Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mike Meets Bill

It was surely a night to remember! And what follows is the “truth and nothing but the truth”.

For the last year or so my wife and I have followed closely former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. My wife was very active in the former Governor’s bid for the White House and got involved on a level as she never had before in politics. But a week ago we had the opportunity to hear Governor Huckbee speak at a presidential lecture series hosted by Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. It was a dream come true for Donna-Jean and so we braved the brutal traffic and headed to the event. We borrowed a GPS for the journey, a move that may be the only reason we are not still driving in circles out there.

We arrived there absurdly early, hoping to get a good seat. That paid off as we nabbed two chairs on the aisle in the fifth row. Rows one through four were reserved for school royalty and those who funded the event. Because we had some excess time on our hands, I wandered outside while DJ talked to a couple that she knew via the internet from the campaign.

It was a beautiful spring night and so I just stood on the sidewalk watching students go about their typical business. I snapped a picture or two of some surrounding buildings just to re-acquaint myself with my wife’s camera in case a photo op came my way. Fortunately, that opportunity would come just seconds later. Unfortunately, I had turned the camera back off and was not ready. This is where it gets interesting.

Around 7:00 PM I sensed some movement to my left. When I glanced in that direction I saw Mike Huckabee coming right towards me and perhaps just ten feet away. He had the typical crowd of supporters, some school officials and security all around him. It was right then that I revealed my great poise, agility, and photography skills. I scrambled to get the still unfamiliar camera back on, but instead dropped some printed materials from my hands – one of which was a college newspaper with the Governor’s face on the front cover. As he approached this now rather embarrassed fan, he ignored everyone else and stopped the ranks of followers in their tracks. He then bent over, picked up the paper, and handed it back to me along with an outstretched hand and a huge smile. My reaction was to take his hand and make the best of this rare moment to speak to a gifted and respected leader. The profound words that just instantly flowed from my gifted tongue were this. “Oh, thanks and I’m very sorry for dropping your face on the sidewalk”. (Was that clever or what? He must have know then for sure that my ‘issues’ were both physical and mental!) But he did chuckle before moving along to address the media just before proceeding to the anxious crowd numbering about a thousand or so.

But it gets even better. Huckabee, along with assorted school brass, walked down the center aisle to begin the program. As he passed our position, he glanced over and apparently recognized the “klutz/stalker” he had encountered outside just moments earlier. He instantly broke into a large grin followed by an obvious wink as if to say, “Don’t worry about how foolish you looked outside when you almost caused me to step on my own face on the pavement.” At that precise ‘precious moment’ my wife snapped a shot over my shoulder, freezing our growing bond together – or so I thought. The only problem was that I was not in the picture. He could have been looking at anyone - meaning there was no conclusive evidence of any significant interaction between us!

But now it gets even better. After the meeting ended (which included Mike Huckabee speaking articulately for fifty minutes without a single note), we were able to make our way to the Governor. I eventually took two great pictures of him with my wife – one candid and the other posed. She will treasure those brief moments always.

I was also able to have him sign the paper he had graciously rescued for me a few hours earlier. But for some reason, in all the excitement, we never thought of getting my picture taken with him despite all that had happened to that point. We had only the one shot of him smiling and winking at ‘somebody’ in the crowd. It was a fine photo but fully useless for substantiating our great new ‘relationship’. But that unfortunate aspect was all about to unexpectedly change.The next morning DJ called out to me, asked me to sit down, and to get ready for a shock. My immediate response was to think, “Oh no. Who died?”

Apparently that night, someone that she also knew from the campaign was sitting on the other side of the aisle directly across from us. He, too, was snapping shots as Huckabee and company went past and had forwarded one of his pictures to us via e-mail. The photo showed the Governor offering a huge grin and looking at ‘someone’ in the crowd. Guess who? There it was - a true “Kodak Moment” showing me locking eyes and exchanging smiles with the man who had earlier helped me regain some of my damaged dignity outside. As a Christian, I don’t place much stock in the “odds” of anything happening or not happening. But I freely admit that it crossed my mind on this one.

As if all of this was not enough, there was one last ingredient to the night. While Governor Huckabee was signing my infamous newspaper cover, I gently touched the former Baptist Pastor’s shoulder as a curious security guard looked on. Perhaps he recalled my earlier ‘performance’ as well. But as the governor wrote his name, I slowly leaned in and whispered in his ear, “I’m a pastor too and I may just use what you did outside for me as a message illustration someday.” There was that instant awareness of our special Christian bond along with a unique understanding of what I meant from his former pastoral perspective. We shook hands again, our third connection of the night, and watched as he was guided away to some reception.

Yes, it was a night to remember, but not because of all the fun and photos. It was because we got to hear and meet a man whose life and priorities are outwardly based on his relationship with Jesus Christ. He does not run from it. He embraces and is proud of it. And openly defends it in an hour when many, particularly in his circles, keep the subject on a surface level. After all, people think, one’s personal faith is just so, well so - personal. To Mike Huckabee, and by my logic, that is simply camouflaged language. It serves only to hide the reality that one’s ‘personal faith’ has little influence one’s thought process, actions, or on the way he or she would govern.

I’m well aware that it is not right to set up any mere mortal as an idol, although I have flirted on occasion with changing my name from Bill to Huckabill. But the Bible indicates its allowance for believers to pattern their lives after those who are rightly related to Christ, who are mature in the faith, and whose priorities are truly guided by Scriptural principles. Hebrews 13:7 refers to this concept and reads, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.” This same concept is also echoed in 2 Thessalonians 3:7. Then, too, in 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul rather concisely and boldly declares, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”

As far as any message illustrations from that amazing night, there were too many to recall. But the obvious one was from that brief and memorable few seconds when a very important man revealed the heart of a humble servant to a nameless unimportant stranger on a college campus sidewalk. It was, for me, a simple reminder of how the ultimate servant described His own life’s purpose in Matthew 20:27-28. “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

No, Mike Huckabee is not some earthly version or equivalent of Jesus Christ, nor is he to be worshipped in any way. He fully recognizes his own sin nature and his need of the Savior.

But with that said, he is a role model. He is worthy to be patterned after in that he unashamedly follows, proclaims and worships his Lord and lives out his Christian faith without disguising its presence and influence through a maze of political jargon. His refreshing and winsome behavior in a hostile public realm is also well worth emulating. But he is worth looking up to most in the way that his words and actions reflect an active and sincere faith in Jesus Christ - a faith that remains the priority far beyond any future political ambitions or success.

William Breckenridge

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Are We Really All Alone?

Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has recently been evaluating the age old question, are we alone in the universe? His conclusion: “Probably not”. He also addressed the possibility of other life in the universe being intelligent life. To that loaded question he said, "Primitive life is very common and intelligent life is fairly rare. Some would say it has yet to occur on earth."

The scientist also addressed the question of aliens, while saying that reported abduction claims are unlikely. But he did state that eventual contact with alien life might be dangerous, since humans could be infected with a disease or which they have no resistance. Hawking’s statements were made at George Washington University where a celebration to honor the 50th anniversary of NASA was held.

Mr. Hawking has perhaps unknowingly touched on several key topics that will be familiar to students of the Scriptures. First, his reference to aliens might remind the Christian of his early ancestors in Hebrews 11 who suffered as aliens in distant hostile lands. Verse 13 reads, “They were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.”

But this rather grim picture is balanced in Ephesians 2 with the glorious contrast related in verses19-20. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,”

As far as man being alone, that may or may not ever be answered as it relates to alien life on distant planets. But the God who knows that answer, and who made all life in whatever form it exists, has ensured that those in His family have the answers they need and are never alone.

While speaking to a worried group of early followers, Jesus explained His logic for leaving them alone. It was anything but what it seemed on the surface. In John 16:7-9 He revealed, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Then Matthew’s gospel chapter 28 adds additional support in the Lord’s famous parting words in verse 20. “And lo, I am with you always , even to the end of the age." While confined on earth to a physical body, He could never be with everyone at once. But becoming freed from that limitation would allow His Spirit to be equally present with all true believers at all times.

Finally there is the question of ‘intelligent’ life in the universe. That, too, is addressed in the biblical text. Not only does Scripture confirm the existence of an all-powerful and all-knowing creator, it relates that His race of men can share in some of His divine attributes. In the first chapter of Corinthians 2, Paul shares how God’s Spirit reveals certain supernatural wisdom to His people. This includes the staggering words found in verses 15-16. “But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For "who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Are we alone in the universe? Are there real aliens? And if we are not alone, can other life be as intelligent as we are, or more?

Those questions, and many more, may well remain mysteries for the race of natural men. But for those who have been supernaturally infused with the power of the Creator God, their answers will be not only different and confident, but uniquely comforting!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Be Still and Know

April 25th has been officially designated "Day of Silence" by countless public high schools throughout the U.S. It is promoted by lesbian and gay activists to bring attention to the presumed plight of harrassed homosexuals. Students are encouraged to remain silent throughout the day, explaining it by means of a printed card.

Multiple school districts have gotten behind this movement while others happily let it pass without notice. Some Christian organizations are recommending that parents keep their children home in protest or to relieve them of the absurd embarrassment of being publicly identified as unsupportive of gay rights if they don’t remain silent.

Several New Jersey districts are featuring this day of silence, which is seemingly at odds with the educational process since only teachers and non-gay rights promoters would be vocal. This is the same New Jersey where some years ago, a moment of silence for prayer was judged to be unconstitutional as dangerously moving toward a government-sponsored support of religion.

In East Brunswick, N.J. in October 2005, Marcus Borden, who had been the high school football coach since 1983, was restrained from bending his knee and bowing his head while his players had pre-game prayer. Although he did not verbally pray and the players’ prayer was only for safety and sportsmanship, Borden was forbidden from taking part. He first resigned rather than conform. He later sued, and the U.S. District Court for New Jersey ruled that his actions were legal. Last week, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed that decision, and Borden’s quiet genuflect is once again judged illegal. His lawyer says this needs to go to the U.S. Supreme Court. We hope it will.

Meanwhile, Mount Vernon, Ohio school teacher John Freshwater was recently asked to remove the Bible he had kept on his desk for 18 years. He refused. In support, several students brought their Bibles to school and some wore tee shirts with crosses and other religious symbols and some with "Fresh H2O." In a written statement, Freshwater said, "Would our government ask a follower of Islam to remove her burqa in order to teach school? Would we ask a science teacher to remove The Origin of Species from his desk merely because the origin of man has never been proven? I cannot with a clear conscience follow a directive that makes religion and the religious viewpoint any less credible by those who deem themselves more enlightened."

A notch or two higher on the academic scale is Ben Stein’s movie documentary "Expelled," in which he catalogues numerous dismissals or restraints placed on science professors who believe in divine creation or even the less doctrinaire idea of Intelligent Design over the theory of evolution. Professional careers are being demeaned and positions lost when one believes in creation or, in some instances, is even presumed to believe.

Christian persecution in America is not as overt as in some darkened places on the planet, but the pressure to conform to shaky science dogma is as equally dangerous as disputing a cruel godless dictator. This drumming out of dedicated believers may be the wrenching harbinger of direct sweeping persecution where the "thought police" force universal conformity to secular thinking. In any event, we need revival, which, as someone once said, either prevents disaster or prepares for it.

For those who only read about persecution in blogs like this one, I urge fervent prayer for all those who are in any political chain of command—from the local level to national government to international leaders. A good pattern would be II Chronicles 7:14 followed by Joel 2:12-14.

"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

"‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him…?’"

For those stifled souls or illegally pressured churches or individual believers, I recommend contacting the Christian Law Association. Their address is PO Box 4010, Seminole, FL 33775, and the phone is (727) 399-8300. They handle thousands of cases each year.

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Costly Collapse of The Family

A new study has returned troubling, but not all that shocking, results. The findings were tallied by Georgia State University economist Ben Scafidi. The work was sponsored by four groups, all part of a nationwide movement to bolster the institution of marriage in America.

The first-of-its-kind study looked at the actual economic impact on the nation of a soaring divorce rate and the fully out-of-control, out-of-wedlock birth rate. Although other projects have looked at similar data, this is said to be the first to compute the broader cost of "family fragmentation": both divorce and unwed childbearing.

Scafidi's calculations were based on the assumption that households headed by a single female have relatively high poverty rates, leading to higher spending on welfare, health care, criminal justice and education. This was added to the cost of other related federal, state and government programs, plus a typical loss of certain tax revenues. When all the factors were considered, the estimated price tag to the American taxpayer came in at a stunning $112 billion per year. The purpose of the project is to hopefully push legislators to reverse that trend by funding more programs geared to stabilize marriage through preventative educational programs.

It is no wonder that the prophet Malachi wrote in chapter 2 verse 16, "For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce.” He was, of course, not despising those caught up in its destructive grip. But rather He was revealing His displeasure knowing the great pain and harmful effects it has on men and women, not to mention the potential for even greater impact on emotionally vulnerable children.

And while God’s concern was is not really economic, that aspect remains as a by-product of the whole scene. As a sidelight, it is also interesting that the war on terror in Iraq has cost and average of about $100 billion per year. This would mean that a virtual elimination of the above mentioned problems could actually fund the entire war.

America is at war. The attacks come from the outside and, perhaps even more importantly, from the inside. No nation can long endure if the family unit caves in. And while government intervention may be helpful, the ultimate solution is a spiritual one. It comes when the principle of Ephesians 5:24-25 is seriously adhered to and put into practice. “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

As far as the other addressed issue, it likewise finds its ‘fix’ through observing the biblical command spelled out by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor”.

Most all of the problems facing America, or any nation, can be effectively dealt with. It requires only that the words of Psalm 33:12 become more than just words. It demands that the Psalmist’s words be fully engrafted in the hearts and evidenced in the lives of its people.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, April 21, 2008

Strange Underwater Earthquakes?

Scientists have been monitoring an odd sounding set of underwater earthquakes using hi-tech submersible microphones. Typically the sounds arise just prior to a volcanic eruption, only there are no volcanoes in the area. So far, about 600 quakes have been detected over the past 10 days, one of which reached 5.4 on the Richter Magnitude Scale.

Meanwhile other experts are saying there is a 99.7% chance that California will experience a large quake, perhaps 6.7 or larger, by the year 2037. The region is one of the most seismically active regions in the world, averaging about 10,000 quakes yearly in Southern California alone. Ned Field, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, and lead author of the report, basically guaranteed the dire prediction for California as a reasonable conclusion, since the number of earthquakes worldwide has risen steadily since the 1970. Even this past week a 5.2 quake struck in Illinois and could be felt as far away as Milwaukee.

The Bible is far from silent on this topic. In Luke 21, Mathew 24, and Mark 13 Jesus related how preparation for the end times would include various signs from nature - including earthquakes. After being questioned about the end of all things, the Savior declared in Mark 13:7-8, “But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows.”

But then in Luke 21:20 and 24, Christ shared an additional and highly significant sign. Verse 20 reads, "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. That predictive description was followed in verse 24 by an unmistakable key prophetic element. “And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Many feel that this incredible prediction was fulfilled in 1967 with annexation of Jerusalem after the Six Day War, something that occurred just 19 years after Israel officially became a nation.

Lastly, the Lord said something about the moral climate that would precede His coming. In Luke’s gospel chapter 17, he referenced a tragic time in human history as a comparison. Verse 26 described it as follows. ”And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”

Certainly it appears that we are living in the “last days”. And while other generations have felt the same, there has never been the convergence of predicted factors as are in place today. For those outside of Christ, this should be a sobering thought if they remain in an unsaved state and destined for a Christ-less eternity.

For the Christian, however, this should serve as a wake up call and the ultimate motivation to heed the exhortation found in 1 Peter 3:15. “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.”

Bill Breckenridge

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Pope and You

Pope Benedict XVI has burst upon the American scene with aplomb befitting the visible head of the Roman Catholic Church and Head of State. While evangelical Protestants will never find agreement with Catholicism with its multiple authorities beyond Scripture, the moral influence and common values of pressing issues such as sanctity of life are sincerely welcomed.

A papal visit always recalls an interesting discussion I learned of many years ago when I was pastoring a local church. A parent told me of overhearing her young daughter debating the various merits of her religious beliefs with a young Catholic friend. Things seemed about even until the kids trotted out their biggest guns. The Catholic youngster, in a presumed verbal coup, fired away saying, "But we have the Pope."

The young Protestant was a bit bewildered not having gotten into the intricacies of denominational differences at her young age. "What does that mean?" she asked. "That means he is the Vicar of Christ on the earth." "Vicar? What does that mean?" "That means that he is the personal representative of Christ on the earth." The other girl thought for a moment and then said, "But so am I!" The conversation ended in something of a misty draw as the kids pondered heavy doctrine around with immature minds.

The Protestant girl evidently had been to church enough to understand the unique relationship with Christ that anyone has who has received Him as Savior. Although not articulating the particulars or fleshing out the full impact of New Testament teaching, she was reflecting a basic truth. The Apostle Paul said in Colossians 1:27, "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory…"

Individual representation is universal in the born again family as 2 Corinthians 5:20 says. "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God."

The indwelling Christ is the centerpiece of New Testament Christianity. The Apostle John focused this truth in 1 John 5:11-13. "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."

Peter, assumed to be the first pope by many Catholics, extended the best of personal redemptive relationship to every believer saying, "Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:1-4).

All believers are indeed the personal representatives of Christ on the earth. Let us never forget it, for we are as Paul declared an "epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart" (2 Cor. 3:2-3).

Dave Virkler

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Taxing Day

If the ache of Tuesday’s tax deadline still lingers, I feel your pain. Some say that taxes and death are the only two sure things. These twin certainties are especially affirmed each year on April 15th and daily in every newspaper obituary.

I confess to mailing my federal and state tax forms at separate post offices late in the day on April 15th. A math error and filling out the form a second time wrecked my earlier target time. There was a minor traffic jam at the first post office and a modestly busy parade at the second. Evidently, last minute filing is a habit with droves of taxpayers.

The tardiness is probably not all mindless procrastination, but it reflects stubborn psychological resistance to the very notion of taxation—a painful process annually reopening the wound of human sin.

Talk of pain is not hyperbole. Analysts tout statistics for Tax Freedom Day in America and other countries. That is the day when a nation has theoretically reached its annual tax need or, by definition from Wikipedia, "the day the average citizen has earned enough to pay his tax burden." The date for 2008 in the U.S. is April 23. Loosely understood, it means we all will give about everything we earn until that day to meet the expenses of America. We may be cheered by learning Israelis will work until August 2 and that Norway and Sweden will labor on until July 29. Of course, these dates are calculated differently by various authors, but the bottom line is always the bitter line.

Taxes are worse than most payers know since the subtle levies on gas, food and most other purchases are on top of the obvious rates of federal, state and local taxes.

The reason for all this is that since we’re not being ruled exclusively by God, we’ll be ruled by human tyrants—always ourselves. It began in Eden with sin displacing direct divine rule. Policing wayward men, spending on health care in the fallen state, etc., etc., all the way to funeral expenses, runs up crushing expense.

Israel hankered for routine human government saying, "‘Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said so. Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.’" (1 Sam 8:5-18).

Then Samuel tallied the expense of government.

"‘This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day" (I Samuel 8:11-18 – emphasis mine)

A modicum of relief is available for the godly. Psalm 144:15 says, "Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!"

Through Christ, believers are to inherit the better land where no tax forms are ever due and we’ll all have free housing, no health bills, no school tax, no road repairs and no mortuaries. We will all be healed, totally educated, walk on streets of gold where no death will ever come. And our eternal living expenses are forever paid, redeemed by the measureless cost of Christ’s loving blood. When He died on Calvary he breathed, "It is finished." In the Greek, it’s "tetelestai," which literally means the same thing as was written on a fully finalized mortgage instrument – PAID IN FULL.

Perhaps this year is the last year for Christians to pay earthly taxes. The Rapture ends them all.

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

President Honors Navy Hero

It was the kind of story that movies are made of. Only this time it was for real. And it was an act of bravery that brought the nation’s highest military honor, but at the expense of the ultimate sacrifice.

In an East Room ceremony, President Bush presented the Medal of Honor to the grieving, but proud, parents of Michael Monsoor. The Navy SEAL gave his life in Iraq when he made a quick decision to use his own body to shield his fellow soldiers when a live grenade landed in their midst. Knowing there was no time to get rid of the explosive, Monsoor simply threw himself on the explosive thereby saving those around him from certain death. In May, Monsoor had run through heavy enemy fire to pull a wounded SEAL to safety earning a Silver Star, the third-highest award for combat valor.

We may fully never know what goes through the mind of someone who acts instinctively as did this gallant American hero. His reaction was decisive and his calculations acted upon instantly. But in another epic life and death struggle there was a decision made and implemented from eternity past that would effect far more than just a few precious lives. This one would impact every living soul in every single age.

The Bible reveals that the all-knowing Creator God calculated, even before the creation, how He would save a sinful race doomed to physical and spiritual death. His stunning and ingenious rescue would come through the loving and selfless sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. It was then, and may well always be, something far beyond mortal man’s ability to grasp.

Matthew’s gospel summarizes the main thrust of Christ’s main ministry of dying in man’s place in chapter 20. In verse 28 the apostle records, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

The concept of a ransom is not a difficult one. But to further realize the extent of the Savior’s redemptive actions requires the additional light shed on the issue as offered in Philippians 2:11. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

The actions of a brave Navy SEAL are inspiring and should be highly valued by any thinking person. But they should also remind the thinking Christian of the Redeemer who willingly gave His life in exchange for theirs. His heroism not only saved them from sin’s power and penalty, but miraculously defeated the enemy of death itself as noted in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.

“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Google Earth Tracks Refugees

Google, the Internet giant, has announced a new feature under their Google Earth program. The software enables users to actually keep tabs on the movements of refugees world-wide who have fled their homes for one reason or another.

The technology uses satellite images to hone in on groups as they travel or settle somewhere away from the original location. Google intends to provide some groups with training and their professional version of the mapping software, something they claim could be beneficial to non-profit aid workers.

The computer age has brought about staggering advancements and allowed man to achieve things never previously dreamed of. Perhaps this is part of what God spoke to the prophet about in Daniel chapter 12. In verse 4 He commands His servant and says, "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” And increase it has!

Although computer and satellite technology is relatively recent, the concept of refugees is surely not. It has been part of the human condition from nearly day one. Even the first man and woman experienced this fate after their willful disobedience in Genesis 3 forced God to drive them from the lush garden home they had enjoyed.

Then the New Testament book of Hebrews records another group of refugees – a group who were persecuted and scattered for the exact opposite reason. Some of God’s choice servants are remembered in chapter 11 - a passage often referred to as “God’s Hall of Faith”. After speaking of several better-known saints, the author turns his attention to those he calls simply “others”.

Verse 32 begins by relating the dreadful treatment many received for outwardly evidencing their inward faith. “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented - of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith.”

The next chapter then begins by revealing God’s purpose in sharing the plight of the “others” and all spiritual refugees. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

Every member of the family of God is a refugee of sorts. Paul reveals the basis of this concept in Philippians 3:19. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

An awful as it is to lose one’s earthly and material anchors, the sincere follower of Christ can grasp perspective not understood or offered to non-believers. For only Christians can comprehend the truth, and claim the promise, found in 1 John 2:16-17. “For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Princess Diana's Unlawful Death?

It has been more than ten years since her tragic death, and finally blame is being placed.

A court has found that Princess Diana’s death in France back in August of 1997 was ‘unlawful’. The unlawful killing verdict was placed on the driver of the vehicle and the paparazzi who hounded the princess until her Mercedes crashed at 60 mph ending her young life and shocking the world.

The jury deliberated and came to their decision after hearing six months of testimony from more than 240 witnesses during the 6 million-dollar inquest. They also traveled to Paris to see the scene of the 1997 crash.

It seems that questions and suspicions will always plague the bizarre death of Princess Diana. But the Bible speaks about another death and one that is, without question, the single most wrongful in human history. It was the unjust torture and hideous execution of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:15 relates His total innocence and flawless life despite the unfair treatment He received. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

The unjust killing of the Lord violated countless laws of His day. But the upside is that His fate was no accident. It was literally pre-determined. The Lord Himself revealed this to His disciples following His resurrection in Luke 24:7. He stated there, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” It all fit precisely into God’s amazing plan of saving sinful man through the sinless “Son of Man”.

In the Book of Acts the author made this even more clear through the recording of Peter’s powerful sermon in chapter 2. Verse 22 reveals, "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know - Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”

Then the Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5, reaffirmed the concept of the Savior’s blameless life along with God’s marvelous plan to save the lost. Verse 21 reads, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Perhaps Peter said it best in just one concise and potent sentence in the 3rd chapter of his first epistle. Verse 18 begins. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God…”

It goes without saying that the unjust killing of the innocent is wrong and beyond awful. But all death, natural or otherwise, can be fully prepared for through saving faith in the one whose own unjust death can make any soul just before God.

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, April 7, 2008

Homegoing of a Hero

The secular media mostly missed it, and some Christian publications gave it minor mention. The Homegoing of Doolittle Raider Jacob "Jake" DeShazer on March 15th recalled the tragic era of World War II eclipsed by the mighty grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Pearl Harbor was the terrible start of the Pacific theater conflict. In retaliation and seeking a military boost for America morale, General Jimmy Doolittle led sixteen B-25 bombers off the carrier Hornet in a surprise attack on Japan. The crews mostly bailed out at night over occupied China. DeShazer, bombardier of plane #16, landed in a cemetery and was captured by the Japanese. He was imprisoned and tortured for 40 months. Three of his crew were executed.

DeShazer hated his captors, but his life was transformed while reading a Bible given him by this captors. Reviewing the story of redemptive love in Christ, he was marvelously converted vowing to return to Japan as a missionary if he lived to be released. After liberation, theological studies at home, marriage and a newborn son, Jake indeed returned to Japan in 1948 where he established 30 churches.

The Japanese Pearl Harbor attack leader was Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, who alone of the marauding Japanese officers survived the war. Unknown to DeShazer, Fuchida had read his story in a tract distributed by missionaries at a Tokyo rail station. Fuchida obtained a Bible and received Christ as Savior. After a 40-day fast for additional spiritual victory, DeShazer was sought out by Fuchida, and together they evangelized, seeing thousands turn to Christ. Fuchida later toured the States and European countries telling his stunning story of redemption, forgiveness and reconciliation. Through the witness of Gideons, who distribute Bibles, General Jimmy Doolittle received Christ at age 89.

Through Christ’s death and resurrection, they became three Heaven-bound brothers through the cross. Mitsuo Fuchida passed into Heaven on May 30, 1976. Jimmy Doolittle joined him there on September 27, 1993. Jake DeShazer joined them on March 15, 2008, just a week before Easter.

The reunion can only be imagined—bitterest enemies eternally brought together by the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s truth is always stranger that man’s fiction. It’s a miracle of God’s grace, a temporal example of His timeless principle spoken by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

The full story of DeShazer, Fuchida and Doolittle is available in print and on CD from our ministry upon request. Contact us via e-mail or write to us: Dedication Evangelism, PO Box 10, Towaco, NJ 07082. A tax-deductible gift to help with postage and materials is appreciated. You can listen to our April 6 broadcast featuring excerpts of the story at our ministry website or at

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

April Fools

Did you get faked out yesterday with one of those April Fool jokes? Millions probably stumbled into red-faced embarrassment as some trickster lured them into humorous folly.

Sometimes linked to "spring fever" for its characteristic seasonal period of erratic behavior, the observance of April Fool’s Day seems to hark back to the change with the Gregorian calendar. That made January 1 the first of the year rather than traditionally April 1. Those who hadn’t heard or refused to believe it were called fools on April first.

Another resource believes it to be a recollection of some court jesters. In Constantine’s time (AD 288–337), they suggested they could better run the government and were given the chance. They passed an edict making the day one of absurdities. Perhaps this year’s April Fool’s Day is best observed in similar fashion with all the political aspirants campaigning on the jesters’ platform.Regardless, the tradition spread throughout Europe and much of the world. People are still told tall but untrue tales, are sent on dead-end errands and generally fall prey to gullible tricksters.

A worse fate befalls Biblically ignorant or indifferent people around the world in any age or on any day of the year. Ever since Shakespeare wrote, "A fool, a fool, I met a fool in the forest," millions have failed to come out of the woods and anchor themselves to God’s truth. Some may hear the voice of misguided sincerity, promise themselves Heaven by good works, honorable heritage, making amends for wrongdoing or working their way into God’s good graces, only to hear the leering Devil say, "April’s fool you are.

"Psalm 14:1 and 53:1 both say, "The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good." After rejecting God’s way of peace, King Saul cried, "Indeed, I have played the fool and erred exceedingly" (I Samuel 26:21).

The most indifferent victim of personal folly was the millionaire who thought riches defended against worry. His story is found in Luke 12:16-21. "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

Fools build their lives on temporal shifting sand (Matthew 7:26). They mock sin (Proverbs 14:9). They fail to fuel their lives for the Lord’s return (Matt. 25:2–8) and generally sink into intellectual foolishness over rejecting God (Romans 1:22).

Wisdom is to know God and make Him known. As missionary Jim Elliot wrote before his noble death trying to win Ecuador’s violent Auca savages to Christ, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."

Dave Virkler

Is the economy really hurting the poor?

It is no secret that the American economy is struggling - big time! Basic costs of nearly everything are rising across the board, much of it due to increasing fuel costs. Not only does it cost more now to drive a car and heat a home, but nearly everything on the store shelf got there by some vehicle using an oil based product – not to mention those items which are physically made using petroleum products.

And now this increased financial pressure has meant more and more are turning to food stamps. Demand is reported to be up in 43 states with fourteen of them showing record highs. In Michigan, one in every eight residents is on food stamps and one in seven in Kentucky. Those working or retired, living near the poverty line - less than about $28,000 per family of four - is eligible for the benefits, The figures work out to about $100 per person per month.

Economic difficulties can make life difficult and cause great stress on an individual or family. And yet, the terms ‘poor’ or ‘poverty’ are somewhat relative. Those making what the government considers to be at a level of subsistence in America would be seen as rich in a country like Haiti.

An article from, using various government reports, stated the following concerning those the Census Bureau says are at the poverty level. “Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. If poverty means lacking nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, relatively few of the 35 million people identified as being "in poverty" by the Census Bureau could be characterized as poor. While material hardship does exist in the United States, it is quite restricted in scope and severity. The average "poor" person, as defined by the government, has a living standard far higher than the public imagines.”

True poverty is a serious issue and one worthy of addressing wherever it is found. But the ultimate form of poverty is found in an unexpected place and in an unusual form. The Bible describes it in 2 Corinthians 8. In verse 9 the writer says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

That explanation of that voluntary poverty is revealed in Philippians chapter 2. Verse 6 speaks of the selfless ministry Jesus Christ, “who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

In Luke 18, the Lord shared a story about a rich young ruler who had approached Him about finding eternal life. In his mind, the man had obeyed the law from his youth and was worthy of heaven on that basis. But Jesus knew that his many possessions were the man’s true god and standing in the way of any real repentance or conversion. In verse 22, the sad ending to the story is revealed. “So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Luke 21:1-4 speaks of a woman who was materially poor but spiritually rich in faith. In Verse 1 Jesus’ words about her are recorded. “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had."

True poverty is a heartbreaking and difficult issue and the source of untold misery for those who are bound by its destructive grip. But no lack of material goods can ever match the tragedy of being without the “abundant life” found in the Savior. He became dramatically poor that we might become eternally rich through His life-giving sacrifice. And when all is said and done, even the poorest soul on earth is richer by far than the wealthiest man alive if his faith is in Christ and his treasure stored in heaven!

Bill Breckenridge

The hour the lights went out.

It is called “Earth Hour”, a global movement promoted by the World Wildlife Fund in Australia.

It began on March 31, 2007, in Sydney when over 2 million residents and 2,199 businesses there turned off their lights as a public reminder of global warming and environmental issues. The event saved electric consumption by an estimated 10.2% for the single hour. But on March 29 of this year, 24 global cities went dark to show their support by turning lights off from 8:00 to 9:00 PM. They are hoping the event will gain more recognition as the movement grows in the years to come.

Whether one believes the earth to have serious environmental trouble or not, conservation is still a generally good idea since it impacts the quality of life for every living creature. And while it is impractical, if not impossible, to mechanically darken the planet, there was a time when several hours of thick darkness covered the land because of an astounding event. Luke 23 speaks of arguably the darkest moment in history – the inconceivable crucifixion of the Son of God. Verse 44 reads, “Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, "Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit.'" Having said this, He breathed His last.”

As bleak as those few terrible hours were for the Lord Himself, and for those who loved Him, that unimaginable darkness would soon become the very source of an unparalleled light - a light that would pierce the darkness of human sin. In John 8, Jesus intervened in a dark moment for a woman who was about to be stoned to death for adultery. After miraculously neutralizing the bloodthirsty and hypocritical crowd, He spoke to her words of forgiveness followed by a revealing to a stunned crowd His status as the world’s only spiritual ‘light” in verse 12. “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

In his first letter, Peter revealed in chapter 2 and verses 9-10 the special status of those who have miraculously escaped the grip of sin’s darkness through Christ’s transforming light. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

Then, upon becoming partakers of Christ’s nature, believers should likewise contrast and resist the darkness that typically surrounds them. They are to become literal extensions of Christ’s light in the midst of a spiritually blinded culture. Paul forcefully revealed this to a young church in Ephesians in chapter 5 and verse 8. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”

Finally, the indwelling light of the living God should serve to keep His people’s motives right and their actions pure as they consider their Lord’s soon return. Paul spelled this pattern out in 1Thessalonians 5:2-8. “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”

Colossians 1:13-14 speaks of the ability and infinite power of God’s light in Christ. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” And while all attempts at conservation aimed at the material world may improve the quality of life on planet earth, only a spiritual transformation in Christ prepares the soul for what comes long after this fragile world is a distant memory.

Bill Breckenridge