Plans, Permits and Perimeters

By Tom Wacaster

Having recently downsized from our larger house to one about 2/3 in size, it has been a challenge to rearrange things so that the furniture, clothing, nik-naks and other “stuff” will fit in the closets and the confines of smaller (and fewer) rooms. We are making progress, and just like a goldfish adjusts to the size of the bowl to which he is confined, we are quickly learning that this smaller house is adequate for our needs, with but one exception—a rather large volume of books that I have written that are still awaiting purchase and which, until then, need to be stored. After careful consideration of the advantages of renting a place to store these books, or building a shed myself, I have come to the conclusion that it is best to construct a small 10’x20’ storage shed in the back yard. Living in the city of Fort Worth, the homeowner needs to apply for a permit before he or she can do anything to the premises that he (and the finance company) might own. Unlike someone living in the country, building projects of every shape and size require a permit from the city. This is to assure that you don’t build something that is unsightly to the neighborhood, or that might, in some way, affect property values. I can appreciate that; but still, the logistics for even the smallest of projects is a veritable nightmare of paper work, leg work, and just plain hard work. Prior to appearing at City Hall, you have to come up with a complete drawing of the floor plan (2 copies), a side view and front view showing the layout of the studs, plates, base foundation, and roof line and pitch. Once the plans are completed, you have to drive downtown to appear before the permit application clerk, who has you fill out the permit application, sign documents, prove you are who you claim you are, prove that you are the owner of the house, and that you do not intend to use the structure for any sexually oriented business, produce drugs, or use it for any unlawful purpose. Those last couple of restrictions seemed somewhat strange to me for the simple reason that those who run sexually oriented businesses or produce drugs or dope would not be so stupid as to admit it to the city that they engaged in such, would they? Be that as it may, a half hour of filling out forms qualified me for the next step in the process. I had to then sit and wait to appear before the public water department to verify that the location of my structure would not interfere with any water lines, public sewer lines, etc.  Four clicks on the computer and the clerk was assured my shed would not affect any under ground water systems (wonder why the permit application clerk could not have taken care of that and saved me 30 minutes?). From there I was sent to the permit department where the board reviewed my plans, potential problems, or something that might conflict with city ordinances.  After a half hour wait (and a quick run across the street to plug the parking meter), a lady came out and told me they could not approve the shed; it was 40 square feet too big. Back to the drawing board, and eventually back to City Hall to start the procedure all over again. Three hours later I made my second trip to downtown Fort Worth and City Hall.  Once I got to the permit department, after a half hour wait [again], a gentleman came out and said my permit was approved, but I would now have to wait to appear before the permit issue clerk : “Have a seat, he’ll call you shortly.”  Another half hour wait (with a quick jot across the street to plug the meter) and the permit issue clerk called me in, issued the permit, and collected the necessary fee.  With paper in hand I was off to the lumber yard to gather the material and begin the process of building. However, the city is not through with me yet. Construction is to be divided into three segments, with an inspection from the city following each of the segments and prior to beginning the next. Hopefully, by this time next month I will have the shed completed, painted, shelves built and books moved in and stored.

My ordeal with the city reminded me of some rather important truths relative to God’s house, the church (1 Tim. 3:15). Consider the three words from the title of this week’s article as they pertain to the building of the only house that is of eternal significance. First, God has had a plan to save man. That plan is an eternal plan, “the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11). The details of that spiritual structure existed in the mind of God long before the foundations of this world were ever laid. God would be the designer, Christ the builder, and the Holy Spirit the organizer. These plans were “revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (Eph. 3:5), set in motion on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2, and passed along to every generation in written form so as to enable successive generations to “commit to faithful men, who shall teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

That brings us to the second word: Permits! When I applied to the city of Fort Worth for a permit to build a shed, it was the same as getting their authority to do so. No doubt there are some who attempt to circumvent the need for such a building permit, and they do it to their own peril. Failure to get the city’s authority to build a structure can result in the demolition of the structure if the city ever learns that you have built a shed without their permission. If men would build the church today, they must do so with the authority of Christ (Col. 3:17). Any “plant which my heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13). It is true that some who build a shed without the city’s authority might never get caught. They may be able to escape the eyes of the ever roving Compliance Code Patrol, never having to give account for their unauthorized actions. Be assured, however, that no man will ever be able to escape the all seeing eye of Jehovah. The time of reckoning will come.

Finally, there is the word perimeters. A perimeter is defined as “the continuous line forming the boundary of a closed geometric figure” (Oxford Dictionary, On Line). Likewise, Webster (online) defines it as “the boundary of a closed plane figure; outer limits.” God has certainly given us liberty in some matters; but there are perimeters when it comes to what we do in matters pertaining to  the church and our life therein. Those perimeters cannot be crossed, for if we “add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18-19). Cain did not respect God’s perimeters regarding worship, and his offering was rejected by the Lord (Gen. 4:5). Nadab and Abihu did not respect the perimeters, and not only was their offering rejected, “Jehovah devoured them, and they died before Jehovah” (Lev. 10:2). The lax attitude and disrespect that men have for the ancient landmarks is appalling. It seems that the prevailing attitude today is that it makes no difference what you do in matters of religion, so long as you are sincere. The judgment day will reveal to all mankind that God set perimeters with regard to the church.

God planned the church. It was built by Jesus Christ our Lord. If men would seek to set about establishing a congregation they must do so with the divine permit in hand. Failure to abide by the perimeters will spell disaster come judgment day. Yes, let us build; but let us do so according to the divine standard of God’s word, the plan revealed to the apostles and handed down to us over the generations.

Someone wrote: “I am a Seenager. (Senior teenager). I have everything that I  wanted as a teenager, only 60 years later. I don't have to go to school or work.  I get an allowance every month.  I have my own pad. I don't have a curfew. I have a driver's license and my own car.  The people I hang around with are not scared of anything; they have been blessed to live this long, why be scared? And I don't have acne. Brains of older people are slow because they know so much. People do not decline mentally with age, it just takes them longer to recall facts because they have more information in their brains; scientists believe this also makes you hard of hearing as it puts pressure on your inner ear. Also, older people often go to another room to get something and when they get there, they stand there wondering what they came for. It is NOT a memory problem, it is nature's way of making older people do more exercise.”

“Polecat In The Parlor”

by Tom Wacaster

The late evangelist Billy Sunday is reported to have said, “Put a polecat in the parlor: which changes first? Parlor or polecat?” Please permit me to  define a couple of words before I seek to make application of “Billy’s bold assertion.” A “polecat” is a sophisticated way of referring to a skunk. It is unlikely that folks in Texas and Oklahoma have heard such elevated terminology to refer to that little fury scavenger that few have ever seen up close except in their efforts to dodge the remains of what some poor unfortunate driver left in his tracks for you to thus endure. A “parlor” could refer to any meeting place where the air has a sweet aroma, produced by artificial air fresheners, perfumed women, and men with a heavy dose of “Old Spice” or “Brute” cologne.  Now, try to imagine, if you will, just such a “parlor” that has been invaded by one of our West Texas skunks - it does not take a lot of imagination to envision the outcome, not to mention the hasty retreat of those in the parlor upon the arrival of the polecat, i.e. “skunk.”  One need not be a Solomon to realize that there have been some mighty drastic changes in the past thirty years with regard to the thinking and  behavior of the Western world. There is little doubt that radical changes in sociology, politics, and even religion, have opened the door for polecats to invade the parlor.  Consider the following.

First, in the realm of judicial expediency, swift and prudent punishment of the evil doer has been replaced with a greater respect for the criminal than the victim. Crooked lawyers, liberal judges, and a silent population have combined to produce a polecat in the parlor that is simply unbearable to those who have in years gone by enjoyed the sweet fragrance of judicial and social uprightness. The polecats of the liberal left have hijacked our constitution, harassed the law-abiding citizens, and hood-winked the people. All that remains is a stench of a political system that, in many cases, is as strong and repulsive as the road kill on our Texas highways. A case in point is the recent decision at the Department of Justice to expunge all references to Islam, jihadist, or “radical Islam” from the transcript of the recent event in Orlando, Florida—all in the name of political correctness. The common man wonders what has happened to the sweet aroma of judicial prudence that serves as a solid foundation of the nation for whom those judges serve.

Second, when it comes to ethics and morality, some things once labeled as  “sin” have become socially and religiously acceptable. It used to be that adultery and fornication were abhorred, homosexuality was an absolute “no-no,” gambling a vice, and drunkenness a shame to society.  But the “polecats” have gotten into the parlor, and you can guess which has suffered. Men now glory in their ungodly behavior. “Gay pride,” and “good times” have robbed our society of that pure and fresh aroma of moral decency that once filled our spiritual nostrils with a sense of moral integrity and righteousness. Indeed the moral consensus of our land is not what it used to be. In light of this it is refreshing to come across a news item that gives some glimmer of hope to a nation that has allowed the “polecats” to run rampant. I came across a little item on Fox news website this week that reported a sharp increase in the last ten years of teens who chose sexual abstinence over promiscuity. May their number increase.

Third, the “polecats” have made a stench of the sacred institution of marriage. Some no longer view marriage as a viable institution. Others chose to enter marriage, but not as a life long commitment. Still others have perverted the Biblical arrangement, calling for variety of family styles, including but not limited to same-sex marriage, multiple partners, and in one case, marriage of a man to his horse! The list goes on, but a “polecat” by any other name is still a polecat.

Finally, the “polecats” have infiltrated the realm of the sacred and holy. Modern day “televangelists” as well as the hypocritical religious elite have wrecked havoc upon the word of God. John has told us to “try the spirits, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). I wonder if Billy Sunday had this inspired passage in mind when he asked the question about the “polecats in the parlor”? It is incredible the naivety of the human race.  It seems the more ridiculous a religion, the more the unbelieving and ignorant are anxious to embrace its tenants.  The Bible speaks of such as those who have closed their spiritual eyes and ears to the truth. But can I be so bold as to suggest that such masses of deluded souls suffer from some kind of spiritual sinus infection in which they simply cannot (or will not) smell the stench of error that is repulsive to our God and truth loving men and women! Tragically, religious perversion has done more to discredit Christianity in the eyes of an unbelieving world, than perhaps any other single effort on the part of Satan. During my first visit to Russia in September of 1993 I was asked on more than one occasion what I thought about a  certain “prophet” who had predicted the world would end in November of that year. Curiously, I had also been asked a similar question on our trip in 1994 on a prophecy of the second coming in November of THAT year. Well, we are all aware of the fact that Jesus did not come in 1993 OR 1994. Brother Duncan made some very significant remarks about the effect of such foolishness upon those who have never taken the time  to investigate the Christian faith.  He wrote, “Is it any wonder that so many intelligent people reject anything that claims to be based on the Bible? When people claiming belief in God and allegiance to the Bible take such ridiculous positions, it causes people who are unfamiliar with the Bible to think the Bible is a ridiculous book.” You and I enjoy the fragrance of Christianity as it should be. Too bad some of the “polecats” have infiltrated some of our congregations and made a mess of all that is holy.

Before I leave this “stinkn” article with you, maybe a word needs to be said about the gradual desensitization that is taking place in our country, yea the world. A skunk evidently has become so accustomed to his odor that it does not seem to bother him in the least. I have been told that someone who lives with the animals soon grows accustomed to the smell. What really scares me is the fact that too many politicians, social workers, and so-called religious leaders have grown accustomed to the stench that has been left by the polecats in the parlor!

God’s Plan For Man’s Salvation

by Tom Wacaster

Some ridicule any suggestion that God has a “plan” for man’s salvation. Unfortunately they oppose God, not those who so proclaim that divine plan. Webster defines “plan” as “a scheme devised; disposition of parts according to a certain design; a method or process.”  When we speak of God’s “plan” for salvation we are simply referring to the method or process by which God intends to save men. A most intriguing question for consideration has to do with the development of this plan which ultimately culminated in Christ. Why is it that God did not send His Son to die on the cross the very moment Adam sinned and thereby introduced sin into the world?  It would appear that God, in His infinite wisdom, saw the need to prepare man for the reception of that divine plan, and delayed the consummation of that plan until the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4).   Although it is stated that God “preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham” (Gal. 3:8), it is quite evident that God’s plan did not come to fruition until the death of Jesus on the cross. Paul tells us that God’s plan was “manifested by the appearing of...Christ” (1 Tim. 2:9-10), and hence unknown theretofore.  This gradual working out of God’s plan for man’s salvation is sometimes referred to as the Gospel in purpose, promise, prophecy, preparation, and perfection. Consider each of these.

The Gospel In Purpose: Any worthwhile goal that ultimately comes to fruition passes through no less than four stages. First there is the purpose or intention, followed by the planning, which in turn leads to preparation, ultimately culminating in the completed or perfected end. Take, for example, the building of a house. First the decision is made to build. That house exists only in the mind of the one who purposes to construct that house. Next, an architect is hired to draw up the plans. Before ever a single nail is driven, or brick laid, that house exists in planning. Next comes the preparation, both immediate and remote. As the work continues it is not long before we can see the house in its complete or perfected state. God’s plan to save man passed through precisely the same stages of development. The reason why it could be said that God “preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham” was because God can see the end from the beginning (Rom. 4:17).  Before time itself, the Gospel was in the mind of God. Hence, Paul speaks of the “eternal purpose” of God (Eph. 3:11). What was this but His divine plan to save man through the proclamation of and obedience to the Gospel? Before this universe was ever created the Gospel existed in the mind of God in a state of purpose. But as yet no mortal man knew one single thing about it. It would be centuries before the Gospel would be seen in its perfection, passing through at least three more stages along the way.

The Gospel In Promise: While it is said that God “preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham” (Gal. 3:8), it is important to ask in what stage of development that gospel existed while Abraham was alive. Note carefully the words of that “gospel” which was “preached beforehand” unto Abraham: “In thee shall all the nations be blessed” (Gal. 3:8). That same blessing pronounced to Abraham is called a “promise” (Rom. 4:16, Gal. 3:14, 18, Heb. 6:13, etc). On that monumental occasion when God called Abraham and provided unto that patriarch the promise that in his seed all of the families of the earth would be blessed, you have the gospel, not only in purpose, but in promise. Since God is absolutely just, and since He cannot lie, the promise of intended blessings was as certain as if it had already been fulfilled. That is why it could be said the “gospel was preached unto Abraham.” But it was only a promise at that stage, and that promise would not find its fulfillment until Jesus came some 2500 years later. And while the Gospel was the same, its stage of development, and consequently its details, differed greatly from that which was brought to fruition at the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. Men living prior to the coming of the Christ would benefit from that eternal gospel by their compliance to the commands given to them by the God Who would, and could, bring about His promise. The promise having been given, the next stage of development was that of prophecy. 

The Gospel In Prophecy: When it was determined that Union Pacific would build a railroad westward, and the news was made known, that “promise” providing resources for the building and development was followed by “prophecies” of precisely when and through what cities that railroad line would pass. So it was with the Gospel. Once purposed, then promised to Abraham, God’s divinely inspired prophets began to point down the corridor of time to that precise moment when the Messiah would come and the promise would be fulfilled. These prophets spoke of John (Isa 40:3), the Lord’s birth (Micah 5:2), the coming kingdom (Isa 2:1-4), and other details too numerous to mention in this short article. Those prophets  spoke of precisely the same things we speak when we preach the Gospel to men and women today. The difference is that those prophets spoke in types and shadows, while we speak of the real thing. The entire Old Testament history was prophetic in that it was a type, figure, and copy of that which was to come.  That being the case, there is no way that Abraham, Moses, or any of the prophets or faithful saints living under that Old Testament could have possibly heard and/or understood the Gospel in its fullness. Those prophets themselves searched what “time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto” (1 Pet. 1:11), such things that even the “angels desire to look into” (1 Pet. 1:12b). Meanwhile preparation was underway for the coming of Jesus. 

The Gospel In Preparation: When we speak of preparation there is remote and immediate preparation.  When someone builds a house the remote preparation may find application in arrangement for financing, hiring an architect, or purchasing land on which to build.  Immediate preparation would be ordering lumber to the building site, pouring concrete, surveying the land, etc.  John’s ministry was designed to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Isa. 40:3). He was a “voice crying in the wilderness” (Matt. 3:3), calling Israel back to God. But Mark tells us that John’s work was “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). His work would prepare the way for Jesus. Even the earthly ministry of our Lord was one of preparation. Those three and a half years were designed, at least in part, to prepare the apostles for their work after Jesus would ascend into heaven. His miracles and teaching prepared the multitudes for that coming kingdom that would be ushered in on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). When Jesus came preaching the Kingdom, He did NOT say that the Kingdom had ARRIVED, but that it was “at hand”  (Matt. 4:17).  There was work to be done prior to the establishment of that Kingdom.  All this was in preparation for that day when the Holy Spirit would descend upon the apostles and the Gospel in its fullness would be presented to a lost world. 

The Gospel In Perfection: What began in God’s mind came to fruition on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2.  One gospel preacher put it this way:  “When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, God struck out for Pentecost.” Jesus had promised His apostles that that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth (John 16:13).  From Acts 2 until today the gospel has been presented in its fullness, first in inspired men, and then in the inspired written word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is important to note that with the completion of the revealed word of God through those inspired writers, nothing further is needed to present the gospel in its perfection. Peter tells us that God’s “divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3). Jude tells us that the faith “was once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).  That being the case, any religious organization that teaches the need for “continued revelation” or that presents “another testament” subsequent to that first century message implies that the gospel was not complete when presented to men in Acts 2.  We will put our confidence in that marvelous gospel contained within the pages of our New Testament and challenge all men to do likewise, without addition to or subtraction there from (Rev. 22:18-19).

Calling Bible Things By Bible Names

by Tom Wacaster

Words serve as a vehicle of communication. Similarly, ideas have consequences and ideas are communicated in words. In view of the fact that God, by inspiration, selected the very words  by which to communicate to us spiritual truths (1 Cor. 2:13, ASV), one would think men would respect the words God selected to name and designate our  religious activities. Unfortunately this is not the case. Not only have men changed Biblical terminology to suit their own way of thinking, they have invented new words to convey new ideas introduced into their man-made religions. Lets take just one example. The inspired writer Luke tells us that the “disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). We are also instructed to “glorify God in this name” (1 Pet. 4:16). When God selected the name Christian He did so to the exclusion of all other “names.” Prophetically, God said that his people would be called by a new name” (Isa 62:2). Notice the singularity of designation; it is NAME, not NAMES. We can, by divine authority, refer to ourselves as “Christians.” Beyond that, there is no authority, either by example, command or inference. But ask the average man concerning his religious affiliation and he will either hyphenate and/or eliminate the name Christian in his answer. Wherein is the authority?  When asked “What church do you attend?” more often than not you will hear some reference to a word or term that is completely foreign to the New Testament.  Again, wherein is the authority?  In view of the fact that we are to “hold fast the form of sound words (2 Tim. 1:13), perhaps our religious leaders owe us some answers for the new vocabulary they have injected into God’s divine word. 

Giving Streaked With The Red Blood of Sacrifice

by Tom Wacaster

I can’t remember where I first came across the description of sacrificial giving and here used as the title of this week’s article.  I can say, however, that every time I am asked a question regarding the depth of our devotion as demonstrated in our giving, I am reminded of this amazing and pointed description of what it means to give as we have truly prospered. Some time back I was asked a most interesting question; a question that has repeatedly caused this student to give some consideration as to our giving, particularly with regard to the motive that lies behind our giving.  I was asked, “Is the child of God commanded to give, or is it a voluntary act?” More specifically, “How do we harmonize the command to give in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 with other passages that indicate our giving is a voluntary manifestation of our love for God?” Every passage that addresses the giving of the child of God focuses on the attitude as much, if not more, than the action. We are to give “bountifully,” “not grudgingly or of necessity,” as we “have purposed in our heart,” and with joy and cheerfulness “for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:6-7). One of the best examples of giving can be found in the case of the widow who gave her two mites to the Lord in deep appreciation for her love for the Father. Perhaps it would do us good to consider again the story, the act, and the motive as recorded in Luke 21:1-4.  Here is how the text reads: “And he looked up, and saw the rich men that were casting their gifts into the treasury.  And he saw a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.  And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than they all: for all these did of their superfluity cast in unto the gifts; but she of her want did cast in all the living that she had” (Luke 21:1-4).

Mark’s account tells us that Jesus watched how they gave. He not only saw what they gave, but how they gave. Mark those two words. I am not suggesting that our Lord was unaware of what they gave, but that He was more concerned with the motive than the amount. But think for a moment about the amount this widow gave. We can view this from two aspects. The first is the actual amount; the monetary value of what she placed into the vessel. Two mites were about one-ninety-sixth of a denarius, and a denarius if exchanged at a local bank today would bring less than a penny. Now, you may squabble over the precise amount, but be assured, the mite, being the smallest of the Roman coinage, was worth less than one-ninety-sixth of a penny, even in today’s market. That, my friend, was a meager amount. But let us look at this from another vantage point, namely the “amount” in comparison to what she possessed. It was all she had; she had no more!  It makes no difference how much one may possess, when he gives “all,” there is nothing left!  If she was a pauper before she gave, she was even more of a pauper after she gave.  

Now imagine if you will, our Lord as He observed the action of this woman. Not only was Jesus watching her, but through divine inspiration we are provided enough details that we can watch our Lord through the eye of faith. Our Lord was watching the “rich men that were casting their gifts into the treasury” (verse 1).  To be sure, these were magnificent gifts that these men gave; at least by the calculations of men. But now comes this widow, and as our Lord watched her she cast in all she possessed. Her very life depended upon these two mites, but because of her faith in God she was willing to give these to her God in trusting Abrahamic faith, confident that Jehovah would care for her as He did for the patriarchs of old. Now listen to the words of our Master: “Of a truth I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than they all: for all these did of their superfluity cast in unto the gifts; but she of her want did cast in all the living that she had” (verses 3b-4). Notice that He did not say that she had cast in more than any one of them, but more than all of them put together. And herein lies the lesson for our consideration.

There are two ways of giving. In the case of the “rich men,” they were giving out of their superfluity; out of their abundance. Literally, they were giving out of what was left over. They were giving out of what they did not need! Here were large gifts, amounting to a large amount; but nobody missed what was given. Now let us look at the widow. She gave out of her want. “Want” is equivalent to her need, and yet out of that need she had given to the Lord. This entire story reveals two ways of giving: giving out of superfluity, giving what we do not need and will never really miss.  The other is giving with what someone described as “the red blood of sacrifice running through the gift”! May I be so bold as to suggest that it is not the amount that the Lord is interested in, but the amount in comparison to what He has given us as we are motivated by love to give back to Him in grateful appreciation the gift of our heart and soul.  

I cannot now recall the source of this quote, but I filed it away more than four decades ago. “The gold of affluence which is given because it is not needed, God hurls to the bottomless pit; but the copper tinged with blood He lifts and kisses into the gold of eternity.”  That, my friends, is “giving streaked with the red blood of sacrifice.”  When we consider all that our Savior did for us, how can we do any less?

Being Honest In A Dishonest World

by Tom Wacaster

In a world of “dog eat dog, take care of number one,” honesty and integrity are rare. I wish I could say that we still lived in an honest and law abiding country, but the statistics speak otherwise. Five years ago the FBI crime report revealed that more than 13 million crimes are committed each year. I have serious doubts that the number has decreased by any significant amount; more likely there has been an increase. That amounts to almost 36,000 crimes each day, 1,484 crimes per hour, 24 per minute, and one every 2.5 seconds. Ninety percent of these involved property and included such crimes as burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson. The National Coalition to Prevent Shoplifting says this crime now amounts to $24 billion annually. Employee thefts amount to another $22 billion. Tax cheating, according to the IRS, is big business in our nation. Auditing of nearly 2 million returns in a recent year showed derelict tax payers owed $10.5 billion. Just this past week it was reported by FOX that several billion dollars were pilfered from the government in 2015 under the guise of EIC’s - Earned Income Credit. That same report pointed out that the problem of such fraud is so massive that the IRS simply has no way of investigating and/or recovering the losses. For a dozen years we have had 1 million divorces annually. Infidelity and marital dishonesty has been given as the number one reason for marital breakups in our family troubled land. Those are frightening statistics! On every hand we are faced with those who are dishonest. It has become a way of life. But God’s call is to maintain honesty and integrity. “Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17). “That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without” (1 Thess. 4:12).  “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Cor 8:21).

We are once again in the middle of another political campaign season. I used to think these came around every four years, but the older I get it seems they come more often. The complete dishonesty on the part of most candidates is astonishing. No longer does there seem to be any attempt to hide their dishonesty and hypocrisy. It is open, and with little shame (if any) attached thereto. One renowned newspaper columnist has observed, “We know that the Clintons are liars. But what scares me is that they do it so well.”  If the truth were known, it is not just politicians and used car dealers whose “reputation” precedes them; according to the above statistical information dishonesty has infected our populace from the head to the foot.  It will not be long before another President, Vice President, and newly elected officials in the Senate and House will be sworn in and take their respective seats in Washington. Meanwhile we hold our breath as to what “scandal” will rock Washington next. It has almost become a way of life, and a sad one at that. 

Major William Dean died in 1985. He was a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and was considered one of American’s greatest heroes. He fought in the Korean war and was captured and tortured. Dean resisted all efforts by the communists to extract military information from him. In order to maintain his sanity he would resort to mind games, or reciting passages from the Bible. One day the general was informed by his captors that he was to be taken out and shot.  A firing squad was standing in readiness.  The condemned was granted a few moments in which to write a letter to his wife. He penned what he thought would be his last words. In addition to the words of love and devotion to his wife, he wrote a sentence for his son. “Tell Bill the word is ‘integrity.’”  There are two passages that I want to leave with you. “Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity than he that is perverse in his lips and is a fool” (Proverbs 19:1).  “Jehovah, who shall sojourn in thy tabernacle?  Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh truth in his heart” (Psalms 15:1-2).
 I sometimes wonder why anyone would choose not to believe in God.  If you question whether or not disbelief is a choice, then please consider the simple fact that every child is born with the ability to look at the evidence and from a very early age will ask his parents, “Mama, where did the earth come from?” or “Mama, who made the stars and moon?”   The despair and hopelessness that accompanies disbelief is enough to drive men away from atheism rather than toward it.  Some years ago I filed the following two incidents that demonstrate my point: 

Clarence Darrow, famed atheist of the last century, was reported to have said these words at the age of seventy-eight: “I am waiting to die, without fear or enthusiasm. I no longer doubt. I know now that there is nothing after death -- nothing to look forward to in joy or in fear...I am not the agnostic any more, I am a materialist. It took me more than fifty years to find it out. All my life I have been seeking some definite proof of God - something I could put my finger on and say ‘This is fact.’ But my doubts are at rest now. I know that such fact does not exist. When I die -- as I shall soon -- my body will decay. My mind will decay and my intellect will be gone. My soul? There is no such thing.”

The great agnostic of the last century, Colonel Robert Ingersoll, spoke at his brother’s grave. What an orator he was! What an intellect was his. What a great power for God this man could have been. President Garfield, who was one of the pall bearers, said that the Colonel broke down and cried like a child in the delivery of that speech. Among other things, Ingersoll said: “Whether in mid-ocean, or amidst the breakers of the farther shore, a wreck must mark the end of each and all.  Though every hour is rich with love, and every moment is jeweled with a joy, it will at its close be a tragedy as deep and dark as can be woven of the warp and woof of mystery and death.  Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities; we strive in vain to look beyond the heights; we cry aloud, and the only answer is our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the un-replying dead there comes no word.” 

This, dear reader, is the epitome of despair.  How much better to be able to say, “I have fought the good fight of faith,” or “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him.”  Ingersoll’s words are a fair representation of the hopelessness of disbelief. No wonder the man broke down and wept such tears of disbelief!