Friday, November 10, 2017

Coaches Told Not To Bow in Prayer


According to a November 8 article featured in www.gospelherald.com, the Coweta County School District in Georgia has issued an edict banning all coaches and other employees from participating in student-initiated or student-led prayer or other forms of worship while acting in their official capacity. This came after they obtained video of a  high school football coach bowing his head during a team prayer.

The complaint originated from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. The group is comprised of  disgruntled atheists and agnostics who have a long history of similar actions especially in small unsuspecting towns all around the nation.  The protesting group then said, "They cannot join hands, bow their heads, take a knee or commit another act that otherwise manifests approval with the students' religious experience." They also said that it is illegal for public school athletic coaches to lead their teams in prayer because it is unconstitutional  and endorses a  religion when done in an official capacity as a school district employee.

The author of the article then said something quite simple but profound. He wrote, “Professional football coaches are celebrated for taking a knee to protest America, but high school football coaches are targeted for taking a knee to pray with their players. Had Coach Small been taking a knee to protest America, I doubt the Freedom From Religion Foundation would've objected.” He ended his article by saying, “What a mess, folks”  And what a mess this is indeed!

Then add to this kind of nonsense the growing protests to any reference to God anywhere in culture. It is now common even in government circles. A classic example of this came recently when Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from Southern California, walked out during a moment of silence held on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for the Texas shooting victims. He stated, “I can’t do this again.  I will not be silent. What we need is we need action, we need to pass gun safety legislation now.” What he was saying was that prayer is useless if not counterproductive. Then also Rep. Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat, boycotted a moment of silence on the House floor for victims of October’s Las Vegas shooting, calling it “an excuse for inaction.”  And keep in mind that this was over just a moment of  'silence'.

In 2 Timothy 3:12-13 we read these words. ”Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”  These conditions seem to be the case today. And it reminds me of the words of Rev. David Virkler who was the founder of the ministry that includes this blog. He said many times, in light of the twisted attitudes seen in recent days, that ‘The old moralist has become the new criminal.” In other words, those who are Godly believers in Christ, and who outwardly promote Biblical truth, have become targets for doing evil instead of being seen as solutions for it. It is a tragic flip flop and reversal of what is good, right and just before a holy God! 

So what should be our response to what we see in this verse and what we are witnessing all about us in these difficult and declining end times? That advice comes in the following words in verses 14 and 15. “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,  and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

The Bible predicted what the prevailing attitudes would be concerning  Biblical truth in the days leading up to the return of Christ. So the current attacks and persecution on those of the faith should not be any great surprise. But it should instead be an encouragement to stand strong in the midst of it all  while knowing that to live Godly through Christ is to invite opposition but also God’s special  blessing and favor as well.

"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  (Matthew 5:11-12)


Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Halloween Terror In New York

It was not the kind of make-believe horror displayed in devilish costumes that is so commonplace everywhere on Halloween. This time it was all too real and very much deadly. The act was a vicious terrorist attack in New York City – the deadliest there since the events of 9/11. And this time, instead of coming through the air, a man intentionally drove a rented Home Depot truck into unsuspecting cyclists and pedestrians. He killed eight and injured dozens more on a bike path near Styvesant High School located off the West Side Highway of Manhattan. 

After crashing his vehicle, initial reports suggested the suspect was holding two firearms that have since been described as imitation guns by authorities. Police eventually shot the suspect and took him into custody. Some witnesses said that he shouted “Allahu Akbar” ("God is greater") after the attack – a solid hint that his rampage was related to Islamist extremism. The method of using a rented vehicle for this style of attack has reportedly been inspired by ISIS as the group  has suggested such techniques in its own publications. News of Tuesday's attack quickly spread through social media, including pro-ISIS channels on encrypted messaging applications where supporters there reportedly cheered the over the tragedy.

It is hard to even fathom such hatred and cruel actions against innocent people. How can anyone inflict such evil and suffering on those they don’t know and who have done nothing at all to do with them? The answer to that question is sometimes very hard to offer – unless the doctrine of human sin and total depravity is solidly in the equation.

Hamartiology comes from the Greek word hamartos meaning sin. It is therefore, is the study of sin. From a biblical perspective, the study includes how sin was introduced into the world, how it impacts the world today, the solution to the sin problem of humanity, the judgment of sin, and the removal of sin at the end of time.

The Bible speaks to the origin of sin in Romans 5:12 where Paul wrote, "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." And in the Old Testament, David acknowledged his own inborn sin in Psalm 51:5 where he wrote, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."

But then in James 1:14-15 we are shown how we are still fully and personally responsible for our wrongful actions. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”


It is impossible to see into the heart of someone who commits an act as did this wretched soul on Halloween in New York City. But if we could, one thing is fairly certain. We would likely not see the Holy Spirit of Scripture residing there. The killer may indeed have yelled out “Allahu Akbar” ("God is greater") after his deplorable act, but he was certainly not referring to the God of love, mercy, peace and righteousness as described in the Bible.

The Christian God is not the author of evil and sin. He deplores that in every existing form. But  because He loves every sinner, He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die as a man's lone substitute and sacrifice on the cross for us all. This was done so that any lost sinner can come to Him through faith and be gloriously and eternally saved.

The Greek word for this new spiritual birth is soteria, translated as salvation. The results of this great doctrinal truth and blessing means that lost sinners from any background can be fully forgiven and possess an all new heart. And it means, once justified, that they are given a new supernatural ability that allows them to display God’s love and mercy instead of man’s hatred and evil. And only the new birth found in Christ, as spoken of in John 3, can achieve this instant and radical transformation of the soul from the inside out!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:16-18)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

500th Anniversary of The Reformation



Every so often a day arrives that represents an event in history that literally changed the world. And such is the case on Tuesday, October 31st. Yes, 2017 brings the anniversary of a day that is not only historically important but also eternally significant. This year, that comes in the form of the 500th anniversary of what is called the Protestant Reformation. Many know exactly what that is and what it meant. But perhaps others have only heard the term or maybe not even that. Either way, it was an event that changed the landscape of the religious world at the time, and its impact continues on some five centuries later.

History.com defines the movement like this. “The Protestant Reformation was the 16th-century religious, political, intellectual and cultural upheaval that splintered Catholic Europe, setting in place the structures and beliefs that would define the continent in the modern era. In northern and central Europe, reformers like Martin Luther, and John Calvin challenged papal authority and questioned the Catholic Church’s ability to define Christian practice.”

The key focus of the Reformers was to purify the church and especially to promote the belief that the Bible, and not church tradition, should be the sole source of spiritual authority.

As far as the key players involved, there were several leading up to what Martin Luther eventually kicked into high gear. There was
John Wycliffe who attacked what he saw as corruptions within the church, including the sale of indulgences, pilgrimages, the excessive veneration of saints, and the low moral and intellectual standards of ordained priests and also the doctrine of  transubstantiation. Also involved was John Huss, who was Bohemian priest. John Calvin was a French theologian who fled religious persecution in France and settled in Geneva in 1536. He instituted a form of Church government in Geneva which has become known as the Presbyterian church. There was John Knox who was a faithful disciple of Calvin. Knox established Calvinistic Protestantism as the national religion of Scotland. And Zwingli was a Swiss theologian and leader of early Reformation movements in Switzerland.

But none were more important than Martin Luther. Luther became a monk at age 21. But despite that strict and  pious lifestyle, he could not seem to find God’s love or forgiveness and became increasingly terrified of the wrath of God. But then, while teaching as a professor at Wittenberg University, he began to see through Scripture a way through his dilemma. He said, "At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith."

After this, he set officially off The Reformation on All Saints' Eve in 1517 when he publicly objected to the way a preacher was selling indulgences to raise money. These were documents prepared by the church and bought by individuals, either for themselves or on behalf of the dead, for the promise that the Pope would release the deceased from  purgatory.

So Luther wrote out his list grievances and concerns, known as his 95 Theses, and nailed them to a church door in Wittenberg Germany. He hoped this would begin a debate on these issues. Before long, they spread across Germany by use of the newly invented printing press and  became a call for large scale reform.

But a public debate did not come until 1519 after Luther made a statement that shocked the organized church of his day. He declared,  “A simple layman armed with the Scriptures is superior to both Pope and councils without them.”  For such beliefs, he was threatened  and eventually  excommunicated.

When asked to recant of his beliefs in 1521 he said, “Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds of reasoning ... then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience.” Then he added these now famous words, “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen.” Luther was obviously not intimidated and instead he publicly burned the papal bull that excommunicated him.

He would go on to publish other great works including his German translation of the Bible. After a string of various illnesses, Martin Luther died in 1546 at age 62 being confident that he was heaven bound because he had been saved by grace through faith alone in Christ.

In addition to the sale of indulgences and other objectionable practices, there were three primary areas of theological beliefs that were the foundation for what occurred 500 years ago in Europe.

First, there was Sola Scriptura, which meant simply "by Scripture alone". It taught that Scripture was the primary and absolute source for all doctrine, belief and practice. It declared that the Bible alone is the direct revelation from God and core of the faith. Sola Scriptura speaks to the absolute sufficiency, clarity and infallibility of the Bible alone.

Secondly there was Sola Fide. This meant "by faith alone". This doctrine maintains that we are justified before God, or saved, only through trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior. Redemption comes not by anything we do or don’t do, or by anything the church does for us or we do for it.. Salvation does not come by faith plus anything else, as is taught in Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast".

Then also, the Reformers promoted the doctrine known as the priesthood of the believer. This is seen in 1 Peter 2:5 where believers are called "a holy priesthood". It teaches that all true Christians are themselves priests before God and that comes through their relationship with their great high priest Jesus Christ. It is based on verses like 1 Timothy 2:5. “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus’” This passage reveals that all believers have direct access to God and that there is no need for any earthly go-between.

In summary, the Reformers rejected the authority of the Pope, the merit of good works, indulgences, the mediation of Mary and the Saints, all but the two sacraments (baptism and the Lord's Supper), the doctrine of transubstantiation, prayers for the dead, confessions to a priest, and the use of Latin in the services.

The result of the Reformation was the eventual birth of  Lutheran churches in Germany, Scandinavia and some eastern European countries, the Reformed churches in Switzerland and the Netherlands, Presbyterian churches in Scotland, and the Anglican church in England.

So what does this all mean? And was it all a really a big deal? Although what happened had far reaching consequences in numerous areas of life and culture, it was in the spiritual realm that the greatest impact has made – by far!

The Bible speaks of its own great authority and matchless ability in numerous passages. But perhaps none is clearer than 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In other words, the pages of the Bible come directly from the mind of God and they contain everything we need for life and eternity.

And what does this God-breathed book say about salvation? Romans 10:13 makes it as simple and clear as possible. "For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." No special church or denomination is mentioned there. No special good works are mentioned there. No elaborate procedures or programs are mentioned there. And why not? It is because people are redeemed and forgiven today just as they were long before any organized church – Catholic or Protestant – ever existed.

And how do we know that? We know that by asking one simple question: How has anyone, at any time in human history, ever been saved and made right before a holy God? The answer to that most important of all questions is revealed in Romans 4:2. It refers back to Abraham long before even the coming of Christ. “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."  It has always been about believing God through faith. Had Noah not believed and had faith in what God told him about building the Ark, all of mankind would have perished in the flood.

I have no idea where you stand spiritually today, what kind of church you attend, or if you never attend other than for an occasional wedding. But what I do know, with no reservation or doubt, is that God authored a very special supernatural book. In Hebrews 4:12, we read this of that revelation. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.“ No other book ever can do that – nor can any church for that matter.

And I know that this book is inspired, living and powerful especially because of its unique ability to deal with sin by changing the human heart from the inside out just as it did mine many years ago. And again, what does the God's Word say on this matter of salvation through faith? It basically echoes both of the main points of the Reformation in one short verse. “So then faith (saving faith) comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.“ (Romans 10:17)

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Ready to Die? And Ready to Share?

“Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.” (Proverbs 27:1)

These are solid words of wisdom for anyone at any time. But the recent string of natural disasters, including hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and fires, and the mass shooting in Las Vegas certainly brings this great truth to the surface in the most dramatic manner. The final toll in lives and damage may not be known be for some time. But one thing is certain: those who have lost their lives had no idea they would be in eternity so suddenly. And, sadly, there will be more disasters to come with more lives lost.

In the light of that stark reality, those who are in Jesus Christ, and therefore spiritually ready to face tragedy, should reassess their true efforts to share their saving faith with those who are not. The same loving God who offered His own Son for the salvation of all is also the Judge of all who never turn to Him for redemption and forgiveness. The writer of Hebrews summed it up quite candidly: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

The destiny of those who lost their lives in the ravages of nature and by a madman's bullets is now eternally set. But those who survived have been given a sacred second chance. They still have the priceless opportunity to act on God’s free offer of forgiveness and the security found only in Jesus Christ. But more often than not, that requires Christians to be involved in the process. Romans 10:17 states the expected and effective method. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Pray for those who are part of God’s family of faith in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Mexico, California and Las Vegas. Pray for their own spirits to be lifted and comforted by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit. And pray that, in the midst of unimaginable chaos and loss, they can muster the spiritual strength and motivation to boldly share His supernatural peace and miraculous saving power!

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Bill Breckenridge

(This post was updated from a NEWSpoint blog written in 2013. It is a testimony to the truth that God's Word is always relevant.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dual Hurricanes. Why?



For several weeks, there was nothing else in the news for the most part. The nation was largely riveted to The Weather Channel as non-stop coverage covered the arrival of not one, but two, major hurricanes that would crash into the U.S. coast two weeks apart.
 
First came Harvey, a powerful storm that came across the warm Gulf of Mexico and hit Texas head on. The Category 3 made landfall with 125 mph winds. But the damage came in the way of massive flooding produced by rainfall totals of 50 plus inches in some places. That was because the storm stalled in the area for several days due to being trapped between two high pressure weather systems. That amount of the damage will take a while to assess, but may approach or even exceed that of Katrina  just 12 years earlier almost to the day.

The other storm was Irma. This monster speed across the Caribbean as a Category 4 and 5 at times. It literally obliterated many of the small islands there and some that are well known resort areas. It then made its way towards Cuba and set its sights in Florida. Because of the sheer size, Florida saw the greatest evacuation ever for a storm there. Irma was originally supposed to strike the Miami area. But it turned at the last minute and ventured up the west coast of the state. Overall, the potential damage for Irma was not quite as significant as first feared. But there still was significant damage, and it impacted the entire state before moving into Georgia and beyond.

Many are offering their opinions and guesses as to why these storms came so fast, furious and so close together. And the hurricane season is far from over. There could be more, and who knows how intense they might also be? But it is interesting that at least among some Christian leaders from various places, there is one theme that often arises. It was said by Max Lucado, James Robison, Greg Laurie, Franklin Graham, Kirk Cameron and many others. They all mentioned that is very possible, if not likely, that God is at least trying to get the attention of the American people through these storms.

Natural disasters began the moment sin entered the world when mankind fell in the Garden of Eden. And they will continue, and even increase, according to Romans 8:22. "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.’" We also know that the last days will bring increased troubles in nature according to Luke 21:25. "There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves." 

And we know that, along with these things, there will be moral conditions that echo those back in the day when God personally sent the storm of all storms and the flood that made all others look like child’s play. In Matthew 24, we read, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” 

Did God personally send Harvey, Irma or Katrina? I have no idea. Sometimes these things come through the natural laws of nature that He put in place long ago, and they are part of life in a fallen world. Could Satan have had a part here? Perhaps. If you don’t think that is possible, read the book of Job where God permitted the Devil do everything but kill Job – including the use of a violent storm wind storm that killed most of his family.

But the issue in the aftermath of these storms, both of which took human life, is this: Are we really ready to face what these kinds of catastrophes bring? Are we living for only ourselves as the above passage described back in Noah’s day? Are we among those who reject or miss the vivid warning given in James 4:13-14? “Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” 

One blog In The Christian Post said this. "These storms should reveal to us all at least four essential things. Everything is broken. Everyone needs a Savior. We must pray fervently. And God is still merciful." Those four statements, and what they fully represent, speak well to what the deepest answers to all of life’s most crucial issues are!

Today we have days and sometimes weeks of warning of what is coming in the way of a major storm like Harvey or Irma. The term that is typically front and center is "preparation" whether that includes protecting property and perhaps evacuation. Both those vital things in a dangerous hurricane will never work and are of no use in the spiritual realm. The Bible says in Mark 8:36-37 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" 

During the evacuations, we heard authorities advise people to flee the storm and get out while they could. I heard one phrase over and over. "We can rebuild homes and replace cars. But we cannot rebuild lost lives." That was perhaps more profound that even they knew when considering eternity in the mix.

Perhaps today you do not live anywhere near where frightening and destructive storms typically strike. If so, that is a blessing, and do your part to support those who do. But just know that there is no safety or place to run and hide for a lost soul outside of the preparation that is personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Only the Savior can prepare any of us for life’s storms big and little and to even face death itself while sheltered in His loving ark of redemption!

"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)


Bill Breckenridge