Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Super Bowl Seating

This year’s Super Bowl tickets are bringing incredible prices. Resale on e-bay and in other ways is pushing tickets usually selling for $700 up to several thousand dollars—a ticket resold for $4,000 is not unusual. Some less-than-prime seats are advertised as "the worst seats in the house," yet cost at least $2,000. I noted one eager seat-seeker on the Internet who was offering up to $7,000 per seat for two to four tickets—that’s a total of up to $28,000. This year’s gridiron collision between the unbeaten New England Patriots and the "comeback kids" New York Giants will be a historic contest, but seat rental for a couple of hours is costing eager fans a fortune.

And merely sitting there is not the total expense of the Super Bowl visit. Hotel prices are about triple the usual cost, and a single night is probably not available. Other amenities are correspondingly raised. Think of it—a seat for an evening and a bed for a night could push people into the monetary stratosphere. Travel costs are on top of all that.

Some of these debts will probably be put on credit cards meaning people will likely be paying steep interest charges for a long time. Or, if the money is withdrawn from savings, the interest is lost. Some ticket purchasers may be somberly regretful when reality strikes in the off season. An empty feeling may set in when actions taken in the fever of the sports moment may prove the word of a preacher I once heard, "People are not satisfied, they are merely pacified."

The prophet Isaiah chided his people asking, "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy…?"(Isa. 55:2). Jesus Christ provides the best rest and seating in the universe. He invites, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt 11:28-30). Hebrews 4:9 offers the perfect recliner, "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God."

Through Christ, believers have the best seating ever. From the frustrating quagmire of sin, we are elevated to sitting with the King as Ephesians 2:4-9 promises. "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (emphasis mine).

It’s a gift. There is no expense. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). That’s a free ticket to Heaven purchased by Christ’s precious blood.

God’s rest is permanent including free seating with Heaven’s King. Long after earth’s Super Bowls have faded from memory, all of God’s children saved by grace will be enjoying the benefits of royal living.

Dave Virkler

A Strip Maul

The Gaza Strip has been mauled. Hamas bulldozers tore down the metal border wall between Gaza and Egypt, and now there are problems on both sides of the border—first between the Palestinians and Israel to the north and, now, between Egypt and the Palestinians on the south.
Tourists who have traveled from Israel to Egypt can readily understand the area’s significance. That border is where pilgrims change buses and go through customs at a town called Rapha, which is at the Promised Land border area identified with a stream called "the River of Egypt" (Gen. 15:18, Numbers 34:5, Joshua 15:4, 47, I Kings 8:65, II Kings 27:4, and Isaiah 27:12).

In retaliation for unrelenting rocket attacks on Sderot, Israel sealed the border. That meant that huge amounts of Israeli imports were withheld, which showed the astonishing dependency of the Palestinians on Israel. When the border fence with Egypt was flattened, thousands of Palestinians surged across to buy food and other goods. The Associated Press reported, "Rami Abdou, an economic analyst, estimated that Gazans, in two days, spent $130 million in Egypt after the wall was torn down by Hamas, ‘a princely sum’ for the poverty-stricken territory."

Egypt is concerned about illegal immigrants coming into the country from Palestine and about border terrorists smuggling people and supplies into Palestine to further harass Israel, which worsens relations between Israel and Egypt.

Further, Israel is concerned about terrorists moving freely into Sinai (in Egypt) to kidnap Israeli civilians living there. There are already smugglers’ tunnels under both the Egypt/Palestine and Palestine/Israel borders.

Economically, the problem is not poverty but politics, pointing up the issue that Palestinian leadership is uninterested in formal peace but fosters constant irritating agitation to embarrass Israel before the world.

Incidentally, the term "Palestinian" is a misused term. Since Roman times, Palestine encompassed all of present Israel, the land currently contested and all of Jordan. For centuries, Palestinians were those living in Palestine—including Jews, Arabs, Christians, Muslims or whoever. Palestine is always an area, not necessarily defining a special ethnic or religious group. Now, the term Palestinian has been narrowly defined to enhance international opinion against Israel. There has never been a Palestinian people or nation until artificially defined in recent years.

Israeli withdrawal from Gaza strip, a supposed step toward peace, has resulted in less stability. In Gaza, violent Hamas won elected superiority over the somewhat more moderate Fatah led by Abbas who formed a competitive government on the West Bank. The resulting tensions threaten to plunge the area into civil and international wars.

The Gaza Strip, where this chaos prevails, is the ancient land of the Philistines. Bible references to the past and future mention this ethnic group. The region has the actual areas of the five Philistine cities—Gaza, Gath (of Goliath infamy), Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron. The first four exist today, and ancient Ekron’s site was discovered in recent years.

In Old Testament times, Philistia (from which come the terms "Palestine" and "Palestinians") was a constant problem to Israel. For the future, the Bible prophesies an Israeli recapture of that area. Recall that Israel held it from 1967 until the recent pullouts. Isaiah 11:14 declares, "But they shall fly down upon the shoulder of the Philistines toward the west; Together (a unified Israel) they shall plunder the people of the East; They shall lay their hand on Edom and Moab; And the people of Ammon shall obey them." Contextually, this is very late in time and obviously a millennial reference as Isa. 11:6 indicates. "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; and a little child shall lead them."

This forecasts a time when Israel retakes the Gaza strip area along with north and central Jordan. Israel must lose these to retake them. Jordan was lost long ago, and Gaza has been lost piecemeal in our day. Perhaps tensions will grow so severe that Israel’s security can be maintained only by Israel at least retaking the Gaza strip.

However one views this politically, we are living in crucial days prophetically. Watch Israel, Gaza and Jordan. They are critical prophetic Bible lands zooming into prominence in the last of the last days.

Dave Virkler

Ethnic Clashes on The Rise

It is happening again. But again, it's happening all the time. And this time is comes courtesy of Kenya in Africa where recently hundreds have died in ethnic clashes. Violence has spread across the troubled nation as enraged youths have done battle with police there. Reports claim that more than 900 have been killed since the elections amonth ago. Christians should take the opportunity to get involved by praying directly for this situation and others like it around the world.

But the Kenya uprising is a fresh reminder of what can occur when ethnic issues erupt and the flames of hatred are fanned. Most will recall the horrors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda when the struggle there between the Tutsis and Hutu tribes ended with nearly a million deaths.

At the core, ethnic tension is due to sin. But on the surface the conflicts rise because two cultures differ in their standards, goals, ideas and beliefs. And while this is notthe first or last time ethnic groups will bicker, battle, or kill, it is a striking and painful reminder of another epic struggle - one waged between 2 opposing sides whose differences go deeper than any racial tension could bring.

The combatants of this particular battle are outlined in Ephesians 6:12. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." This reality then eventually leads to the general reaction of lost sinners to redeemed saints. Jesus' words describe it well in John 15:19. "Yet because you are notof the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."

With that said, it appears that some in God's family seem to somehow escape the cultural battle ragging about them. They somehow remain neutral and above the fray. This seeming immunity stems from either living like the world, keeping silent about its faults and needs, and by remaining silent about their faith. This makes life much easier, but often falls far short of the direct biblical command in Ephesians 5:11. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."

So what is the gauge of whether or not a believer is standing firm when confronted by the ways of a godless culture? One sure indicator is spelled out in 2 Timothy 3 in what should be one of the most soul-searching verses in the New Testament. Verse 12 reads, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." Those two small words, 'all' and 'will', could not make clearer the normal consequences for any Christian whose faith translates into words and actions.

Salvation is more than an entry way in Heaven. It is also a gateway to Christian service. It is an opportunity to witness to the problem of sin and life-changing power of God made abundantly clear by Jesus in Matthew 5:13-16. "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that isset on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, buton a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

Standing firm and sharing the Gospel of Christ is the duty of every Christian believer. It alone can recreate the heart of man and alter his attitude about sin. And this is true whether it be the so-called 'little white lie' or something as horrifying as ethnic cleansing.

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Ultimate Pro-life Choice

Allard of St. Olaves in the U.K. was presented with a choice few have to make or ever should. Her wrenching decision came when she learned, while 4 months pregnant, that she was in the advanced stages of liver cancer.

The choice was clear but beyond sobering for her and the rest of her family. After considering her limited options, the mother sacrificed her life by refusing cancer treatment so her unborn baby would live.

She told her husband and the media, "If I am going to die, my baby is going to live."Lorraine Allard lost her cancer battle three weeks after giving birth to her fourth child and only son. Her choice had allowed her baby to live and gave her some precious short time to say goodbye to Liam, the child she saved.

Life is filled with choices and this woman's courageous actions gives another whole meaning to the term 'choice' in relationship to the whole Pro-life versus Pro-choice debate. This time 'choice' led to life for her child via her own sacrificial death.

In eternity past, another choice was faced by the Creator of the universe. but one with far greater and lasting implications. He, too, decided to opt for life, even though He could have done otherwise, and been perfectly justified in doing so considering man's constant rebellion against Him. So why choose to rescue those who had voluntarily turned their backs on Him?

God's decision to offer eternal life to a race condemned to eternal death is simple, although costly. His willingness to do the unthinkable and undeserved is explained concisely in Ephesians 2 and beginning at verse 4. "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." It was His love that led to His choice!

That same passage then goes on to reveal how men and women can take advantage of Christ's amazing choice of sacrificing Himself. Verse 8 declares "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Saving faith is our choice to his gracious offer.

Then lastly, verse 10 states the purpose of salvation for those who choose to respond appropriately to God's free offer. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." When we choose Him, we are also choosing to serve Him.

If the human love displayed by a mother toward her unborn child can lead to the choice of a Lorraine Allard, just try and imagine the unfathomable love of a God who Himself birthed mankind and then chose to sacrifice His only Son to offer a spiritual rebirth.

That is the ultimate Pro-life choice!

Bill Breckenridge

Friday, January 25, 2008

Choosing Life

The 1.2 million infants who are annually "legally executed" as a Morristown, NJ judge once called abortion, still stand as a dark blot on America’s moral landscape. An estimated 49,000,000 have suffered the legal fate of non-personhood execution since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling known as Roe v. Wade.

Despite the continuing carnage, there is light at the end of the immoral tunnel:
- The abortion rate is falling due to in part to fewer clinics in business and some fornicators and adulterers having exercised restraint.

- Courageous pro-lifers have somewhat successfully made their case. Last year, high school pro-life clubs gained legal status. Congress outlawed partial birth abortion in 2003, and the Supreme Court upheld the law in 2007. Several states are being pressured by pro-life groups to pass legislation that would limit and/or outlaw abortion.

- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney revealed he’d been converted to the pro-life conviction while governor of Massachusetts.

- Even in Hollywood, there is a change. Four recent secular movies portray pregnant women refusing abortion. In the film Juno, the teenage abortion candidate leaves the clinic after learning that her baby has fingernails. The film has received an Oscar nominated for a Best Picture.

Perhaps most telling is the extensive ministry of Norma McCorvey, the anonymous "Jane Roe" of the ’73 ruling. Panicked by an unwanted pregnancy, she was used by pro-abortionists to bring in as suit in Texas that eventually came before the Supreme Court, and then she was used as a poster child for the abortion movement.

After seeing empty playgrounds and thinking she was to blame, her conscience was smitten. While serving in an abortion clinic, she was befriended by two Christian girls from the pro-life group Operation Rescue working next door. Norma accepted an invitation to attend their church and then accepted Christ. God forgave her heinous crimes.

Norma has supported legislation to have Roe v. Wade reversed. She has traveled in 40 states and several foreign countries, showing the debauchery of abortion and sharing her salvation testimony. "I love the Lord with all my heart and soul," she says, "and it’s beyond my comprehension that He can take someone like me who was a hippie and a drug addict and a fornicator and all the other stuff that I did and forgive me.... It was so hard for me to conceive that the Lord had forgiven me – especially after so many children had been killed…but He has forgiven me…."

Even the worst of sinners can receive the best of God’s grace. Norma McCorvey is the modern counterpart of Paul’s experience in Christ. He had rampaged against the church causing believers to be put to death. He later recalled, "…and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them" (Acts 26:10).

This example of God’s forgiveness stands as a salvation monument for Paul, for Norma and for every sinner saved by grace. "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life" (1Tim.1:15-16).

David Virkler

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Will, But No Way

The wayward Hilton sisters are paying dearly for their folly. Paris and Nicky Hilton are out billions of dollars. Their grandfather, Barron Hilton, deeply disturbed by the antics that he says have brought shame to the family, has largely written them out of his will. Ninety-seven percent of his of billions is going to charity, and the girls will receive only five million each—no small figure, but a thin slice of the elder Hilton’s astonishing fortune.

At last some wealthy parent has had the nerve to bring inheritance into line with behavior. Sometimes even inherited fortunes are squandered and lost forever as in the case of the so-called Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. This account shows that the younger of two sons—boys raised in wealth and comfort—abandoned the family and farm for profligate living in a foreign land. While most preaching is on the younger rebel who is incorrectly thought to have everything restored on his hunger-motivated return home, the real lesson is that Dad, when forced to divide the inheritance, gave both boys their share. Luke 15:12 says, "He divided to THEM his living" (emphasis mine). The prodigal came home to a steak dinner, a new suit and shoes and a ring on his finger. However, the whole farm was the unprodigal son’s as Luke 15:31 declares. "And [the father] said to him, ‘Son, you are ever with me and ALL THAT I HAVE IS YOURS" (emphasis mine). In fact, it appears that come bedtime, the prodigal son was sleeping in the unprodigal son’s farmhouse, and the next morning, he’d be working as a hired hand on his older brother’s farm.

It is time to revise the faulty thinking that confuses restoration with reward. While lost fellowship may be renewed in a repentant moment, wasted time, money and energy are not restored.

As I have heard of so many rebellious children from Christian homes, a new strategy has recently formed in my mind. If you have a total rebel in your family, try this. Call him or her in and say, "We have worked hard, and we have served the Lord. We’ve not wasted money; we have saved and scrimped to give you food, shelter and clothing. Now you seem to ignore this, and your spiritual obstinance and lifestyle contradict everything we have stood for and everything we’ve lived and saved for. We remind you that rebellious children are toying with an early death as Eph. 6:2-3 says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’ Further, since you don’t care about us and our standards and have turned your back on us, tomorrow we are visiting our lawyer and writing you out of the will. And we are also calling the insurance agent and removing you as beneficiary. You will get nothing."

If Mr. Hilton can do it, why not any grieved and shamed parent? I guarantee that you’ll get the rebel’s attention and maybe even a revision of their lifestyle since some people have their conscience only in their pocketbook.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fast Food vs. God’s Word

Recently, I ran across a survey of 1,000 Americans taken late last year. It compared knowledge of the Ten Commandments with awareness of the McDonald’s Big Mac.

Eighty percent of those surveyed knew about the "two all beef patties" of the Big Mac, but only six of ten had any recollection of "Thou shalt not kill." Sixty-two percent knew that pickles were in a Big Mac, but only about 45% could recall the commandment to "honor thy father and mother." More tragically, even those who attended church at least once a week had big trouble naming all ten. The commandments "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not steal" lost out to their recollection of Big Mac ingredients.

This explains the confusion or even outright disorder in our society. It could also account for the breakup of families and the blunting of moral clarity in the church. Years ago, a whole advertising campaign was launched on the penetrating question, "Where’s the beef?" Today, most everyone seems to know about the beef in a McDonald’s burger, but few feast on the meat of the Word of God. Bodies are chunky, but souls are spindly. The latest food or fad grabs people’s attention, but the timeless Word of God is an option.

In New Testament times, even before Scripture was complete and when Bible scrolls were scarce, the Apostle Paul chided the Corinthian church, "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it…." (I Cor. 3:1-2). Hebrews 5:12-14 builds on the solid diet theme. "… you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." That was then; this is now—seemingly no better even with endless study helps, Bible translations, commentaries and a plethora of solid teaching in the Christian media.

Society at large is spiritually emaciated, and even believers are sipping spiritual milk and scarfing down the world’s fare when they should be chewing and digesting the meat of God’s Word. Fast food is now the preference of the church, with giddy sentimentalism replacing declarative preaching and profound study. We’d rather wolf down light appetizers than sit for the main course of heavy sermon and study. We’re majoring on sweets instead of meats. Isaiah cried, "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).

King David’s deep spiritual hunger was satisfied as he recalled in Psalm 23:5. "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…" Christ’s invitation, "Come and dine" at the breakfast feast in John 21:12 was the theme of a song by Charles B. Widmeyer. It was sung before many a meal at many a Bible conference, and we need to strike up the tune and affirm the lyrics once again.

Jesus has a table spread where the saints of God are fed,
He invites His chosen people, "Come and dine;"
With His manna He doth feed and supplies our every need:
Oh ‘tis sweet to sup with Jesus all the time.

The disciples came to land, thus obeying Christ’s command,
For the Master called unto them, "Come and dine."
There they found their heart’s desire, bread and fish upon the fire:
Thus He satisfies the hungry every time.

Soon the Lamb will take His bride to be ever at His side,
All host of Heaven will assembled be;
Oh ‘twill be a glorious sight, all the saints in spotless white,
And with Jesus they will feast eternally.

"Come and dine," the Master calleth, "Come and dine."
You may feast at Jesus’ table all the time;
He who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine,
to the hungry calleth now, "Come and dine."

Dave Virkler

Football Glory = Political Victory?

It could cost millions for mere minutes. For some it is simply impossible. But for or others, it is doable but the price tag is just outrageous. Or is it?

For decades, the nation’s biggest ‘TV party’ has been the NFL’s annual Super Bowl classic. This event is pumped up through good football, massive media hype, huge half-time shows, and just the overall draw of one big party bash. But in recent times, another factor has entered the fray and become an equal lure of the contest. This ever-increasing popular component sometimes eclipses an occasional mismatched contest itself. It is the now famous, and sometime bizarre, commercials aired throughout the game.

Few would doubt the potential impact of an ad being shown before such a huge segment of the entire nation. This has apparently sparked the interest in some of the 2008 presidential campaign managers. Some are planning on buying a slice of the big-buck time since the all-important Super Tuesday vote is just 2 days after the Super Bowl. But of course, only those candidates having money to burn could even consider offering their message in such a high profile, although brief, manner.

The price and technique of advertising is largely based on the potential of reaching the target audience with the value of the product being offered. And while some might see the Presidency as the ultimate reason to spend anything needed for victory, there is another message and one having consequences that far outweigh even winning the most powerful position on earth.

The Bible ‘advertises’ a single primary product. If offers the spiritual consumer the solution to the problem of human sin. This is achieved by trusting God’s Son to forever and totally wipe the slate clear of sin and guilt. The gracious offer is without cost to man, but came with a price to Jesus Christ beyond man’s ability to fathom now or perhaps even in eternity.

The physical aspect of Christ’s sacrifice, while shockingly brutal, was not the main source of His deepest agony. Understanding His greatest pain would require the ability to grasp the depths of His unique position as related in 2 Corinthians 5. It would require knowing how a holy God would feel when His only route to man’s redemption meant accepting the unimaginable fate as seen in verse 21. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This ‘imputing’ of the weight of sin by an entire race to Christ’s sin-free account was the reason for His agonizing cry of Matt 27:46. "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

The value of the gospel message is literally priceless. It is worth any effort required to present it. But unlike with politics, where the few well-known, well-equipped and well-financed tend to surface, ‘advertising’ the good news of salvation is the opportunity and duty of all who have embraced its life-changing content. In reality, winning others to the Savior is best done one on one by simple word of mouth. And a process of simple multiplication would show that, if every Christian could somehow win just a single soul to Christ each year, the sheer exponential surge would soon reach the entire world!

The question is clear. (Mark 8:36) The orders are firm. (Mark 16:15) The stakes are high. (1 John 5:12) And the rewards are sure. (Matthew 6:20)

The 2008 Super Bowl and Presidential election will come and go. The nation will someday soon be greeted with new faces, promises, teams and yes, those intriguing new commercials. But followers of Christ should remain anchored to the old message that brings new life. They should ‘stay on message’ and pattern themselves after those early model believers of 1 Thessalonians 1:8. “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.”

Just imagine what conveying of a 21st century message, as did the church in that first century, could mean for today’s election process? But more importantly, think of the staggering potential of individuals simply reaching out with the message of a changed heart. And imagine the possibility of a repaired nation rising through Christ’s renewing power - not through elected leaders all offering their own political promises.

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rich & Famous or Empty & Miserable?

"I was rich, I was young, I was famous, I could do anything I wanted with whomever I wanted."

Few could utter these words and mean them. But they were true and then some for 80’s sitcom star Kirk Cameron, of the hit show “Growing Pains”. He had it all and more – but soon found it to matter little if at all. Despite his smashing success at an early age, he began questioning whether or not he had reached the pinnacle of what life could offer. If he had, he was not at all happy with it!

His fame and fortune brought the usual - along with scores of adoring fans, stalkers and even occasional kidnapping threats. He recalls at times being transported in a bulletproof car, something that prompted thoughts of his own mortality. Eventually Cameron started reading the Bible, attending church, and became a committed Christian by trusting Jesus Christ as his Savior. From that time forward, the former heartthrob experienced his own ‘spiritual growing pains’ which then led to an amazing evangelistic outreach.

Today TV’s lovable Mike Seaver, as he was known back then, is using his name and talents to reach others for Christ and providing resources for others of the faith to do the same. After starring in some low-budget Christian films, including the "Left Behind" series, Cameron teamed up with a former surf shop owner turned preacher, to form “Way of the Master Ministries”. Among other things, they offer cutting-edge instruction on how to effectively share one’s faith without the fears and insecurities often experienced by many believers.

Kirk Cameron is today content and secure in his new life. His new priorities, however, have not come without a price – but one he is willing to pay. His acting career has not exactly blossomed since his public conversion as producers are well aware that his convictions will likely trump any questionable content he is not fully comfortable conveying.

The former child star’s consistent testimony and bold lifestyle quickly conjure up the Lord’s own words in Mark 8. In Verse 34 Jesus offers up a most sobering challenge. "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”

Later the Lord echoed those same sentiments in chapter 10 as he lovingly dealt with a wealthy man who had sought Him out. The words seemed sincere, but this seeker’s heart could not make the necessary break with his prized worldly goods. Verse 21 reads, “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."

“The Way Of The Master” is more than a concept, a website, or the title of a fine ministry outreach. It is a way of viewing life - a way of evaluating its every aspect. It is a way of facing life’s challenges and a way of making each one somehow count for Christ. It is a way of selfless service presented by a serious saint. And it is the only way whereby man can experience the very purpose for which he was created!

Adhering to the way of the Master is highly beneficial in this life. Beyond that, it is wonderful preparation for the life to come, not to mention the only way to someday hear those highly coveted and welcoming words of Matthew 25:23, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, January 21, 2008

Athletic Redemption

The word "redemption" is sprinkled throughout the secular media’s descriptions of Sunday’s stunning comeback of the New York Giants in the NFC championship game.

After dropping the first two season games to Dallas and Green Bay, the Giants were mostly written off as an inferior football team. The early losses brought harsh criticisms of coach Tom Coughlin and young quarterback Eli Manning. Pundits predicted a downward slide and suggested tha the replacement of coach and quarterback might be the best options.

And then, something happened—perhaps precipitated or at least fostered by a warmer relationship between coach and players. The Giants went on to a 10-6 season earning them a wildcard spot in the playoffs, and they established a league record of 10 consecutive road game wins. In the playoffs, they beat Dallas, and then yesterday, in minus 4 degree weather with a wind chill of minus 24, young Manning bested seasoned Brett Favre. New York upended favored Green Bay in overtime 23-20, and the Giants are headed to the Super Bowl.

The overtime win uniquely redeemed the team generally, and it personally redeemed Coach Coughlin, quarterback Manning and especially place kicker Lawrence Tynes. In regulation play, he missed two field goals, one a presumed game-winner with 4 seconds on the clock. The miss sent the game into overtime. Green Bay won the coin toss and received the kickoff. But Giants defender Corey Webster intercepted a Favre pass to set up another potential game-winning field goal. The doubly failed Tynes ran onto the field and booted a 47-yarder to put the Giants into the Super Bowl, where they will play the 18-0 perfect Patriots whom the Giants almost beat in the regular season. "I screwed it up twice," Tynes said. "Thank God we got another opportunity."

Redemption is a great athletic theme, but it’s a mere sports concept and pales when compared with Biblical redemption. In Scripture, redemption means "bought with a purchase price." In the case of personal salvation, the cost was the priceless shed blood and broken body of Jesus Christ who bought us out of the slave market of sin and judgment. "Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18-20).

The looser meaning of redemption is sometimes applied to a "second chance"—a kind of "comeback" drama. Young John Mark is a featured example of a "comeback kid" rescued from failed obscurity. During an early missionary journey of Paul and his party, special assistant John Mark lost heart and returned home. He wanted to join the missionary team again, "but Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work" (Acts 15:38), and Mark went with Barnabas instead.

Mark had a great change of heart that resulted in renewed usability. While Paul languished in prison, persecuted for his Christian zeal, and awaiting execution, he called for John Mark. "Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry" (2 Tim 4:11 – emphasis mine). Many Bible scholars believe Mark was also the author of the second Gospel, the Book of Mark.

From failure to faithful. From dropout to restoration. That’s going from being a spiritual pigmy to a true Biblical giant. Our Lord is the God of personal redemption and, for the pathetic failure, the Lord of the second chance.

Dave Virkler

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pilgrim or Politician?

President George W. Bush has visited several Middle Eastern countries in his quest for a lasting peace agreement before his final term ends. While most of his visits were clearly political, some in Israel were not.

Bush humbly entered the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and stood at the traditional site of Christ’s birth. Presidential Assistant Tim Goeglein, who is a liaison for the White House with the evangelical community, reported to members of National Religious Broadcasters that the President was deeply moved as he stood at this historic site so vital to his personal faith. US News & World Report captured this Bethlehem moment in a full-page portrait of wide-eyed wonderment as he approached the purported spot of Christ’s birth.

Goeglein told us that the President stated he "had come not as a politician but a pilgrim." Bush stood where tradition says the humble shepherds saw the newborn Christ cradled in a stone feeding trough. The babe was wrapped in cloth traditionally wound around a woman’s waist—cloth that was to be used as a burial shroud if the traveling woman died (Luke 2:12). The President also stood close to the spot where the wisest men of the East knelt to present their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Indeed, the Christian believer comes to the manger never as a vocational specialty or in human wisdom, much less as a politician, but as an adoring and worshipful pilgrim bowing before the newborn King.

President Bush also visited the Sea of Galilee standing on the slopes where the Sermon on the Mount was spoken by Christ. Having stood there ten times myself, I can appreciate the emotions that run high whenever a believer who has received Christ as Savior can visually focus the place where the Beatitudes flowed from the Son of God (Matt. 5:3), a slope dropping down to the beautiful inland sea where Christ walked on the water (Mark 6:48) and where He calmed the stormy sea (Mark 4:39). Along the shore one can see where the swine rushed down the steeps into the sea (Luke 8:33), where Christ fed the thousands (Matt. 14:21; Matt. 15:38), the hometown of Mary Magdalene (Matt. 15:39) and where He gave his disciples the miraculous catch and also prepared a post resurrection breakfast (John 21:9, 11).

Goeglein said that President Bush was "deeply moved" as he "reflected on these places of his faith." Well might we all since these are indeed actual places.

The Bible is a book of mystery, but it’s anchored in history. This is not fable, as some religious imaginations are, having no historical basis in fact. The places are still there, where the Bible indicates, and they carry with them the impact of tangible truth. Peter understood this physical impact wrapped in divine revelation writing, "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (II Peter 1:16).

Of all the many places a president can visit and of all the stirring experiences during his term, standing at the stupendous Biblical sites of his personal redemption probably eclipses them all because, as the old hymn says,
Thrones and crowns may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the Cross of Jesus constant will remain;
Gate of Hell can never ‘gainst the church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

David Virkler

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Global Warming? We've Only Just Begun!

2007 was a unique year complete with the typical ups and downs. But the year has been given a new distinction. According to the National Climatic Data Center, 2007 had the warmest land surface temperatures since 1980 when global record-keeping began. The NOAA also revealed that the year was the 5th warmest when considering the entire earth’s surface.

The USA‘s contribution came partly from an August heat wave that set more than 2,000 new daily high temperature records. Eight states found August setting all-time records while 2007 was also the 10th-warmest year in the USA dating back to 1895 when data keeping first began.

It is no secret that global warming is constant news and a prominent political issue. Some feel man’s behavior is recklessly endangering the planet. Others site that the increased temperatures are just part of a normal cycle that occurs every so often over time. Only time will tell which side has the more accurate view.

While scientists and environmentalists stare at their thermometers, the Bible speaks of a period of unparalleled and unfathomable global warming. In his second epistle, Peter speaks of the coming ‘day of the Lord’. Chapter 3 and verse 10 sets the stage for the event. "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat: both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up." That is God’s idea of global warming!

But the dissolving of the planet, while fascinating and shocking, is not Peter’s primary point. The real issue surfaces in the next few verses – but especially verse 11. "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?"

The context of the final overheating of man’s home is Christian living. Peter here challenges the follower of Jesus Christ with the ethical considerations of Christ’s sudden appearance. The two terms used to describe how believers should behave are ‘holy’ and ‘godliness’.

While it may seem impossible to actually live a holy life in this life, Peter affirms God’s lofty standards for those who know Him. 1 Peter 1:15-16 reads, "But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’" A crucial word in the passage is "all". The small but highly significant word leaves little doubt about the consistency of character expected for all that are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. Many of the godly attributes of the new man in Christ can be quickly reviewed in some detail in Colossians 3:12-17.

Global warming, real or not, is of limited importance when compared to the fervent heat that will someday fully incinerate the blue planet. But while the concept is on the political and scientific front page, its highest value should be as a constant reminder for the Christian of his future home and his present walk.

Bill Breckenridge

Signs in The Skys?

Dublin is a small quiet farming community in central Texas. The population is about 4,000 and the area covers just 3.4 square miles. Its only claim to fame may be that the town is the home of the world's oldest Dr Pepper bottling plant and hometown to legendary golfer Ben Hogan. But recently, the normally little-known spot has been in the news. The reason? UFO’s.

Ricky Sorrells started seeing a flat, metallic object hovering about 300 feet over a pasture behind his Dublin home on Monday night, January 14th. A machinist by trade, Sorrells said he's seen the object several times. He said he watched it through his rifle's telescopic lens and that it was very large and without seams, nuts or bolts.

Interestingly, and for what it’s worth, Sorrells is not alone. Several dozen people in the area, many reputable citizens, have reported seeing a similar object. Some maintain they saw fighter jets chasing whatever it was. Steve Allen, himself a pilot, saw an object a week earlier and said it was absolutely huge and resembled nothing recognizable to him. Allen also said, "People wonder what in the world it is because this is the Bible Belt, and everyone is afraid it's the end of times,"

This statement about fear and the end times may well refer to several New Testament Scripture passages. Luke 21, Mathew 24 and Mark 13 all speak to the conditions just prior to the coming of the Son of Man. Luke 17 also reveals these same times as being like “the days of Noah” as far as the similar deplorable moral conditions existing when Christ comes.

Luke 21: 25 begins, "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."

For those unsure of what the future holds, or where eternity will lead, the thought of the end times is understandably frightening – and with good reason! Daily life often brings with it a vast array of worries, cares, and fears. But the next life is scary beyond comprehension for those not ready to have a sinful life be scrutinized by a holy and just God. The writer of Hebrews related that truth in chapter 10 and verse 31 stating there, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Jesus gave more than ample warning about spiritual preparedness during His earthly ministry. In Matthew 25:13 he said, "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." Luke 12:40 follows suit. “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

The warnings for man to ready himself to stand accountable before his maker are many and are clear. The route of readiness is equally precise. And the journey to salvation uses the same road map today as it did 2,000 years ago when Paul and Silas gave the answer of all answers to the question of questions to a frightened bunch of fellow inmates. The question came in Acts 16:30. “And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

The answer was simple yet striking. “So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” After one has been properly readied to face God by having Jesus Christ as his advocate, a life-long privilege of service then follows. 1 Peter 3:15 puts it this way. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

For the Christian, fear will never be having to face God in a guilty and unredeemed state. The only thing that should ever scare a disciple of Christ is failing to serve the Savior and to spread His message that alone can ready the sons of men to confidently face the Son of Man!

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Mountaintop

Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to stand at the top of the world on Mt. Everest on May 29, 1953, has died in his native New Zealand at age 88. Hillary always described himself as an ordinary guy. His humility was clearly seen when he said that the accomplishment was a joint effort with Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, his climbing companion. It was Tenzing who years later credited Hillary with being the first one at the summit.

News of the daring achievement reached England on the day of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Four days later she knighted the explorer, and he became Sir Edmund Hillary. He was beloved by the Nepalese Sherpa community for launching extensive social and educational programs subsequent to his astonishing ascent, and his death deeply saddened his many friends and associates in the Sherpa community.

Sir Hillary’s courageous conquest of Everest reflects many stirring Bible themes. Most of the enduring spiritual lesson were taught through mountaintop experiences. Noah emerged from the ark after it came to rest atop the mountains of Ararat, thought to be located in eastern Turkey and received God’s rainbow-accompanied promise to never again destroy the earth (Gen. 8). Abraham found a substitute ram to sacrifice instead of his son Isaac on Mount Moriah, believed to be the Temple Mount ridge in Jerusalem (Gen. 22:13 & 14). Although he was forbidden to enter because of his intemperate outburst striking the rock in wilderness (Num. 20:11 & 12), Moses was allowed to view the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo in what is present-day central Jordan (Deut. 34:4). Peter, James and John saw the transfigured Christ atop a high mountain (Matt. 17:1 & 2).

Speaking of a "mountaintop experience" has its basis in Isaiah 58:14. "Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth…"

The cramped barren summit of Everest allows for only about six people to stand at one time. Each year, hundreds of people attempt to reach that spot within the seeming reach of heaven high above every other elevation, and many have died trying.

Some years ago I visited the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY. A rock from the summit of Gore Mountain has been placed at an easily accessible spot near the museum. A sign says that anyone who places his feet there can say he has been to the mountaintop.

In the gracious plan of God, spiritual summiting is not available to just a select few or through a contrived imitation. Through the victory of Christ on Mount Calvary, each believer may gain ascendancy over sin, death and Hell.

In Christ, God has "raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus , that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2: 6-10).

During the brief but historic fifteen minutes at the top of the world, Sir Edmund Hillary left a simple cross on Mt. Everest. Jesus Christ left the blood-stained emblem of our salvation on Mount Calvary. "In the Cross of Christ I glory, Towering o’er the wrecks of time; All the light of sacred story Gathers round its head sublime."

David Virkler

Monday, January 14, 2008

Heart and Soul

It has not happened yet, by it someday might. It may now sound like science fiction, but may someday not.

Researchers at the Center for Cardiovascular Repair at the University of Minnesota, while seeking new treatments for heart disease, have miraculously managed to grow a rat heart in a lab and actually start it beating! Dr. Doris Taylor, director of the center said after the work using cells from the rat, "By two days we saw tiny, microscopic contractions, and by seven to eight days there were contractions large enough to see with the naked eye. The tiny hearts could pump liquid at about one-fourth the rate of a normal fetal rat's heart.

”Taylor further commented, "Obviously we have a long way to go, but the long-term hope is that a similar process could work with either human hearts from cadavers or pig hearts, with their cells stripped off and replaced by cells from the person needing a heart transplant to avoid rejection.” Today some 5 million people live with some form of heart failure. Approximately 50,000 die annually while waiting for a heart donor and these will be replaced by another 550,000 new cases.

The heart is a primary subject in the Scriptures and, it could be argued, is ‘the’ focal point of everything Biblical. It is referred to hundreds of times throughout. With very few, if any, exceptions, it speaks of man’s inner spiritual condition and not about a physical organ that pumps blood through his veins and allows life to proceed.

In the Old Testament, there is perhaps no clearer verse than Jeremiah 17:9 when considering the condition of man’s soul and his impaired relationship with God. Verse 9 reads, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?" Psalm 14:2-3 is equally blunt. “The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside,they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.”

In the New Testament Gospel of Matthew we find this wickedness expanded upon in some detail. Chapter 15 and verse 18 begins, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man.”

The fully darkened heart of man is the final downfall of man. But a loving Creator has devised and implemented a solitary solution for this all-encompassing spiritual malfunction. His staggering redemptive plan is revealed through passages like Romans 6:17-18. “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” The expanded details this time are found in Romans 10:9-10, “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. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Medical science and modern life-saving procedures are among the great blessings of living in the 21st century. But the primary advantage of medical advance is not just to extend a physical existence. For those outside of God’s family, any precious extra time that keeps the physical heart alive is to give opportunity to resuscitate a spiritual heart that is dead!

And for those already alive in Christ, each breath they enjoy should carry with it both a thankful heart and one desirous and committed to fulfill life’s primary purpose. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

And for those who do just that, John 14:1-3 guarantees peace of heart in this life and rewards beyond comprehension in the next. "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

Bill Breckenridge

The Challenge of Change

The keyword of the Democrat and some Republican presidential primary candidates is "change." It seems they are vying for the title of the "changingest" candidate. Some pundits are wisely suggesting that whatever change is promised be clearly defined and described.

Sometimes, change can bring about good. Change for its own sake has brought political chaos in some instances. The U.S. supported a change from the Shah of Iran—a U.S. friend—and got the Ayatollah Khomeini, who came from a Paris apartment to make Iran into an Islamic hell, even imprisoning American diplomats for 444 days. In Cuba, we facilitated the removal of Batista. He was replaced with Fidel Castro, who demolished any semblance of liberty, inspired a crush of escapees including Elian Gonzales, dumped countless human refuse from his prisons in the Mariel Boat Lift convoy and is still a thorn in our diplomatic world.

What do these change agents really want in America? Democrats are united in the need to change from George W. Bush to almost any Democrat, and Republican candidates want to promote change within their own party. Change affects our own economy, our relationships with foreign nations, immigration, social morality, and even religious freedom. No one should castigate any candidate for touting change, but they should be pressed to explain their goals and assess their results.

The Bible outlines both negative and positive change. Surely the demon-possessed man of Matthew 12:43–46 was better off without his demon. But without a new occupant, the demon returned with seven more wicked spirits, and the man was worse off than before.

"When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first …"

God does not change. "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Malachi 3:6.). And He is the greatest change agent transforming the very soul of man. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (II Corinthians 5:17).

Job longed for the eventual change of God’s restoration in restored life and heaven-bound death. "If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come" (Job 14:14).

The old song clarifies so much. "Change and decay in all around I see, Oh thou who changest not, Abide with me."

Political change is a great virtue if clearly understood and productively pursued, but ill-defined and misty change goals can bring a muddled chaos. At the least, we should expect candidates not to change our freedom to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the greatest effective positive agent of change ever known.

David Virkler

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pathetic Pundits

The political pundits flunked out in predicting the outcome of the New Hampshire presidential primary. Eight polls misread the Democratic results and had Barack Obama with a comfortable lead only hours before Hillary Clinton edged ahead to win. How could that many be that wrong?

Human estimations—even predictions—rely only on suspicions, trends and indicators and guesses. But no human knows precisely what will happen in any event, not even moments in advance.

And where were the astrologers, soothsayers, tea leaf readers, crystal ball gazers and fortune tellers who claim to read character, predict coming events or forecast life’s fortunes? If any of these is a viable source of information, millions of dollars could be saved by political candidates who would otherwise be wildly spending money or expending energy. In fact, if any of these forecasting experts has a shred of accuracy, think of the accidents that could avoided, the criminals who could be apprehended, the fires that could be doused, the media headlines that could be readied prior to any event and, in politics, the campaign exhaustion that could be avoided.

The fact is that only God knows what is going to happen, but, except in matters of revealed prophecy, He wisely shields humans from that awesome prescience. If I knew that tomorrow I would inherit a million dollars or that I’d be taken with a deadly disease, it would mar my mental health today.

Proverbs 27:1 simply puts it, "Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth." James expands the thought. "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" (James 4:13-16).

One of God’s greatest proofs of existence is His prophetic accuracy in His taunt of prophetic "wannabes" in Isaiah 41:22-24. "Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them; or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together. Indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination."

We have no objection to the media’s intriguing forays into imaginative speculation. That’s how secular newscasting has its appeal and newspapers are sold. But let all thinking people, especially believers in the Lord, resist empty joys or nagging fears based on flawed human speculation.

Believers "walk by faith, not by sight," as 2 Corinthians 5:7 says. We act responsibly day by day and leave the results with Him. "My times are in Your hand…" (Psalm 31:15) and "…as thy days, so shall thy strength be" (Deuteronomy 33:25).

We don’t know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future. Or as a missionary wrote, "We don’t know what’s around the next bend in the river, but we do know who controls the current."

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Change Is In The Wind?

It’s ‘poll time’ again in America and one of the more comprehensive political web sites on the internet today is The site features the typical formats like blogs, videos, transcripts, links, and of course polls. In addition to the current 2008 vote polling data, the site also reveals other political findings gleaned and averaged out from some of the nation’s top organizations.

At present, RCP includes findings from the current President’s job rating (35.4%), Congressional Job Approval (25.0%), Generic Congressional Approval (39.0% for Republicans and 48.3% for Democrats), and a Direction of The Country tally (25%). These numbers would clearly suggest that the 2008 Presidential run will be characterized by just one primary word – “Change”. The debates in Iowa and New Hampshire certainly substantiated that trend.

Which candidate will be seated in the Oval Office next year is anyone’s guess. But it seems rather obvious that scores of Americans are looking for a new direction and are fed up with the ongoing deadlock that typically characterizes Washington D.C. It may well be that the candidate who best convinces voters of his or here ability to launch significant change will be taking the oath of office next January.

Change generally brings new challenges and excitement. And new opportunities may allow for fixing former troubles or accomplishing old dreams. But change does not always bring good or the best results. And change, just for the sake of change, can at times be counterproductive. Man’s history has been one of constant development. And unless the Lord returns, the next 50 years will likely usher in changes that will dwarf even the staggering innovations of the past 5 decades.

In a world of constant flux, the two most basic and crucial aspects of life remain constant. Man continues on as a lost sinner and God is still his only Savior! Scripture reveals that “all have sinned”. And in Roman’s 3:10, the Apostle Paul expands on that brutally accurate concept. Quoting from Psalm 14 he writes, “As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.”

But fortunately, there is good news. Miraculous news! For a spiritually stagnant and dysfunctional human race, there is a Creator God and Heavenly Father whose undying love and redemptive plan never evolves. It does not need to. It is flawless! His rock-steady character is revealed in Malachi 3:6. "For I am the LORD, I do not change”. This same attribute is fully duplicated in His Son, according to the writer of Hebrews in 13:8. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The very thought of having the plan for saving mankind changing as frequently as our elected officials would be perplexing, not to mention catastrophic.

The term “Real Clear Politics” may seem an oxymoron to many 21st century Americans who face a lengthy and confusing election cycle along with a stress-filled future. But the 2008 election, and anything else life can ever dish out, can be faced with a sense of inner peace and strength. All that is required is a full understanding and genuine acceptance of the only message capable of renewing man’s darkened heart - a message that instantly alters his eternal destiny.

The message is clear and its guarantee striking. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Major Crisis In The Major Leagues

It is the dead of winter and in the midst of the NFL playoffs, but half of the sporting news remains riveted on the ‘boys of summer’ and major league baseball.

After a long awaited report on illegal drug use in baseball, led by former U.S. Senate majority leader George Mitchell, the dust seems do be doing anything but settling. Besides MLB’s new home run king Barry Bonds, the biggest name on the accused list was perennial all-star pitcher Roger Clemens.

In an interview this Sunday with Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes, Clemens denied the accusation by his former trainer that he had been injected with steroids and human growth hormones, both of which are banned by baseball. Clemens swore he never took the substances and has even filed a suit again Brian McNamee as the charge now raises suspicion about one of baseball’s greatest ever pitchers, thus endangering his once certain slot in the Hall of Fame.

The Bible, although a spiritual book, makes several references and applications to secular sports. And none are more specific than Paul’s words in his first letter to the church at Corinth. In chapter 9 and beginning with verse 24 he writes, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

Paul was apparently more than aware that the way he lived his life and the methods with which he served his Lord were as crucial as what he verbalized concerning spiritual matters. His great fear was that he would tell others how to live for Christ while failing to live up to those same lofty standards himself. His only goal was to compete according to the rules of God in order to win the prize of God at life’s end.

It may well be that neither side will be able to prove whether or not Roger Clemens, or others like him, did something wrong and illegal in their career. But that is certainly not the case with God according to Hebrews 4:13. “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.”

It has been said that, “You can fool some of the people some of the time. But you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” But in the spiritual realm, and with eternal matters, Galatians 6:7 makes it clear that you cannot fool God any of the time! ”Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

Bill Breckenridge

The Execution Process Under Scrutiny

The term “A matter of life and death” is always an attention grabber. And now that attention is coming from the nation’s high court.

The last execution in America was performed at 8:23 p.m. on September 25, 2007 in the Texas State Penitentiary. Just days after the death of Michael Richard, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that considers the current chemical mix used to induce death by lethal injection. The argument is not about the constitutionality of the death penalty itself, but over the methods used to carry out the sentence.

The chemical ‘death mix’ was developed in Oklahoma in 1977. The first chemical is sodium thiopental — a barbiturate used to anesthetize the inmate. Next is pancuronium bromide which inflicts paralysis Then lastly, an injection of potassium chloride causes cardiac arrest and death. Lawyers are arguing that the last substance is extremely painful and, if not used correctly, causes the inmate both the terror and agony of conscious suffocation along with the excruciating pain. This is something they claim to be a violation of constitutional rights and that only the sodium thiopental is really necessary to carry out a far more humane execution.

The legality and methods used to execute condemned prisoners by the State has long been the subject of heated debate and always will. Both sides have strong convictions. But the Scriptures are not exactly silent on the subject. The Old Testament obviously allowed for capital punishment, and many times even demanded it for certain forms of vile behavior. Then the New Testament also weighs in by revealing the responsibilities of how a good government should deal with bad people.

The thirteenth chapter of the heavy doctrinal book of Romans begins this way. “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.”

The above passage would indicate rather clearly that one of the purposes of the God-ordained and just government is to judge evil and then deal harshly with those who deserve it. Just how that ‘wrath’ manifests itself could be a mater of ongoing discussion. Some believe it is better to never end a life – period. They would rather opt for mercy by removing dangerous criminals from society. Others subscribe that state-sponsored executions are biblically permissible, but should be done through the most humane methods possible.

But at the heart of the matter is an issue, one that trumps all others, and one that surfaces at the very instant of death. It has nothing to do with how someone dies, when someone dies, and at whose hands they perish. When one breathes his or her last it is the condition of the soul, and not the physical body, that takes center stage. The seriousness of death is seen in that physical death is not the end. It is simply the pathway into another life – the beginning of an existence which will, this time around, last for all eternity.

The Bible is clear that all men are born under a physical and spiritual death penalty. All sin by choice and by nature. All are deserving of God’s just and eternal wrath - a principle is taught throughout the Scriptures and illustrated clearly in Romans 5:12. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

But the same righteous and holy God who was offended by all sin, devised and carried out a plan to commute the sentence of death to one of abundant and everlasting life. 1 John 2:1 describes the role of the one who accomplished this. “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

Those who gain entrance to God’s family by saving faith in Christ are indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit. They are forgiven of sin and protected from a disastrous and unimaginable future. And they are freed from the fear of death as they live under the protective and comforting hands of their Heavenly Father.

Roman 8:13-17 spells it out completely. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 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…”

Death has always been man’s greatest foe, but need not be feared. The Christian can face it with the same confidence as the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 54-55 "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, January 3, 2008

It’s all a matter of timing…

Welcome to A.D. 2008—another year of our Lord!

Maybe you’ve already goofed and written 2007 instead of 2008. (I just did when I titled this document in my computer.) But one thing is constant. Whatever year you write, it’s always understood as "the year of our Lord." A.D. means "anno Domini," or "in the year of our Lord." The Lord is Jesus Christ. Whether you are a Christian believer or an unbelieving atheist, you will write this calendar designation endless times, and each time you unwittingly subscribe to the calendar dominance of Jesus Christ who bisected all of history by His humble appearance in a Bethlehem cow stall. Indeed, "The hinge of history swings on the door of the Bethlehem stable" as someone once said.

Not only does A.D. reckon time since Christ’s birth, but even the term B.C. acknowledges Him. B.C. means "before Christ." This backward reckoning of time is only a few hundred years old showing that with the passing years, Christ enjoys increasing significance. There are other global calendars—fine linear accounting of events from their particular benchmark until now—but none has a midpoint like the global Christian calendar, the chronological anchor of business, education, medicine and science.

Jews track of their time in a linear fashion from the presumed creation of the world, their current year being 5768, but they always include the Christian Calendar dates with the designation of either B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) or C.E. (Common Era). Without using the name of Christ or even inferring Him, they tacitly subscribe to His arrival as the midpoint of all human history.

It is often said that the United States Constitution has no mention of God. While technically correct, the final paragraph dates that document saying, "Done in convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the seventh day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred eighty seven…"

Each year the United States president issues approximately 100 official proclamations and each closes with the date and the words, "in the year of our Lord." There is no separation of church and state or religion and state in these proclamations. Jesus Christ is so firmly imbedded in our government and daily life through the calendar designation that it makes unbelief absurd.

At the very least, He is the greatest historical figure ever to walk planet Earth. At best, He is our personal Lord of life and death, our Savior from sin and guarantor of heaven. It is little wonder that Thomas, upon seeing the risen Christ, declared, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). Later, John wrote in Revelation 19:16, "And he has on His robe and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."

With every passing day, and especially with the annual focus on a new year of our Lord, Scripture clarifies His Lordship. "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11).

The musical coronation of the old hymn summarizes it: "Let every kindred, every tribe, On this terrestrial ball, To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all!"

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Ready To Face Another New Year?

It has been about three months since the launch of the Newspoint blog on October of 2007. Our goal, as stated, was to “discuss current issues and events through the lens of Biblical truth.” We trust that the 43 posts between October and the end of the year did just that while providing readers spiritual insight and encouragement.

But 2007 is past and a new calendar year looms large. While recently pondering what 2008 might bring, two verses come to mind – one being in the form of a caution and the other perhaps the best advice any Christian can heed. The warning comes by way of Proverbs 27. It would seem rather obvious, but many tend to ignore its simple but stunning reality in their lives. Verse one says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”

The passage of advice is seen through the pen, and the life, of the great Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church. Chapter 3 and verse 12 reads, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.“

Taken together, these Holy Spirit-inspired words reveal what should be the game plan for any committed follower of Jesus Christ. Paul, despite his many gifts and accomplishments, boasted in none of them. Nor did he focus in on any of his past failures or defeats. He understood fully how a preoccupation at either end of the spectrum would be unprofitable and even a hindrance to his walk with his Lord and any future service for God.

Paul’s priority was clear. His intent was to become only and exactly what God desired of him. His goal was to please God in every aspect of life. His dream was simply giving his best to the one who had given His absolute best to redeem Paul, as set forth in Philippians 2. Speaking of Christ, verse 8 states, “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

2008 may well bring numerous times of great joy. It may also include instances of difficulty and suffering. But whatever may come, following closely Paul’s pattern is the only real way to glorify God and be fully ready to victoriously meet and prosper through life’s many opportunities and challenges.

Bill Breckenridge

Who's Who Death List For 2007

The year 2007, with all of its ups and downs, is in the record books. Whatever was done is done. Nothing can now be improved upon or, fortunately, made any worse.

But with the passing of each year comes numerous year end reviews, all attempting to recall the past year’s most significant happenings while placing them into some historical perspective. Typically, every list comes with the inevitable log of famous people who died during that period. And some well-known figures died at year’s end just when the annual tally would seem complete. This year it was the shocking assassination of Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan.

While a select few will be fortunate or, depending on one’s perspective, unfortunate, to make the year’s ‘dead list’, millions more will have slipped into eternity world-wide with little or no fanfare – at least humanly speaking. But the Bible speaks of a unique list compiled by God in heaven that reveals all those who have died - providing they have met one strict requirement. Those not making the list face an unimaginable eternal consequence!

The Apostle John speaks of a future event in Revelation chapter 20 known as the Great White Throne. In verse 12 he writes, “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

This same list is referred to in the New Testament book of Philippians where Paul speaks of it in chapter 4 and verse 3. “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.”

Someday, the last calendar year will conclude with the coming of Jesus Christ for His bride – the Church. His appearance will finalize the list of all lists. Those whose have trusted Him as their savior will find themselves written there and destined for a glorious future and heavenly home. Those alive at His appearing, but not in the Book, will realize the immensity of their error and respond as seen in Revelation 6:15-16. “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!' "

The overall ‘death list’ for 2007 is history and the one for 2008 already begun. If you are reading this, you are not on it – yet. This means that you still have the precious opportunity to make the other list, the one making you ready to face the Lamb of God at a moment’s notice.

That above mentioned requirement is fully efficacious when approached with the attitude of simple, but sincere, faith as described in Acts 2:21. “That whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

Bill Breckenridge