Catching Up



by Tom Wacaster

Three weeks out of the office has left me so far behind that I doubt I shall ever catch up. Actually, it is very seldom that I feel as if I have caught up with the demands on my time, seeing I have this bad habit of biting off more than I can chew. I have sermons I want, and need, to preach. I have a backlog of books waiting to be read; and just about the time I start whittling down the stack of unread books, I buy some more that I think might be useful “someday.” I have people I need to go see, chores around the house that need to be finished, and books and articles I want to write.

In the early years of my mission work in Russia I was often astonished at the lack of efficiency of various aspects of life in that former Communist nation. On one occasion I was informed by my contact that the local post office had a solution to the large backlog of mail that frequently overwhelmed them. They were understaffed, poorly trained to do the job, and with the economy the way it was during the transition from a communist to a free-market system, the workers were putting in a lot of overtime without a fair compensation in wages. In order to handle the backlog, they would simply take several bags of mail out to the incinerator and toss what they deemed unimportant mail into the fire. One might ask, “How did they know if the mail was ‘unimportant’ if they didn’t take the time to open the mail?” Good question, but one that did not seem to slow down the process of ‘catching up.’ I don’t recommend using the Russian post office as an example of how to get caught up with what lags behind in your life; though at times I have been tempted.

When I read of Paul’s heavy schedule that was filled with mission travels, defense of the faith, and then add to this the time it took to pen (by inspiration) the largest portion of the New Testament, I sometimes wonder if he, too, ever played catch up. He made at least three mission trips, four if he ever made it to Spain like he intended. When I read of his activities on those various trips I wonder where he ever found the time to “make tents.” He wrote of his busy schedule with these words: “For we are not bold to number or compare ourselves with certain of them that commend themselves: but they themselves, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves with themselves, are without understanding. But we will not glory beyond our measure, but according to the measure of the province which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even unto you. For we stretch not ourselves overmuch, as though we reached not unto you: for we came even as far as unto you in the gospel of Christ: not glorying beyond our measure, that is, in other men's labors; but having hope that, as your faith groweth, we shall be magnified in you according to our province unto further abundance, so as to preach the gospel even unto the parts beyond you, and not to glory in another's province in regard of things ready to our hand” (2 Cor. 10:12-16). Paul was so determined to preach the gospel to all who would listen that he would “most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Cor. 12:15). The literal rendering of that verse has Paul saying he would be willing to be “spent and spent out” for their souls. When I compare my life with the life of Christ, and my labors with those of Paul, I come to the realization that I fall far short of doing all that can be done for the cause of Christ. Perhaps my frantic rush to “catch up” is only an allusion, and what I really need to do is slow down and prioritize those things in my life that demand my attention. Think about it!

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By the time this bulletin goes to print we will be less than four days away from the beginning of our fall gospel meeting. We continue to pray for open doors, interested souls, and heaven’s blessings in all our efforts toward this end.  With next week’s bulletin we will bring the meeting to a close, with only one night’s session still remaining. Between the publication of these two bulletins some of the most significant events will take place. Your invitations extended to others may very well change the course of history; the sermons they hear during the meeting can be life-altering. There is nothing like the preaching of the gospel as far as the effect it can, and will have upon the souls of men. It is the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). All the military might combined, all the natural disasters put together, cannot affect the lives of men as does the preaching of the gospel. While the former events might temporarily disrupt one’s life, those too shall pass. But with the preaching of the gospel, not only is a life changed, but the eternal destiny of a soul is forever altered. I don’t know how that strikes you, but every time I think about it, it reminds me of exactly how important and significant is the work that I do as a gospel preacher, and the work of this congregation (and hundreds and thousands of congregations around the word). And it reminds me of the wonderful opportunity God has given the church here at Handley to unleash the power that can save men’s soul. That, my friends, is a significant thing to think about.


Taking The Whole of Scripture


by Tom Wacaster

“Hermeneutics” is the science of interpretation. The word is derived from the Greek mythological character, “Hermes,” the messenger of the ‘gods’ and the interpreter of Jupiter. Through the years there have been a number of Bible scholars who have taken the time and effort to set forth, in writing, a systematic approach to the study and interpretation of the scriptures.  The most notable works are D.R. Dungan's Hermeneutics, and Clinton Lockhart's Principles of Interpretation. Both of these books are still in print, and I recommend them for your consideration. Also, brother Terry Hightower has edited and published an excellent two volume set of lectures entitled, Rightly Dividing the Word, in which the various speakers deal with the principals involved in proper hermeneutical approach to the scriptures. If men would put aside their bias and human opinions, and make an honest effort to study and apply some of the fundamental principles of interpretation, much of the division could be resolved. Unfortunately, false teaching will always exist, and error will continue to take its toll upon the religious world. Peter has warned us, “But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). Jesus warned us to “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Such errorists will always exist. Hence the ever increasing need to not only study, but to “handle aright” the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). The American Standard Version of 1901 has this interesting foot note on this passage.  It reads, “holding a straight course in the word of truth.”

The Psalmist wrote, “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God!  How great is the sum of them” (Psalms 139:18). A fundamental principle involved in the interpretation of the Scriptures is the need to take the whole of God's word into consideration in our search for truth. It is the “sum” of God's word which must be obeyed, not just a portion thereof. Call it what you will, whether a “balance” of scripture, or as Paul put it, the “whole council of God” (Acts 20:27), the end result is that we cannot pick and choose from scripture as we would food from a cafeteria line. A couple of illustrations might help us here. Look at Philippians 2:12, where it is recorded, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  A great number of my brethren have labored over this passage and have suffered frustration in their efforts to live up to God's expectations in their attempt to “work out” their salvation. But look at the very next verse in this passage. “For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.” Again, Paul warned us, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). The danger of apostasy is real. Pride could easily get even the best of us. But look at the next verse in that passage: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it” (verse 13).  Though we must make the effort to escape sin, we are assured that God will provide the way. Too often we simply fail to look for, and then take, the route of escape to safety.

God's plan for man's salvation is not to be found in any single passage of Scripture, but rather the “sum” of all of those passages which address the matter of man's obligation to the Almighty. To take any single passage to the neglect of others will certainly spell doom for the sincere but misled soul. The late William Cline once wrote, “The Bible does not lend itself to false doctrine for it is balanced in its content, complete in its message, and perfect in every way.”  I could not have said it any better.

While in India I would encourage the preachers with whom we work to put aside a sufficient amount of time to study the word of God. Study goes beyond the simple reading of a passage from time to time. It even goes beyond the completion of some annual Bible Reading Schedule. Study is hard work; but it is necessary work if we are to take the “whole” of Scripture and benefit thereby. Think about it.