Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Richest Man The World?

A recent article from offered insight into the wealthiest men in the world. According to the recent Forbes list of the world’s richest men, it was no surprise to see Microsoft founder Bill Gates coming in first with a staggering $86 billion. Warren Buffet came it at $76 million, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at $50 billion, and President Donald Trump weighing in, too, but only with a paltry $3.7 million.

What the article also mentioned was that there may be others who are worth more than even Mr. Gates but who fail to make the list. This is because of how they got their wealth and because their total worth may not be properly documented or accounted for. The primary example is President Putin of Russia.

Bill Browder, a former fund manager in Russia, stated the following to CNN. “I believe that Putin is worth $200 billion. After 14 years in power of Russia, and the amount of money that the country has made, and the amount of money that hasn’t been spent on schools and roads and hospitals and so on, all that money is in property, bank, Swiss bank accounts, shares, hedge funds, managed for Putin and his cronies.”

Also, John Oliver, on HBO’s Last Week Tonight program, stated that nothing about Putin’s finances adds up. He said that the list of the leader’s extravagances aren’t possible on his reported $100,000 salary. These include 58 planes and helicopters, 20 palaces and country retreats, and a billion-dollar home somewhere on the Black Sea.

It is one thing for someone to become wealthy beyond the imagination through honest endeavors and hard work, but it is another thing altogether to do it at the expense of others and through the suffering of those that are under your care. And that kind of greed is due to the influence of human sin!

The Bible talks at length about the spiritual dangers that accompany the out of control pursuit of worldly riches. No two passages say it better than James 4 and Matthew 6. James spells out a stern warning to those who place their priorities on material goods. He begins in verse 13, “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.  Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.'  But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil."

And in Chapter 5, James continues. “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.”

Then Jesus addressed the subject directing His words at those whose priorities are mainly materialistic. In Matthew 6, He declared, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Then in Verse 24, He added, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” That could not have been made much more clear!

Most of us cannot even begin to grasp what it is like to be worth 86 billion dollars. Many in the world today cannot even fathom an amount like $8,600 for that matter. And, yes, having massive sums of money can make life much easier and fun on many levels – for now! But eventually the very poor and the outrageously rich will all face the same thing at life’s end. The playing field will be fully leveled when each stands before his or her Creator. But none will be asked how much they owned or amassed in this life. That will be more irrelevant in that moment then we can can ever imagine. What will be asked instead is how rich we have been in faith. And not just any faith. Each one must offer up what, if anything, their personal faith in Jesus Christ was worth and how they lived in the light of that. Riches will take on a whole new meaning immediately and forever more!

After His warning about keeping material possessions in their proper perspective, the Lord laid out how to do just that in Matt. 6:31-33. He stated simply what not to do along with what to do. "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” 

This life is about laying up permanent treasure now for the next life. And that can only occur when the Author of all life comes first and foremost!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Five-time Super Bowl MVP

This year’s Super Bowl pitted the Atlanta Falcons against the football dynasty New England Patriots. The franchise has been led seemingly forever by its legendary coach Bill Belichick and prolific all-star quarterback Tom Brady. The two are highly successful no matter who makes up the remainder of the team – a feat that is not easy considering how the way the NFL is structured today.

But anyone who follows football knows that this year’s big game had the potential to be historic for the New England QB. He already had the most Super Bowl starts with 6, but was tied with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with 4 wins at that position.

And as we now know, Brady and company were successful in their bid to win the 51st version of the biggest sporting event of every year. But not only did they win, it was how they won that was impressive. The Patriots made the greatest comeback ever in Super Bowl history by scoring an amazing 25 unanswered points. And they won it in overtime, also a first for the big game.  

The effort put Brady and his coach alone at the top of their sport, and they are likely to forever remain there. It really was a stunning turn of events and made football history on a variety of levels. Not only so but it also largely put to rest, at least for most, any debate about who truly is the greatest quarterback of all time.

Several years ago after winning his 3rd championship, something only three other quarterbacks had ever done, Mr. Brady was interviewed on 60 Minutes. And after sharing some personal thoughts about his fame, he offered a rather shocking and sad admission.  He stated that, after all of his great success, he was feeling that there must be more to life and that he had no idea what that would be. If you care to watch briefly what this sports icon had to say, it can be found here on Youtube.

I have never met Tom Brady and have no idea where this super talented athlete is spiritually speaking after his 5th championship this past Sunday. His bid to stand alone on the Mount Olympus of the NFL at his position was secured in Houston. But if he has still not figured out the answer to his own profound question about there being more to this life, then he remains a famous man but one in great need! If he has never personally embraced Christ the way the Bible requires, then he is still missing that this life is largely about preparing for the next.  If he has never been born from above, he will still possess his five Super Bowl rings but does not possess eternal life.

Perhaps you can’t tell the difference between a football and a hockey puck. But if you are in God’s family and have Christ as your Savior, then you are rich in the things that matter most and that will never fade away or lose their value! Jesus Himself set the tone for life’s priorities in Matthew 6 where He said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In verse 33, He declared, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

It is an exciting thing to have one's name engraved in the sports record books. But that cannot even be compared with being written in the Lamb's Book of Life forever! (Revelation 20:12-15)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

An Inauguration And After?

On Friday the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, will be sworn into office in Washington D.C. The inauguration is a process that every President has participated in since George Washington became the nation’s very first on April 30, 1789 in New York City .

The event every 4 years includes the solemn ceremony, but then extends to parades, parties, balls and other assorted celebrations well into the night. This year, Trump's people raised a record 90 million dollars for the affair from private sources, but does not intend to spend anywhere near that much. The remainder will be donated to charity. Also, the security costs may well exceed 100 million. That is a large but understandable sum considering who will attend and with the very real potential for serious disruptions in today’s climate.

Just about everyone knows that the past election was a bitter fight and has left many on the losing side in a state of confusion, anger and despair. Some have even gone to extreme lengths to try to overturn the election results or at least discredit Mr. Trump before he even begins his first full day in office. Like it or not, such is the current political climate in a highly divided America.

But what now? With the voting booths silent for the next few years, and the new administration coming into control, what are citizens on both sides of the isle to do? That may be a rather daunting question for some.  But it should not be, on either side, for any who call themselves Christians and serious followers of Jesus Christ.  For these, there is something that is their Biblical duty concerning those who will lead the nation for the next 4 years at least.  They may not like and totally disagree with those now in leadership. But with that acknowledged, they are to at least support them in a few specific ways according to Scripture.

First, there is the weighty admonition found in 1 Timothy 2:1-3. “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Then there are Paul’s pointed words in Romans 13:1-7. Here he goes into great detail on the matter. And if this passage meant what it said under the conditions Christians faced back in the New Testament, there is little excuse for not following this directive in a place like modern-day America.

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”

America needs help and primarily in the form of a serious spiritual revival. And any new President, cabinet and congress will only be as good as their acknowledgment and dependence on God. And part of that can only come through the people of God when they pray for fervently and without political bias as commanded. And they must do so if for no other reason than this. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Death In Santa’s Arms

Fox news just shared a heartbreaking Christmas-related story.  His name is Eric Schmitt-Matzen who now resides in Tennessee. He plays a part-time Santa and recently told  local news outlets there about an amazing, but heartbreaking, experience he had gone through.

Apparently Matzen was called to the hospital bedside of a terminally ill little boy. He arrived just 15 minutes later. There he found a dying 5-year old child who was concerned about missing Christmas and wanted badly to see St. Nick. The stand-in Santa was given a present from the mom when he arrived that was then presented to the boy as he entered the room in full costume.

Matzen stated that the gift put a big grin on the child’s face. He then said to the boy, "When you get up those pearly gates, you just tell them you're Santa's number one elf." The child responded by asking, "I am?" The Santa responded, "You sure are and I'm sure they'll let you right in,"   To that the boy gave him a hug and asked Matzen, "Santa, can you help me?" It was at that pointed that the child passed away in the crying man’s arms.

It is hard to even fathom the emotion that must have swept over both the parents and the man who helped grant this precious child his dying wish at Christmas. Matzen stated that he was crying so hard afterwards that he was almost unable to see well enough to drive home. I’m sure he slept very little that night either.

This is a heart warming and heartbreaking story all in one. The only aspect that is off-base is the reason that the part-time Santa gave a young child for why he would be accepted into Heaven when he died. Obviously we pray that the boy is there today and for the right Biblical reasons. But if he is there, he will not have passed through  the ‘pearly gates” because he was Santa’s number one special elf.

Being admitted to heaven requires something quite specific according to the Scriptures. It has nothing to do with how one lives life or whether the good outweighs the bad. It has nothing to do with a great personality, great accomplishments or a giving and unselfish nature. It has only to do with a personal relationship with the Savior who was born in the manger and later died on the cross to pay the price of sin though His sacrifice.

Santa is a wonderful and fun addition to Christmas. He was enjoyed by many of us in our youth and by millions of children world-wide. But he is simply not real. And he should never interfere, or be confused, with the Christ of Christmas. Only God's Son can give the ultimate gift of all gifts and the one we all equally need. Only he can provide the gift of eternal salvation and the opening of the so-called pearly gates to those who trust in Him through faith.
Christ is what Christmas is all about!  That should be obvious. And after all is said and done, it is not primarily about happy holidays, seasons greetings or happy Solstice. It is simply about ‘Merry CHRISTmas’.

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Not Tolerating Charlie Brown?

A recent article from revealed a story that has become all too common at Christmas time. It occurred in a nation that supposedly craves tolerance for everyone’s views on almost everything, that is, give or take Christianity. It is still hard to fathom how a holiday that bears Christ’s name can be attacked and pushed out of the public arena even by those who participate in it and gladly take the free day off of work it provides them.

This time the nonsense revolved around one of the oldest and most beloved Christmas TV shows of all time. And is not the first time that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has caused holiday controversy. This year it was the Independent School District in Killeen, Texas that helped portray the ugly and ridiculous part of the infamous Grinch.

Dedra Shannon, a staffer at Patterson Middle School, decided to use the program’s images of Linus, the scrawny Christmas tree and the classic Bible passage to decorate the door to the school’s nurse office.  The decorations were installed on December 5th.  But two days later she was confronted by the school's principal and told that the decorations had to be removed. The stated reason was exactly the same as always. The Bible passage might offend those of another religion or those having none at all. And as expected, it was said that the display was a violation of the Constitution’s so-called separation of church and state. That’s amazing since that is a faulty assumption and no such thing really exists.

Ms. Shannon was told, however, that she could keep Linus and the tree on the door but the Bible passage had to be removed. Given that option, she took the entire poster down and stated, "I wasn't going to leave Linus and the Christmas tree without having the dialogue. That's the whole point of why it was put up." Ms. Shannon's pastor father said of the incident, "People want us to be tolerant for everything – but they don't tolerate Christianity, They bow down to everything else – except when it comes to Christianity." How tragic but how very right he was!

Efforts to curtail the real meaning of Christmas, and everything Christian for that matter, are nothing new. The attacks have intensified and the opposition may even seem to have gained ground over time in an increasingly secularized society. But none of that can change the deep meaning and power of the Biblical truth echoed by little Linus on air some 51 years ago.

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:9-14

Christmas will always be an offense to those who don’t, or won’t, accept it for what it really is. Why is that?  It is because the coming of Christ to that messy manger in the long ago pointed to something in His future that would be infinitely more messy! His arrival in human flesh pointed to His destiny of dying upon the cross. He came to deal with the sins of humanity and that is offensive to those who feel no need for a Savior or the forgiveness He alone can provide.  Luke 19:10 states it like this.“The Son of man has come to seek and save that which was lost.” 

The reality is, like it or not and believe it or not, that The Prince of Peace came to earth the first time to save sinners. And He is coming a second time to gather up all who have trusted Him and to be will Him forever in heaven. That is going to happen and perhaps very soon. And no amount of rejecting or ignoring that fact will ever change it. Trying to remove or hinder God’s word at Christmas, or at any time, is a senseless and futile endeavor as clearly confirmed in 1 Peter 1:24-25.

"All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the LORD endures forever”

Bill Breckenridge