Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Very Best Mother's Advice

It arrives each year in May. And it has become one of the largest holidays as far as consumer spending. And of course it is none other than Mother’s Day. It is the designated time when moms are honored for their priceless contributions to their families and even their nation by extension.
The official Mother’s Day holiday arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Following her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908 she organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. Following the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis—who remained unmarried and childless her whole life—started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

There are many famous moms in the Bible. We were given insight into the lives of Eve, Sarah, the mother of Moses and others. But for obvious reasons, the mother of Jesus is in a class all by herself. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like for her raising a fully perfect and sinless son.

But there is one event where Mary and her son were in the middle of an interesting situation. It was the story of the wedding in Cana in John chapter 2. Mary was attending or even involved in the planning. Jesus and the disciples were invited guests. But at one point, Mary came to Jesus because they were running out of wine. But when she approached Him with the problem, he gave a seemingly odd answer in the form of a question. He basically said, 'What has that got to do with me since my hour has not yet come.' He was nicely telling her that he had new priorities and that his entire life was now about the soon coming cross. This answer may have confused his mom a bit. But she accepted it what he stated anyway.

But what is important here was Mary’s immediate response. She turned to the servants and said in verse 5, "Whatever he says to you, do it." Was she expecting a miracle of some kind at this point? We really don't know the answer to that question.

But either way, she was placing her full faith and confidence in whatever it was that the Lord would do - or not do. In the midst of this social crisis she was in the middle of, she was telling them, whatever my son says to you don't question it. Don't ignore it. Don't doubt it. And don't resist it. Just listen up and obey it . Mary was giving the servants 'the' perfect advice because she knew enough of Jesus to trust Him fully to handle any crucial matter perfectly! And isn’t this that level of faith we need to have in the Lord - no matter what the situation is before us?

Mothers are generally the ones in the family unit that provide sound wisdom for their children. This is generally good advice and especially when they are Christians and their suggestion are based on Biblical principles. And yet, there are none who are themselves perfect all of the time. But there is one word of advice that actually is. And that was summed up in Mary’s words when she turned to the servants and said, "Whatever he says to you, do it.”

The best advice we can ever give, or receive, is to do ‘whatever’ Jesus tells us to do. His perfect wisdom comes through various sources. It comes via the Scriptures, from the lips of his faithful servants, through fervent prayer and through the godly counsel of other grounded believers. And when this is faithfully received and acted upon, we can depend on experiencing a multitude of God's great promises like the one found in Proverbs 3:5-6.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths."

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The World's Most Dangerous Animals?

Recently I saw an article on the web that grabbed my attention. It was nothing earthshaking or some story that had urgent world-wide appeal or implications. It was just plain interesting – well at least it was to me. The source of the piece was It is an organization that deals with conservation issues.

It began with this statement. “When you’re out hiking or swimming in nature, what creatures do you dread encountering? Many of us automatically think of creatures with gnashing teeth or razor sharp claws. Animals like lions, tigers, jaguars, sharks, and grizzly bears inspire plenty of fear. Many of the deadliest animals in the world however are quite small and sometimes even innocuous looking. Let’s take a look at the top 10 dangerous animals you should avoid both large and small.”

The article then went on to list these highly dangerous creatures, most of which would not be the choice of many of us. To see the entire article go to their website here.

I’m not sure if the order of deadly creatures was significant or not. But here are just a few that were given. Surprisingly it was the Jellyfish that was described at the outset. They shared that most all Jellyfish are dangerous. But then stated that the Wasp Jellyfish is the most deadly and is the most venomous animal on planet Earth! That one shocked me.

Next on the list was Cone Snail. Despite looking fairly harmless, this creature is also quite deadly. As a matter of fact, just one drop of its venom can kill twenty human adults. And there is also no antivenin. And once stung by one of these, you will almost certainly die within just minutes.

Third on the list was not as shocking to me. It was the Black Mamba snake. This critter  may look less fearsome than the Hooded Cobra, but it is arguably more dangerous. It lives primarily in Africa and has an aggressive nature when approached. The venom of the Black Mamba is extremely toxic. It typically causes collapse in humans within 45 minutes or less and death typically in 7–15 hours without any antivenom.

The other creatures that filled out the most deadly group included the Cape Buffalo, Siafu Ant, Death Stalker Scorpion. Puffer Fish, Hyena, and the Stone Fish – the most venomous ‘fish’ on the planet. And as stated, with the exception of the 2,000-pound Cape Buffalo, most of these creatures are quite small considering how deadly they can be when encountered in the wild.

But the article also included one more on list of deadly creatures. And when I saw it, I was both surprised and also not so surprised at the same time. Number 10 was humans. It said this. “Human beings may not stand to win in a fair fight against most of these species, but thanks to our ingenuity, we have learned how to arm ourselves with weapons and tools which have placed us at the top of the food chain. We also get extra points on the deadly scale for our aggression, not only toward other animals, but toward each other. No other animal starts worldwide wars or blasts whole regions of the earth into total ruin with nuclear weapons. Without a doubt, the most dangerous animal in the world is the face you see in the mirror each day.” Remind me to not shave or comb my hair anymore!

Although man is a created ‘creature’, he is far more than the others in the group. He has a soul and was made in the image of God according to Genesis 1:27. But when he fell into sin, total depravity instantly followed. And that is why he sadly earned a place, if not first place,  on this infamous list. That truth is even spoken to in James 3:6-8. “The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”

Mankind’s aggression began way back when he first disobeyed God. Sin entered the world along with spiritual and physical death. And sin was passed along, at birth, to everyone from that point forward. Things quickly became so evil and destructive as to force God to wipe out most of the race and start from scratch with just a few righteous souls on the Ark. Man’s tragic blunder also brought chaos and devastating effects into nature itself including animal kingdom.  (Romans 8:20-22)

With all of that said, there is another difference between fallen man and all of the creatures that live side by said with him. As mentioned, man was created with a soul and spirit and was made in God’s own image. Yes, those attributes were damaged by the original sin – thus the current dilemma.  But unlike a Black Mamba, or any other dangerous and deadly beast, man’s basic attitude and nature can in fact be changed. Because he alone has a soul and God’s image stamped upon his heart, he can also rise above terrible and deadly activity. he can overcome the inherited harmful instincts that have plagued the race from almost day one.

And that most radical of changes can come from but one source – the very God who created man in the first place. The one who gave him physical breath in the Garden can also give him new spiritual life in his heart through saving faith in Jesus Christ. (Romans 10:13) That reality can be seen throughout the New Testament. But it is summed up well in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 where Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Some day, in the future, the animal kingdom and nature will be restored to its original healthy state. That glorious picture is seen in Isaiah 11:6. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together.” But for the present, the only way that man can have his faulty selfish attitudes and dangerous behavior be truly modified is to trust Christ as his personal Savior and the Lord of his life. It is then, and only then, when the command found in 1 Peter 1:15 can become a reality and impact our broken world for good. “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Case For Christ

Last night my family made its way to a local theater. It is something we rarely ever do because there is rarely anything these days we feel is worth going to see. So this was a rare exception.

The film opened across the country just a week before Good Friday. That timing was no accident because of the theme. The title is "The Case For Christ". If that sounds at all familiar, there is a reason. The movie was created from a best-selling book by Lee Strobel that has sold some 14 million copies worldwide since the early '80s when it was authored.

The basic premise is this. Mr. Strobel set out to disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He had become angered when his wife became a born-again believer. So in order to do this, the award winning investigative reporter for The Chicago Tribune put all of his considerable talents to work for almost two full years. He was certain that Christianity could not stand up to any real and deep scientific analysis. And his research left no possible angle uncovered. But the more the reporter dug into the known facts, the more he found the exact opposite of what he set out to prove. To make a long story short, he eventually gave in to the reality that Christ was real, died on the cross, was resurrected from the grave and was who He claimed to be – God in the flesh and the Savior of mankind.

This most powerful film was, in my estimation, able to accomplish two great feats at once. First, it serves as an amazing witness to those who might feel like Lee Strobel who was a committed atheist. The film left no doubt as to the veracity of the Gospel accounts surrounding the resurrection. For any who may themselves doubt, or know someone who is rejecting Christ on any level, this would be the film that could speak to their disbelieving heart and change everything!

But the other aspect of "The Case For Christ" is how inspiring it is to those who have already come to Christ through faith. The film, as revealed through Strobel’s careful research, pointed out various aspects that prove out the Biblical accounts. He cites the massive support of the manuscript evidence for the New Testament, expert testimonies from the physiological and medical communities, and other aspects of Biblical criticism and historical data. These all helped Lee Strobel come to the conclusion of the reality and significance of the crucifixion and resurrection of God's Son.

As the film stated, the resurrection is indeed at the core of Christianity. Remove or disprove it, and the faith becomes null and void as is verified in 1 Corinthians 15:16-18. “For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen, And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” But since the resurrection is true, Christ is truly God and therefore able to be the sacrifice for sin and the Savior of man!

If, when you read this, the film is still around, do yourself a favor and take it in. Or perhaps do someone you know who desperately needs Christ a bigger favor, and take them to see it. Either way it is a win, win! You will be encouraged in your faith, or, even better, perhaps see someone come to the saving faith you already possess.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Affordable Care Act. Now What?

As everyone now knows, the repeal of Omabacare by the new Republican Party leadership did not go as hoped for or expected. House leaders recently pulled their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. President Trump said he agreed to do that once Paul Ryan made it clear that the legislation lacked the votes to pass. In subsequent remarks, both Trump and Ryan indicated they were ready to move on from health care to other issues. But that remains to be seen.
Over and over again, GOP leaders argued that their proposal represented the party’s best chance to kill and then fix Obamacare. But efforts to corral enough Republicans failed. That occurred mostly because leaders were dealing with two separate groups whose interests apparently did not fully line up.
To summarize what happened, some conservatives worried that repeal didn’t go far enough, while moderates worried that it went a little too far. And every effort Republican leaders made to appease one group seemed to alienate the other. Regardless of what happens now, and as Republicans regroup for another attempt down the road, health care is likely to remain a subject of intense interest and controversy.
Without question, health care is a major concern for the American people. Any who do not have coverage can feel quite vulnerable and worried about something major happening that would be beyond their ability to handle financially. And it is rather obvious that one’s health has great impact on most every other aspects of life. And any who lives with serious issues in this realm will quickly attest to that sobering reality.
But physical health problems vary from person to person. Some seem live to ripe old ages and experience relatively few issues along the way. Then others seem to have problems almost from day one. And of course there are accidents and others circumstances that bring physical and medical hardships and suffering. But in the end none are fully immune. That is simply a consequence of human sin and eventually everyone sees the physical decline of the human body and then death at some point.
The subject of health care seems to be an ever-present subject in the nation. That will likely not end anytime in the foreseeable future no matter which party is in power. But what does not seem to be much of an issue, despite being far more important ultimately, is the spiritual health of a deeply divided nation. Not nearly as many seem to worry about their spiritual health and eternal destiny as they do about their real and nagging, but temporary, physical issues.
Health care coverage in America is viewed as almost a birth right. Sadly, the spiritual re-birth described clearly in God’s word is often not even part of life’s equation. That is tragic and dangerous on many levels. But while the powers that be squabble about how to best care for the physical needs of an entire nation, perhaps its citizens should begin placing all of their collective needs in the hands of a much higher power. And the wisdom of how to do that, and the result of doing so, is spelled out in Proverbs 3:5-8.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.  It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.”  

It is God alone who can meet all of  the needs and concerns of this life and fully prepare us for the life to follow - one where there will be no more death, sorrow or pain! (Rev. 21:4)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

David Rockefeller Gone at 101

Bank executive, philanthropist and oil fortune heir David Rockefeller died on Monday morning March 20th.  He was 101. The grandson of John D. Rockefeller Sr. and a former chairman and CEO of The Chase Manhattan Bank, died in his sleep of apparent congestive heart failure.

Rockefeller was born in June of 1915. He graduated from Harvard in 1936 and earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago in 1940.  He was reported to be valued at some 3.3 billion dollars at his death. And he is credited with giving away some $2 billion to various causes along the way. He had pledged to donate at least half of his fortune during his life or in his will. The entire family today is said to be worth an estimated at about 11 billion dollars in all.

It is hard for the average person to begin to fathom possessing a fortune like this or anything even close. According to an article in Inside Wealth, the U.S. today has a total of some 10.4 millionaires. And there are now 145,000 U.S. households worth $25 million or more. And another source state that, as of 2016, there were 540 billionaires in the US.  The U.S. Census Bureau reported that almost 12% of households in the U.S. now earn between $100,000 - $150,000 yearly.

But wealth is a relative thing. In some places in the world, there are those who are considered filthy rich who would fall well below the poverty level in America. And then, tragically, there are those who are unable to make any living at all and exist on the literal verge of starvation and death  – with some losing that battle daily. One source said that about 21,000 die of hunger each day and over 7 ½ million each year.

But what does the Bible teach about the place of money in the lives who have it in abundance or may have more than they need to live?  There is no clearer passage on that question than the one seen in 1Timothy 6:19.  “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,  storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

Then too, in Hebrews 13 we find that the worship God includes words about sharing with others who may be in need. Verse 15 begins. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” But how many of us ever consider that our sharing with others in need is a literal form of sacrifice and worship to our God?

In Revelation 3 we read of the Laodicean church. It is labeled ‘The Lukewarm Church’. And many Bible scholars feel this is referring to the overall church of our modern day. But even if not, it still warms about having an attitude where material prosperity interferes with, or totally overshadows, spiritual maturity and the priority of a God-centered life for a Christian.

I know that David Rockefeller gave away vast sums of his fortune while he was alive and perhaps more even after his passing. He is to be highly commended for that and has left a great legacy in the process. Multitudes have bee blessed by his generosity over the years. But what I don’t know is whether or not he had ever become ‘rich’ in Christ before he died. If not, despite his great charitable efforts, it won’t mean anything personally as far as his final destiny in eternity is concerned

For those who have the means to help others materially speaking, some specific, interesting and encouraging promises are offered in Psalm 41:1-3. And perhaps this is worthy of serious and prayerful consideration in light of what is declared there.

“Blessed is he who considers the poor;

The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.

The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive,

And he will be blessed on the earth;

You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.

The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness;

You will sustain him on his sickbed.”

Bill Breckenridge