Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Tale of Two Pilots

Last weekend, US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who piloted a crippled aircraft to a safe landing on the Hudson River, was given a hero’s welcome in his California hometown. Meanwhile, pilot Marcus Schrenker of Anderson, Indiana, sits in a jail cell. Both took to the air. Sullenberger soars in airline heroism fame. Schrenker is permanently grounded in shame.

On January 12, Schrenker flew his private six-seat Piper aircraft into ignominy and oblivion. His three business ventures—one an upscale investment agency—were under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Schrenker’s wife had just filed for divorce, and clouds of despair were sweeping into his life.

In a venture designed to deceive and elude those tracking him, he took off in his aircraft, sent out a distress signal, put the plane on auto-pilot, and bailed out—literally—over Alabama to let his plane drone on to what most now suspect was to be a cover-up crash-landing in the waters of the Gulf. But his cover was blown when the plane came down in a wooded area close to several houses in the East Milton area of the Florida panhandle.

Investigations revealed that he checked into a motel under an alias, walked away in disguise and drove off on motorcycle he had stashed away in a rental storage shed. Authorities tracked him to a tent in a campsite where he’d slashed his wrists. The prospects for, and recovery of, his tattered reputation are slim to none.

On January 15, Sullenberger eased his airliner with 150 passengers and five crew members into the air off the runway at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and made a 180-degree arching turn toward North Carolina. Loud thumps were heard as the plane hit a flock of geese, and the worst happened. The engines quit.

Sullenberger, calling on all his courage and training from 40 years of piloting swift fighter jets and sluggish gliders, chose to ditch in the Hudson River rather than try to make New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport a bit to the west. His textbook maneuvers and astonishingly precise watery crash-landing kept the plane intact and afloat, and all 155 passengers and crew climbed out to the safety of quickly appearing rescue boats. His character, courage and skill will be legendary and his admirers permanently grateful.

After Schrenker, we needed Sullenberger. Their polarity of motive and action are mirror images of both good and bad. One flew from his self-made troubles in an attempt to save himself even as he trafficked in shame for acquaintances and potential endangerment of innocents on the ground. The other looked death in the face and courageously used his skill and training to save 155 lives.
It is not only a tale of two pilots, but it reminds me of the history of two shepherds.

Jesus is the good shepherd as described in John 10:11: "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep." But there is another leader—a false shepherd described in the same chapter. "But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep" (John 10:12-14).

In the end-times, multitudes will be led astray by the counterfeit Antichrist, a false shepherd promising good but plotting evil. "For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces. Woe to the worthless shepherd, Who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm and against his right eye; His arm shall completely wither, And his right eye shall be totally blinded" (Zechariah 11:16-17).

This looks forward to the time when even a mortal wound seems nothing to the miracle worker from Hell. "And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast" (Revelation 13:3).

It seems trite, but I know people would rather fly with Sullenberger than with Schrenker. Personally, I’d rather land safely with the former than have to bail out with the latter. I hope people as well seek protection in the Good Shepherd’s fold rather than the deception of the Devil, who promises good but plots evil.

For years, whenever I gave a benediction, especially at the funerals of those who had trusted Christ for salvation, I quoted Hebrews 13:20-21: "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."

David Virkler

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Octuplets Survive

It has happened only one other time. A California woman gave birth Monday to octuplets who survived. The six boys and two girls were born nine weeks premature and weighed in between a low of 1 pound, 8 ounces and a high of 3 pounds, 4 ounces.

Doctors say that all eight are doing very well and breathing on their own, although they will remain in the hospital for about 2 months. Initially ‘only’ seven infants were expected to surface from the scheduled Caesarean birth, making the eighth a shock to everyone. The world's first live octuplets were born in March 1967 in Mexico City, but all the babies died during their first day. In 1998 octuplets were delivered in Houston, Texas. This time all but one survived.

Much praise for the delivery and survival of 8 infants is given to the medical staff – and rightly so. But even before that great feat, there should be the recognition of God’s hand in the equation as related by the Psalmist. “For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth. By You I have been upheld from birth; You are He who took me out of my mother's womb. My praise shall be continually of You.” (Psalm 71:6)

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul also recognized and revealed a great truth concerning his own conception and birth. In Gal 1:15-16 he wrote, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me.” But with that said, the first portion of his life was spent fighting in ignorance against that same God. So for him to live out his above mentioned destiny would require a radical change of heart and an all-new faith. The details of his great turn from a dead religion to a living relationship with the true God can be seen in Acts 9. It culminates with words confirming Paul’s conversion to Christ in verse 6. “So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?"

When pondering the stunning miracle of human birth, whether eight at once or one at a time, an all-important question arises concerning the spiritual destiny of each child. Are they separated from the womb, as was Paul, to some great eternal purpose for God? Or will they follow their own path and turn their backs on the One who fearfully and wonderfully formed them in secret? (Psalm 139:13-15) That question is obviously impossible to answer at birth. But one thing is for certain. There is never a single child born, in any way or at any time, who is not infinitely loved by his or her Creator. (John 3:16)

In addition, God’s intense love fuels His great longing that all who have been formed by Him would eventually turn in faith to Him – a conclusion based squarely on 1 Timothy 2:2-4. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Salvation is priority one with God. But His one procedure to achieve that is seen in His Son’s words in John 3:5. “Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, January 22, 2009


It happened for only the third time in U.S. history. The oath of office was taken a second time by the incoming president. On January 20, a few minutes after 12 noon, Chief Justice John Roberts faced Barack Obama who, according to the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, had technically become president at 12 noon. The oath of office is important, however, since Article II of the Constitution indicates the President can only execute his duties upon taking the oath.

Both Obama and Roberts flubbed it. Obama cut into an unfinished phrase by Roberts and had to repeat himself. Then Roberts incorrectly put the word "faithfully" at the end of the next phrase. Obama paused and awkwardly repeated the revision as reporters, historians and the entire world watched.

The snafu was sufficiently questionable to have a "redo" the next day, January 21, in the Map Room at the White House. Roberts and Obama, without the Lincoln Bible, faced each other, and both said the prescribed oath accurately.

Although the flap may be nothing more than nit-picking, some had pondered whether the new president was acting officially without having taken the precise Constitutional oath. To silence any future questions, the oath was administered the second time.

It happened twice before. Chester Arthur took the oath in New York City upon President James Garfield’s death from an assassin’s bullet, but he repeated it when he returned to Washington. Calvin Coolidge was in Vermont when President Warren Harding died. He took the oath of office from his father, a Vermont notary. When it was found that Coolidge’s father might not have had the authority to administer the presidential oath, Coolidge repeated it when he returned to Washington.

Oaths are important, all the way back to Bible times when God swore fidelity to Abraham. The word "oath" is found about 60 times in our English Bibles. Adding the word "swear," another 36 usages come into play.

Thus, the taking of oaths has become ingrained in far-ranging societies and is imbedded in countless initiations and our inaugurals and daily in countless courtrooms. The imagery of swearing on a Bible speaks of the highest authority of witness with the words, "…the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God."

According to the many Bible references, an oath is a person’s word of unconditional truth telling. There is a New Testament exception as Christ told his disciples in Matthew 5:33-37. "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." Christ introduced a new era of truth-telling, that what a disciple said, he really was, that character and speech were inseparable, and a dichotomy of the inner man and outer speech was wrong.

A man’s word should be good enough, and lying or false statements are always out of bounds for any believer in Christ. Christians ought not need to swear, for their word should be good whenever spoken.

Biblical respect for this concept is built into the U.S. Constitution since the alternate word "affirm" is allowed. The presidential oath in Article II reads, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm)…". This is evidently a concession to biblical convictions against swearing.

The Lord called Himself "the truth" in John 14:6, and the Apostle Paul enjoined in Ephesians 4:25, "Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another." Perjury is still a wretched crime for it breaks the highest rule as we hear the dreaded phrase "lying under oath."

Hebrews 6:13-18 is the biblical affirmation of all God’s truthfulness. "For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.’ And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." God’s double truth affirmation of both His word and His oath is transferred to New Testament believers in Christ.

These truth themes have been built into our legal system, an interweave of church and state—or at least of God and government. Our founders clearly understood this. Little wonder that they signed the U.S. Constitution under a date designated as "in the year of our Lord…" meaning Jesus Christ. Perhaps critics of this unique overlap should reconsider in view of the "affirm" option in the presidential oath.

Oaths taken on a Bible and appended with "…so help me God" are still traditional in the United States, a country that is "under God," and we should be keenly aware of Rick Warren’s invocational theme: "And may we never forget that all nations and all people will stand accountable before You."

There is indeed a God of all the universe to whom we all will give an account, and He is personally known only through Jesus Christ. "Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’" (John 14:6).

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

“Miracle On The Hudson”

His amazing heroics in the cockpit not only led to what is being called “Miracle on The Hudson”, but also earned him a personal invite to the inauguration by Barack Obama.

Chesly B. "Sully" Sullenberger’s life has seen a remarkable transformation, going from an obscure, although highly competent, air liner pilot to an instant aviation hero and legend. His sudden fame came when he managed a mind-boggling water landing on New York’s frigid Hudson river after his craft’s engines died just minutes after takeoff from La Guardia airport.

Although several key external factors lined up to make favorable landing conditions, Sullenberger’s flying experience and outstanding composure were still key to the survival of all 155 passengers aboard flight 1549. The U.S. Air pilot himself had over 40 years in the air, including both commercial jets and in the U.S. Air Force. This is in addition to numerous other aviation-related ventures, all of which contributed to this pilot’s ability to turn a near disastrous event into a big time miracle!

It has been said that there is no substitute for experience – a concept whose veracity is proven millions of times every day. Interestingly, the same holds true when dealing in spiritual matters. Those who seem able to overcome life’s more difficult obstacles and remain calm in the midst of unexpected disasters are usually those who have prepared themselves ahead of time.

The Scriptures make it abundantly clear that salvation is only the initial ‘take off’ portion of the Christian experience. Newborn believers are not to spend the duration of their lives just taxing down life’s runway, so to speak. God expects continual spiritual growth and maturity in the lives of His redeemed people.

Peter reveals this concept in his second letter in the form of a warning. “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:17-18) Paul also reveals the value of a growing and maturing in the faith. He writes in Philippians 1:9-10, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.”

The fear that gripped the surviving souls on flight 1549 during those few fateful minutes between the engine failure and aviation heroism must have been beyond belief. Many were reportedly in serious prayer for those 2-3 horrifying minutes. This time around, things turned out well. None were unexpectedly ushered into eternity. All would live to tell and retell of their exclusive experience. But hopefully, that same unique experience will not be wasted solely to entertain or mesmerize the curious crowds. Hopefully any who were not then ready to meet their Maker that fateful day will use their extended time on earth wisely. And hopefully it will dawn on them that they could have very well been described like those spoken of in Proverbs 1:24-27.

“When your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you, then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke.”

And lastly, hopefully those on flight 1549 who were ready to face eternity with Christ as their advocate will realize their own need of regular spiritual growth. Hopefully they will acknowledge the words of Paul in Colossians 1 and make the effort to become spiritually mature and therefore become competent to face life’s unexpected crises while grasping opportunities to serve their Savior.

“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, January 19, 2009


Perhaps the two happiest men in the world right now are George W. Bush and John McCain. Bush finishes eight stressful years as President of the United States, and McCain, though obviously disappointed at having lost the election, narrowly avoided four pressure-filled years. Those who seek the Presidency do so for different reasons, but most all would agree that the job is far from easy, and now Barack Obama faces the unique challenges and pressures that go along with the office. In light of that and a unique opportunity for all believers, I share a chapter from my book, Presidential Profiles:

In 1832, a third-party candidate for the U.S. presidency lost, breathed a sigh of relief and declared, “A culprit pardoned at the gallows could not have been more lighthearted.” Prior to George Washington’s precedent-setting inauguration in New York City, he wrote a friend stating that he felt “not unlike a culprit who is going to his place of execution.”

The office of President of the United States carries with it burdens unlike any other. Most of our early presidents did not actively seek the office, and acceptance of the party’s nomination was considered a patriotic duty. Thus, they felt the burdens of responsibility even more.

William H. Taft opened his inaugural address by stating, “Anyone who has taken the oath I have just taken must feel a heavy weight of responsibility. If not, he has no conception of the powers and duties of the office upon which he is about to enter, or he is lacking in a proper sense of the obligations which the oath imposes.” Two years later, portrait painter Zorn noted that Taft was “so weary that it shows in his face.”

Several presidents wondered if the glory of the office merited the pressure on the person. James Garfield once cried, “What is there in this place that a man should ever want to get in?” Thomas Jefferson exited stating, “Never did a prisoner, relieved of his chains, feel such a relief as I shall on shaking off the shackles of power.”

John Quincy Adams summarized his presidency as “the four most miserable years of my life.” Andrew Jackson called the presidency “dignified slavery.” William McKinley wept openly when he was forced into a decision to make war.

The dual problems of political pressure and personal grief have brought many crushing sorrows. Calvin Coolidge wrote when his son died, “The glory and power of the Presidency went with him.” Chester Arthur ritualized his loss by daily placing a fresh bouquet of flowers before the picture of his wife, who died shortly before he became president. Abraham Lincoln never seemed quite the same after the death of his son, Tad. He had to endure both his own loss and his melancholy wife, who never recovered from the boy’s death.

Personal jibes often add to the woes of the presidency. John Tyler, the first president to be elevated to the presidency by the death of his chief, was called “His Accidency.” Overweight John Adams was named “His Rotundity,” and Taft was called “a mass of presidential fat.” Lincoln was described as “the most ugly man in the Union.” Rutherford B. Hayes, who won the presidency by one electoral vote, was known as “His Fraudulency.” Others nicknamed him “Rutherfraud Hayes.” When Harry Truman drew fire, his critics quipped, “To err is Truman.”

Truman had not originally sought the presidency. On the death of Roosevelt, with history his teacher and his unsought position posing an ominous challenge, he stepped before the press to implore, “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now!” In retrospect he called the Executive Mansion a “Great White Prison” and later recalled his entrance on the great presidential adventure. “I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me. I've got the most terrible job a man ever had.”

The service as Chief Executive has shortened lives, if not by assassins’ bullets, then by mounting stress. James K. Polk worked the hardest, perhaps, of any American president, denying himself pleasurable relaxations, which others rightly took for granted. He left the presidency a totally exhausted man and died a few weeks later. A friend of Franklin Pierce once traced his premature deterioration, noting that he “had seen him bound up the stairs with the elasticity of a schoolboy,” but after four years he went out “a staid and grave man upon whom the stamp of care and illness was eradicably impressed.”

The burdens of the presidency, while less vocalized in recent years, have still remained brutally heavy. Passing the presidential torch to John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower spoke words of solemnity. “No easy matters will come to you. If they’re easy, they will be settled at a lower level.” When the full implications of the office became apparent, Kennedy said, “Nixon should have won the election.”

Lyndon Johnson felt the twin burdens of the presidency and his predecessor’s untimely death. With the rifle shots scarcely quiet, he stood in Dallas to promise and plead, “I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help and God’s.” After winning one election in his own right and with re-election chances boondoggled by a dismal war in Vietnam, he told an astonished country that he would neither seek nor accept another nomination. When his plane sped from Washington, “In about two minutes the burden lifted,” he declared.

“Silent Cal” Coolidge summarized the truth. “Anyone who carried this awesome responsibility comes to realize, with an increasing sense of responsibility, that he is but an instrument in the hands of God.”

It is important who governs in the White House, but it is of more consequence who prays in your house. It is not only important—it is mandatory. The Apostle Paul enjoined every Christian with the Scriptural injunction “that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men, for kings and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (I Timothy 2:1, 2). Let us pray that no burden, criticism, or personal pain shall either break the President’s spirit or mar his judgment.

When John Adams arrived at the White House, he penned a letter to his wife. “…I pray Heaven to bestow the best blessings on this house and on all who shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men rule under this roof.” Franklin Roosevelt had these words cut into the mantle of the State Dining Room.

Grover Cleveland’s last words were, “I have tried so hard to do right.” May Adams’ prayer be answered so that Cleveland’s words might be repeated.

Dave Virkler

P.S. Presidential Profiles presents fascinating facts and stories about many American presidents—from George Washington to George W.—to illustrate truths from God’s Word and present the Gospel. Chapters include “The First,” “Unfinished Business,” “The Trial,” “Tunnel Vision,” “The Pardon” and “The Great Communicator” as well as a compilation of the references to God, prayer and Scripture in inaugural addresses. The 90-page, soft cover book is available for a special suggested donation of $5. We have a limited number of copies left. Click here for information on ordering.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Giving Birth After Death?

She was the British Free Skating champion in 1989 and rated seventh in the world. And she was on the ice, teaching her beloved trade just before an undetected and very aggressive brain tumor caused a major blood vessel to rupture, resulting in brain death. She was also 26 weeks pregnant!

41-year Jayne Soliman was wed to Mahmoud Soliman in 2007. It was ‘love at first sight’. But that joy would soon be interrupted by a devastating miscarriage, only to then be replaced by the thrill of a healthy pregnancy. Life was great – for the moment. Little did the couple know that an unimaginable tragedy was again on their seemingly happy horizon.

After collapsing, Jayne was flown by air ambulance to the hospital only to be declared brain dead just hours later. It was then that a decision was made to keep her heart beating through life support since the mother’s body would be a superior incubator and best chance for the premature infant to survive. The doctors told Mr. Soliman there was nothing they could do for Jayne, but they needed her to stay strong for 48 hours of medical intervention geared to help the unborn child pull through. And that she did! Aya. a Korean word for ‘miracle’, was born and is now doing well in hospital. The grieving father, referring to his new miracle daughter, said, 'I will tell her what a lovely, lovely mum she had who would have loved her so much.”

The story of a shocking death so amazingly entwined with a new birth will lead some to think of the greatest life and death scenario ever known. Although Jayne Soliman’s first choice would have been to live to give birth and raise her child, God’s Son voluntarily died to make spiritual re-birth possible for all humanity – for those who were ‘born dead’ and destined to eternal peril. (Romans 3:23, Psalm 51:5, Galatians 4:3-5)

The Apostle John’s writings refer repeatedly to the new birth found only in Jesus Christ. In chapter 3 he records Jesus’ own words. “Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'" (John 3:5-8) And back in chapter one he affirms this exact truth. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

There is no way of knowing, had Jayne Soliman’s circumstances been different, if her human love would have caused a voluntarily giving of her life to save her unborn child. She was fully unaware of her part in helping her child be born and survive. But the voluntary death of Christ’s on the cross reveals something more. His was a supernatural, infinite, and unconditional love, as revealed in Romans 5. Paul relates the depths of this divine love in verses 7-8. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Little Aya Solimon, and other survivors like her, are indeed a ‘miracle’ babies. All are a joy to grateful parents who benefit from modern medical technology. But she and every child ever born, regardless of their birth circumstances, will still need a second birth – an even more miraculous one. Every living soul requires the spiritual rebirth in Christ to survive the everyday effects and the unimaginable eternal consequences of human sin. The reason is beyond serious. “For the wages of sin is death...” But the remedy is beyond sensational! “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

“Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' (John 3:7)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Elected - Coleman or Franken?

The historic inauguration of America’s first black president is upon us. The 2008 election, which seemed to go on forever, is now a fading memory – unless, that is, you happen to reside in Minnesota. The incredibly close battle for a Senate seat there between conservative Republican Norm Coleman and liberal Democrat, and former comedian, Al Franken, is still undecided. At present, Franken enjoys a narrow lead of just 225 votes. But the Coleman campaign has mounted a challenge to the first recount that, for now, would place Franken in the seat.

Coleman's people are suggesting that some votes were counted twice and that some absentee ballots were wrongly rejected or accepted. State voting officials have become frustrated as the new challenge would require them viewing some 30 – 40,000 pages of documentation. Admittedly, the process is daunting, but the proper outcome is critical, especially in a Senate where every seat is so very crucial.

Challenging election results has become all too normal on the American political scene. And few will ever forget the extended national agony that was the Bush / Gore drama. But as important as electing the right individuals to public office is, the outcome of these contests pales in comparison when viewed along side another election - the one spoken of in Scripture!

The term “elect” is used sparingly in the New Testament, but that does not reduce at all its reality or importance. Paul confirms the idea of God having a special and distinct people in Colossians 3. In verses 12-13 he states, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” He refers to the idea again in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 writing, “God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth." Other similar verses include John 6:44, Ephesians 1:4-5 and 1 Peter 1:1-2.

Granted, it is not easy, humanly speaking, to grasp the entire biblical concept of election. It is difficult to fathom how salvation can involve both man’s free choice (John 3:16, Romans 10:13, Revelation 22:17) along with the truth that certain people are chosen to redemption in eternity past. It is, and has always been, a great mystery to the finite mind and a ‘seemingly’ incompatible doctrinal formula that has been the source for major denominational divides for centuries. Despite that, both principles are biblical and therefore must be taken at face value while trusting the omniscient God who miraculously blends it all together.

Upon entrance into the family of God through personal faith in Christ, the Christian’s status as part of the ‘elect’ brings certain blessings and benefits. These eternal promises can never be shaken or revoked. The prime example of this is the profound words uttered in Romans chapter 8.

“Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 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 8:33-39)

When the dust settles in Minnesota hopefully there will be no question as to which man the people intended to elect. But if you are not certain today whether you are part of God’s elect, why not make sure? Simply call out right now in simple child-like faith for the forgiveness and salvation found only in Jesus Christ.

“That whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, January 12, 2009


Barack Obama, a few days from becoming President of the United States, is backing down on some of his campaign promises. I don’t think he’s a purposeful liar; he’s just facing the grim realities of an economy gone so wayward that the best of intentions can’t stabilize it quickly, if ever. In the age of instant gratification, such as fast food, the Internet and e-mail, voters responded to a fresh face, appealing promises and charismatic persona.

Now, with reality setting in, the quick fix is evaporating in the harsh reality that many of these problems were years in the making and ready solutions are impossible. It is like turning an ocean liner going full speed ahead. Yes, it can be turned about, but, these huge ships can’t be turned on a dime, not even in a mile.

Most politicians give pompous speeches and lure the electorate to radical change, especially if those they are attempting to unseat have a perceived string of failures. We will likely never see a day when candidates cease making promises they know they can’t keep—a sad symptom of a time when ear-tickling is popular, and voters place confidence in media preference, catchy phrases and forceful personality.

I’m glad my trust is in the guaranteed promises of God.

Ancient Israel had to trust the seemingly impossible promises of Jehovah God. He promised deliverance from slave masters in Egypt through the formula of the Passover Lamb, whose blood was shed and its flesh eaten (Exodus 12), and He promised strength and provision for the journey (Ex. 33:14). The Israelites needed food and water through the dessert for forty years so God gave manna from Heaven (Ex. 16:15, 35) and water from the rock (Ex. 17:6; Numbers 20:11). He promised their shoes and clothes would not wear out for four decades (Deuteronomy 29:5). He parted the Red Sea (Ex. 14:21) and the Jordan River (Joshua 3:16, 17). He promised rains in their early and latter seasons for continuing harvest (Deut. 11:14). He promised to personally look after the land from January 1 to December 31 (Deut. 11:12). He promised military protection in wartime (Num. 10:9). It was also true that God promised total failure in all areas of their lives if they ignored His commands (Deut. 28).

A personal relationship with Jesus Christ guarantees incredible promises for born again believers. He promises His permanent salvation (John 3:16; 10:28), His abiding peace (John 14:27), and His constant presence (Heb. 13:5). He promises our daily food (Matthew 6:32, 33). He promises to come again to take us to Heaven (John 14:3). And He promises eternal victory with Him forever (Revelation 11:15; 22:5)

Joshua reviewed God’s promises and declared, "Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass" (Josh. 21:45).

Several years ago, I met Ann Palmer, the daughter of Arthur A. Luther, who wrote the Gospel song "Jesus Never Fails." She shared with me how one evening in that pastor’s home in western New York State they sat at supper desperately needing $100 to pay their bills. Luther laid out the problem, and they prayed. A knock was heard at the door, and the woman there said, "I have been sent here by a woman in Michigan. She has been so blessed by the song, ‘Jesus Never Fails’ that she sent me to find the author and give him one hundred dollars."

These words, written around 1927, have echoed around the world. With broken human promises abounding, we need to dwell on the unfailing promises of our Lord.

Earthly friends may prove untrue,
Doubts and fears assail;
One still loves and cares for you,
One Who will not fail.
Though the sky be dark and drear,
Fierce and strong the gale,
Just remember, He is near
And He will not fail.
In life’s dark and bitter hour
Love will still prevail;
Trust His everlasting pow’r
Jesus will not fail.
Jesus never fails,
Jesus never fails.
Heav’n and earth may pass away,
But Jesus never fails.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gaza in the Bible

Israel’s defensive attack on Hamas in Gaza became the bridge story from 2008 into the New Year. Three thousand rockets raining on Israeli cities was too much to tolerate, especially when Hamas is financed by and serves as a surrogate for nuclear-minded Iran to weaken Israel. Israel possibly saw a closing window of permission in the waning Bush presidency before facing the uncertain policies of Barack Obama. And Israel’s probable short-term political goal is also to restore power to the Palestinian Authority under Abbas in order to deal with that more moderate political entity.

A knowledgeable focus on Gaza is a telescope on history long past and the intriguing prophetic near future.

The terms "Palestinian" and "Palestine" are closely related to "Philistia" and "Philistine." The area was called Palestina in early Bible times as seen in Exodus 15:14 and Isaiah 14:29, 51. The general area of the Old Testament Philistines comprised five cities: Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Gath and Ekron. All but Ekron are modern cities; Gaza is now Gaza City, the area the Israelis have invaded. In New Testament times, the conquering Romans called the entire area, including Israel and Jordan, Palestina.

An aside here is that the term "Palestinian" is misapplied. Anyone living in Palestine would be a Palestinian including Arabs, Jews and Christians, but Palestinians came to be known as only those displaced from their Arab lands or those living under Israeli control in the West Bank "occupied territories," which are biblical Judea and Samaria. The term has been distorted to prolong the political and religious purposes against Israel and all the Western nations.

The most significant prophetic verse regarding the current warfare is Isaiah 11:14. "But they shall fly down upon the shoulder of the Philistines toward the west; Together they shall plunder the people of the East; They shall lay their hand on Edom and Moab; And the people of Ammon shall obey them."

The passage is clearly relevant to end-time events because the context is a description of a future Millennium. Consider that this passage is literal since the geographical areas are easily located. The land of the Philistines, as mentioned, is Gaza. The other lands that will be retaken to the east—Edom, Moab and Ammon—are present-day Jordan and part of Old Testament Israel.

The verse implies that Israel invades in a time when they do not control the Philistine area, but they retake it. In the 1967 War, Israel captured the Gaza Strip area from Egypt and held it until finally withdrawing all Jewish settlers a couple of years ago. They had to lose it to retake it. Now Israeli forces have reentered Gaza to prevent the further launch of Hamas rockets. This is likely a rehearsal for the fulfillment of Isaiah 11:14.

The restoration of Israel, the Philistine areas being reconstituted, and the fact that they have become the focus of international over an invasion which the Bible clearly says will one day happen is evidence that prophetic time is rushing forward, and perhaps one day soon that final invasion by Israel will occur.

Dave Virkler