By Tom Wacaster

Webster defines “jeopardy” as “exposure to or imminence of death, loss, or injury” (Merriam-Webster On Line).  An alternate meaning is: “the danger that an accused person is subjected to when on trial for a criminal offense.” 

The word was adopted as the title to a popular TV game show that debuted in 1984, and is still running more than three decades later.  For just over thirty-three years contestants have been given the “answer” to which they were to respond with the correct “question.” For example, “This automobile was produced by Ford Motor Company in the late 1950’s but it never became very popular,” to which the contestant would respond, “What is the Edsel?” The contests get to choose from a selection of categories, with the dollar amount increasing in proportion to the difficulty of the question. Occasionally one of the categories is “The Bible,” or “Bible Characters,” or something to that effect. And, once in a while, a Bible “answer” is given to prompt the correct “question” from the contestant.

I have had occasion to watch a few episodes of this interesting and enlightening game show. Some years back I sat down for lunch and turned the TV to “Jeopardy” to pass the time while enjoying my lunch. I must confess that my ability to come up with the “question” to the “answers” that appeared on the game board was quite limited. But there was one “answer” that one would think everyone knew, and that each one of the College aged contestants would be quick to buzz in on.  The “answer”:  “Jesus said that in order for a man to enter into the kingdom of God he must do this.” Of course the “question” would be, “What is ‘born again’?” The shocker was that not a single one of those college aged contestants even attempted to buzz in. Oh they had answered questions on historical figures, biology, finances, and geography.  They could tell you how to enter college, how to enter the free market, how to get into the circles of the social elite; but they could not tell you how to get into the kingdom of God.

Perhaps this little incident illustrates just how far the next generation has fallen from the spiritual plateau of their grand parents and great grand parents. With each passing decade, the Western world has moved ever further away from God and a knowledge of His word. But it seems incredible that they can no longer answer the basic question as to how a man enters into the kingdom of God. As in the days of Amos, there is a “famine” in our land, “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). Consequently, the moral climate of our nation has declined dramatically in direct proportion with the ignorance of God’s word.

Seeing that someday we will stand before God to give an account of what we have done in this life, it seems to this scribe that we would want to prepare ourselves toward that end.  Since the words of Christ shall judge us in that last day (John 12:48), does it not seem reasonable that we would want to know that word so as to be better prepared to face our Lord in the judgment?  Indeed it does.  But somewhere along the way, we have neglected that awesome responsibility. With that in mind it is sobering to realize that an entire generation stands in jeopardy.

The Wolf And The Shepherd

by Tom Wacaster

America is in a battle for her very existence. In many circles our age of political correctness has led to the complete demise of common sense and rational thinking. The present situation in our society is so much like that of ancient Israel when the prophet pronounced a woe upon that pitiful nation that had turned their back on the word of God and relied instead upon their own human stupidity to guide them: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20). Entirely too many Washington politicians have joined in a league with main stream media to promote an agenda that can only lead to the complete destruction of our society. It seems that our college campuses have imbibed liberal thinking for so long that they throw a hissy fit if someone suggests an alternate view to the poison they have ingested. Every attempt to stop and/or reverse the direction our nation has been going for the past several decades is met with stiff resistance. The longer a train speeds down the hill, the more momentum it gains. If the brakes are not applied soon the runaway train will pass a point where the brakes will no longer be effective in stopping the train, and the only thing that is left is to clear the way for the inevitable disaster that will occur when once the train reaches the bottom of the hill. We can only pray that the situation in which our nation finds itself is not such that the brakes will not hold. The moral norms of the middle of the last century have all but been cast aside. Fiscal responsibility in Washington is in a free fall. Respect for life at either end of the life cycle is in jeopardy, with abortionists killing babies before they ever see the light of day, and “mercy-killing” doctors prematurely ending the lives of the elderly and infirm. Astonishingly all of this is done in the name of freedom and justice for all Americans! “Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil!”

With a previous House and Senate dominated by liberal and immoral politicians, much harm has been done. Irresponsible leaders in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate seemed determined to legitimize sodomy, legalize same sex marriages, and enshrine abortion in stone so that any attempt on the part of sensible thinking American citizens to reverse the course upon which our leaders had embarked would be difficult if not impossible to achieve. The great American “experiment” (as some historians are wont to call it) has provided a beacon of light for the free world for more than two centuries. Her success is not due to any human wisdom, but to her complete dependence upon the God of heaven to bless and sustain her through the difficulties she has faced in those twenty three decades of her existence. Many of our leaders in Washington seem to have forgotten this.  So much so that our previous President avowed that we are no longer a “Christian nation,” and with the exception of one or two Senators, our House and Senate remained silent as a tomb with nary a whimper of defense for the very motto that appears on our coinage and which once characterized our nation: “In God We Trust” (and might I add that the God in Whom this nation once trusted was not Allah).

It has been more than twenty years since Ronald Regan challenged Michael Gorbachev with those now immortal words: “Gorbachev: tear down this wall.” Unfortunately many want to tear down a different wall; the wall of strength that can only be found in God and His Word. The ACLU has dismantled a great number of the links that tied this once great nation to the God of heaven and if that ungodly organization has its way, Americans will eventually be robbed of every vestige of religion and our churches will become nothing more than museums and relics of a bygone era when men and women in this nation turned to God in times of need instead of depending upon the government to “bail them out.” Meanwhile our freedoms are being dismantled, our future mortgaged, and our security threatened. No wonder those lone voices in the wilderness are crying out to be heard!

Abraham Lincoln has been credited with this little tidbit: “The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty.”  It is often the case that the liberal left confuses defense of what is right with infringement upon the beliefs and practices of the innocent. In the religious realm the wolf will cry, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Who cares if the words of our Lord were taken out of context? After all, the intention of the wolf is to make the shepherd look bad and to the wolf, the end justifies the means. The political “wolves” have managed to pervert truth and convince the American people that any religion, any moral compass based on the Bible, and any proclamation of truth contained therein, is a violation of the imaginary “separation of church and state” clause in the Constitution. Leagued with the “Right to Privacy” (another ‘imagined’ Constitutional clause), and the wolves have their foot in the door to the sheepfold. It won’t be long before the wolf has his teeth around the neck of the sheep. 

What Manner of Man Is This?

by Tom Wacaster

In an age when might made right, when Caesar was on the throne, and the ebb tide of human morality was at its lowest, the ‘Son of Man’ entered this earthly sphere; the same sphere He had created some four thousand years earlier. Born of a virgin, He “advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52) until the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) when He began to preach the gospel to all who would listen, and ultimately offer Himself as a sacrifice on the cross. He approved of Peter’s declaration that He was “the son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16), but the words He used most often to refer to Himself were ‘Son of Man. Though He knew He was the Son of God, He subjected Himself to the will of his earthly parents. He learned to do hard work as a youth, laboring as a carpenter while He submitted to and followed in the steps of Joseph. Though He never married, His gospel has raised the bar insofar as the worth and value of women is concerned. He was never a father, but He loved children. Unschooled, He was the Master Teacher. He was free from worldly ambition and rejected every attempt on the part of others to make Him an earthly King. There was – and is – a majestic aura that surrounds this “blessed and only Potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). He was frequently moved with compassion for the multitudes who were like “sheep not having a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). He was ablaze with devotion for His Father’s will, yet He was not an ascetic. He moved with calm deliberation and confidence far exceeding great leaders of history. Someone once pointed out that our Lord “never hurried, never worried, and always got the job done!” Jesus so embodied the divine and human nature that an unknown author observed:

In anthropology, He is the God-man;
In archaeology, He is the Chief Cornerstone;
In Astronomy, He is the Bright and Morning Star;
In Botany, He is the Rose of Sharon and the Lilly of the Valley;
In Chemistry, He is the life-giving blood;
In morality, He is the Sinless and Perfect One;
In Theology, He is the Risen and Living Savior.

What king, potentate, or president in the annals of history could even come close to measuring up to the Man Who calmed a turbulent sea and raised dead Lazarus with the sound of His voice? His miracles produced faith in the hearts of the contrite, hatred in the hearts of the calloused, and fear in the hearts of the cautious. The zealots who were determined to cast off the burden of Rome and return to the glory days of the Davidic Kingdom saw in this “miracle worker” the powerful king for which they had longed. Here was a ‘man’ Who could feed a multitude, heal those who might be injured in battle, and raise the dead if slain by the sword. They saw in this Jesus ultimate power; yea, unlimited power. Men clothed with that kind of power, more often than not use that power for their own gratification. The truthfulness of the age old adage that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is demonstrated by the likes of Karl Marx, Adolph Hitler, down to and including Kim Jong-un, dictator of present day North Korea; but not so in Christ.

What manner of man is this? If you measure Jesus by the standards of men, He was a failure. Financially, He died a pauper. Socially, He was an outcast, associating with sinners and publicans. Educationally, He was a dropout having never been schooled in any of Israel’s institutions of higher learning where He could sit at the feet of respected Rabbis and theologians. But if we measure Jesus by divine standards, by things eternal, by heavenly purpose, He stands so far above men that we can scarce call Him a man. Charles Ross Weed is credited with having penned the following comparison between Jesus Christ and Alexander the Great:

Jesus and Alexander died at thirty-three,
One died in Babylon, and One on Calvary.
One gained all for self, and One Himself He gave.
One conquered every throne, the Other every grave.
When died the Greek, forever fell his throne of swords,
But Jesus died to live forever Lord of lords.

Jesus and Alexander died at thirty-three.
The Greek made all men slaves, the Jew made all men free.
One built a throne on blood, the Other built on love.
The one was born of earth, the Other from above.
One won all this earth to lose all earth and Heaven.
The Other gave up all that all to Him be given.
The Greek forever died, the Jew forever lives.
He loses all who gets and wins all things who gives.

What manner of man is this? To ask is to answer.

Grandpa, Tell Me About The Good Old Days

by Tom Wacaster

Discouragement comes to the best of men; even great men of faith. Elijah had his moment (s) of discouragement, as I am sure did Abraham, Moses, and Noah.  Having studied and written now on all 150 chapters of the Psalms, I think I can safely say that David had his moments of discouragement and disappointments. How did he handle it? Where did he flee for refuge? Well, why not let him tell you. In Psalms 143:4 he acknowledges that his spirit was “overwhelmed within,” and that his “heart” was “desolate.” Now listen to the beginning of verse 5: “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy doings.”

I once heard someone say that dwelling on the “good old days” is a waste of time and demonstrates a lack of faith rather than a confidence in the God Who has promised to care for us.  When I was a young preacher I would listen to the “elders” (i.e. those up in years; not those who necessarily held the office of elder) speak of “the good old days.” And now that I am only a few weeks away from turning 70, I occasionally find myself thinking about “the good old days” as well. Of course it has been observed that sometimes the “good old days” were not all that “good.”

If looking back on the “good old days” is always bad, then why did David tell us that he would “remember the days of old” as if it were something good; something that helped him make it through this particular moment of despair in his life? I think it was because David wanted us to note the focus point of our nostalgia when, in fact, we are tempted to “remember the good old days.” David did not look back on those days with melancholy sadness, but with a fond reflection upon the “doings” of God. He recalled those days when God blessed him, and delivered him from the enemies of old. He remembered the victories, the answered prayers, the forgiveness granted (oh, the forgiveness granted!), and the promised protection.

I think perhaps the church needs to “remember the good old days” with the same focus of purpose. Some of you can remember the days when cottage classes were the norm, and knocking doors and visitation was not considered “outmoded” or “outdated.” Can you remember when two week gospel meetings were considered “short,” and a two hour sermon was a blessing?  “Ah, do you remember these?” Maybe we need to remind ourselves of what the world was like when the church was actively seeking and saving the lost, when men and women had a respect for the Bible, and families were still families and marriage was for a life time rather than “till we get tired of one another.” It is unfortunate that the “baby boomer” generation will give way to generation “X” and the “millennial” generation, and another half century from now there will be no such memories to look back upon.

Dwelling on the past can also serve as a reminder of how much God has blessed us as we review where we once were spiritually and where we should be today and hopefully will be in the future. We can learn from our mistakes, as well as our successes. Since the things in the Old Testament were written for our admonition, they can, and often do, serve as wonderful examples of how God’s people have successfully trod the road of faith. Those Old Testament stories also serve as a reminder of how quickly, and  how easily it is to fall off the path and bring one’s live to ruin by giving in to temptation. You see, even God wants us to remember the ‘good old days’ and to learn therefrom.

Some years ago The Judds had a country song that quickly became a number one hit. The title was, “Grandpa, Tell Me About the Good Old Days.” It reflects upon a time not all that long ago when the influence of God’s word was still having an impact upon our society. I am not a country and western fan, but occasionally one of those category of songs comes along that captures my interest. I think the lyrics of that song are noteworthy:

Grandpa, Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Old Days
(by The Judds)

Grandpa, tell me ‘bout the good old days.
Sometimes it feels like this world’s gone crazy.
And Grandpa, take me back to yesterday,
When the line between right and wrong
Didn’t seem so hazy.

Did lovers really fall in love to stay,
And stand beside each other, come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept,
Not just something they would say?
Did families really bow their heads to pray?
Did daddies really never go away?
Oh, Grandpa, tell me ‘bout the good old days.

Grandpa, everything is changing fast.
We call it progress, but I just don’t know.
And Grandpa, let’s wander back into the past,
And paint me the picture of long ago.

Did lovers really fall in love to stay?
And stand beside each other, come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept,
Not just something they would say?
Did families really bow their heads to pray?
Did daddies really never go away?
Oh, Grandpa, tell me ‘bout the good old days.
Oh, Grandpa, tell me ‘bout the good old days.

Maybe we should reflect upon the values that “grandpa” practiced, and then remind ourselves that such values of “the good old days” were the fruit of God’s word planted in the hearts of men. If we would ever hope to return to that kind of Godly living in our society, then perhaps we need to be actively preaching and teaching that same gospel that was preached and taught “in the good old days.”  Think about it.

He Came Down From The Mountain, But Not The Cross

by Tom Wacaster

If the Sermon on the Mount were all that Matthew recorded, that small piece of inspiration would declare the very majesty of the One Who spoke those words. The very first words we encounter as we enter the eighth chapter of Matthew capture our attention: “And when he was come down from the mountain” (8:1). Strictly speaking those half dozen English words describe His descent from an earthly mountain to the plains below. But suppose Jesus had stayed in the mountain? What if He had built some monastery and lived out His life in isolation? Had He done so, the miracles in this chapter, yea the whole of Matthew, would never have been recorded, and the teachings and instructions delivered on the mount would have been nothing more than the wisdom of just another Rabbi speaking to His band of devoted zealots who, at the end of their lifelong journey, would have summed up the experience in the words of the two men traveling to Emmaus: “But we hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Thank God that Jesus did come down from that mountain! Consider the following.

He Came Down From The Mountain Of Happiness To Bear Our Sorrows

Each of the three miracles of healing in this portion of our study is vitally connected with that beautiful chapter of the Suffering Servant in Isiah 53. Matthew told us these things were done “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying: Himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases” (8:17). The Old Testament passage is Isaiah 53:4-6:  “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; ye we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” “Griefs” and “sorrows” – pay attention to those two words, keeping in mind the context of Isaiah’s prophecy. The sorrow to which Isaiah refers was deeper and more profound than the emotional ache in the hearts of men. The Suffering Servant did not come to open grief counseling center. He did not suffer simply to wipe the tears of those whose lives had been disrupted by physical disease and multiple maladies. Our Lord was fully aware that back of all the disease is the problem of sin. The true sorrow of the world can be traced to sin, whether a person’s own individual sin or the sin of humanity. Sin was introduced into the world by Adam (Rom. 5:12-21), and it spread into every corner of this globe and every generation by the power of each individual’s choice. Jesus’ power to heal the leper by the touch of His hand, or to heal the centurion from a distance by His spoken word, finds its basis in His overall mission to “seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10). Was this not the point in the case of the man sick of the palsy where Jesus asked His critics: “Which is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise and walk?” (Luke 5:23). When it is said that Jesus bore “our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4) it is heaven’s way of telling us of the great mission of our King to address the root cause of those sorrows. He did this by being “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). Can you imagine a king who would be willing to pay the penalty for the crimes of the citizens of his kingdom? Pick your dictator or despot, and the story is the same. It is most often the case that the innocent suffer for the crimes of the king, but our King came down from the mount of happiness to bear our sorrows.

He Came Down From The Mountain Of Honor To Become A Servant

Prior to His descent to this world of woe, our Lord enjoyed honor and majesty alongside the Father. He basked in heavenly sunshine, and was worshiped by the angels (Heb. 1:6). He enjoyed the “power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12) deserving of the Godhead. Existing in the “form of God,” He “counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6). Words cannot be found that can adequately describe the majesty of our Lord prior to that moment when He took upon Himself “the form of a servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). His descent from that ‘heavenly mountain’was for no other purpose than to be a Servant of God and humanity, and to give His life a ransom for all. He washed the feet of the disciples thereby teaching them the importance of being a servant (John 13:1-15). He was obedient to the Father in every respect, remaining faithful even unto death.

In the thirty-three years that our Lord sojourned upon this earth, He never once demonstrated a single shred of selfish desire; never seeking to “be served” but seeking rather “to serve.” He never had to turn His back on material things because He never sought them in the first place. 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 rust 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 lay 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. All this, because He was willing to come down from the mountain of honor to become a Servant!

He Came Down From The Mountain of Heaven To Be Our Savior

Prior to His incarnation, Jesus shared in the glories of heaven with the Father. He basked in the glory and essence of deity (2 Cor. 8:9). In the beginning He filled the universe with the stars and planets (John 1:1-3) with the simple sound of His voice. He sustained (and still sustains) all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). Yet He was willing to give all that up so that He could set before mankind the feast of abundant life. The New Testament rings with the message of salvation: “Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15a). “And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall shave his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). W.N. Clarke wrote almost a century ago, “The glory of Christianity is salvation.” The great challenge to the church in this century is getting men to realize their need for a Savior. Too many have lost the awareness of this need; too few are inclined to perceive of Him as Savior. One reason for this is the diminished concept of sin in the modern world. Jack Cottrell wrote, “Of course he recognizes that the world is filled with evils, failures, social ills, and conflicts of all kinds; but he just does not want to think of them as sin. This is because sin connotes a wrongdoing for which one is responsible before God, and modern man does not want to see himself in this light. He will take his evil and his failures to sociologists and psychologists, but not to God.”

When our “problems”are discussed in social circles they may be described as “disgraceful,” “corrupt,” “prejudicial,” “harmful,” or even “evil,” but never “sinful.” It is obvious that without a sense of sin there can be no real sense of God as our Savior. May God give all of us a deeper appreciation for Jesus as Savior.

Yes, Jesus came down from the mountain of happiness to bear our sorrows. He came down from the mountain of honor to be a Servant. He came down from the mountain of heaven to be our Savior. When the mob cried for the blood of Jesus, they were granted their wicked desires. And while Jesus hung on the cross they taunted the Son of God and challenged Him to “come down from the cross” (Matt. 27:40). He could have; but He refused to do so. Thank God that while Jesus was willing to come down from the mountain, He refused to come down from the cross.