Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Halloween Choice

A strange confluence of events present themselves this Halloween. Presidential politics crowds nearly all else off the news, but all the spooks, ghosts, ghouls and skeletons of Halloween press in for their share of attention at the witches’ holiday of October 31. Halloween and the election were conjoined in a gruesome Los Angeles, CA residential display where Sarah Palin hangs in effigy from a noose while John McCain sits in flames on the roof. The creators of this wretched display claim it is an expression of artistic freedom and free speech.

Halloween used to be some momentary fun and games for kids, but now it’s a raging all-ages enterprise second only to Christmas in money spent. One estimate is that 52 million American adults will spend $87 each this Halloween. Total sales will be well over $5 billion for candy, costumes and other accessories.

More stunning than dress and food is the demonic nature of the celebration. Most people have a smattering of awareness that all this reflects strange supernaturalism from the underworld. Halloween is the Grand Witches Sabbath when an estimated 50,000 witches meet in groups, or covens, to honor and harness the forces of nature.

Some study of Halloween historically may be legitimate, but the whole story should be taught.
The celebration harks back to multiple pagan rites when Celtic Druids in Scotland trafficked in spirits that invaded human bodies, burned animal bones in bonefires (bonfires), and tried to fool evil spirits by costuming themselves in animal skins.

Along the way, a moral castaway named Jack, who was deemed too evil for Heaven and too good for Hell, was consigned to roam the earth. He lit his way with a candle in a turnip, which morphed into our pumpkin "jack-o-lantern."

Trick-or-treating arose from the pagan festival of Samhain ("Son of Sam" murderer David Berkowitz said Samhain gave him that nickname). Children or beggars went door-to-door begging for soul cakes. The donors would name recently departed souls and request the recipients pray for them. If people weren’t home, the beggars were inspired to play tricks on them. Cakes were eventually replaced by candy. The "trick or treat" notion still lives in the millions of youthful visitors dressed in costume.

A Middle Ages amalgamation of pagan and Christian elements in the Church gave us All Saints Day, which honors the dead martyrs and saints, on November 1. The previous evening, October 31, was a preparation or "hallowed evening," which slipped into "halloween."

Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk disenchanted with Church practices of selling indulgences, posted his 95 Theses of objection on his church door in Wittenburg Germany on Hallowed Evening, October 31, 1517. This drastic action is usually noted as the event that set off the Protestant Reformation whose watchword was "justification by faith alone." Churches considering themselves heirs of the Reformation often observe those historic foundation events on Reformation Sunday, the Sunday preceding October 31.

This historic chapter is ignored in our public school system while pagan overtones are giddily celebrated. Public schools are forbidden to teach the true meaning of Christmas, but they often feature Halloween dress-ups in parties and studies at tax-payers’ expense! It is a dreadful testimony as to how far American culture has sunk and historic truth is shunned.

Across America, we see yards festooned with simulated graves, dead bodies, demons, witches and even hangings. This appears to be a sporting but gruesome death pact with the underworld. Evidently a similar distortion occurred in ancient Israel in Isa 28:15 & 18. "…‘We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol (hell) we are in agreement’ …Your covenant with death will be annulled, And your agreement with Sheol will not stand; When the overflowing scourge passes through, Then you will be trampled down by it."

In stark contrast to this death and hell fixation is the portrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ in 1 Peter 2:5-6. "You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is also contained in the scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’"

In the middle of that "covenant with death" text in Isaiah, is the origin of Peter’s joy. "Therefore thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily"( Isaiah 28:16).

Contrasting the wretched death covenant of Halloween is the glorious spiritual foundation of Christ. Luther pointed toward it stressing, "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38).

Today and ever, the choice is between death and life. Covenants with death are broken only by the resurrection power of Christ. As Charles Wesley wrote, "He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free. His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me."

Moses’ choices in Deuteronomy 30:19 still stand. " I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live."

Dave Virkler

Monday, October 27, 2008

So Many Unhappy Americans?

You can’t believe everything you read on the internet, with the exception, of course, of what you see right here.

Such was the case with something sent to me this week. The subject was about unhappy Americans. Although credit was given to TV host David Letterman, Jay Leno, or who knows who else, the actual source ‘seemed’ to be from a blog like this one. It was a supposed response to a Newsweek Magazine article that revealed how that the majority of Americans are unhappy with the direction of their own country – a reality easily substantiated by the current ratings of Congress and the White House. But whatever the true source, the author surely touched on something that most every American needs to hear, and especially by any who really are irritated at life in the U.S.

So exactly why are so many Americans so unhappy and reportedly bent on major change as the Presidential polls would indicate? If it is because of a national veering away from Biblical norms and standards, that would be a good thing – and hopefully a God thing. But if it is just a selfish dissatisfaction and the lust for more ‘stuff’’, then the issue may not be so much that they are unhappy, but simply ungrateful!

Here is a sample of the questions listed for unhappy Americans to reconsider:

A. Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
B. Is it the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter?
C. Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job?
D. Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?
E. Maybe it is the ability to drive our cars and trucks from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state.
F. Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter?
G. Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help and even send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.
H. Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home.
I. Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes, an officer equipped with a gun will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss. And this all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents - neighborhoods where 90% of teenagers own cell phones and computers.
J. How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy?

Then after offering what should be a thought-provoking list, the author writes near the end of the article, “Maybe that is what has 67% of you folks unhappy. We are the most blessed people in the world who do nothing but complain about what we don't have, and what we hate about the country instead of thanking the good Lord we live here.”

These were some harsh words, but reflect a good deal of accuracy. Often Americans have taken life in their land for granted. But for Christians in America, blessing is not limited to the material realm nor should such things be their focus. Paul addressed the believer’s extended blessings in Ephesians 1:3 when he wrote. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”

In the light of those great and eternal blessings, Christians have been admonished to carry out two simple commands in their lives:

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

For a 21st century American Christian, a thankful attitude is not an option. And with that should arise a Godly sense of peace, joy, and contentment with life not based on their material possessions or the current political direction of the nation.

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sarah Palin and God’s Will

Sarah Palin is taking flak for her recent interview with James Dobson, the bellwether of the religious right. She told Dobson that the election is in God’s hands. Critics were quick to note that if Obama wins, then God must be a Democrat.

Anyone who is pro-life, anti-homosexual, and pro-heterosexual marriage will be vilified by the secular progressives who consider any reference to God a huge joke. Palin believes something and knows what she believes, and that usually drives liberals crazy. Just to mention God in an election context is total absurdity to them.

Thankfully, Palin has some strong biblical and family values instead of the usual political relativity, which prefers drifting with the cultural current instead of anchoring to the Rock of Ages. Further, she is unashamed to articulate her convictions when directly asked, a rare quality these days.

Peter Marshall, the great Senate chaplain, once said in a prayer, “…unless we stand for something we will fall for anything.” He also said, “One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.” Years ago, a prominent member of the British Parliament regularly went to hear an illiterate minister preach. When asked why, he declared, “I don’t believe what he believes, but he believes what he believes, and every so often I want to hear someone say what he believes.”

Critics of Palin’s statement that the election is in the hands of God ignore the delicate balance between divine foreknowledge and human choice. Palin doesn’t know the outcome of the election even though she hopes to win. As a Christian believer, she can rest in Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Daniel served in pagan Babylon’s political system and even wrote of God’s doings “…that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men” (Daniel 4:17). Sarah Palin probably feels that she needs to do her personal and spiritual best and leave the results with God.

The presidential race doesn’t have to be “either God does it or voters do it,” not “either… or” but “both… and.” A friend of mine wrote a book in which he outlines the biblical concept of “delegated sovereignty” regarding men’s seeming free will. In Eden, God permitted a free choice of delegated sovereignty in allowing Adam to have dominion and subdue his environment. In Christian liberty, He grants us freedom of choice in obedience. And in human government, especially in the United States with our electoral system, he makes civil servants “ministers” according to Romans 13:4-7:

“For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”

Years ago, I ran for a position on our local school board. I never asked the Lord to make me win but to help me be faithful in running an honorable and fervent campaign. I had responded to a call for civic service. When I lost, I could live with knowing I had done my best. As I later told my story in churches and groups, several Christians ran for their own local school boards and won. One even became school board president. Romans 8:28 was fulfilled since my running for school board worked for good in the end even though I lost.

Win or lose, Sarah Palin believes God’s Word in Psalm 103:19: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.”

Dave Virkler

Monday, October 20, 2008

The National Debt

One talk show guest finally said it: "The government has no money." She went on to wonder how the United States government could be appropriating billions more dollars in bailouts and even consider more stimulus packages when it is broke and, worse, has run up trillions in deficit spending.

The little child said it first in "The Emperor’s New Clothes," the 1837 story by famed Danish poet Hans Christian Anderson. The story describes con artists who convince the king that they can weave a new invisible and expensive garment for him, and he mindlessly buys into their charade and parades naked before his citizens. Most of his subjects, fearing retribution if they said what was obvious, silently go along with the ruse until a child, naturally endowed with innocent honesty yells, "But he has nothing on!" Still, the king paraded on.

Prominent politicians, especially those seeking votes in a financially downturning election year, can’t bring themselves to say, "The government has no money." Instead, they politic gamely on suggesting that our government is awash in an artesian cash flow to cover every bank failure and buy up every failed mortgage and even refund money to millions of non-workers. But the government has no money, unless we consider printing more. Or we may really believe that an infusion of borrowed funds from China and Japan make us rich. Living on borrowed money means living on borrowed time.

Our economy is based on velocity, much like an airplane that stays aloft by supplying adequate fuel to its engines to sustain substantial airflow over its wings. When it’s out of gas, it slows, stalls and plunges earthward. We’ve lost momentum and hope there is enough altitude for recovery while we plead for emergency fuel.

All this reminds me of the solitary hope of spiritual recovery for the bankrupt sinner whose spiritual debt has submerged him in an ocean of despair. I recall the old song by F.M. Graham.

There was a time on earth when in the book of Heaven,
an old account was standing for sins yet unforgiven.
My name was at the top and many things below.
I went unto the Keeper and settled long ago.
The old account was large and growing every day,
for I was always sinning, and never tried to pay.
But then I looked ahead, and saw such pain and woe,
I said that I would settle, I settled long ago.
Long ago (down on my knees), long ago (I settled it all),
Yes the old account was settled long ago.
And the record’s clear today for He washed my sins away
When the old account was settled long ago.

Years ago in Russia, a young military officer gambled away his fortune and way beyond into hopeless debt. One night, as a lone candle burned in his military tent, he took pen and paper and totaled his debt, appending a brief note. Knowing there was no way out, he cocked his pistol, and prepared to end it all. Weary of life, he put his head down to rest before the inevitable deed and dozed off.

During the officer’s fitful sleep, Tsar Alexander walked through the camp making sure all was well. Noticing the flickering candle but no sound except the labored breathing of the doomed man, the Tsar lifted the tent flap, quietly entered, saw the pistol and read the note which said, "The debt is too great, who can pay it?" Lifting the pen, the Tsar wrote, "Alexander will pay."
At length, the officer awoke and, just before placing the gun to head and pulling the trigger, he glanced down to read Alexander’s promise of rescue. The Tsar paid, and the officer lived.

Christ is our greater payment through His shed blood. Someone once put it this way: "I owed a debt I could not pay. He paid a debt He did not owe." Receiving His full payment means our sins and iniquities He remembers no more (Hebrews 10:17).

What is true personally is true nationally. Hopelessly in debt through our greed and thievery, national humility and repentance is our only hope. Joel 2:12-14 outlines the solution:

"‘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…"

Dave Virkler

National Debt Clock Out Of Digits?

It was put up back in 1989 when the U.S. government's debt was a ‘mere’ $2.7 trillion. But after only 20 years the Nation Debt clock, located at Times Square in New York City, has literally run out of usable digits. Reaching the current '10 trillion dollar plus' national debt number required using the far left space, once reserved only for the digital dollar sign.

The mind-boggling 10 trillion dollar figure is beyond the comprehension of most mere mortals, many of whom still struggle to balance their own check books and figure out an appropriate tip for a waiter or waitress. But to place the staggering number in more understandable terms, it means that every American family’s share now stands at a whopping $86,019, and counting. A new ‘expanded’ version clock, capable of handling the growing numbers, will be installed for the new calendar year.

No matter how large the debt of America becomes, it remains literally a ‘drop in the bucket’ compared to the debt owed by every man and woman to God. Sin has caused a debt that could never ever be humanly measured, reduced or eliminated. It required a massive divine intervention - the one described in Romans 5:8-9. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

The Christian’s proper response to the permanent cancellation of his debt of sin is briefly and boldly stated in two verses in1 Corinthians. Both relate to the infinite cost by Jesus Christ in order to deal with man’s guilt, rebellion, and penalty. Each verse then includes what God expects from each and every blood-bought saint.

“For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men." (1 Corinthians 7:23)

One hundred years from today, few if any will care about or even remember what the national debt was, why it was, or if it was ever paid off. But each one will certainly be acutely aware whether or not the debt of their personal sin was effectively dealt with by their personal Savior!

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Parental Alienation Syndrome

It is sometimes referred to as "Parental Alienation Syndrome" (PAS). At its core it is simply the systematic vilification of one parent in attempts to alienate a child from the other parent. It occurs most often in the context of high conflict custody battles and is even seen by support groups like Parental Alienation Awareness Organization as a literal form of child abuse.

The process typically involves the mental manipulation of a child in which they are convinced that the other parent, the ‘bad’ one, is an enemy to be feared, avoided or even hated. Studies have revealed that, in more severe cases, the child may suffer effects like headaches, vomiting, loss of sleep, and refusal to eat especially when they are faced with a visit to the “bad” parent. In milder cases the children may reject the ‘bad’ parent through verbal abuse, destroying gifts, or refusing to engage in previously enjoyable family activities. According to the Florida Bar Journal, "... Any attempt at alienating a child from the other parent should be seen as a direct and willful violation of one of the prime duties of parenthood.”

The Bible is not silent on the subject of parenting. It also touches on the issue of divorce, since God knew in eternity past the devastation it would cause – and especially the detrimental effects on helpless children engulfed in it. And in modern America, it can only be guessed as to how many find themselves in very dire circumstances along these lines.

But with that said, Ephesians 6:4 reveals the attitude that should display the traits of any Godly and loving parent. It mentions fathers specifically, but the principle can obviously be applied to moms as well. “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” The same basic idea is also recorded by Paul in his letter to the Colossian church where he writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21)

Also, there are serious related difficulties that surface in for those children involved in a severe “PAS” situation. The Apostle, in Ephesians chapter 6, addressed how children are to respond to their parents in verses 1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." Then he repeats this same basic thought in Colossians 3:20 where he says, “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” Simply stated, parents who openly criticize each other before their children can help hinder the attitude of respect due their mothers and fathers according to Scripture.

On numerous occasions Jesus interacted and spoke about the traits, attitudes, and value of children from a spiritual perspective. He spoke about their simple trusting faithand how it relates to salvation in Luke 18:16-17. He also warned strongly in Matthew’s account concerning the treatment and guidance of young impressionable hearts and minds. "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:6) Those are strong and sobering words! Toying with, and twisting, the emotions and beliefs of precious children will bring serious ramifications in this life and even the life to come.

As long as unregenerate man walks the earth, sin will accompany him. Sinners will continue to use and abuse even the most sacred of human relationships. Fortunately there is an up side to the down side. It is concisely offered up in Romans 5:20. “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” So as long as the eternal God exists, those who belong to Him via saving faith can cling to that grace. They need never fear that anyone, or anything, will ever pry away their Lord’s affection for them or tamper with their blessed union with Him. And any seeking a prime proof text need not look farther than Paul’s bedrock testimony presented to the young church at Rome.

“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)

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, October 13, 2008

Nepal Appoints A New Goddess Child

In Nepal, a 3-year old girl as been officially appointed a new living goddess. Matani Shakya received approval from the priests and President Ram Baran Yadav in a centuries-old tradition.

A panel of judges periodically selected the ‘goddess’ by reading the candidates' horoscopes and checking each for physical imperfections. There must be perfect hair, eyes, teeth, and skin with no scars, and she should not fear the dark. Also, as a final qualification the living goddess must spend a night alone in a room among the heads of ritually slaughtered goats and buffaloes without showing fear. If the child successfully passes all the tests, they remain in complete isolation at a temple, not allowed to return to her family until she reaches puberty. At that point she officially loses her divine status and is replaced by the next chosen one.

It is ‘interesting’, to say the least, to ponder how anyone could be just by appointment by mere men to become deity. It likewise amazing to know that many of the qualifications are based on desirable physical traits. By this standard God’s Son, described in Scripture as the perfect Lamb of God, would have had a difficult time qualifying in Nepal, according to Isaiah 53:2-3.

"He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him."

The New Testament book of Colossians explains precisely who alone embodied deity in human flesh. Speaking of Jesus Christ in chapter one, the writer reveals in verses 15-17, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist."

Then later in chapter two this great truth is expanded upon. "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." (Colossians 2:9-10) The Bible is emphatic that there is just one Creator God who exists eternally in the form of three distinct persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Luke 3:22, Genesis 1:26)

Any tradition or attempt at making humans into gods is twisted and at direct odds with Biblical truth – not to mention human logic and common sense. But there are those who become closely related to the true God through faith. And while they can possess some of His worthy attributes, they never become actual deity. But amazingly they will someday enjoy the next closest thing. The Apostle John wrote how believers are to reflect the life of Christ in this life – and how they will find the ultimate fulfillment of that glorious goal in the life to come!

"Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." (1 John 3:2-3)

Bill Breckenridge

Friday, October 10, 2008

More In The Cold and Dark?

The suffering economy is touching nearly every imaginable area of life. And now the number of Americans who have had their electricity or gas turned off for non-payment is rising sharply. New York State reports that 17 percent more have fallen into this category than just one year earlier. And the numbers may well rise significantly with winter around the corner and the nation’s finances in the gutter.

In attempts to alleviate the growing problem, Congress recently approved a measure to nearly double the federal money available to help poorer people cope with home heating costs. Also, New York is spending an extra $49 million on household energy efficiency programs.

Any who rely on an outside power source, and then live through an unexpected outage, can attest to the many difficulties when that lifeline suddenly vanishes. In modern day America, nearly everything is supported by one source of energy or another and citizens are sometimes stunned by their utter helplessness without it.

And yet energy is not something confined to the physical world. The Bible speaks about power as it relates to a variety of matters – mostly spiritual!

The Greek word used most often in the New Testament for power is ‘dunamis’. It speaks of great force, literally or figuratively, and specifically of a miraculous power. And it is the word from which the English word ‘dynamite’ is derived. This power is used in numerous ways in Scripture to apply to various aspects of spiritual truth and the Christian faith:

Power is seen in Christ’s person. "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power." (Colossians 2:10)

Power is seen in Christ’s salvation. "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins." (Matthew 9:6)

Power is seen in Christ’s resurrection. "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death." (Philippians 3:10)

Power is seen in Christ’s Word. "For the word of God is living and powerful , and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow." (Hebrews 4:13)

Power is seen in Christ’s people. "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." (Ephesians 3:20)

Power is seen in Christ’s kingdom. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." (Matthew 6:13)

For Christians, there is never a shortage of God-based power in their lives. If there is, it is only because they have themselves pulled the spiritual plug or never turned the switch on. And the power of the Holy Spirit is not just some vague and mystical concept or occasional perk. It is an uninterrupted flow of God’s unspeakable energy, based soundly upon His great underlying promises!

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Constitutional Wisdom

Beyond the din of political struggles, Americans would be wisely served to examine the documents and processes that gave us presidential politics.

On November 4th, voters will exercise the unique role we have as personal participants in our republic. As dictated by the United States Constitution, we elect a president every four years, where are right now. The formation of that document stands as one of the historic political wonders of the world. In 1787, state representatives met in Philadelphia to produce a new governing document. They had no pattern except the negative recollections of dictatorial and royal European forms of government. They were on their own, and, as they had been in drafting and signing the Declaration of Independence thirteen years before, they were a disparate group of state representatives with personal desires and sectional concerns.

However, when it was over, they had produced a stunning document, which, when later expanded in the Bill of Rights, gave us a government system still surviving today—the oldest working constitution in the world.

British statesman William E. Gladstone declared, "…the American Constitution is, so far as I can see, the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man." President Calvin Coolidge agreed. "To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race."

Section 4 of Article 4 states, "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…." By definition, this form of government is that in which the supreme power rests in all the citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives elected by them (Webster’s Dictionary). Abraham Lincoln reiterated this at Gettysburg when he spoke of "government of the people, by the people and for the people."

Further, our government is divided into three branches: legislative, judicial and executive. The legislative branch is divided into the House of Representatives and the Senate, and the differences are significant.

The number of House members is proportioned on population, and they are elected every two years. That’s right. Every two years the citizens can completely change the composition of the House. Legislation on funding arises only from this body.

There are two senators from each state, no matter what the state’s size, serving six-year terms with one-third of the Senate up for election every two years. Lifetime Supreme Court members are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

After a bill passes both House and Senate, it goes to the President for signing into law or veto. In the case of a presidential veto, the House and Senate may override it by a two-thirds majority vote.

A slight crossover between the executive and legislative branches occurs since the Vice President presides over the Senate and may break a tie vote.

There are more considerations of the Constitution’s uniqueness, but the pressing question is: How could these men deliberating 211 years ago come up with such an amazing document that has stood the tests of time and still governs our country?

It seems to be a matter of prayer and the Bible. When America was coming to birth, leaders besought God in Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia in 1774. At an impasse during the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin called for prayer to provide continuance. "We have been assured, Sir in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it … I beg leave to move – that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of heaven, and it blessing on our deliberation be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service."

Our founders knew that power was corrupting and absolute power would absolutely corrupt. They were conversant in Scripture and often sought its guidance. Some analysts believe our tri-partite form of government was formed as a system of checks and balances on our defective human nature. It is thought that Isaiah 33:22 gave them the political framework. "For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us." There, in order, we have the judicial, legislative and executive elements of our long lived Constitution. If this is not the source of their scriptural guidance, they must have hit the formula through spiritual character arising from the prevailing general principles.

It has been said that there is no mention of dependence on God in the Constitution as in the quartet of references in the Declaration of Independence. But just above the signatories of the Constitution it reads, "Done in Convention by the unanimous consent of the States present the seventeenth day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the twelfth. In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names."

"…the Year of our Lord" means the year since the birth of Jesus Christ who forever altered human history. Giving Him credit was probably the reason He gave our constitution permanence.

Dave Virkler

Monday, October 6, 2008

Google Allows Pro-life Ads

The concept of David versus Goliath did not end in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, thanks to The Christian Institute. The British group is a cross-denominational Christian charity that upholds Biblical truth and promotes the sanctity of life and defense of traditional family values. And now, upon settling a lawsuit, the organization has brought the internet giant Google to its knees. The world-wide policy change allows, for the first time ever, for religious groups to place pro-life ads with Google.

Fox news legal analyst Mercedes Colwin stated of the outcome, "This is a watershed moment. Google has decided to stop aborting anti-abortion ads."

Christians and Christian groups need not look far to discover anti-biblical bias and actions that can and should be opposed. And while the primary thrust of the church is still to promote and propagate the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, the church does have a secondary role – that of salt and light in dark culture. (Matthew 5:13)

Ephesians 6:10-20 reveals in detail the basic response of any believer when exposed to, or attacked by, evil. The word used repeatedly in the passage is "stand". Verse 11 commands the Christian to "stand against the wiles of the devil." Verse 13 says, "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." Armor is hardly needed if one regularly runs from confrontation. Paul left no doubt that, like it or not, every Christian is engaged in a spiritual battle - and one which carries both incredible responsibility and incomprehensible consequences.

Just one chapter earlier in Ephesians, the Apostle gives the extent to which a believer is to be involved when circumstances demand action. Verse 8 begins, "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." Then in verse 11, he drives home a powerful point as it relates to blatant, outward wickedness. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them." It is one thing to avoid running with the wrong crowd. But it is something altogether different to run headfirst against them.

According to Scripture, the Head of the church came for 2 express reasons. One is shown clearly in 1 John 3:8. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." The other is revealed in Luke 19:10. "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Both concepts are, of course, interconnected and necessary to achieve God’s great redemptive plan.

The Lord Jesus Christ is pro-life, physically and spiritually. He is the author of both. And He proved that by fulfilling the role that only He could. But His finished work on the cross is now aided, and ultimately fulfilled, when those who join His ranks boldly march into a dark and hostile territory as the lights of the world. (Matthew 5:14)

Bill Breckenridge

Friday, October 3, 2008

Democrats Forced Into Allowing Drilling

In an election year, based primarily upon ‘change’, it appears that Democrats have done just that – and long before the first vote is cast. Democrats have reportedly decided to allow a quarter-century ban on drilling for oil off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to expire next week. The change of mind came because the dramatic increase in fuel costs allowed Republicans to pressure their opponents and make drilling a top political battle ground based on shifting public on the issue. The House is expected to act on the measure and the Senate is expected to follow.

Politics is, and always has been, about change. When voting citizens get mad, scared, or even just pain bored the party in power is likely to be replaced by the one that is not. But all too often, policy shifts on vital issues alter with the changing winds of public opinion and not from firmly held convictions. For some in office, staying in office at any cost trumps doing what they feel is right in their hearts. Fortunately for citizens of the heavenly realm, their Creator and Savior has never changed or compromised on even one single truth or concept – period! He may at times adapt His ‘methodology’, but never His plan of salvation or any of the principles and promises found in His word.

In the Old Testament this is touched upon in Malachi chapter 3. Verse 6 reads "For I am the LORD, I do not change.” Then Hebrews 13 declares the exact same character trait when speaking of the second person of the triune Godhead. The writer declares in verse 8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Then in the 'parable of the fig tree’, Jesus described some of the conditions that would precede His return in Mark 13. There in verse 31, He revealed, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

Scores of confused and frustrated voters will continue attempting to unravel political jargon, double talk, and some massive and unrealistic promises from their political parties. Some will do so until they literally step into the booth and pull the lever in November. Meanwhile, it is comforting for Christians to know they own and rely upon the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth as it relates to their personal Savior, amazing salvation, and their blessed Scriptures! (Hebrews 6:18)

Bill Breckenridge