Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Another Infamous Anniversary

It was the day after Christmas and three years ago today. It stunned the entire world while many were lazily recuperating from the holiday just hours earlier. And it was the deadliest disaster of the modern age. When the monster waves from the devastating Indonesian tsunami subsided, the death toll world-wide would reach a sobering 230,000, with even higher numbers being likely.

Today, foreign governments are still helping Indonesia rebuild. They are also providing high-tech communications equipment and installing a series of strategically placed buoys that would give Indonesia’s coastal communities some warning of an approaching tsunami.

The great disaster of 2004 took the world by surprise. But the timing of the event, being the day after Christmas, underscores what the holiday it so closely followed is really about. The coming of the Christ is ultimately about His death and resurrection. Had he only come to be born as He was, we would be left with merely a touching miracle about God becoming human flesh. We would have the Creator God wrapped in human flesh, but be left without a “Savior”. What would be the point?

Christ’s amazing entry was only half of the story. The rest of the story is revealed in Romans 5:8-9. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” And the utter importance of this other half of the account is later substantiated in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”

Only the saving power of Christ can properly ready an individual through faith to enter eternity. And that fateful day after Christmas 2004 still serves as a chilling reminder of the reality of Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

God has more than adequately warned of the need to be ready now to face him. And whether death comes slowly and peacefully or suddenly and unexpectedly, the words of Hebrews 2:3, despite their setting in a slightly different context, are just one of God’s many early warnings. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation.”

Another pointed caution for those living today is voiced in Mattew 24:37-39. "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."

Christmas, as the hymn writer put it, is about “Joy To The Word”. And Christ Himself said of joy through the writer John in 15:11, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Christmas is also, as Christ put it in John 14:27, about peace. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

True peace with God and supernatural joy come only through the One who dissected time, then died in it for us, that we might someday live beyond it eternally with Him.

Bill Breckenridge

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It’s in the Cards

The many Christmas cards sent by President and Mrs. George W. Bush have been warmly received by thousands of recipients, but the cynics, critics and unbelievers had their usual critical field day again this year. The most ill-reasoned response came from Barbara Walters speaking on The View. Walters said this year’s card was the most religious White House Christmas card in her memory.

The Huffington Post from December 13 said the card included "explicit religious references beyond just a Bible verse." Then, reading potent religious messages into a general greeting, The Huffington Post called it a "super-Christian" card and declared, "But whereas in previous years the President and the First Lady opted for messages of happiness, goodwill, and peace, this year featured the following closer: May the joy of all creation fill your heart this blessed season 2007."

What does the card actually say?

The back of the card describes the cover’s painting of the East colonnade and acknowledges of the artist, David Drummond and offers a brief explanation of the garden depicted in the painting. The back also reads, "Paid for by the Republican National Committee," so our taxes haven’t paid for it.

The inside inscriptions really gets to the sensitive secular people. Under the gold Presidential Seal is this verse:

You alone are the LORD.
You made the heavens, even the highest heavens,
and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it,
the seas and all that is in them.
You give life to everything
and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
Nehemiah 9:6 (NIV)
A personal wish follows in larger letters:
May the joy of all creation
fill your heart this blessed season.

Under that are the signatures of George and Laura Bush.

What is the criticism all about? First, a verse in George Bush’s card is nothing new, so why make a fuss this year? I checked the previous seven White House Christmas cards, and they all contain Bible verses from the Old Testament. Second, it reveals the abysmal ignorance of Christian truth. Third, it’s a subtle slam at political figures expressing any kind of public religious sentiment.

The spiritual friction, though reflecting no illegality, may actually be subtle displeasure with solid Bible doctrine. Perhaps the secular critics are uneasy about the President expressing the truth about God and, by extension, Jesus. "LORD" in capital letters means "Jehovah" or "the self existent one." Any believing Jew would subscribe to that. How can that be criticized as being Christian? This LORD is said to have made the heavens and the earth. Is there a problem with that?

The verse says that the LORD gave life to everything. Could it be that offends atheists and others who embrace evolution or those who believe that presidents and first ladies shouldn’t express their personal belief in a Creator of all things?

The Bible opens, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). God created man in His image (Gen. 1:27). Further, the LORD (meaning Jehovah as it is in Neh. 9:6) is identified as the newborn Christmas king. When John said, "Prepare ye the way of the LORD" (Matt. 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4), he was quoting from Isaiah 40:3 and identifying Jesus as Jehovah.

Or is it a nagging irritation by the secular critics that the greeting is an expression of the President’s personal religious beliefs? Wishing someone the joy of all creation could be saying in effect, "God bless you," which is evidently some Christian overreach according to Barbara Walters. Job 38:7 says, "…the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy," and the President believes that.

Most Americans would be happy to receive a Christmas card picturing the White House and mailed from Crawford, Texas. But the super-sensitive see sinister religious offense in all this.

It appears there is a growing secular irritation across America. There are fewer manger scenes on lawns—much less on public property—and there is strife over even saying "Merry Christmas" in a business establishment. Barbara Walters’ agitation is in keeping with attempts to exclude the Person and meaning of the holiday (a word that really means "holy day"), which even the atheists enjoy as a work break.

For the record, here are the verses from the President George W. Bush’s previous White House Christmas cards: 2000 – Jeremiah 29:13 (KJV), 2001 – Psalm 27:8, 13 (RSV), 2002 – Psalm 100:5 (KJV), 2003 – Job 10:12 (NASB), 2004 – Psalm 95:2 (NIV), 2005 – Psalm 28:7 (RSV), 2006 – Psalm 119:108 (KJV)

We compliment the President for eight years of Biblical greetings in the White House Christmas cards. There really is no problem. Maybe the people who do see a problem are the problem.

David Virkler

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Magna Carta Copy Sells for $21.3 Million

It is 710 years old, only a copy of the original, and the former property of the Ross Perot Foundation. And this week it sold at Sotheby's auction for $21.3 million. It is one of the most famous and meaningful documents ever penned. It is the Magna Carta.

Wikipedia describes the Magna Carta as follows: "An English charter originally issued in 1215. Magna Carta was the most significant early influence on the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law today. Magna Carta influenced the development of the common law and many constitutional documents, such as the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, and is considered one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy.”

Interestingly, the preamble begins with the words "Know that before God". That is then immediately followed by the first of 63 articles which starts out saying, “First, that we have granted to God”.

In the Declaration of Independence, America's forefathers fully recognized the supremacy of God over nations and the affairs of men. They began their great document, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."

Certain historical documents 'seem' at times nearly supernatural when considering their amazing wisdom and impact. But absolute perfection in print is reserved for the revelation of God. The evidence is described in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness". The word inspiration carries the meaning of "God-breathed".

Then Hebrew 4:12 reveals the unique ability and absolute power of God's Word. "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."

Freedom's great writings have allowed those who have been blessed to live under them to experience, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But the primary and ultimate value of living in freedom is the ability to worship in freedom and the freedom to openly share one’s faith. And those who experience such liberty should be careful to remain deeply thankful for a lifestyle envied by much of the world.

Living ”the American Dream” through a carefully crafted democracy “of the people and for the people” is a good thing, but it is not the only thing or best thing. Even possesing all the the so-called "good life" has to offer pales dramatically in comparison when stacked against the abundant and eternal life Christ himself offered in John 8:36.

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." John 8:36

Bill Breckenridge

The 'Other’ Star Wars

Can one galaxy declare war on another? Well, not exactly like the scenes from the Star Wars movies. But there is today a real life battle “in a galaxy far, far away.”

“What we've identified is an act of violence by a black hole, with an unfortunate nearby galaxy in the line of fire," said Dan Evans, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge.

He further commented, “Any planets orbiting the stars of the smaller galaxy would be dramatically affected, and any life forms would likely die as the jet's radiation transformed the planets' atmosphere.” Astronomers have called the activity “an act of galactic violence” the likes of which they have never before seen.

Science has allowed man to see far into the creation and discover not only what is there, but often what is occurring there. Their findings typically include the destruction or death of some heavenly body. And while this is interesting, it should serve as no real surprise to any student of the Scriptures.

In his great doctrinal masterpiece to the church at Rome, the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8 about sin’s dire consequences on a once flawless universe. Beginning in verse 19 he states, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”

When mankind fell into sin, he dragged the entire creation down with him - even “until now”.And while both man and his environment were cursed by that fateful decision in the Garden of Eden, that will be ultimately reversed at some future time. Man’s redemption begins when he accepts Christ and is reclaimed and re-made according to 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Although forgiven and indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit, man’s total and final perfection will someday come when Christ comes for His church. This will usher in the end of a ‘groaning’ physical creation, thus completing God’s miraculous rescue of the world of men and the world of worlds!

In Romans 8 Paul later describes this highly anticipated union in theological terms in verses 23-24. “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

The practical outcome of God’s spiritual adoption of His people is found back in the same chapter starting with verse 14. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father'. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

For the moment the battles of the creation rage on. But for the Christian, while the battles remain intense, the war has been won with the victory coming by way of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. With the coming of the King of Kings will also come the end of all pain and sorrow. That glorious time will bring relief for embattled galaxies “far, far away,” and lasting peace and joy for every redeemed resident of planet Earth.

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

‘Invasion of The E-mail Snatchers’

Until the computer age, it was an inexpensive, ready-to-serve, canned meat which was often the target of jokes even while at times keeping poorer families from entering the poor house. If you are over 50 years of age, you may have guessed right. It is SPAM, the much maligned substance that can actually be quite tasty if prepared correctly, or if one has a serious head cold.

But more recently, the term ‘spam’ has been hijacked and finds its most familiar context in cyberspace. This time, unlike with the edible kind, the internet version has few if any adoring fans. Even though the 2004 US CAN-SPAM Act tried to limit the tidal wave of junk e-mail on the internet, the flood of unwanted messages is as bad, or worse, than ever.

According to the California-based Barracuda Networks Inc., junk messaging made up 70% of all email in 2004. But shockingly, since the passage of the Spam Act, it jumped to a staggering 95 percent in 2007. The findings were based on a study using a billion e-mail messages received daily by its approximately 50,000 customers worldwide. This largely unwanted cyber-invasion has meant that anyone hoping to avoid the constant online intrusion must install defensive software to negate the annoying and sometime harmful electronic pests.

E-mail, whether good or bad, is but one of the many competing voices screaming at people through a sophisticated culture. But the computer is just one avenue for sellers to push their wares to gain the attention and bend the opinions of many disgusted and overwhelmed consumers.

For Christians, this entire issue can serve as a vivid reminder about not getting side tracked by the onslaught of competing and meaningless messages coming from a mostly godless world. It has become increasingly easy for the priorities of the faith to be lost in the midst of so many persistent voices, all vying for our limited time, attention and resources. . And part of successful hearing and obeying is to first sift through and prioritize what is good and important versus what is not.

The Old Testament warns repeatedly about the blessings of accurately hearing, and then obeying, the voice of the Lord. The consequences of failure to do the same are also clearly stated.

The New Testament also conveys the crucial nature of open ears when dealing with spiritual matters. In his last book, the writer John says in Rev 3:20-21: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." The promise is clear and sure. But the ears must be unclogged to respond correctly to God’s merciful offer.

In a modern stressful world, filled with clamoring and confusing voices, the believer’s spiritual heath can be greatly impacted by his or her ability to filter out all the constant godless and meaningless ‘spam’. And that best begins by taking to heart the brief words of God spoken through the lips of the Psalmist in 46:10, "Be still , and know that I am God."

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, December 17, 2007

Vote and Pray

Primary elections are often skipped by voters whose only political stimulus is a national or state-wide election—check out the pathetic primary voter turnouts and weep. However, primary elections are a serious and decisive winnowing process.

Casting a vote is rendering to Caesar what is his rightful due as Christ commanded in Luke 22:25. Caesar is the highest political authority. In America, "Caesar" is the Constitution, which gives ultimate government to its citizens. Let no one who fails to vote ever complain about mediocre government. He can only say, "We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us."

We should also be praying for the primary candidates since their campaigns are influential in themselves. I Timothy 2:1-5 says, "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." (emphasis mine) People in authority are these with special prominence and influence, and that would include not only current elected officials but those who seek higher office.

Prayer for those in "authority" would be for the candidates, and prayer for "all men" would be for the general electorate. We should be praying for the former to tell the truth about themselves and for the latter to act in spiritual wisdom.

It is important to note that Paul also places political praying in the context of evangelism. We should not merely check a candidate’s specific faith. We should also discern whether their views allow freedom of Gospel outreach.

If we vote, and a candidate not to our liking wins, at least we have fulfilled our responsibility. If we absent ourselves from voting, we remove our influence and someone wins by our default. As someone once said, "The most important thing we do is nothing!"

Dave Virkler

What Do They Believe?

This U.S. presidential election cycle’s primary debates have often focused on candidates’ personal religious beliefs. Nearly every candidate claims to have some guiding personal religious principles. However, when specific issues of doctrines are mentioned, most of them take refuge in the concept that it’s unconstitutional to have a religious test or they say that what they believe pales in comparison with what their personal lives and records show. Some have gone so far as to say they believe in Christ as Savior and that the Bible is the Word of God, but some add that religious grilling is off limits.

A number of truths are evident. The United States Constitution does indeed forbid a religious test for the office of president. However, individual voters are responsible to carefully listen to the candidates’ principles and statements and to search their records. One candidate has said that his faith defines him, most others more generally say that their faith influences them. It is the voter’s responsibility to study the particular doctrines of the religious affiliations of each candidate.

Christian voters have a special concern based on Biblical principles, and they should view primary season as a time to become informed. With public debates and a near infinitude of Internet resources, pleas of ignorance are unacceptable.

The notion that a man’s beliefs and performance are separate is unscriptural and absurd. Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." Christ put it just as directly in Matt 12:34-36 "…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things."

God’s character search sees past political rhetoric. "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. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:12-13)

When considering those who have influence, we should take seriously 2 Sam 23:3. "…The Rock of Israel spoke to me: ‘He who rules over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God.’"

If Christians fail to carefully examine candidates’ religious and moral views, we vote in ignorance and perhaps do not choose the best candidate. But just being a Christian doesn’t make a good president any more than being a good Christian makes one a good surgeon. If faith drives expert statesmanship, it’s a windfall bonus.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is Mankind Evolving Upward?

It has been the theme of countless science fiction plots. And now an anthropologist at the University of Utah suggests it’s true. Henry Harpending’s theory concludes that the human species is not static but evolving upward, with the most dramatic increases coming during the last 10,000 years. By his view, and given enough time, mankind could eventually develop in to a super race with super powers not unlike many of those sci-fi movies portray.

The evolution of man’s mental capacity is not a topic foreign to Scripture. In Daniel’s prophecy chapter 12, God predicts man’s intellectual rise. Verse 4 reads, "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." These words certainly ring true when considering the computer age and the staggering advances in every imaginable field in the last half century.

Whether or not mankind is evolving is a subject of ongoing debate. But the Bible speaks of an increase of something far more significant than man’s improving mental ability, or even his physical capacity.

2 Timothy 3 predicts a distinct upswing of sin to occur just prior to the Lord’s return to earth. In the first four verses he writes, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Then he adds an interesting phrase to the mix and one perhaps relating to man’s mental progression. Speaking of man during this declining time frame he says in verse 7, “Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."

The sad reality is that no mental or physical prowess can make up for, or undo, the devastating effects of sin. The rather obvious rise of wickedness and evil in the modern world seems to be peaking while having been man’s great pitfall since that fateful moment in the garden. And whatever he learns, invents, discovers or improves upon cannot ever reverse its awful effects – with one notable exception.

Romans 1:28 reveals man’s basic dilemma from day one. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.”

But then in 1 Tim 2:2-4 we read of a form of knowledge that can lead to the defeat of sin and the repair of the great gulf between God and man. “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.” That great truth spoken of there is then shared in verses 5 and 6. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all."

Then the Apostle Peter completes the equation. He adds what an evolving knowledge of God’s Word should achieve after the true knowledge of salvation in Christ enters and alters the heart. In 2 Peter 1:2-3 he declares, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him.”

That is not only a great promise, but a remover of any excuse for resisting temptation and not living a committed and victorious Christian life.

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Alien Invasion?

The inscrutable violence at Colorado’s Youth With A Mission Training Center in the dead of night followed only hours later by carnage at the huge New Life Church in broad daylight left four dead and five wounded. Coming on the heels of a youth’s slaughter of shoppers in Omaha, NE, many are simply asking, "Why?"

There are probable social answers, but few secular analysts will offer a spiritual basis. Dysfunctional families, drug abuse, media degradation, sexual immorality and the rejection of Biblical truth all combine to produce warped thinking and sometimes a reign of terror.

In the Omaha case, inadequate home life, loneliness and rejection will surely figure in. Feeling ignored, the young man desperately wanted to be remembered. Sadly, he will be. Gaining fame by murder is a fast track to infamy, but it leaves an indelible legacy of death, suffering and painful memories. The attack on YWAM and the church appears to have a more focused motive of revenge following a falling out with the mission. Perhaps a Scriptural truth about demonism best accounts for these irrational rampages.

In John 8:44, Jesus Christ exposes the Devil for the murderer he is—" murderer from the beginning." In John 10:10, He says he comes to steal and kill. According to the Bible, evil is first personified in the fallen angel Satan (Is. 14:12-16; Ezek. 28:11–19). Fallen human nature is essentially bad (Jer. 17:9). Evil is pluralized in those with poor spiritual defenses or who deliberately invite demons within.

Horrific events and the people involved that defy neat analysis may be caused by a demonic outbreak—the assassinations of presidents Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy, the Laci Peterson case, the Nicole Simpson/Ron Goldman/O.J. Simpson issue, the JonBenet Ramsey murder, the numerous slaughters on high school and college campuses, and now death in Colorado come to mind as examples. Somehow, meticulous analyses and investigations leave unanswered mysteries that only an eruption of demonism might account for. The Devil hates God and the Gospel, and he warps minds, distorts reality and beclouds issues because he’s the great deceiver.

Revelation 12 may explain much of the madness. Satan (the great dragon) is seen ejected from Heaven and taking one third of the stars (apparently other angels) with him. Israel is the woman whose lineage gives us Christ. Surging spiritual warfare is described on the night Christ was born. "And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron" (Rev. 12:4-5 – emphasis mine).

Rev. 4:11 indicates that there were at least 100 million unfallen angels originally. If the fallen are one third of the original total, that means that the number of fallen angels, or demons, would be 50 million—plenty to deploy for special chaos. This collision of demons with many good angels over Bethlehem is referred to in Luke 2:13. A multitude of the heavenly host actually means a plethora of the heavenly host indicating a vast number were at Bethlehem. It was a huge angelic warfare, which God’s angels won.

Rev. 12:11 announces, "And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death." Receiving Christ as Savior and being filled with the Holy Spirit means we can resist and overcome these satanic attacks. It’s a defense that increasing numbers of people in our troubled world are without. The very end times are marked with demonic invasion. "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time" (Rev. 12:12).

Believers need the resistance strength of James 4:7 & 8b: "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."

Dave Virkler

Al Gore Wins The Nobel Prize

Former Vice President, turned environmentalist, Al Gore, has received the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on global climate control. The prize, first awarded in 1901, is given each year on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel.

In his acceptance speech, Gore declared, "Now, we and the Earth's climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: 'Mutually assured destruction.'" Then getting more personal, he said, "The United States and China - the world's leading emitters of greenhouse gases - will stand accountable before history if they don't take the lead in that global challenge." Gore continued by saying, "It is time to make peace with the planet."

The jury is still out on whether or not global warming is for real or prompted by mankind rather than natural forces, as some claim. But one thing is for certain, there was a time when peace was made with our planet, but in a way far more crucial than anything dealing with our physical world.

The subject of peace runs throughout the Bible from the Old Testament to the New. God's Word is crystal clear about man's accountability before a holy God and his dire need of making peace with Him.

In Colossians chapter one, we read how spiritual peace has come to our planet through Jesus Christ. Verse 19 says, "For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross." Then Romans 5:1 expands on that concept and hones in on the potential reality of a repaired union between God and man. "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ".

Along with securing a heavenly future, those in Christ also can enjoy the amazing level of comfort and stability in this life as spoken of in John 14:27. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

The material world is a blessed gift from a loving God. It is a treasure only surpassed by the matchless love for mankind by the Creator who made it. It should never be taken for granted or intentionally misused.

In just two weeks after the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, much of the world will celebrate the coming of the one who created all things and who divided human history. As the God-Man, Christ's stunning incarnation and His subsequent death provided the staggering gift of redemption and peace with God. His miraculous coming, His lofty titles, and His lasting impact can all be seen in a portion of that great Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah - so often cited at this most significant time of the year.

"For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end,"

The time may indeed be short on earth for man to make peace, not just with his environment, but with the great Emmanuel - which is translated, "God with us."

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, December 10, 2007

What Is Your Compass?

Each year at the Christmas season, Hollywood battles for moviegoer dollars, after having prepared what they hope will be the year's smash hit. So far, the top income earner has been "The Golden Compass". Previews will immediately remind viewers of recent blockbusters like "The Chronicles of Narnia" and, before that, "The Lord of The Rings" trilogy. And while the cinematography of ‘Compass’ may be similar, that is where the similarity ends.

Based on the first of his "Dark Materials" trilogy of books, "The Golden Compass" was authored by Philip Pillman. The film has brought outrage from numerous religious circles. It is targeted at children and, with each consecutive plot, the author’s destructive take on Christianity, religion, and God is further revealed.

Focus on The Family’s movie review ministry, "Plugged In", said the following concerning the production. "Even watered down, 'The Golden Compass' is still awash in a twisted worldview and dark spirituality, the anticipation of which has prompted many Christian groups to point out the damage some of Pullman's themes can do. Newsweek writer Devin Gordon noted, "While references to 'the church' are gone from the film, no one over four feet tall could mistake the Magisterium for anything but an oppressive theocracy." And church historian Dr. Quinn Fox stated, "Pullman's simplistically harsh view of the church and God posit a power-hungry, misanthropic institution out of control, and a detached, domineering God devoid of grace."

The outspoken author reportedly said to the Sydney Morning Herald in 2003, while referring to the Harry Potter phenomenon, "I've been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said. My books are about killing God." This should be especially disconcerting when coupled with a statement from one British secular web site for the entertainment industry. "For anyone who sees this show, it will remain one of their most memorable theatrical experiences. If they take a child with them, that child will be hooked for life and surely that is the most important of all."

Parental discernment in recent times, even in many Christian homes, seems to have fallen on hard times. It seems more the exception than the rule when anything is seen potentially harmful or just wrong, and prompting a strong stand to be taken against it. To do so is to be sometimes seen as being narrow-minded or even worse, the much feared label of ‘holier then thou’.

It also appears that even many ultimately give in, even when their spirit senses that something might be spiritually damaging to their kids. Perhaps they fall due to fatigue or from wanting to be the ‘good guys’. More often than not, it is due to the constant badgering and clever usage of every child’s best weapon, "Why can’t I? Everyone else is watching it." The typical response to that when I was young was simply, "If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?" Naturally I always answered yes, but the discussion was already over and the decision rendered! Perhaps that great comeback expression needs to make a serious come back into in our day.

The Apostle Paul laid out a basic formula for what should be allowed to pass through our ears, eyes, and then to lodge in our hearts. In Philippians 4:8-9 he wrote, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure , whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things."

The question of what to allow or exclude should never be only, What harm may it cause? The Christian should evidence a higher standard, asking instead, What good will it achieve? And also will it edify my spirit, strengthen my relationship with the Lord , and encourage me to better live for Him and be like Him?

Simply stated, our only "compass" should be God’s Word and God’s will.

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Remembering Pearl Harbor

A wise man once said, "Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it," a variation of the thought that says, "The only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history." World War II veterans are dying at a rate of 1,200 hundred each day, and Pearl Harbor anniversaries slip past with less attention. In fact, Jessica Maccaro, a historian at the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center says, "We’re operating with a certain sense of urgency… These are stories that are disappearing at the rate of 1,000 at a time. It’s that impetus, to get these experiences preserved and shared and told before we miss that opportunity." Of the more than 16 million Americans who served in World War II, only about 3 million are left, most in their 80s.

One story that seems to be recalled only in Christian blogs, programs and publications is the miraculous account of God’s amazing grace stretching from Pearl Harbor to Japan.

In the morning hours of December 7, 1941, Japanese air ace Captain Mitsuo Fuchida ordered his torpedo bombers to devastate the American Pacific Fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. When he and the others flew away, US ships lay capsized, sunk or damaged, and 2,117 US servicemen died. Although he suffered broken legs and inspected the ashes of Hiroshima, Fuchida was the only attacking officer to survive the war.

President Franklin Roosevelt reacted to the "Day of Infamy" as he called it by urging Congress to declare war the next day. Soon after, he called General Jimmy Doolitle from retirement to organize a surprise attack on Japan. On April 18, 1942, 16 B-25s were to launch from the aircraft carrier the USS Hornet, bomb select Japanese targets, and fly into friendly China and be available for future service. But their secrecy was blown by a surprise discovery by a Japanese boat, and Doolittle had to launch his planes early. They accomplished their mission and Japan’s confidence in their military was shaken, but the planes were terribly out of sync with the flight plan, and they arrived over China in the dark. All the US planes were either lost at sea or over China as crews bailed out.

Jacob DeShazer, a nominal Christian, was bombardier on plane #16. He parachuted into a cemetery in an area of China controlled by Japan. He was captured, interrogated in Tokyo and imprisoned for 40 months. Tortured and losing three friends to execution, DeShazer’s hatred grew until the Emperor ordered better treatment of the POWs and they were given a Bible. Their captors thought it portrayed Christ as a weakling and that reading the book would demoralize the men. DeShazer came to see Christ as the loving and forgiving Savior and was marvelously born again. Transformed, his hatred turned to love, and he vowed that if ever freed, he’d return to Japan as a missionary, which he did in 1948.

After the war, General MacArthur’s plea for Christian missionaries to fill the spiritual void was answered by many. Because Jake DeShazer’s story was so unique, print versions were distributed. In a Tokyo rail station, Mitsuo Fuchida happened by and, curious about DeShazer, read the story. He obtained a Bible and believed in Christ as his Savior.

At that time DeShazer, who was starting many new Christian churches, went on a 40-day fast to experience even more impact for the Lord. The day after the fast ended, Fuchida came to introduce himself and publicly profess Christ. Both men appeared together before amazed Japanese audiences to share Christ.

Fuchida later traveled widely with Pocket Testament League in the US and Europe. He once said that if he had known Christ before Pearl Harbor, he could never have led the attack on innocent Americans. Fuchida went to be with the Lord on May 30, 1976.

In 1986, General Doolittle received Christ through the ministry of the Gideons, standing to accept the Lord as the visiting Gideons sang "Amazing Grace." He went to Heaven in 1993 at age 96. DeShazer still lives in Oregon, one of the few remaining of the original 80 Doolittle Raiders.

We remember Pearl Harbor, but there is a better pearl in Scripture whose redemption price and purchased possession is especially focused on December 7 and December 25. "The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it"(Matthew 13:45 & 46). I believe that we are the pearl of great price that Christ came to seek and save.

The old song says, "He the pearly gates will open, so that I might enter in, For He purchased my redemption, and forgave me all my sin," no doubt a reference to the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21:21: "The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass."

Heaven is the everlasting Pearl Harbor. I hope I’ll meet you there along with Mitsuo Fuchida, Jacob DeShazer and Jimmy Doolittle.

David Virkler

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

An Unlikely Rescuer

An illegal immigrant became an unlikely hero in the Arizona desert by rescuing a 9-year boy. The child and his mom were riding in a remote camping area when the mother lost control of her van, which then plunged 300 feet into a canyon north of Phoenix.

Unfortunately, the 45-year old mom was pinned in the vehicle and eventually died as a result. Meanwhile Jesus Manuel Cordova, a Mexico citizen who was sneaking into the U.S., came upon the scene and made a difficult decision. He got involved. After trying, but failing, to free the mother from the wreckage, he turned his attention on the disoriented boy. As temperatures dropped, he gave the child a jacket, built a bonfire and comforted him until local hunters came along and called authorities for help.

The shaken boy, although physically fine now, will have to deal with seeing his mother die. Sadly, that comes just two months after the death of his father. Cordova, who could have fled the scene and hidden himself, was taken into custody by Border Patrol agents who were the first to respond to the call for help.

Nothing warms the heart and restores confidence in mankind in general more than seeing someone rise to the occasion in a crisis. This is even more reassuring when the one doing so does it at the expense of his or her own personal well-being.

The Arizona rescue should serve to focus believers on sacrifical service for others. In Galatians 6 the Apostle Paul urged those in Christ to this end with the emphasis being on those in the family of God. He writes in verse 8, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Philippians 2 then provides Christians with a simple reminder of the lengths their Savior went to perform His stunning rescue of those He loved. Verse 7, speaking of Christ says, “taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Lastly, the actions by Jesus Manuel Cordova, in a country not his own, can be a reminder the status of those early Christians forever honored in Hebrews 11. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

No matter where a Christian plants his feet on planet earth, his ultimate loyalty, residence, and final destiny is elsewhere. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Phil. 3:20

Bill Breckenridge

Bracing For Another Disaster?

The National Geophysical Data Center and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences have completed tsunami maps of three more East Coast areas. The purpose of the effort is for predicting the risks in specified locations. Tsunamis are caused when geological movements occur under the ocean, potentially sending massive waves crashing ashore.

The agency devised digital elevation models for Long Island, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Daytona Beach in Florida. Each reveals the makeup of the seafloor and the surrounding land elevations. This brings the total number of such maps to 21 nationwide. Lisa Taylor, the project manager for the study stated, "Tsunamis are a real threat to coastal communities across the world, including the United States.

”Most will recall the massive tsunami in December of 2004 that killed more than 230,000 people and left a half million homeless in a dozen countries. It is hoped the newly acquired data will help evaluate the potential impact of a similar catastrophe.

One of the many blessings of modern life can be the variety of warning systems which technology has brought. For example, as terrible as Hurricane Katrina was, the loss of life would have been horrendous had the storm not been foreseen as it was. And few things are more helpful than current medical procedures where early warnings can be a literal matter of life and death.

Most everyone appreciates being warned in advance and given opportunity to prepare accordingly. And while new ways of doing so continue to advance, there is one area of life where the most serious warning of all has gone virtually unchanged for centuries.

Scripture goes to great lengths to provide men and women more than fair warning concerning their own spiritual condition. Romans chapter one gives perhaps the best overview of sin’s cause and effects. Verse 18 states, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” This is but one of the numerous no-nonsense warnings saying that a holy God must and will deal with all who willingly deny His existence and resist His redemptive plan.

God’s simple, but fully effective, preparation for the soul is described throughout His letter to the Romans. Chapter three states that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is man’s tragic situation. In chapter five, we read, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That is God’s loving reaction. Then in Romans ten we find, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” That is man’s only option to what is God’s solitary solution.

A timely warning may be helpful in avoiding some of life’s common pitfalls. But failure to know about and properly ready one’s heart for the coming certain judgement is beyond unimaginable. The author of Hebrews adds his weight on the subject writing in 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Preparation and survival in a fallen world, or even possessing all its many treasures, is utterly futile if the ultimate question of Matthew 16:26 is not properly answered. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Holocaust Documents Opened

The Red Cross has decided to make public World War II archives from the International Tracing Service. The organization owns records from the infamous Nazi persecution known as the Holocaust.

That horrendous event was the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jews by Nazi Germany. Between 1933 and 1945 approximately six million Jews were killed - which factors out to be 2 of every 3 who lived in occupied Europe.

It seems that the Nazi regime kept precise records on their own crimes which have been revealed in no less than 50 million documents. The world has long been shocked at the inhumane brutality inflicted during the Holocaust and may now have details on how and when so many met their unjust and unmerciful end.

The sheer scope of the WWII atrocities rivals anything in human history. But even these horrifying numbers are but the proverbial ‘drop in the bucket’ when compared to the overall number of sins committed by all of us stretching from Eden's Garden until the present hour.

In Psalm 51 a repentant David recognized that his personal offense went far beyond the human sphere. In verse 4 he cries out to a holy God, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.” This understanding was crucial. But it was also only step one of the restoration process.

Many comprehend that they have sinned. Some even see their offense as ultimately against their Creator. But to stop at that point accomplishes nothing.

David shows his spiritual perception by taking step two in verses 7 and 10. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” His cry of admittance back in verse 4 was then matched by his plea for cleansing – the reality of a serious desire to again be right with God.

But then David reveals a third step in the process, and one often overlooked by Christians even after they restore fellowship with the Lord. In verse 13 he declares, “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You."

”This man’s desire stretched beyond even regaining the joy of His salvation and close companionship with the God he loved. His goal was also to outwardly evidence his walk with God and thereby draw others to his Lord. That completes the final stage and should be the concluding aspect of every restoration equation.

When believers sincerely and humbly approach God to deal with some sin issue, large or small, their desire and their duty should always lead to verse 15. “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise.”

Bill Breckenridge