now in the custody of the authorities.  His make believe world has come crashing down around him.   His wife and children feel betrayed; his reputation is ruined.  

While Ferdinand Waldo Demara, Jr. may have obtained the dubious distinction of being "The Great Impostor,"  or Jerry Alan Whittredge the title of "The Great Astronaut Impostor," it can be said without fear of contradiction that neither of these men, nor the dozens of other men and women who have ever impersonated someone else, come anywhere close to the greatest Impostor of all time - Satan!   There is a day coming when the devil and all of his angels, as well as his human agents who helped perpetrate a lie and present it to unsuspecting souls, will be discovered for what they really are.   Tragically, those who have believed and followed the lies of these spiritual Impostors will suffer eternal separation from the Father. 

What Jesus Borrowed

by Tom Wacaster

In the thirty-three years that our Lord sojourned upon this earth, He never once demonstrated a single shred of materialistic desire.  I doubt seriously that He ever scanned the Jerusalem Daily News to see whether the stock market was up or down, called His bank to see how His investments were doing, or worried as to how much inflation might be eating away at His little "nest egg" tucked away in some shady corner of His humble abode.  For you see, He possessed none of these.  On no occasion do we find that He carried with Him one single farthing.  When He was asked about paying tribute to Caesar, His disciples had to bring Him the penny, for He was penniless.  His only "purse" was the mouth of a fish that Peter caught, and when they parted His garments they did not discover any coin or notes.  On one occasion his disciples encouraged Him to eat, but He said unto them, "I have meat to eat that ye know not..My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work" (John 4:32, 34), and warned all of us, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rush doth consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rush doth consume, and where thieves do not break through and steal" (Matt. 6:19-20).  He not only preached that message, but lived that message to its fullest extent.  Our Lord never owned any property, never built a house, never laid by in store, never had a passbook savings account, never organized a “garage sell,” and never placed an ounce of importance on what one might possess in this life.  When His life was finished and His course completed, the only thing He could call His own was stripped from His sinless body and gambled away at the foot of the cross by the Roman soldiers while their Master and Creator hung on the cross close by.  Having no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58), He found His rest in the homes of those who were gracious enough to provide His daily sustenance, and grant Him a place of repose when the day was done.  

Today Fortune 500 would rank our Lord a failure; Forbes Magazine would not waste paper and ink to mention His name; and few, if any who are enamored with this world's material things would consider His words worth their attention.  This they have demonstrated by their rejection of things spiritual in exchange for the glitter of the world.  But history will attest that the greatest man that ever walked the face of this earth (if we dare call Him a "man") was the most contented, and the most influential individual who has ever lived.   What He needed, the Father supplied; what His heavenly Father did not provide, our Lord did not need.  Would that our affluent society would learn that lesson today.   He depended upon others to be used as tools in the Father’s hand to minister to His need.  From the cradle to the grave, never did a man live in such poverty, deprive himself of the things of this world, or depend upon others for his physical well being, as did Jesus of Nazareth.  Though He may have borrowed those things He needed from time to time, those who were gracious to "loan" unto Him what they possessed soon learned that their "investment" returned mighty dividends that could not be measured in monetary value.  What makes our Lord’s poverty even more astonishing is that He chose to live that way.  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).   When we consider the life of Jesus we stand amazed at His complete denial of self.   He gave up the riches of heaven, came to this earth, took upon Himself the form of a man, and truly demonstrated where the true riches are to be found.  I for one am glad that He borrowed those things He needed in this life.   In so doing He demonstrated the undeniable truth that it is not things that are important, but one’s relationship with the Father in heaven.  I do not know who penned the following, but it is certainly thought provoking, and a fitting conclusion to this week’s article:

They borrowed a bed to lay his head
When Christ the Lord came down;
They borrowed the ass in the mountain pass
For him to ride to town;
But the crown that he wore and the cross that he bore
Were his own - the cross was his own!

He borrowed the bread when the crowd He fed
On the grassy mountainside;
He borrowed the dish of broken fish
With which he was satisfied;
But the crown that he wore and the cross that he bore
Were his own - the cross was his own!

He borrowed the ship in which to sit
To teach the multitude;
He borrowed a nest in which to rest -
He had never a home so rude;
But the crown that he wore and the cross that he bore
Were his own - the cross was his own!

He borrowed a room on his way to the tomb
The Passover Lamb to eat;
They borrowed a cave for him a grave;
They borrowed a winding sheet;
But the crown that he wore and the cross that he bore
Were his own - the cross was his own!