The Power Of The Vote


by Tom Wacaster

It seems to me that politicians barely get through with their campaign for election and it is time to consider their re-election.  In some cases that is every two years; in most cases it is every four to six years.  I consider it an honor to be able to have some input into who we select to serve as our leaders, and I take that responsibility very seriously.   I’ll not say that I have voted in every election; but I think I can honestly say that I have made an attempt to do so, and when an important issue is on the ballot I double up on that effort.  An article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram on October 21st was critical of the negative ads being presented to the public, such ads having little or nothing to do with the real issues that need attention.  According to the author, one would think by the ads that the issues facing the American people are whether or not a particular candidate ever lied, where they stand on global warming, or exactly how closely associated they are with the President or some other liberal/conservative politician.   A 1960’s song asked, “Where have all the flowers gone…”  I would ask, “Where have all the leaders gone?”  Since early voting has started, and since the general election is now less than a week away, I thought I might make a few comments relative to this civic privilege and responsibility. 

The fact that I have the right, and the privilege to vote makes me think of voting in general, and how some folks have either neglected the practice all together, or they have assumed that voting does wonders in the social and political realm, so why not in the spiritual realm?    As for our social duty, Sean Hochdorf  addressed this point very well several years ago in a lecture he prepared for the Memphis School of Preaching lectureship of 2005:  “It is an absurdity to be passive when issues such as gay marriage, abortion, stem-cell research, and the like are on the ballot.  These are all issues with which Christians should be gravely concerned.  These are moral, biblical issues. If Children of God do not take a stand for truth and morality in choosing our leaders, then we are to blame when ungodly men take office.  One can be sure that the devil is voting whether Christians are or not” (MSOP Lectures 2005, page 228).  Brother Hochdorf then provided a quote from Mark Twain, a portion of which appears here:

Whenever a Christian votes, he votes against God or for Him, and He knows this quite well…God is an issue in every election; He is a candidate in the person of every clean nominee on every ticket; His purity and his approval are there, to be voted for or voted against, and no loyalty to party can absolve His servant from his higher and more exacting loyalty to Him.  If Christians should vote their duty to God at the polls, they would carry every election, and do it with ease.  If the Christians of America could be persuaded to vote God and a clean ticket, it would bring about a  moral revolution that would be incalculably beneficent. It would save the country  -  a country whose Christians have betrayed it and are destroying it.  Christianity is on trial now.  And nothing important is on trial except Christianity (MSOP Lectures 2005, pages 228-229).

Mark Twain was ahead of his time in many respects, but if he could have looked 100 years into the future I think he would have doubled down on his remarks.   Most folks who are responsible with regard to their civic duties understand the importance of voting and the impact they can make on society in general and upon generations yet unborn.

No doubt the power of the vote is not always recognized, and it seems it is not utilized as it should be when genuine “change” is so important. 

There is, however, a growing tendency in religious circles to take the same approach toward spiritual matters.  Various denominations have, for years, practiced voting prospective candidates into their religious body.  I came across the following humorous story some years ago that illustrates the foolishness of “voting” people into a church:   There was a man who attended services with his wife every Sunday, but who had  not yet received any kind of “sign” that he was one of the chosen.  His wife used to pressure him to seek a sign more earnestly than he appeared to be. So the man made up a story that he told the church one Sunday and the church “voted” the man in as a member.  On their way home the man told his wife what he had done. She insisted that he go forward the following Sunday to confess what he had done. He did, and he was withdrawn from.  On the way home he told his wife that it was an odd thing to him that when he told a lie the church voted him in and when he told the truth, they voted him out.  While we might smile at this simple but fictitious story, it well illustrates the foolishness of men seeking to determine right and wrong by the power of human “vote.”   In 1989 a group of “biblical scholars” voted on whether or not material in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) was actually representative of the “historical Jesus.”   One example of the hatchet job they did on the inspired word of God had to do with the Lord’s prayer. It was concluded by a vote of 26 to 4 that the Lord’s prayer was not the words of Jesus.  A good description of these so-called scholarly elite was penned by a fellow preacher several years ago. Such are “mass bred in humanistic incubators with only a few inductees maintaining any real Bible faith.”  

Would that our brethren were exempt from such foolishness. Unfortunately some of our more “liberal minded” brethren have succumbed to such sophistry.  A couple of examples will suffice. Fifteen years ago a “progressive” (that just another word for liberal, do-your-own-thing mentality) congregation of the churches of Christ decided that they would conduct a Christmas program for the holidays.   A poll was taken in the congregation, and they “voted” on whether or not they thought using instrumental music was “uncomfortable.”   The result of the poll?   With only a small handful voting that they would feel “uncomfortable” using instrumental music, it was decided that the program would go forward, the planned activity having won the majority of the votes.   Another example of such sophisticated silliness occurred just over twelve years ago in a congregation that was torn by strife and division.  There were actually two congregations meeting in one building.  Wanting to go beyond the word of the God, the liberal element decided to call for a “vote” at the next men’s business meeting, and the decision reached in that vote would become the policy of the congregation.   As it turned out, 61% of the congregation determined the direction they would go in matters pertaining to doctrine. No appeal to the Bible; no “thus saith the Lord”; no study to see what God had to say on the matter  -  just a simple “vote” of the members. 

So you see, we have not escaped the mind set that we can somehow “vote” in or out what we may like or dislike.   When the judgment day comes, those who have “voted” against God will find themselves being “voted” out of heaven.  But the vote cast against them will not be a vote cast by the angels in heaven, or a vote cast by unbelievers and disobedient associates.  The “vote” will be cast by God, and as someone has wisely noted,  “God is a majority, whether we are on His side or not!”  

FOIA



By Tom Wacaster

The Freedom of Information Act, commonly known as the FOIA, was enacted by Congress in 1966 to give the American public greater access to the federal government's records. The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996 expanded the scope of the FOIA to encompass electronic records and require the creation of “electronic reading rooms” to make records more easily and widely available to the public.   Three decades ago Richard Nixon was driven out of office because of what was revealed (or not revealed) on what has come to be called “those tapes.”  He was not the only one to face the wrath of the public because of tawdry behavior.  Bill Clinton was forced to give a deposition on the sordid affair he had with “that woman,” and it was later revealed that the broadcast of more than four hours of deposition had a larger audience than the Super Bowl and sales of the transcripts topped Walt Disney’s “Lion King.”   Hollywood could not have written a better script than either of these true-to-life, gradual-unfolding dramas that griped our nation’s capital.  Unfortunately, the scripts were neither entertaining, nor did they contain any intrinsic value worthy of serious consideration.   But then, Hollywood does not do much better.  Now back to the present.  A few weeks ago more papers were released about the Clinton years in the White House, the damage control at the White House during that time, and as one would expect, the spin on information contained therein depended on who was reporting what was in “those tapes” and papers.  Having said all that, here are some observations that I would like to share with our readers.

First, responsibility for wrong doing is hard to come by.  Whether it be Richard Nixon, or W.J. Clinton, guilty parties sought to shift the blame.  This game is as old as the human race.  As someone has pointed out, “Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and the snake didn't have a leg to stand on.”  Nixon, Clinton, and every politician since then (and before) would try to convince the American people that too much money and too much time had been wasted in an attempt to assassinate the character of the one being investigated. 

Second, more often than not our sins will eventually come tumbling out of the closet.  Few can hide those misdeeds of the magnitude of Nixon or Clinton.   God warned Israel that if they did not remain faithful their sin would find them out (Numbers 32:23).   Once sin has been committed it is only a matter of time until it comes out into the open.  This is especially true when someone in the public eye repeats the same sin on a somewhat regular basis.  Time is the period of gestation for a public exhibition of otherwise  hidden and forbidden pleasures. Even if a person manages to hide his sin during this life, it cannot be hidden from God (Heb. 4:12) 

Third, you cannot make wrong right by merely defining terms.  You may deceive someone into believing that a wrong you committed was not really a wrong, but you cannot change the essential nature of error or sin by redefining the act.  All of the wrangling and hair splitting will not change truth.  Truth is absolute; truth is attainable; truth cannot coexist with error.  You can ignore truth, despise it, or attempt to redefine it, but it is still the truth, all efforts to the contrary not withstanding.

Finally, character is essential in order to gain the trust and confidence of others.  An astonishing 75% or more of Americans believe that Clinton was a chronic liar.  Our present President does not fare much better than that.  What astonishes this writer is that so many, while admitting their political leaders are immoral, will still try to convince us that they are doing a good job in whatever position they might hold at the time.  Character is the result of values ingrained in our hearts, not gained at the ballot box or bought with power in a prestigious office. 

Early voting started this week.  We pray that the American people will take the time to be informed, and seek leaders who will pass the test of true character regardless of what might be made known as a result of  the FOIA.  

Selling America's Soul On The Installment Plan


by Tom Wacaster

Post World War I America was marked by a rapid availability of mass produced commodities.  Along with this rapid increase in durable goods came the means of purchasing those goods.  The 20th century America dream was the acquisition and consumption of the rising tide of commodities.  Our nation bought into the lie that a man's life DOES consist of the abundance of the things which he might possess.  With the increase in available goods came new and novel ways to purchase those goods.  During the 1920s, businesses increasingly utilized advertising as a method not only to sell their products, but also as a means to convince the American public to buy on installments. By 1929, these advertisements reflected the general acceptance of installment buying as a way to finance consumption and demonstrated that this shift in attitudes had reached its completion.  Revolving credit accounts were popular in the 1940's and 50's, and this eventually gave way to the credit card craze that hit our society in the 1960's.  As the price of goods (and especially automobiles) rose, new and novel ways to finance the purchase developed. One popular finance scheme is small monthly payments with a huge balloon payment at the end of the installment period.  Purchasing an automobile has become quick, easy, and painless - at least until the time comes for the “note” to be paid in full, and the purchaser is faced with a huge payment for something that is now old and worn out.

But you know what?  General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford were not the first to come up with the installment plan and a closing balloon payment.  As old, and as successful as installment purchases plus closing balloon payments might be, there is one who came up with that idea long ago.  You know of whom I speak.  He is known as the devil, Satan, Lucifer, the dragon, and the accuser of God's people.  He has convinced the unwitting and simple minded to sell their soul on the installment plan.  It is quick, easy, and painless.   The Devil is a master deceiver.  He knows that if the true cost of sin were immediately realized that there would be few takers.  So, he convinces you to purchase in small increments.  “Just a little! One bite; that's all.”  “What will one drink hurt?”  “What harm is there in just one compromise?  one little lie? one missed assembly?”  But Satan does not tell you about the “balloon payment” that comes due when the installment period runs out.  For some that installment period is short; for others it stretches out over several years.  But for all it comes due in a fraction of time when compared with eternity.   The tragedy is that few realize that they are selling their souls out for a mess of pottage that is worthless when compared to the true and eternal values of godliness.  Ahab was one who sold out.  “And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee, because thou hast sold thyself to do that which is evil in the sight of Jehovah” (1 Kings 21:20).

Our country is run amuck in sin.  We have saturated ourselves with sex, drowned ourselves in whiskey, deadened our senses with drugs, and indulged ourselves in material pleasures.   What began as a mild indulgence has given way to flood gates that have been thrown wide open.  How did we ever arrive at this point  in our moral decline?  What has happened?  The fact is, it did not start with a giant leap into immorality.  It came in small increments that gradually gave way to greater steps and eventually giant leaps.  Concerned citizens and politicians are now asking, “What has happened to our society?”  We seem to know that something is wrong, horribly wrong, but we don't seem to know how we got where we are, and unfortunately neither does it appear that our leaders  know how to turn the tide that threatens to drown the Western world in ungodliness and immorality. 

I do not have opportunity to watch a lot of television, but one program that I truly enjoyed over the four or five years of its existence was “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.   On this particular occasion 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.”  Sage advice for a sinful nation that is selling its soul on the installment plan.

From Every Walk Of Life

by Tom Wacaster

My first local work was in Tupelo, Oklahoma.  The town had a population of just over 500, and likely this little community has not grown much in the past thirty years; in fact, it may very well have shrunk due to the by-pass that was constructed around the town some years back.   Most of the folks in that part of the world grew up in Oklahoma, and many of them had never travelled more than a couple of hundred miles from home.  The extent of their travels was to neighboring counties, with an occasional excursion to another state for a family visit.  Consequently, social contacts were mostly with folks of their same dialect, same interests, and same cultural background as their own.  Beyond the boarders of their small town and/or neighboring states is a world so “unlike” the small world in which they live. 

My first experience with travel outside my own little “world” was when I left home to join the Coast Guard.  Since that time my travels have taken me to places I never dreamed that I would go, or visit places the likes of which I have been to in the past twenty-five years or so.   Air travel has introduced the globe traveler to what has come to be known as “air-travel-hubs.”  These are the larger, centrally located cities in various parts of the world where major routes dump their travelers for connecting flights to remote areas not serviced by these major routes.  One thing I have learned after dozens of trips to various parts of the world is that you can meet folks from virtually every walk of life at these major airport hubs.  My recent trip took me through Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  In fact, much of this article is being written as I sit in a chair awaiting my flight to DFW International Airport.  On my way to India I landed in mid morning here at Dubai and barely had time to get to my gate before boarding and subsequent departure.  My return trip on October 2nd landed me in Dubai at 11:00 p.m.  My final leg home was not scheduled to leave until 3:00, so I had a little time to wander the corridors of Dubai International Airport.  One would think that at 2:00 a.m. in the morning the halls would be empty and the shops closed; wrong!  This international “hub” was as crowded as DFW at noon the day before Thanksgiving; perhaps even more.   The shops were jammed with travelers who had more money than common sense.  I have never understood why anyone would pay the prices charged in these airport shops.  Some years ago I stepped into one of those airport “malls” just to get a glimpse at the prices.  Perfume: $100 a bottle.   Men’s Arrow shirt (one that you can buy at Sears for $25 or so) sold for $85.00.   Why would anyone buy a suit in an international airport shop at a cost of three times what you could get one at Men’s Warehouse?  Electronics, including laptops, cell phones, ipads and ipods—all were overpriced.  I have concluded that if a merchant puts up a sign that reads “duty free” folks will somehow think they are getting a real bargain.   But, that is the subject for another article.

With the time I had I thought I would get me a cup of coffee at Starbucks (not that I frequent Starbucks; I just don’t like their coffee that much).  Before I left home someone had given me a gift card for Starbucks.  When the clerk told me they did not take gift cards, and when I calculated the cost of a single cup of coffee in dollars rather than United Arab currency, I decided that $5 for a cup of coffee was just too much.   So I purchased a bottle of water in a little shop, and sat down and observed the people around me.  There were, literally, people from every walk of life.  Across the table to my left I noticed two men who looked like they must have grown up in San Francisco during the Hippie craze.  Adjacent to my table I noticed a couple from some oriental country; Korea, Japan, or perhaps even Viet Nam.   I saw the well dressed, and the not-so-well dressed.  There were young; there were old.  There were some very alert, and energetic; and there were others, like myself, who had been awake for almost 24 hours (or longer), and given the opportunity, could easily slip off into dream land at the blink of an eye.  There were the sober; there were drunkards.  There were the polite and the impolite; the friendly and the not so friendly.   Yes, there were folks from every walk of life about me.   Looking out into the corridor from where I sat, as far as one could see there were masses of people, all going somewhere or heading home from some far away destination.  I have often found myself asking, “Were the Lord to come today, how many of these precious souls would be gathered with the saints to meet our Lord in the air?  How many of them would enjoy the beauties of heaven, and the joy of hearing their Lord say to them, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joys prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” On the other hand, how many of these precious souls will never even hear the gospel message?  How many of them, given the opportunity, would be interested in the least of hearing of what awaits all mankind when our Lord comes again?   And even as I ask that question, I am cognizant of the answer. 

Most of the people sitting around me would reach their destination within a few short hours; some perhaps in a day or so.   But in the twinkling of an eye, as a tale that is told, every single one of those who are presently enjoying some snack as they await their connecting flight will eventually reach their eternal destiny as well.  Heaven will be the home of the faithful; hell the eternal misery of the lost. 

As each one now picks up their bags, and disposes of the trays, scraps, and sacks in the various dispensers about the food court, and begin moving toward their connecting flight one wonders what tomorrow will bring.   I too, would soon be making my way to my gate to board my flight home.  As I made my way to gate 32 I was reminded that people come from all walks of life.  Our challenge is to walk along side and try to point the way to Jesus. 

No Lights In The Temple

by Tom Wacaster

Traveling late at night is a normal part of our mission efforts here in India.  Seldom do we get back into Kakinada and me into bed before 11:00 PM.  The advantage of late night travel is the absence of traffic.  With the exception of what they call their “national highway” system, the streets are narrow and not designed to handle the massive traffic of buses, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and foot traffic.   Add to this the bold and daring driving habits of some of the Indian drivers and it is a sure recipe for disaster. I could write a book on the foolishness of some of the drivers.  I have often told Nehemiah that some of the drivers over here must simply be tired of living.  

I have shared with you on a number of occasions the fact that the overwhelming majority of Indians are of the Hindu persuasion.  As with many religions, there are those dedicated devotees and the not-so-dedicated devotees.  Sadly, the same could be said about members of the Lord’s church; but that is a subject for another time.   September is the month for the Hindu festival week.  In years past I have been in India during this time, but I was fortunate to miss it this year due to the time frame of my mission trip.   Let me mention one more important item and then I will get to the point of this article. When Paul passed through the city of Athens on his way to Jerusalem, Luke tells us that while he was waiting for Timothy and Silas, “his spirit was provoked within him as he beheld the city full of idols” (Acts 17:16).  Since I started coming to India ten years ago I have come to appreciate those words of Luke, and can relate to the feeling Paul must have had on that occasion.  The cities and villages are “full of idols.”  Not only do the Hindus go to great lengths to carve out and build grotesque idol images, but their expenditure on the temples to house those idols are elaborate and ornate.  Some of the Hindu temples are several stories high and dwarf the other buildings in the town and/or village.  Many smaller temples are located on street corners, where the worshippers can gather late in the evening or during the day to offer up their praise to a piece of wood carved out to fit the vain imagination of their hearts.  More often than not, the evening worshippers provide lights for their temple god, and when we pass one such temple I can see into the area where the idol sits, adorned with flowers, and what appears to be precious stones and decorative carvings.  The idols are even provided a seat on which to sit while the devotees bow at its feet in a vain attempt to gain some blessing.   Almost without exception, these temples are well lighted, and often attended by what appears to be a temple guardian of some kind.

We were returning home from an evening service in Burugu lanka, and passing through one of the smaller towns along the way, one of these temples caught my eye.  I had, no doubt, seen this temple a number of times since our preaching appointments over the years had taken us through this place on a number of occasions.  What caught my eye was the fact that this temple sat in darkness.  There were no lights glowing, and both temple and idol sat in darkness.  There were no lights in the temple, something out of the ordinary.  I am not suggesting that this was the only temple without lights, nor am I implying that the lights in this or any other Hindu temple burn 24/7.  What I am pointing out is that on this occasion, what I observed is representative of the spiritual inadequacy of not only the temple, but the idol that sits in that temple.  There is no light in the temple; in fact, there are no lights in any of the thousands, perhaps millions of temples that adorn this country or any country, regardless of the religion. 

One of the blessings of Christianity is that it enlightens the mind.  Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).  On another occasion He proclaimed, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46).  Unfortunately, “men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).  It is only through the knowledge of Jesus that men can ever hope to be free (John 8:32-34), ever hope to be happy, or ever hope to find purpose and fulfillment in their lives.  Before Jesus came into this world, men sat in darkness. When our Lord descended from heaven, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matt. 4:16).  Rejection of the light of God’s word will spell disaster for any person and/or nation.   It makes no difference how sincere, how committed, or how enthusiastic a person might be, when men change “the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” (Rom. 1:23) there will not be any light in the temple of their false gods and vain imagination.  Unfortunately our once mighty and powerful nation began the trek away from God more than 60 years ago, and the temples of higher education, science and political acclaim have replaced the true temple of God, the church of Christ.   Like the idolatrous nations that now fill the dust bins of history, the United States will soon learn what others have learned:  There is no light in their temple!
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