Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banks That Survive

The current bank crisis has left millions of people worrying over their investments, deposits, loans and paychecks. Congress may appropriate billions it doesn’t have to salvage institutions they may not save. If Congress passes a bailout bill, the money will come from more deficit loans and probably place us into greater jeopardy of foreign financiers.

In a dreadful time of moral decline, Isaiah 1:7 declared, "Your land is desolate, Your cities are burned with fire, Your fields—strangers are devouring them in your presence; It is desolation, as overthrown by strangers."

When I asked my local banker who would be loaning the U.S. the money if there is a government bailout, I was told it would probably be Japan. Someone else has suggested it would be China. A bank in Spain was mentioned as buyer of failed banks. Has Japan, who groveled at our feet as merciful victors in World War II, now become a strange money master? Has China, whose ravaging Communism has murdered millions, become our financial landlord? It sounds like the days of Isaiah when strangers devoured their fields.

One bright shaft of encouraging light shone on my pathway recently. At my bank, which is significantly named Atlantic Stewardship Bank, I asked about their financial stability. "No trouble here," I was told. "In fact of the 537 banks in New Jersey, we are in the top 30 according to Bauer Financial, Inc., an independent bank rating company located in Coral Gables, Florida. We didn’t make risky sub-prime mortgage loans, the original problem which brought this current mess."

Atlantic Stewardship Bank has a fascinating middle name—stewardship! It is organized and operated by those who have a Christian commitment with its sense of biblical stewardship. In stark contrast to the widespread corporate greed troubling the national finances, the bank tithes its profits—that is, it disperses 10% of its profits back to religious and other non-profit charitable local organizations. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have graciously been granted to organizations who do not exist for personal gain but operate for community well-being.

When Eric Liddell, the Scottish Christian Olympic runner, forfeited his Sunday race in Paris in 1924 to preserve his Christian convictions, he was entered in a substitute event and unexpectedly raced to a world record. Earlier that day, an trainer gave him a note that said, "In the old book it says, ‘He that honors me I will honor.’" It is thought to be a paraphrase from I Samuel 2:30, "…now the Lord says, those who honor me will I honor." It could also have been reference to Christ’s promise in John 12:26, "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor."

Beyond the conventional analysis of the current financial crisis being due to poor management, there is likely an element of scriptural ignorance or even abandonment where godly principles of honesty, wisdom and thrift were sacrificed on the altars of greed, faulty planning and outright stupidity. The New Testament fool built his financial house on failing mortality. "Fool, this night shall your soul be required of thee" (Luke 12:20). The Old Testament fool linked himself to wretched atheism in Psalm 14:1 and 53:1. "The fool says in his heart, there is no God." Proverbs, the wisdom book, characterizes the fool 37 times—no seeking of God’s will and principles, no prayer, no consultation with the spiritually wise, just blundering on in an air of pride and monetary gain.

Of the many current financial villains, there seems to be no one who is contrite or repentant. The Bible forecasts the coming Tribulation attitude just that way in Revelation 9:20-21, "But the rest of mankind…did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship…idols of gold, silver…. And they did not repent of…their thefts" (emphasis mine). Massive thievery by a number of people accounts for the grief of investors and mortgage recipients, who themselves may have ignored biblical principles of investment.

We commend financial institutions such as Atlantic Stewardship Bank, which has placed God consciousness ahead of mere profit. Psalm 37:25-29 spells out a healthy economic perspective: "I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed. Depart from evil, and do good; And dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell in it forever."

Dave Virkler

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bank Failures and Prayer

Financial experts and news analysts have cast the current economic crisis in the direst of terms: "The worst crises since the Great Depression." "The most difficult challenge since Pearl Harbor." "Another 9/11 but this time financial." "Our worst national challenge since the Civil War." "It makes the savings and loan bailout seem like child’s play." And on and on.

Excuse me, but in most of those other instances the nation fell to its knees imploring Almighty God to intervene and spare the country. In the days of our nation’s birth, national times of prayer were urged by George Washington and others. The news of the Boston bombardment caused freedom leaders to kneel and pray in Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia in 1774. When the Constitutional Convention reached an impasse in 1787, Ben Franklin urged prayers each morning in the chamber. Lincoln’s heart cry was for prayer and revival as found in his 1863 Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, "…I set apart Sept. 30, 1863 as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer."

As our men went to D-Day on June 6, 1944, President Roosevelt led the nation in prayer saying,
"…Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph…"

After 9/11, ardent non-partisan prayer was made even in the Capitol Rotunda, and the churches were full of humble supplicants.

Now we have what some are calling our greatest national challenge to the entire financial system of the nation and the world, and its debated solution has degenerated into a political squabble among flawed legislators without any call for prayer that I can detect. The chaos is the result of godless greed and indifference, and their solutions bode no good without God’s help. These men and women have allowed this dreadful mess to evolve under their watch, and a heavy dose of repentance and prayer would be in order but no call for prayer is heard.

II Chronicles 7:14 has been quoted by rote too long as a doff of the intellectual hat to tepid civil religion. It is time to quote it slowly, meaningfully and personally.

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

Without agonizing prayer, our national motto "In God We Trust," which is printed on inflating coin and currency, is hollow ritual. If the harried politicians won’t urge prayer, then let godly pastors and believers throughout the land call for it. If we don’t have it, our present quick fix is just a band-aid pasted on the wretched cancer of a dying nation. If no one else will pray, will you?

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Half A Million Still Die In Childbirth

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) more than 500,000 women die in pregnancy each year. A staggering 99 % of the deaths in 2005 occurred in developing countries. Statistics reveal that, of the 50 million yearly births in these countries, only 4 of every 10 were attended to by some kind of skilled health worker. UNICEF also calculated that current lifetime risk of maternal death in the developing world is about1 in 76 while the rate in the industrialized world runs only 1 in 8,000. The report showed that the primary cause of death involved hemorrhaging after giving birth.

Few things in life can compare to a loss of life in this fashion. Only those who have experienced such a mind-boggling scenario could ever relate the bittersweet feeling ofthe joy of a new life being so profoundly connected with the loss of another. It must be simply overwhelming for family members to adjust and to realize the awful price paid in order to leave a precious new life.

Birth and death are not normally associated for the most part since they are typically separated by an entire lifetime. But there is a sphere where they fit firmly together. Scripture reveals that God has a requirement in order for any man or woman to be forgiven of sin and allowed to spend eternity with Him. That requirement is described in the Bible as being ‘born again’. It refers to the spiritual renewal of the soul through God’s HolySpirit.

But interestingly, in order to be spiritually re-born, the Bible teaches that an individual must first die. They must to die to any attempt at saving themselves. They must also die to any belief that they are not sinners. There must be a death to the fact that they are not really ‘bad enough’ to warrant the judgment of their Creator. And they must die to the influence and domination of the old sinful nature.

The Apostle Paul speaks of this mystery in Galatians chapter 2 and also in Romans 6. In the Galatians passage he relates how salvation comes by way of a spiritual death. The description given actually uses the term crucifixion. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(Galatians 2:19-20)

The new birth represents a new death!

Then in Romans 6, Paul expands on the same concept beginning in verse 6 of chapter 6. “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might bedone away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The new birth removes an old master.

In 1 Corinthians, we read about how physical death is man’s final enemy. (1Corinthians 15:25-26) But later in the chapter, and beginning with verse 54, we find how this death has been defeated. "Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The new birth repels the old enemy.

In Philippians chapter 3, the Apostle relates the personal value of his salvation and his great desire to have Christ’s death fully impact both his current life and the one that follows it. Verse 7 reads, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. ” Then in verses 10-11 he records, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

The new birth replaces an old attitude.

In his letter, and greatest theological thesis to the fledgling church at Rome, Paul also shared the sense of lasting peace and safety that comes with knowing Christ as Savior. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

The new birth reserves a new security.

Physical death is part of life. It comes in all forms, many of which are quite difficult and painful. To some it will come early and unexpected. To others it will arrive quite late. But it will come to all. (Hebrews 9:27) And again, Scriptures relates that the only way to fully prepare to die is to be re-born. Responding to the message of the cross andthe new birth is essential. But doing so while there is still precious time is equally critical. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) And, "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." (Hebrews 3:15)

The new birth requires the right timing.

Pray for medical conditions to improve globally and that the above mentioned mortality rate will soon decrease significantly. Buy pray even more that committed Christians will reach out to these women at risk with the miracle of the 'other' new birth - the one offered only through Jesus Christ.

The new birth relates the miracle of redemption to others.

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, September 22, 2008

Opposing Health Care Views

As the Presidential election draws closer, the issues that are crucial to voters grow larger. This time around, one of the many contrasting views deals with some near and dear to every American – health care!

As voters ponder their options, several things become abundantly clear. Health care costs are skyrocketing and now stand at a staggering 2.2 trillion dollars per year. That amounts to nearly 16 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. Last year 3 of 10 American families reported have difficulty covering their families’ medical needs due to personal financial struggles, the cost of insurance premiums, high deductibles and the all-too-familiar co-payments. Add to that the fact that some 40 million still claim to have no medical insurance at all, a condition that can lead to serious financial problems, long-term debt, and sometimes bankruptcy.

To try and deal with the growing and difficult trend, the Democratic plan requires employers to provide health insurance benefits for all employees. The alternative would be to pay taxes. The plan also includes a national system that contains strict regulations to insurers and guarantees access to all. On paper this all sounds acceptable, with the exception of one haunting question. Just who is going to pay for this? The answer should be fairly clear.

On the Republican side, the focus is more of a classic conservative philosophy in a deregulated market that focuses on market-driven solutions like tax credits. It emphasizes individual responsibility in order to promote competition to bring down the soaring health costs.

Few doubt that America has a problem, but the ‘health care’ system itself may be just a part of the problem. Former Governor Mike Huckabee, while campaigning for the Republican nomination, stated repeatedly that the current dilemma is a ‘heath crisis’ and not just a ‘health care crisis’. His point was simple and valid. If people would choose to live more moral and healthy lifestyles, the result would be better health for the nation overall and a lessening of the strain on the system. That same position is clearly echoed in Proverbs 3:7-8. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones. “

The other thing that comes to mind when pondering the realm of physical health involves a dangerous and deadly contrast. Admittedly, the good functioning of the human body is important, as would be attested by any who have lost their precious health will. But it is not ‘all-important’.

It appears today that fewer and fewer give much thought about their own spiritual health or of the eternal soul housed within their temporary physical frame. This remains true despite the Bible’s ample warnings about placing physical properties above spiritual priorities. The Lord Himself spelled it out as clearly as He possibly could in one single question in Mark 8:36. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”

And Paul adds his insight in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. There he speaks to the reality of the eventual demise of the physical body as opposed to the things spiritual and eternal. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” The Apostle also addressed the subject in the 4th chapter of his first letter to a young Timothy. He does not suggest that caring for the physical is not helpful. But he does explain how proper preparation and nutrition for the soul is essential. “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.’" (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Finally Paul relates the importance of maintaining a proper overall perspective and balance between the physical and the spiritual along with the stating primary reason why to do so. “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Out of Sight – Out of Mind

Because of the serious Wallstreet crisis, the misery caused by Hurricane Ike, and even Gustuv earlier, has been pushed into the background to some degree. In Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, most still have no power, with little relief expected for another week or more. The devastation was reminiscent of Katrina with some coastal areas having been literally wiped off the map. Many affected residents are currently waiting in long lines at supply distribution centers set up in Houston to hand out food, water and ice.

About 6 weeks after Katrina stuck the Gulf coast, I was able to lead volunteers from our church in New Jersey to a small obliterated church in Lakeshore, Mississippi – one of my eventual 5 trips there. But I will never forget the moment of total horror and disbelief upon opening my car door and stepping out onto the empty slab where the small white church had been. Speechless does not even begin to describe the instant reaction. On that same trip, some of us from our church actually stood in a FEMA distribution center in order to hand out basic life-giving supplies to our suffering fellow Americans – some of whom still appeared to be in shock!

But immediately after the storm brought its 40’ storm surge through the quiet community, Lakeshore Baptist church, led by Pastor Don Elbourne, began to act. Their efforts involved coordinating the many who would travel great distances to give of themselves for the worthy cause. These came to help people they never knew or would ever meet. Equally amazing was that the church there reached out to the community first and postponed meeting its own needs including the rebuilding of their own facility. This selfless attitude had an amazing impact, especially upon the the attitudes of many who had previously had little or no interest in spiritual things.

The relief work of the numerous volunteers, which continues on even now, was a practical living out of Jesus’ own words in John 13:34-35. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." In the case of Katrina, that love flowed through stunning acts of hands-on sacrificial service. The Samaritan’s Purse relief organization called those who got personally invoved in the efforts, “The Hands and Feet of Christ”.

While scores of citizens nervously wait on the destiny of their earthly investments, a number of their fellow citizens now wait in food and water lines in Texas. Some may return and partake of the free rations while sitting along side a pile of their, now unrecognizable, earthly possessions. Others might even carry their humble meals back to a vacant lot where their home once stood.

In Galatians 6 the Apostle Paul spoke to ‘all’ believers concerning their God-given responsibilities and the treatment of others. In verse 8-10 he penned, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

The recent natural disasters have been, in a word, ‘overwhelming’. But they bring with them a positive term – ‘opportunity’. Christians have been given a glorious opportunity in the midst of tragedy to pray and tangibly display Christ's love to those who know Him and to those who desperately need to! And any who take this to heart, and act accordingly, are given God's promise of reaping blessings of their own “in due season”.

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Greatest Investment Strategy

Wall Street could possibly be renamed "Gall Street." Billions of dollars have been lost as giant after giant reflected a financial vacuity of historic proportions. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch sold itself, and AIG, the world’s largest insurance company, lost half its value. And all this only a week after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became expensive wards of the state, rescued by future liens against us all. No one knows how far, how long or how bad the hemorrhaging will spread.

When wealth, the stability of which is held in trust by greedy and sinning men, becomes mere electronic blips in computers, it can evaporate quickly in mistrust. Much of it has. I confess to not knowing just how all this works, but those who do know seem to have discarded financial good sense and moral restraint. The Bible has it right: "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

The untempered lust for riches is an inscrutable savagery according to James 5:1-6. It’s a long passage, but read it carefully:

"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts). You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you."

Proverbs 23:5 warns, "Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven."

There is no prohibition against wealth, but putting trust in it displaces trust in God’s provision, and that’s idolatry. Psalm 62:10 says, "…if riches increase, do not set your heart on them." It’s not the money that’s the problem, but the madness over it.

The frustration of financial fixation was focused by fabled Solomon in Ecclesiastes. "He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them; So what profit have the owners except to see them with their eyes?" (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11).

The ultimate wealth security is not in mortal dollars but in Heavenly investment according to Jesus Christ, who said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21). Christ Himself is the totality of enduring riches, "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3). Christ also said that one’s soul is worth more than the world’s wealth. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36).

While the Wall Street collapse may not herald the ultimate collapse of the global economy that is predicted in the Tribulation to come, it certainly is a warning that it can fail. James did speak of amassing wealth for "the last days," which surely include our days. Revelation 18 describes the fall of Babylon. "The merchants of these things who became rich by her, will stand…wailing… ‘For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’"

To see life’s greatest investment, you have to close your eyes. 2 Corinthians 4:18 says it all. "While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

God’s dividends surpass mortal investments, and Heaven’s bank interest accrues as Mark 10:29-31 outlines. "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." A "hundredfold" is a 10,000% increase!

Human investments may fail, but obeying the will of God is a permanent investment. "And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:17).

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A 9/11 Tribute

On September 11, 2001, two planes slammed into the Trade Center Towers in New York City, and another hit the Pentagon. A fourth plane slammed into a Shanksville, Pennsylvania field.

Flight 93 left Newark Liberty International Airport and soon reversed its westward course, possibly aiming for the White House. Passengers contested the murderous terrorists, and they crashed into the soft ground at 600 miles per hour. When rescuers arrive at the scene, the plane had mostly disappeared. Only two identifiable objects met their curious eyes. One was a burning tire. The other was a Bible—fuel-soaked and flopping in the breeze, but intact—that belonged to Don Peterson.

Retired from his successful business, Don was a counselor of recovering alcoholics at the Keswick Colony of Mercy, a central New Jersey ministry on whose board he served. He often helped men by praying for them and assisting them to return to normal life through encouragement and monetary aid. Inside the Bible was a list of the men at Keswick Don was praying for.

On the Thursday following the attacks after many of the passengers’ names had made the news, my daughter asked me, "Dad, did you know Don Peterson?" Her voice had the hollow timbre of knowing I did and that I would take the news very hard.

I knew Don years before he went to Heaven from Shanksville. He had invited me to hold a living room dialog with friends in his Maplewood, NJ home. We served together on the board of a Christian college. He engaged me to speak at an annual banquet for a fine crisis pregnancy outreach. From time to time, he financially supported our ministry as he did for so many others.
Don and his wife, Jean, were booked on a later flight but had taken Flight 93 that awesome September morning hoping to arrive earlier for a family gathering in California. They went straight to Heaven instead.

Before 9/11, both Don and Jean made visionary statements as they looked into the unknown future. On Monday evening, September 10, Don attended his regular Bible study group in Manasquan, NJ. In his parting words to the class coordinator, Dave Withers, Don said, "I’ll see you at Christmas," a reference to the group’s next study of the Nativity story in Luke. Though Don planned to be with the group again, he was also prepared for whatever God had in store for the future. Withers also recalls Don saying to him, "Our Christian walk is supposed to be a journey, but I feel so ready." Jean, too, had expressed thoughts of eternity. At the study group in August, she told a friend, "I don’t know why, but I feel so ready to meet the Lord!"

Friends of the Petersons believe they were sharing God’s Good News probably until the moment of impact. Their lives reflect 1 John 2:17: "And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." Indeed, Christ’s coming for them would not be the Rapture with its exodus in "a moment and twinkling of an eye," (I Cor. 15:52), but their departure for Heaven was surely as fast.

On this seventh anniversary of 9/11, as we recall the Petersons’ swift Heavenly journey, an old hymn by G. A Young comes to mind:

Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
God leads His dear children along;
Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
God leads His dear children along.
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song;
In the night season and all the day long.

Dave Virkler

Citizens, not Spectators

President Bush challenged the nation Monday to rekindle the volunteer spirit it had after the terrorist attacks back in September of 2001. Bush related how the fading memory of the tragedy has meant that many people no longer sense the urgency to freely help others in need. On the 7th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in the nation’s history, the President told those on the White House South Lawn that volunteers end up as enriched as those they help and that Americans should be "citizens, not spectators."

Although America still tends to ‘out give’ most other nations when disaster strikes, there seems to be a growing attitude of overall self-centeredness. Perhaps this is due partly to an affluent lifestyle, but more so to the steady increase of a secular influence above Biblical teachings and principles.

At the outset of Christianity, its leader clearly stated His divine purpose in Matthew chapter 20. It seems that two of His disciples were arguing over which one should be closest to the Lord in His future kingdom. Even their interfering mother joined the fray and offered her insanely bold request on behalf of her two self-centered offspring. Their request to be front and center, in turn, caused friction and growing resentment with the rest of the group.

Upon seeing the brewing crisis, Jesus stepped in and stated in verse 23 how this sacred decision was His heavenly Father’s alone. He also quickly seized the opportunity to speak to the issue of sacrificial service. His concluding remarks, especially in verse 28, reemphasized His own eternal purpose and no doubt humbled those who heard Him. “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."

The revelation of Christ as the supreme servant was meant to influence the attitudes and actions of all of those He would redeem since that day. This was the Apostle Paul’s mode of operation in his great missionary endeavors in the early church. He describes his thought process in 1 Corinthians 9:19. “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more.” Paul also encouraged believers to follow his lead in Galatians 5:13-14. “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

It is widely known that after Hurricane Katrina decimated much of the U.S. Gulf Coast, it was primarily the people of faith and their churches who rose to the challenge. Many feel that the church did the lion’s share of the cleanup especially in that first long year. This outpouring of Christian love and volunteerism not only honored their Lord, but was instrumental in building a solid bridge of testimony upon which to share God’s great plan of salvation. Only eternity will reveal how many precious souls will reside in heaven forever as a result these kind and loving efforts.

The coupling of prayer with sacrificial service after Katrina revealed countless volunteers to be, as President Bush put it, "citizens, not spectators." But for many of those that citizenship was a dual one. (Philippians 3:20) They became present day examples of the amazingly effective New Testament model seen in 1 Thessalonians 1:9. “Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, September 8, 2008

DNA And The Hope Of Immortality

He is hoping to grasp a form of immortality, and he is comedian Stephen Colbert. And in October his digitalized DNA will be sent to the International Space Station as part of what video game designer Richard Garriott calls an “Immortality Drive”. Colbert, the host of "The Colbert Report", says that his preserved DNA will make it possible for aliens to clone him.

Garriott, one of the few private citizens to ever travel into space, is collecting material for a time capsule containing the history of humanity's greatest achievements and personal messages. He stated, "In the unlikely event that Earth and humanity are destroyed, mankind can be resurrected with Stephen Colbert's DNA."

According the Bible, living forever is not something attainable for a fortunate few or the result of some scientific venture. The Scriptures reveal that everyone ever born will live forever. The question is where?

If Richard Garriot was familiar with Biblical truth he would know that the eventual destruction of the earth is not at all unlikely, as Peter presents in 2 Peter 3:10. “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.” He would also know that mankind will not be ultimately destroyed but all who ever lived will be righteously judged and then assigned to a place of eternal torment or of unending joy and glory.

The Immortality Drive’s capsule may be meant to record humanity’s greatest moments and messages. But how much better would it be to use such great efforts and expense to share the best message ever, here and now on planet earth? How much more profitable would it be to share mankind’s single greatest event – the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as seen in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4? “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

How much more beneficial would it be to share and promote the greatest personal message in human history to those who are aliens from God’s family, as did Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:18-19? “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

And how much more crucial would it be to help others become clones of God’s Son and be linked forever to Christ’s DNA in the manner spoken of in 1 John 3:2? “But we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

Mankind has dreamed about and pursued immortality since the dawn of time. And those desires will one day be fulfilled for all, using no special manmade devices. The soul will go on when the physical DNA is erased along with everything else physical on that great “day of The Lord”. And on that day, all that will matter will be whether our spiritual DNA was ever rightfully aligned and matched up with the Savior’s through faith.

Bill Breckenridge

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Amazing Sarah Palin

John McCain, the Republican nominee for President of the United States, has shaken up the political process by naming Alaska Governor Sarah Palin the first woman Republican vice presidential nominee in U.S. history. His last-minute revelation took everyone but himself and inside advisors off guard. McCain upstaged pundits and prognosticators in both parties to say nothing of creating a stunning contrast in VP candidates—Joe Biden being the older, male, conventional pick and Palin being the younger, female, novel choice. Conservatives, pro-lifers, traditional family folks, outdoorsmen and transformational maverick-oriented people find a unique and unexpected combination in Sarah Palin.

The liberal press, so committed to women’s advance, lead a negative charge citing lack of experience and pressing family obligations that demeaned McCain’s choice. For Republicans wary of McCain’s conservative credentials, Palin's nomination and recent convention performance infused a new enthusiasm across the Republican political landscape.

From the Christian perspective, does a gifted woman running for vice president present a positive biblical view or a negative one? Should biblically-oriented evangelical conservatives express joy or reservation? Sarah Palin is not running for a church pastorate, which would put the issue into a different context; she is running for public office. There is no legal impediment since women have full equal rights in America.

From a biblical standpoint, women are equals of men in salvation. Paul, a former Pharisee whose educational background would have reduced women to second class status, declared salvational equality in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This was an astounding breakthrough for Paul who, in pre-conversion days, would have stated, “I thank God I am neither dog, Gentile or woman.” According to Genesis, both sexes are created in God’s image although the first female body came from Adam’s rib.

Old Testament history dignifies women enormously. Two Old Testament books are devoted to the stories of exceptional women and bear their names.

An unnamed wise woman delivered the entire city of Abel Beth Maacah in northern Israel from destruction (II Samuel 20:16). Deborah, a prophetess, inspired a crushing military victory for the threatened nation (Judges 4), and her victory with Barak inspired a great two-part harmony song recorded in Judges 5. Judges 4 also records how another woman, Jael, “hit the nail right on the head” when she assassinated the fleeing enemy general by pounding a tent peg through his temples as he slept.

A captive Israeli girl in Syria suggested to Naaman the leper that God’s prophet over in Israel could heal him. “Then she said to her mistress, ‘If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.’” Naaman was healed and became a convert. Read the whole story in II Kings 5.

Huldah, the prophetess, was a conduit of God’s word to good King Josiah when she told him that his revival delayed judgement on Israel a generation (II Chronicles 43:22-28).

New Testament passages reveal godly women in positive light. Christ was financially supported by women. Luke 8:2-3 mentions “certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities – Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.”

Paul’s evangelism was begun in Philippi through Lydia, a merchant woman who organized a prayer meeting by the river and later housed the team (Acts 16:14 & 40). Some female church workers were Paul’s joy (Philippians 4:3). One incredible passage is Acts 21:9, which specifically mentions Philip the evangelist’s “four virgin daughters who prophesied.”

If gifted church women were married, however, it seems some male prominence was decreed. “And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:35).

Politically, Sarah Palin may be a new, refreshing and vital infusion of womanly insight. She is apparently a Christian, pro-life and pro-family, fearless, brilliant, articulate and gifted for office. It’s a new political day, and it looks like evangelicals win this one.

Dave Virkler