Monday, March 31, 2008

Remembering Terry Schiavo

March 31, 2008 marks the third anniversary of the longest public execution in history. That was the day Terry Schiavo was finally starved to death, a case that became the biggest news story worldwide for a period of time.

As a last resort, Terry’s parents pled with Christian attorney David Gibbs, III of the Christian Law Association to enter the case and save Terry’s life although her husband wanted her dead. Several legal maneuvers were ultimately fruitless, and Terry died a pathetic, agonizing and painful death. Gibbs wrote a stirring book, "Fighting for Dear Life," which I highly recommend. He also told his full story at the Reclaiming America Conference in 2006. I just listened again to his complete account for the third time, and I cried for the third time.

Gibbs reviews his first visit with Terry. He found that she was not dying, was conscious of her mother and her father and could utter monosyllabic answers to basic questions. Experts suggested she could live for another forty years, but the Florida court with jurisdiction ruled that her husband, Michael Schiavo, had the right to order his brain damaged wife’s death. After fruitless appeals to advocacy groups, the U.S. Congress, President Bush, several court appeals and four appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court (two in ten days), Terry’s feeding tube was removed and she was starved to death.

Gibbs was there with Terry’s mother for that last visit after a full week without food or water and witnessed Terry, in the final stages of dehydration, cry the only time as she nuzzled her Mom.

Gibbs says, "I was raised in a Christian family, I’d grown up taught to salute the flag, to be patriotic, and I do live America, but for the first time in life I was ashamed for our nation. I thought, ‘In God’s name, what are we doing?’"

As her mother walked out that last time she turned to Gibbs and said, "David, I’m no lawyer and I’m no doctor. But one thing I just don’t understand. Why do they have kill my little girl?" Gibbs replied, "Mary I’m a lawyer, I’m not a doctor, I don’t understand. It doesn’t make sense."
In countless post-death interviews with the international news media, it was always the same question, "By what moral authority does America let this girl die?" "It’s a good question," Gibbs says, "because there is no moral authority to do what we did to Terry Schiavo." Gibbs adds, "It was Terry today, but the question is, ‘Who will it be tomorrow.’"

What is our reaction? First, we should mourn the decision to starve Terry Schiavo. Gibbs reminded his audience of Matthew 25:35-40. "For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me." Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."

Then we should pray for revival lest we fall under God’s condemnation. Proverbs 24:11-12 warns, "If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?"

Dave Virkler

Friday, March 28, 2008

Resurrection Truth

I hope you had a joyous and blessed Easter. How fast the season passes and the "highs" of celebration are swiftly eclipsed by the pace of subsequent daily living. Before Easter 2008 disappears into comparative obscurity, I offer a few lingering truths.

An empty tomb and a risen Lord Jesus Christ are twin proofs that Jesus is indeed "my Lord and my God," as Thomas said (John 20:28).

How do we know that the resurrection is a fact and not merely the fictional creation of misguided hopefuls? Let’s list some reasons:

1. The disciples were surprised by Christ’s resurrection. They didn’t make it up.

2. There were multiple appearances to individuals. Christ appeared to the 11 remaining disciples, one of whom was doubting Thomas who needed compelling physical proof. A further appearance was to over 500 simultaneously, which undermined the apparition idea (II Corinthians 15:6).

3. Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote for second century Romans, mentions that Christ’s resurrection was believed by contemporary disciples. "He was the Christ, and when Pilate at the suggestion of the principle men, had condemned him to the cross, they that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things about him."

4. No body was ever found. If it had been, Christianity would have been dead out of the starting blocks.

5. Everything believers hold sacred would be a farce according to II Corinthians 15:12-19. Christian preaching would be empty. Christian doctrine would be a farce. Christian ministers would be frauds. Believers would be deceived. We would yet be in our sins. The dead in Christ would have perished. We would have only the temporal and no Heaven.

6. Perhaps the best proof arising in modern times is the conversion of Charles Colson of Watergate infamy and later of Prison Fellowship fame. I once heard him personally tell this story, which is featured in a recorded message entitled "Thank God for Watergate." In it Colson says:

The evidence is that twelve men were with Jesus. Twelve men testified that they had seen Him bodily raised from the dead. They were with Him…. After He ascended into heaven, they went about the sands of the Holy Land for forty years proclaiming that Jesus Christ had been bodily raised from the dead never once denying Him, every single one of them beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. Could they have done that if that were not true?

In less than three weeks [after the Watergate scandal broke], John Dean…walked into the prosecutor’s to make a deal to bargain to save [his] own skin. … The moment he did that, everybody went flying in to try to make a deal with the prosecutor. Twelve most powerful men in the world couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re going to tell me that those twelve apostles for forty years would go about the sands of the Holy land proclaiming they had seen Jesus raised from the dead? Absolutely impossible. The Apostle Peter would have turned state’s evidence—he had already done it. … The truth is that people will give their lives for something they believe to be true. They will never give their lives for something they believe to be false. The historic evidence is overwhelming.

If this Book is true, it challenges every single one of us to look at the most important question in life. Is Jesus Christ who He says He is? And if He is, your life can never be the same once you answer that question. And there’s only one way you can answer that question because the evidence is more powerful than any case I ever argued in all the years that I was a lawyer arguing cases in court. It’s true. Most of us spend our lives running away from it because we know that if we embrace it will change our lives."

These are amazing words from a former top presidential advisor who praises God for Watergate because it proved to him the truth of the resurrection. Believing the resurrection is vital to salvation. Romans 10:9-10 says, "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.10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bottled message drifts for 21 years.

It traveled 1,735 miles over a period of 21 years before landing at its final destination. The amazingly rare voyage was taken by a message enclosed in a plastic bottle. It had been tossed into the sea by in 1987. Emily Hwaung, then a fourth grader in Seattle, Washington, as part of a science experiment to track ocean currents and learn about people in distant lands.

After two decades the container was picked up by Merle Brandell along the shore of Nelson Lagoon, a small Alaskan fishing village on the Bering Sea. Upon opening the bottle, he discovered the note that read, "This letter is part of our science project to study oceans and learn about people in distant lands. Please send the date and location of the bottle with your address. I will send you my picture and tell you when and where the bottle was placed in the ocean. Your friend, Emily Hwaung." The 30-year old accountant, whose name is now Emily Shih, said she was flabbergasted by the news but stated, "I don't remember the project. It was so long ago. Elementary school is kind of foggy." Today, 34-year old Merle Brandell is a bear hunting guide and manager of a local water plant. He commented about the find that many of the 70-plus residents of Nelson Lagoon enjoy beach-combing as a sporting activity and one of the unique pleasures of life in the remote town.

A message set afloat in a bottle is typically thought of as a desperate act by someone hopelessly stranded alone on some remote island and in great need of being rescued. And despite the odds against such an attempt ever being effective, when there is no other hope, any way of communicating seems worth trying.

Effective and timely communication is the foundation of any relationship and every culture. Without it, little or nothing profitable can be achieved or maintained. Fortunately for a human race hopelessly lost and stranded by sin, a loving God has not allowed His message of forgiveness to casually drift around in some hit or miss fashion. His precise words were revealed to those who originally penned them. This ensured the spread of His great redemptive plan in print and by mouth through dedicated followers of Christ in the early church days. A tremendous example of this pattern is strikingly clear in 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."

Since those unique times God's word has been spread verbally, and in written form, in a stunning and miraculous way. The Bible Society of the United Kingdom calculates that, as of the year 2007, approximately 7.5 billion Bibles have been distributed throughout world with the majority still available for use! This translates to about one copy for every individual on earth, not including the digital computer versions of the Scriptures being used today by millions. They also reveal that the complete Bible has been published in over 450 languages, the New Testament alone in nearly 1,400 languages, and the Gospel of Mark in over 2,370 languages. The Scriptures are still the best selling book and message in all of human history.

Between His written and spoken word, God has carefully promoted and preserved His priceless message making it understandable to whoever is willing to trust the Savior it speaks of and through. A loving Creator also guarantees that efforts to disperse His eternal rescue plan will not be wasted, a principle stated by the prophet Isaiah in chapter 55 and verse 11. "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."

A message with the ability to rescue the souls of men should never drift about aimlessly or be kept bottled up by those who know its potential and who have been made new creations in Christ through its mighty power!

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Doomsday Vault?

It is called "The Doomsday Vault", a term that conjures up numerous negative scenarios at once. A quick consideration would suggest a mode of survival in the midst of some massive threat to life as we know it. But this time, the term is not about people, at least not directly speaking.

This time, it is about a protective structure. But instead of housing people and the immediate necessities to extend life, as did the so-called bomb shelters of decades ago, this vault is about 'seeds'. Scientists have been collecting one and a half billions seeds representing nearly all of the earth's crops. The idea is to place them in a protective structure near the North Pole where they would be safe from climate change, nuclear war or any other unexpected disaster.

The enclosure itself was built to last 10,000 years and is a supposed guarantee that the world could restart its agriculture should some mega-disaster strike. Norway paid for the construction of the 9 million dollar 'seed safe house' and Microsoft's Bill Gates paid for its shipping and the actual seeds from nearly every nation on Earth. Cary Fowler runs the Global Crop Diversity Trust set up by the United Nations and a group called Bioversity International. He feels content that the project has finished his life’s work. He has stated, "So, if worst comes to worst this does save the world,"

The theme of a coming doomsday has for a long time been in the mind of man, and especially since humanity developed the ability to bring itself to that point. But according to the Creator of all things, there will indeed come a time of doom for man's habitation, but not in the form most might imagine. Even the great battle of Armageddon and other staggering end time events will not fully finish off mankind and his planetary home.

The physical doomsday for earth is seen in 2 Peter 3, being described as follows in verse 10. "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." But doomsday on a spiritual level can occur at any moment when a man or woman draws their last breath - if they have never trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior. This doomed existence will proceed throughout an endless eternity. There is no biblical hope given for restarting life and choosing the alternative message of redemption and everlasting life in heaven.

Back in his first letter, Peter makes reference to the solution for those who realize that their coming doom is caused by their own sin against a holy God. In chapter 1 he speaks of salvation and refers to the necessity of being reborn from above as Jesus forcefully taught in John 3:7. Verse 23 reads, "Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever." Being 'born again' provides absolute forgiveness, the blessed hope of a reservation in heaven, and the ability to resist sin as seen in 1 John 3:8-9. "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God."

There is a day of final and physical doom for planet earth. But more importantly, there is coming day of spiritual and eternal doom for those who neglect to have God's seed implanted via faith into the soil of their heart. In that way, ultimate survival and the restarting of life really is all about a saving seed.

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Purim and Promise

The Jewish community is observing Purim, which spans the days of March 19-23. Purim is an observance of Jewish deliverance from genocide harkening back to Esther and the book by her name. This year, it is coincidentally concurrent with much of the Christian Easter celebration, thus bringing Easter and Esther together.

Esther’s Jewish name, Hadassah, as found in Esther 2:7, means "myrtle tree." It is rarely given to Jewish girls. One of the few is the wife of Connecticut senator Joseph Lieberman. She was born of a Jewish parents who survived the Holocaust, perhaps a factor in her unusual moniker. Hadassah is also enshrined as the name of a Jewish woman’s Zionist Society founded in 1912.
The word purim, means "lots" and refers to the method by which wicked Haman in ancient Persia, now southern Iran, determined the best day to exterminate the Jews after Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, refused to honor him. Esther’s intercession before the king allowed the Jews to defend themselves and preserve their race. The next day became one of celebration and gift-giving and is still observed today as Purim.

Although God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, many Bible scholars comment on its contextual significance in Jewish history. Purim stands as a stirring reminder that God’s chosen people are prophetically invincible. Pharaoh tried ethnic cleansing in Egypt, Haman continued the attempt in Persia, Hitler tried it in Germany, and radical Islam seems bent on Jewish genocide today. It’s all for naught as Jeremiah 31:35-37 says.

"Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (the Lord of hosts is His name): ‘If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lord.’"

This is a solemn national promise that ethnic Israel will exist through the end times. No pogrom or genocide will prevail, and those so engaged will not prosper. Ethnic Israel must exist as long as the sun, moon, stars and tides continue in order to fulfill a national rebirth predicted in Ezekiel 37 and which occurred in 1948. They must retain their identity to rebuild a Temple in which Antichrist declares himself God as II Thessalonians 2:4 predicts and Revelation 11:2 implies. They must be a national entity to fulfill end-time attacks against them (Zechariah 14), their national repentance (Zech. 12:10) and the sealing of 144,000 in a future Tribulation time (Rev. 7).

This might be a good time to read the entire book of Esther. Purim fortifies our appreciation of the integrity of God and the certainty of prophecy—a celebration largely overlooked by evangelical Christians.

Dave Virkler

A Disturbing and Frightening Trend

In a story entitled 'Teens have sex but don't have the facts', the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has released a troubling study. This first federal study of its kind found that teenage girls are more sexually active than ever before and that a staggering 25% of teen girls have some form of STD.

Many experts are claiming that the main problem is a simple lack of knowledge by both teenage girls and boys. They site that teens are having sex, but just don't have the power of the necessary related facts which would help them make the right choices and cause the horrifying statistics to decline.

Once again, the secular mindset is missing the big picture - God's picture. The idea of teens not having the proper facts is right. But the primary facts being referred to are wrong ones! What every teen, not to mention many of their adult counterparts, is missing is the facts about how physical relationships are to be conducted as outlined in the Word of God.

In perhaps his greatest doctrinal thesis, the Apostle Paul related the result of getting involved in physical relationships that are clearly prohibited in the Scriptures. In verse 24 of chapter one of Romans he writes, "Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." He repeats the warning in even stronger language in 1 Corinthians 6:18. "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body." And in 1 Kings 11 the so-called wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, is shown as possessing a serious lack of spiritual wisdom by allowing illicit relationships to disrupt his spiritual loyalties and anger his Creator.

The STD rate among America's teens is troubling, not to mention dangerous and sometimes deadly. But the epidemic has little to do with a lack of knowledge concerning good or faulty safety measures. The greater issue is not knowing, accepting, and appropriating the 'facts' as outlined by God. He alone created men and women and has ordered what is sexually right and what a pure marriage relationship should be.

On rare occasions the 'experts' casually throw out the concept of abstinence. Deep down inside most of them know full well that this alone guarantees safety from disease and other serious consequences. In some ways they are right and half the way home when suggesting this only true protective measure. But the other half is finding the will and ability to actually resist the temptations in a culture where the lure of sexual freedom is at a mind-boggling level.

The strength to properly deal with life's natural urges, until it is fully appropriate to act upon them, is found in the One who created them. And those in Jesus Christ, and empowered by His Holy Spirit, are uniquely equipped to do what right and also attest to the reality of Paul's comforting words in 1 Corinthians 10:13. "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. "

The very best way to deal with any temptation, of any sort, and at any age, is to learn the facts of God's will and allow the Spirit to convert the knowledge about Him into a lifestyle that honors Him.

Those are the true facts and the ones that matter most!

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, March 17, 2008

Deceiving and Being Deceived

New York governor Elliot Spitzer has resigned in disgrace after it was discovered that he had transported a high-priced prostitute from NY to Washington, D.C. for secret and evidently ongoing sex. It appears to be a mix of illegality, money laundering and immorality.

Spitzer has destroyed his professional life, shamed his family, disgraced his party and troubled his state—all this by a man whose rise to the governorship was built on ferreting out lawbreakers, even prostitutes, as New York’s attorney general. He may also be a tragic contemporary example of end-time folly, the tip of an iceberg of immorality. One statistic says 99% of those similarly engaged in prostitution are never discovered.

The Apostle Paul sketched out the days of prophetic finality in 2 Timothy 3:1-13. Here are some excerpts about the perilous last days: "…men will be lovers of themselves… without self-control… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God… who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts… but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all… evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."

A man I knew who had previously been tragically involved in sin told me that when he was sinning he could justify anything and that he became a consummate liar. Massive deception accompanies habitual sinning that brings about a kind of immoral insanity. The prodigal son "came to himself" following a temporary insanity because of sin (Luke 15:17).

Historically, even kings fell prey to satanic deceit as in David’s case. He committed adultery with Bathsheba and then sought to cover the crime by trying to intoxicate her husband Uriah and finally having him killed (II Sam. 11 & 12).

Even Christians still troubled by the old nature this side of Heaven need caution. It’s been said, "The best saints need to be warned against the worst sins." Hebrews 3:13 warns, "But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." Consciences can be "seared with a hot iron," as 1 Timothy 4:2 says. A man once told me, "There is no fool like an old fool."

1 Peter 5:8 warns us, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." Satan has no respect for God, the family, the individual, the country or the church.

The degree of moral lapse in high secular places is a sad commentary on living in the end times, a period of tragic deception. We may not be able to counter this except through preaching the Word for the conversion of the soul and being salt and light in our society. We can and must foster spiritual vigilance in our churches and especially in our individual lives.

Dave Virkler

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere

A disquieting March 9th Associated Press report recounts the discovery of numerous pharmaceutical traces in the drinking water of 24 major metropolitan areas that affects 41 million Americans. These trace substances include antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones. The five-month testing discovered these conditions from southern California to northern New Jersey.

Philadelphia is especially hard hit with 56 pharmaceuticals or by-products in treated drinking water including medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. San Francisco’s water supply contained sex hormones.

Researchers say these trace amounts are in such small quantities as to be harmless, but the residual effects for the future are unknown.

The problem is caused by medications ingested and flushed down toilets. They make their way to wastewater facilities, which treat water for major illegal pollutants but are unable to filter medications that then return to the water supply only to be potentially reprocessed. These contaminants may even be spread by septic tanks and retained in aquifers that provide public drinking water.

Add to that issues over animal growth hormones or additives in food products, general air pollution or even electromagnetic effects from power lines and other electric devices, and the cumulative danger may be considerable. Appearing on a morning TV show, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. even suggested that hormonal water pollution may be a factor in the early sexual maturity of young girls.

The threat to public drinking water is an issue of mounting concern. Bottled water, long thought to be a defense against these problems, offers no protection as regulations for that are less stringent than those for public tap water.

There are three kinds of water—polluted water, pure water and living water. Polluted water can harm or kill life. Pure water can prolong life. But only the Bible’s Living Water can give eternal life to quench the thirst of the soul and eternally satisfy us.

Christ spoke to a sinful woman who met him at Jacob’s well in Samaria. The dialogue is found in John 4:10-14:

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water. The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

Christ still offers the spiritually thirsty this living water. The final book of the Bible closes with Revelation 22:17 inviting, "And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."

Temporal water supplies may increasingly be contaminated, but Christ’s Living Water is always available in endless supply. John W. Peterson’s gospel hymn says it well:

I thirsted in the barren land of sin and shame,
and nothing satisfying there I found;
But to the blessed cross of Christ one day I came,
Where springs of living water did abound.
Drinking at the springs of living water,
Happy now am I, My soul they satisfy;
Drinking at the springs of living water,
O wonderful and bountiful supply.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is Our Planet Dying or Already Dead?

More than 200 leaders from 71 American Indian nations in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada have met under the banner of "Indigenous People to Heal Our Mother Earth". The group came together in the Mexican jungle to try and find solutions to the pollution and ecological issues that they feel are a serious threat to the planet.

Raymond Sensmeier from Yakutat, Alaska, stated, "Our Mother Earth is being polluted at an alarming rate, and our elders say that she is dying. The way the weather is around the world ... a cleansing is needed." Juan Elvira Quesada, Mexico's environment secretary, added, "In this way, the indigenous communities can become the natural guides to restoring balance and harmony in the world."

It would be an major understatement to say that the environment is a political flash point and a great concern to many scientists and ordinary people. Others feel that the 'crisis' is not all that serious and is mostly hype. They maintain that the earth is capable of handling the current level of pressure by man and that any severe weather patterns are just part of the planet's normal cycle over time. Whether the physical earth is in grave danger, no danger, or somewhere in between, one thing is certain. The planet, although unique, amazing and mostly beautiful, is under a curse and has been since the first man and woman disobeyed God in Genesis chapter 3.

The Apostle Paul expanded on the subject and reaffirmed the earth's sad state in Romans 8:20-22. "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."

This situation is bad, but will get worse before it gets better. 2 Peter 3 shows exactly what is in store for the afflicted creation beginning with verse 10. "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." But that must occur in order to bring in something 'better' which is revealed later in verse 13. "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells."

While the debate over the condition and direction of the physical world intensifies, God's main concern remains dealing with the effects of spiritual pollution. First, He reminds Christians that His postponing of the future remolding the material world is to allow them to share their faith with those who are physically alive but spiritually dead. Verse nine describes His loving logic. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

In addition to sharing their own faith with those who are perishing, the entry of the new creation should act as a catalyst as they ponder the sobering question in verse 11. "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness."

'Mother Earth' will some day be cleansed, but not the way desired by environmentalists like those who met in Mexico. But when that spectacular event does arrive, the issue will not be the condition of the old physical creation, but whether or not each of us have been made into a new creation having had the pollution of sin cleansed through saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

America - Safe Anywhere Anymore?

What is going on in America? It might seem at times that it is safer in an Iraqi war zone than on the streets of the greatest nation on earth. Although the news points to numerous troubling trends, none are more disturbing than the increase of brutal shootings that have become so commonplace that keeping track of them requires a photographic memory.

Beginning in February we have witnessed the following murders: Four shot dead in a mall in Tinley Park, Il, six in a Missouri town council meeting, four in a Los Angeles street battle, three in a Baton Rouge vocational college, six in a Northern Ill, university, two in a West Palm Beach Wendys, five in an East Texas home, and then six more just days later in an apartment in Memphis, TN. Some of the grizzly scenes included the execution of families and even small children. The total dead for these six events alone, and there were others, was 33. According to there were 29 American soldiers killed in battle in the war in Iraq fighting terrorists during that same period of time.

Terrorism can take many forms! So exactly what is going on in America? For some the answer is simple. We own far too many firearms and lack appropriate controls on them. But there is a slight problem with placing the blame there. Guns do not generally get angry, plot violence, hunt down victims, load themselves, take aim and pull their own trigger. That would be a stretch even in an age of so-called 'smart weapons'.

The root of the problem, from God's perspective, does not include guns or any other potentially destructive man-made device. God's view on violence, and any other form of wrongful behavior, is summed up throughout Romans chapter one. Paul reveals there a disturbing summary starting with verse 28. "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; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful".

The question of what is going on in America leads to another question - a far more pertinent one. Simply stated it is this. What is not going on in America? And what is not going on is a nation whose citizens are living for God and hungry for spiritual revival!

This in turn leads to question three. It is equally critical as its answer contains the solitary solution to the overall problem. This time we ask, what should be going on in America? The short answer to that one is laid out in Acts 2:21. "And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."

In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul lists several serious sins but then reveals the impact of saving faith upon those in bondage to them. In chapter 6 and verse 11 he states, "And such were some of you, But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." The impact of that justification and the resulting salvation is shared in 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."

America is feeling the heavy weight of her own sin. But Romans 5:20-21 reveals how that load can be fully lightened. "But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord".

Being in Christ is the best way to address the flood of wickedness assaulting the culture and is the only way to be properly prepared for terrorism in any form. The basic questions have been answered - with the exception of the one that must be addressed by every man. Have you ever come to Jesus Christ by faith and become that 'new creation' in Him?

Bill Breckenridge

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Running the Race

After last week’s presidential primaries, Mike Huckabee graciously conceded to John McCain. In his speech, he included a sports illustration and some pointed Scripture verses.

He began by quoting George Brett’s retirement hope. "I want my last play at bat to be that I hit an easy, just one bounce to the second baseman, and they throw me out at first, but I was running as hard as I could toward the bag when they got me. Because I want it to be said of George Brett that, no matter what, he played his best game, he gave it his best, all the way to the very end." And Huckabee certainly did just that.

He then quoted the Apostle Paul’s famous departure text in 2 Timothy 4:7-8. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…" (NASV), applying it mostly to his own political persistence. As a Baptist minister, Huckabee surely knows there is more to that verse, but most Americans are sufficiently ignorant of the entire text to know what he knows. The rest of the verse says, "Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."

Huckabee went on to quote from Isaiah 51:1. "The prophet Isaiah said, and I've quoted it often, ’Look to the rock from which you were hewn, the quarry from which you were dug’" (NASV).

Outlining his personal quarry, Huckabee noted, "I know of the earth from which I have come, the humble circumstances of the son of a firefighter and who worked a second job, barely paying their rent on the rent house in Hope, Arkansas, where we lived; a mother who was oldest of seven kids and grew up in a house, dirt floor, outdoor toilets, no electricity when she was little; parents who, like so many across this country, wanted for their kids to have a better life. I don’t think they could’ve ever imagined that that better life would have included running for president and getting this close to getting there.:"

Mike Huckabee’s ministerial and Biblical knowledge was pointedly showing through in his withdrawal speech. It is good to understand our roots, better to comprehend our journey, but best to know our destiny.

I could wish Huckabee had put more context into the Timothy verse, stressing the eternal exodus all believers face because we "love His appearing." Indeed, accountability is sobering, as 2 Corinthians 5:10-12 outlines. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences."

Interestingly, "terror" in this text is not reverential respect but raw fear. It comes from the work "phobos," the basis for our word phobia. Running the race for Christ is not a casual recreational activity but a sobering exercise in view of a future review and corresponding reward. It is encouraging that a major contender for the Republican presidential nomination understands that.

Dave Virkler

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Ship Born Of Tragedy ?

When the USS New York was christened on March 1st at Northrop Grumman shipyardin Avondale, Louisiana, a unique and sobering atmosphere surrounded the event. The vessel has been referred to as a "living, fighting monument to the dead of 9/11". The description seems more than fitting when considering that approximately 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center is cast in the bow stem of the ship.

The $1 billion, 25,000-ton vessel, is 684 feet long and is one of a new class of warships designed for special operations against terrorists. The ship can carry a crew of about 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines. The New York will be officially commissioned in New York City in the fall of 2009 Rep. Vito Fossella, a New York Republican, "If the USS New York has to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, PCO Jones and his crew ... have my full support,"

Monuments can be found nearly everywhere and representing nearly everything imaginable. For example, the famed Eiffel Tower in France was built for the 1889 World's Fair to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution At 990 feet tall, the Eiffel tower almost double the size of the Washington Monument in the nation's capitol. Smaller and more common monuments are those seen scattered over any give cemetery or graveyard.The basic meaning of a monument is something venerated for its enduring historic significance or association with a notable past person or thing. The Encarta dictionary includes the following aspect: "A worthy reminder of something: something that remains as a reminder of something, especially something fine or distinguished".

In the world of impressive structures geared toward some form of remembrance, none can match the small, but highly significant, act of remembrance instituted by Jesus for His followers just before His death on the cross. The Apostle Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 11. Beginning in 23 he reveals the procedure and purpose of what the Lord Himself instructed believes in any time period to follow. "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes."

The USS New York is a ship that will forever be associated with tragedy. And while some may see Christ's death as a tragedy, the exact opposite is true. His death is equated to victory. His death was planned, voluntary, selfless, and significant beyond comprehension. His love compelled Him to follow lost sinners even to the very 'gates of hell'. This he did in order to redeem men from the devastating effects of sin and to fashion them as 'vessels' of honor and useful for good works according to 2 Timothy 2:20-21. In return, the Savior asks only for serious commitment to His Word and His will - part of which is remembering His 'monumental' act of redemption.

The USS New York has been referred to as a "living, fighting monument to the dead of 9/11". But the elements of the Lord's Supper are a living monument to a 'living' Savior by those now living through and for Him by faith.

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Are Buildings Alive?

"One if by land, and two if by sea." The historic reference is to the Old North Church in Boston where two lanterns were used to convey the movements of the British troops in April of 1775 while America struggled for her independence.

Until now, the half million yearly visitors to the famous spot saw only two dimly lit lanterns using incandescent bulbs which frequently burned out. Those have been replaced by a modern LED setup that lasts nearly 25 times longer, gives off more light and creates less damaging heat to the surrounding walls of the precious landmark. Other subtle lighting changes have also been made to the famous church that is still home to an active congregation.

Ed Pignone, executive director of the Old North Foundation of Boston, which oversees the 285-year-old church, said of the upgrades, "Churches are organic. They're not frozen in time. They're living buildings."

While it is obvious what Mr. Pignone meant by the above words, biblically speaking churches are 'living' and 'organic' only when applied to the people who make them up. A quick study of the New Testament church reveals that God always considered His church as being comprised of His saints - those called out of the world by saving faith in His Son. The book of Ephesians gives one of the best overall descriptions of the true church, and its head Jesus Christ. And yet it never mentions any man-made building. When letters were written to a New Testament church in some location, it was always addressed to the corporate gathering of Christian believers there. Back then, most church groups met in private homes since structures specifically built for Christian worship had not yet come into being.

In Colossians 1:18 the Apostle Paul, speaking of Christ says, "And He is the head of the body, the church." The body of believers is the 'living' and 'organic' church. Where the body meets, and in what structure they gather, is ultimately insignificant. The issue is only that they are in Christ and follow the basic pattern of the early church in Acts 2:41-42. "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers."

Today's buildings of worship can be a great tool to reach those on the outside who don't know Christ and a blessing to those on the inside who do. But the true church of the living God has been, and always will be, about the people - not about a place!

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, March 3, 2008

Gaza Again

The pull-out of Israel from the Gaza Strip area has increased, not reduced, area tensions between militant Palestinians and Israelis. The latest Hamas rocket barrages mean an impending invasion by Israel to staunch the flow of deadly rockets into southern Israel, the latest outrage being resulting damage to an Israeli hospital in Ashkelon.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to arrive in the area to rescue the shaky peace process. If peace is not achieved during the Bush presidency, which is an ardent wish for the Bush legacy, Jordan’s King Hussein warned that peace may be decades off since a new administration in Washington would be preoccupied with other issues.

The Gaza area is in the Old Testament land of the Philistines (a term that gave us "Palestine" and "Palestinians"). It figures in both Biblical history and prophecy. The five Philistine cities mentioned in the Bible are Gaza, Gath, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron. The first four are modern cities; the Ekron site has been located by archeologists. Although the area was included in the land grant to Abraham in Genesis 15:18, it was not fully controlled in Israel’s initial conquest of the land under Joshua (Judges 1:19; 3:3). Tragically, the time frame for total conquest was Joshua’s lifetime, and those Philistines who remained would be a continual trial to Israel as Joshua 2:21 & 22 says. "I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not."

The tension continues presently, and will be resolved in the national repentance of Israel prior to the millennial reign of Christ in Jerusalem as the prophet Zechariah wrote.

"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn" (Zech. 12:10-11). "And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—‘The Lord is one,’ And His name one" (Zech. 14:9).

At a future date, Israel 14:11 says that Israel will recapture Philistia. "But they shall fly down upon the shoulder of the Philistines toward the west; Together 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."

Although the specific time and scenario are somewhat unclear, troublesome Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis poised to possibly invade surely gives everyone pause to consider the approaching fulfillment of God’s prophetic Word.

Dave Virkler