Thursday, July 30, 2009

Repentance and Reconciliation

President Barack Obama, Cambridge police officer James Crowley and Harvard professor Henry Gates will presumably resolve their verbal and legal tangle over a beer at the White House. The facts are well known as the media has had a field day analyzing the mix of police action, the professor’s reaction and the President’s denunciation of the Cambridge police department as "acting stupidly."

The old expression "shooting from the hip" aptly covers the President’s inept rush to judgment when he prematurely denounced the result of the policemen’s meticulous routine. In Solomon’s proverbial wisdom, the Bible has an even better caution against such prejudicial verbiage. "He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him" (Proverbs 18:13). Valuable respect can be lost in a few unguarded seconds of intemperate talk, as President Obama sadly found out.

Further, an appropriate apology for obvious error is always painful, especially when the offense is worldwide news. That is likely why proud people resist repentance when offered salvation. Christ declared, "…unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). The Apostle Paul added, "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).

The Prodigal Son returned to sanity while he was a pig pen attendant and headed home when he could say, "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee…" (Luke 15:18 – emphasis mine).

It appears that Sgt. Crowley is least needing to repent or apologize as he carefully followed regulations. If the President and Professor Gates can bring themselves to sincerely apologize, it would speed resolution of the problem and even improve race relations, which could use improvement right now.

Personally, I could have hoped for a better reconciliation venue than "over a beer," which if liberally ingested could becloud one’s judgement. But let’s hope for the best that the meeting can be a genuine teaching moment to avoid such needless tensions in the future.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

“Two-track” Anglican Church?

The archbishop of Canterbury has stated that the world’s 77 million Anglicans are divided over gay clergy and same-sex unions. The church leader said that the controversy could divide their denomination into a “two-track model” yielding “two styles of being Anglican.”

The differences have centered around the Episcopal Church’s consent in 2003 to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the church’s first openly gay bishop. The Episcopal Church is the official branch of the Anglican Communion in the United States and boasts a membership of 2.3 million.

The church of Christ is, in many ways, about sin. The true church is comprised of sinners who have been freed by trusting in the finished work of God’s Son on the cross. He sacrificed Himself in order to turn lost sinners into found saints. Paul shared this truth with young Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:15. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” The church is all about dealing with the effects of human sin. And those who do, through saving faith in Christ, are spiritually re-born and become instant and permanent members of His true universal church.

In the eyes of a holy God, all sin is unacceptable. The Bible teaches that all have sinned and that all are in need of redemption. (Romans 3:23) And along with that, there is no biblical permission to make exceptions to allow any sin to exist, or linger, in the church for any reason – especially for those in positions of spiritual leadership. The Apostle Paul spoke to this issue repeatedly in his letter to the church at Rome. In Romans 6:1-2 he wrote, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”

Back in Romans chapter one Paul dealt with the issue of sexual sins and touched specifically on homosexuality. Beginning in verse 26 he wrote, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” This activity in this portion of Scripture is defined using terms like vile passions, against nature, lust, penalty, and error – all rather vivid descriptions in little need of very much clarification or theological insight. Then too in verses 28 –31 Paul outlined a variety of other sinful activities, all of which are likewise unacceptable for any believer or Christian leader.

But interestingly, the rather grim chapter concludes by also indicting those who promote and approve the godless behavior exposed in the final verses of the passage. Verse 32 says of this bunch, “Who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

The Anglican and Episcopal church may well divide their denomination into a “two-track model” yielding “two styles of being Anglican.” But those who allow, support, and promote this will be held accountable for willingly disregarding a clear mandate of biblical truth. And they should be honest enough to admit that their desire to normalize, and make acceptable, blatant sin - any sin - goes against God’s will and is simply wrong for any Christian layman or leader.

Hopefully there will come a time when those Anglicans in favor of a "second track" will seriously, and prayerfully, re-evaluate the Holy Spirit's inspired words in Romans 6:20-23.

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. “

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, July 20, 2009

Reflections on the Moonwalk Anniversary

Forty years ago, two men stepped onto the powdery surface of the moon. Neil Armstrong, first down the ladder, uttered those historic words about a small step for a man but a giant stride for mankind. The second astronaut stepping down was Buzz Aldrin, a Montclair, New Jersey native, star football player and suddenly a global celebrity.

After the astronauts’ return home, my family stood with the wildly cheering crowds as Buzz paraded down the Montclair streets in the very town where I had previously served as a pastor for five years. A native son had broken the space barrier and returned to tell about it. Buzz later slid into deep depression and alcoholism. Perhaps he felt like Alexander the Great, who, after attaining a world empire at a young age, wept because he had no more worlds to conquer.

Several years later, and in profound contrast, another moon-walker would return to earth with even higher vistas in mind. In 1976, Jim Irwin, a member of the Apollo 15 crew and the eighth man on the moon, sat before our broadcast microphone and shared his stunning recollections on “The Word And the World”. He had brought back the Genesis Rock, thought to be one of oldest articles in the universe since it came from the moon’s mountains. Its retrieval was made possible because his mission had the first access to the famed moon rover a kind of glorified dune buggy.

Irwin talked of a sense of the presence of God, so intense, he said, that if he looked over his shoulder he felt he might even see God. Jim shared that many of his fellow astronauts had expressed similar feelings while on moon.

He went on to organize a special Gospel outreach known as High Flight. I have one of his personally signed ministry business cards on our radio studio bulletin board, and I am humbled to think that the hand that signed that card was the one which reached out and picked up the Genesis Rock.

I can’t be dogmatic about this, but perhaps the contrast between Aldrin and Irwin lay in an obscure church service Irwin attended as a boy. He and his mother were walking one Sunday evening on the west coast of Florida when they passed a little church holding a revival service. They went in, mostly out of curiosity, and heard the timeless message that God loved the world so much He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins and give us eternal life. Young Jim and mother walked forward on the invitation and accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. That decision was life-changing and history-altering, for that boy grew up to be a famed astronaut, and, when his space flight days were over, he flew even higher, telling countless audiences how to be reconciled to the maker of Heaven and earth through a personal relationship through Christ.

Jim Irwin had two heart troubles. One was solved when he received a new spiritual heart through Christ. The other, a heart murmur first detected while he was on the moon, finally took him out of this mortal life and home to the third Heaven that the Apostle Paul saw in II Corinthians 12:2 and where Irwin was cured forever of the earthly hazard of physical defects.

On this 40th anniversary of that first moonwalk, Jim would know no higher joy than if, through reading this blog, someone would respond to Christ, who said, “Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28)

This earth and the heavens are temporary. While discovering the glories of God’s creation is intriguing, it will all pass away with a loud noise and fervent heat as the Bible predicts (II Peter 3:10–12). In the future, believers will receive new bodies for a new Heaven and a new earth, and we currently live with God’s comforting promise, “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, July 15, 2009

Michael Jackson’s Search for Love

One of the most puzzling recent events was the pathetic passing of pop star Michael Jackson. He was a study in contrasts. He was perhaps the most memorable contemporary entertainer, but he left a legacy filled with sorrow, moral questions and a drug-drenched finale.

I confess I may have been very hard on Jackson. I reported on his Jehovah’s Witness background when some in the cult thought he might be Michael the Archangel (Jude 9), a nearly blasphemous and, at the least, terribly misguided notion.

A spiritual advisor of Jackson’s was interviewed on TV and declared that Jackson had directed that his children be raised in the Jehovah’s Witness tradition. Doctrinally, the Jehovah’s Witnesses reject both the deity and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, two basic doctrines necessarily believed for salvation. John 8:24 says, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He (literally, “…believe that I am”), you will die in your sins.” “I AM” is a name of Jehovah (Exodus 3:14). Romans 10:13 says we must believe God raised Him from the dead in order to be saved.

My harsh views on Jackson were mitigated somewhat by an article in the July 3–9 international edition of The Jerusalem Post. Author Rabbi Shmulley Boteach, who had befriended Jackson, wrote of a poignant interview that took place during 40 hours with the pop star.

According to Boteach, Jackson told him, “I am going to say something I have never said before and this is the truth. I have no reason to lie to you and God knows I am telling the truth. I think all my success and fame, and I have wanted it, I have wanted it because I wanted to be loved. That’s all. That’s the real truth. I wanted people to love me, truly love me, because I never really felt loved. I said I know I have ability. Maybe if I sharpened my craft, maybe people will love me more. I just want to be loved because I think it is very important to be loved and to tell people that you love them and to look into their eyes and say it.”

The Rabbi went on to say, “One cannot read these words without feeling a tremendous sadness for a soul that was so surrounded with hero-worship but remained so utterly alone. Because Michael substituted attention for love, he got fans who loved what he did but he never had true compatriots who loved him for who he was.”

When I read this, my disgust with Jackson turned to profound pathos. And I wondered if perhaps his life would have been different if he had been taught the truth of the love of God in Jesus Christ, who is the eternal Son of God and God the Son, instead of a works-oriented religious system. Perhaps Jackson’s bizarre behavior was really just a carefully masked search for love, a stunning lack in his life that no doubt led to his early death.

We believers should take note that the pained habits and patterns of the unbeliever may be a spiritual smoke screen blown away only by someone sharing the love of Jesus Christ, who came to give us “life and that more abundantly” (John 10:10). Entertainers’ antics may not be a scramble for success but a cry for help. And ultimately, only God can help.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Miracle Heart Heals Itself

It was back in 1995 when Hannah Clark had a donor heart grafted onto her own failing organ. It was a radical attempt to say the least. And today, the heart of the 16-year old has miraculously healed itself enough so that doctors could remove the donated one. Dr. Douglas Zipes, a past president of the American College of Cardiology, stated concerning the procedure, "This shows that the heart can indeed repair itself if given the opportunity."

The amazing healing powers of the human body reminds Bible believers of the words of the Psalmist in chapter 139 and verses 13-14. “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works.” And for those who doubt the existence of a Creator God, they need look no further than the intricacies and miracle that is the human body.

Christians will also recognize that, while the physical heart may regenerate itself to some degree, the spiritual heart is fully incapable of any repairs. Jeremiah 17:9 describes this heart in the following terms. “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” And results of a sinful and broken heart are outlined in Romans 3:10-12. “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.”

The only solution to a dead and decaying spiritual heart is revealed in Romans 10:9-11. Paul writes there, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Then when a person comes to Christ in faith, a spiritual surgery takes place with truly miraculous and lasting results.

Hopefully the regeneration of of Hannah Clark’s physical heart has already, or will, give her the precious opportunity to have divine surgery performed on her spiritual one. And, if so, she will find that Christ does not just repair the old heart, but He fully replaces it with an all new one!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Bill Breckenridge

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mourning the Temple

On July 9, observant Jews began a three-week period of mourning which will culminate on Tisha B’Av ("the ninth of Av"), the most sobering day of the Jewish calendar. For three weeks beginning on the 17th day of the Jewish month of Tammuz, Jews who sincerely recall the date’s past significance avoid weddings or haircuts and pray special prayers of remorse and plead for forgiveness.

Tammuz 17 is thought to be the day when Nebuchadnezzar broke into Jerusalem after a long siege. Three weeks later, on the 9th of Av, the First Temple (also known as Solomon’s Temple) was destroyed.

In a remarkable quirk of history, the Second Temple, known as Herod’s Temple and the one visited by our Lord Jesus Christ, was also destroyed on the 9th of Av in AD 70. It was this Temple that Jesus sadly observed and of which He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (Matthew 24:2).

Tammuz 17 also recalls various other national calamities such as the cessation of temple sacrifices due to lack of sheep one year before the First Temple was destroyed. It is also said to be when Moses descended from Sinai, saw wild idolatry among his people and broke the first set of Ten Commandments.

Tisha B’Av is a day-long observance of special sadness marked by unusual mourning rituals and the avoidance of some otherwise normal activities. Jews’ grief on Tisha B’Av is well founded. If there is no actual Temple there can be no valid Judaism. There are some 613 laws of Jewish life in Old Testament edicts, and 203 of them relate to Temple observances. After the destruction of the Second Temple, accommodating rabbis ruled that the local synagogues served as substitute temples, but Jewish purists know better, and they strive to rebuild the Temple. This accounts for much tension over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is presently is controlled by Muslims.

Strangely, the Jewish month of Tammuz is named after the son of pagan Semiramis, the evil wife of Nimrod, who was the founder of Babylon and is first mentioned in Genesis 10:8 & 9. Legend says that Tammuz died and was raised to life by the power of his mother. Semiramis assumed semi-divine names such as "queen of heaven" and "mother of god." She and her son were worshipped as deities. The image of Semiramis with Tammuz became a religious mother and child idol. The cult spread, and the mother goddess cult infected Israel through wicked Jezebel.

The ancient ceremony observing the death and resurrection of Tammuz involved a sad time of mourning that turned into a forty-day fast. Biblical reference is made to this in Ezekiel 8:14. "So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the LORD’s house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz." Jeremiah 44:17–19 describes this pagan worship, elements of which are still evident in Lenten observances today, such as hot cross buns that were the "cakes" mentioned in Jer. 44:19.

How Tammuz was incorporated into the Jewish calendar as one of their months remains somewhat of a mystery. It surely is a reminder that their affection for Babylonian pagan religion led to the destruction of their temple and a 70-year exile in the land of its origin. Their reversion to paganism carried its own punishment. It’s a tragic example of Psalm 106:15: "And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul."

Regrettably, a Third Temple will appear, likely in the near future. It will be available to Antichrist, the false Messiah, who will proclaim himself God as II Thessalonians 2:4 outlines. Only when there is full national repentance for their rejection of Messiah and they accept Him will Jewish remorse bear spiritual fruit and the Temple will be theirs.

"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn." (Zechariah 12:10-11)

"Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: "Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD; Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both."’" (Zech. 6:12-13)

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pastor Seeks Christian/Muslim Union

Mega-church pastor Rick Warren, known for his best seller ‘The Purpose Driven Life’, has again raised some eyebrows in the evangelical community. This time it was for his attendance and remarks at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America.

Warren told several thousand American Muslims that "The two largest faiths on the planet must work together to combat stereotypes and solve global problems.” The pastor described the problems as the “five global giants" - specifically war, poverty, corruption, disease, and illiteracy. During his 20-minute long speech Warren urged Muslims and Christians to “respect each other even while disagreeing”.

Pastor Warren cannot be faulted for extending a friendly hand to those of another faith. Jesus would no doubt have done the same. He cannot be faulted for addressing the “five global giants” that plague humanity and cause universal suffering. Jesus would have felt likewise. And Warren cannot be faulted for speaking about destructive stereotypes – something Jesus would also have seen as sin. But with that said, there remains the questionable matter of working together for good in the light of those little spiritual and religious ‘disagreements’. That might have raised the eyebrows of the Lord depending on what those disagreements are, where they lead, and how they are handled.

It is all well and good to treat people well, break destructive stereotypes, and work together for the common good. But when dueling religious systems converge during those efforts there must be, at some point, a serious spiritual encounter. There must come from the Christian context a moment when a ‘disagreement’, if it is over the path of salvation, must be addressed. For a true disciple of Jesus Christ to be concerned and involved in righteous causes is admirable. But to somehow stop short of sharing his or her faith along the way is eternally dangerous, negligent, and a basic denial of God’s primary plan and purpose.

The symbolic linking arms for good causes with those outside of Christ, although quite profitable, can make it quite difficult to share what matters most. It can make nearly it uncomfortable if not impossible to explain the wretched destiny of those who fail to accept the Savior and gain Him as their eternal advocate. A difference in theology concerning forgiveness of sin is not just some ‘disagreement’. It is paramount! It is simply and surely all that really matters in this life and the next!

The Bible is clear that ‘disagreements’ are not acceptable or valid in matters of redemption. Acts 4:12 puts it this way. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Then the Savior Himself worded it as clearly as He possibly could in John 14:6. “Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The Bible teaches that there is simply no theological wiggle room for ‘disagreements’ in this single most crucial category. There may be more than one way from point A to point B on a road map. But the journey to heaven is a single unbroken line running from forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ to life everlasting with the Creator God.

Life in the real world often means associating with and working along side of lost people. Some will have no religion at all and other may be fully entrenched in some ‘world-class’ false one. But for the believer in Christ, all such relationships should be bathed in prayer and based on the premise of the eventual sharing God’s true plan of salvation. In the final analysis, the ‘five global giant’ problems will someday end when Christ returns. On that day, all worthy efforts to have dealt with these issues will be complete, but also quite incomplete, unless they were somehow intertwined with reaching people with forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ.

Bill Breckenridge

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Benjamin Netanyahu and the Fourth of July

July 4th is a special day for our Israeli friend and ally Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thirty years ago, July 4, 1976, he lost his brother in the famed emergency rescue of hijacked airline passengers in Entebbe, Uganda.

Edi Amin held wretched dictatorial sway in Uganda and sought to further terrorize the world by taking Jewish and other passengers off an Air France flight at the Entebbe airport. In a courageous and dangerous move, Israeli commandos swooped in by air, rescued almost all the captives and flew them to safety, deeply embarrassing Amin and his military. There was one single Israeli casualty—Yoni Netanyahu.

On Sunday, June 28, a special memorial was held at Mt. Hertzl in Jerusalem. Netanyahu spoke in remembrance of the rescue and especially of his brother.

Netanyahu appreciates both his brother’s sacrifice and America. The Prime Minister was educated in the United States, accounting for his flawless English. He spent his high school years here when his father was a history teacher in the States. Later, he received degrees from MIT and studied at Harvard. He stirred the world’s anti-terror conscience through the Jonathan Institute, which is named after his slain brother, whose nickname was Yoni.

Netanyahu previously served a term as Prime Minister. In the most recent election, he was again appointed to form the latest Israeli government and is the focus of incredible pressures from all political sides regarding the Palestinian issue and possible attack from Iran.

His appreciation for America is excelled only by his devotion to Israel. On July 1, he attended a Fourth of July Appreciation Day gathering at the home of U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham where he spoke of Israel’s great appreciation for "a close relationship with the U.S." Responding, Cunningham noted the strong US-Israeli bond and said, "The United States is committed to Israel’s security."

In a long ago freedom celebration, Israel left Egypt after sprinkling the shed blood of the lamb on the door posts and lintels and eating the slain lamb whose body was roasted over a fire on a spit. According to some scholars, the spit was a stick lengthwise and crosswise through the shoulders—a lamb on a cross. Paul said, "Christ was our Passover sacrificed for us," in I Corinthians 5:7.

Israel’s liberation and American freedom must always have a stated kinship. Mr. Netanyahu surely understands the sacrifice of his own brother to rescue the innocent passengers in Entebbe on that July 4th, and he must certainly know of Numbers 12 and the slain lamb of his Old Testament.

America’s stability and blessing is inevitably linked to recognition and support of God’s ethnic Israeli remnant as Genesis 12:3 declares. The term "Judeo-Christian ethic" is more than a well-worn phrase. It is an expression of a vital link between Israel and America and between freedom there and freedom here.

Dave Virkler

Friday, July 3, 2009

Unrest in Honduras

Reports that the ousting of the Honduran president is a military coup are completely false. Having a deep personal interest in Honduras, I called Dr. Gene Priddy of Bible Basics International, which has an active ministry in Honduras and sponsored the two evangelism efforts in which I participated in 2005 and 2008. These home visitation and evening church meetings saw many come to Christ. Gene is in touch with local pastors in Honduras, and they contradict what most of the liberal secular media is saying.

The Honduran form of government is patterned after that of the U.S. with three counterbalancing branches of government—executive, legislative and judicial. The ousted president was attempting to change the law by personal effort through a referendum, which is illegal. He wanted another term of office, which is not permitted by Honduran law.

To accomplish this, President Zelaya was influencing poor voters by giving them items, such as farm equipment, that actually came from Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Chavez had actually shipped illegal ballots into Honduras. Zelaya ordered the military commander to distribute them, and, when he wouldn’t, Zelaya had him fired.

The Honduran legislature and Supreme Court found that was Zelaya was acting illegally and commissioned the military to arrest and remove him, which they did exiling him to Costa Rica. Gene suggested that they took him there out of compassion rather than jailing him in Honduras.

Zelaya had fallen out of favor with most Hondurans, including the Roman Catholic Church and most evangelical leaders, and even many in his own party who do not want a Chavez-type dictatorship in Honduras, but he has garnered sympathy from the UN, the Organization of American States and the U.S. government. He has said that he plans to return to Honduras. The acting president of Honduras says Zelaya will be arrested if he does.

Gene also noted that there is a group of six leftist, socialist and communist nations fomenting revolution in the area. One of these is Nicaragua, which borders Honduras on the south. There have been threats of invasion from Nicaragua.

Bible Basics International is sending another summer team on July 12 to the northern city of Puerto Cortez, which is one of the largest shipping ports in Central America. Twenty-one Americans on the team are slated to do home visitation, child evangelism and also evening family seminars and evangelism. Should there be an invasion by Nicaragua, this would likely be postponed.

Would you breathe a prayer for the team for Honduras, for the legal politicians and for our government to see the situation clearly? And pray for the Hondurans to be sensitive to the Gospel, which alone can give true spiritual freedom and lasting peace.

In a related personal story, I met a young man who is working on a housing development right behind our ministry property. I discovered that he was from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, which is the city where I ministered last July and the largest city in Honduras. I gave him a post card showing downtown San Pedro Sula along with a printed copy of my testimony and the plan of salvation in Spanish. Pray that this brief encounter will enable him to find Christ as Savior.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The 'King of Pop' Dead at 50

He was called the ‘King of Pop’ and was thought to be the single most recognizable person on the planet. But all of the fame, fortune, and some misfortune, came to an abrupt end when Michael Jackson shocked the world by unexpectedly dying at his home at age 50.

Fans brought new meaning to the song "I'll Be There" Tuesday, as thousands descended on the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem to honor their beloved pop star. The Rev. Al Sharpton told fans at the theater, "The spirit of Michael is here. He's bad, he's our brother, he's our friend." Mary Wimberly of Elizabeth, New Jersey, attended the show and said upon arrival, "I felt this is as close as we could get to celebrating him to a new eternal life." The singer will be remembered for his unique dancing and for perhaps for his most recognizable hit tune, “I’ll Be There”.

Michael Jackson had it all – at least from a human perspective. But he also had a sin nature like everyone ever born. For that reason alone, the “King of Pop” also needed the forgiveness of the “King of Kings, Jesus Christ, as he drew his last breath. Mary Wimberly was right in that her idol entered into a new eternity last week. But The Rev. Sharpton was dead wrong concerning Mr. Jackson’s spirit being at the Apollo - or anywhere else on earth!

The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 reveals what happens to a believer in Christ upon death. In verse 6 he writes. “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Those who die in Christ are immediately with Christ and leave nothing on earth other than memories and the lasting effects of whatever ministry they offered to God. Likewise, the spirits of all who die outside of Christ are removed from the world – only to a place of suffering as they await final judgement.

For the Christian, the motto “I’ll Be There” is the confidence and blessed hope of their faith. They need not hope or guess that they will someday be there with God in heaven for a new eternity. And their outlook is not a boasting in their own good works or attempts to please a holy God. It is rather based on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ and on the promise of the Scriptures. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13)

The ‘King of Pop’s’ spirit is gone and his eternal fate is sealed - somewhere. But for those who yet live, they still have the golden opportunity to be able to say concerning forgiveness and eternity in heaven, "I’ll be there"!

“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

Bill Breckenridge

Will Teens Die Young?

According to new research, nearly 15% of teens today think they will die young.

Dr. Iris Borowsky, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, based the study on the responses from 20,000 kids. In the past, many teens would be involved in dangerous forms of behavior mostly because their youth made them feel nearly invincible. But today, more are engaging in certain unhealthy activities because they feel life to be hopeless and having little or nothing at stake. The study found that such thinking threatens to turn their fatalism into a self-fulfilling prophecy and that these kids are seven times more likely to suffer from AIDS, do drugs, get into fights, and even attempt suicide.

It is beyond sad to see young people living in the greatest nation on earth and possessing such a negative and destructive attitude. Why would those who have nearly unlimited opportunities, and who are the envy of most kids on the planet, feel so clueless and hopeless? And why on earth would those who live the ‘good life’ feel it to be a ‘bad life’?

The answer is simple. It has little to do with where they live, what they own, or how they feel. The answer is spiritual. At the core, hopelessness and depression is about an emptiness in the depths of the soul – irregardless of one’s current lifestyle or future prospects.

The basic reason for the presence of despair in a life is the general absence of God’s Holy Spirit in the heart. Without God, man is left alone to produce his own joy and contentment. He is left primarily to external circumstances and his own devices for gratifying internal effects. Also, statistics reveal that many who achieve great levels of outer fortune often possess limited inner peace. Again, the entire matter is all about the spiritual.

For those in God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ, even the most negative external circumstances can be countered and accompanied by an unnatural inner joy. James, in his New Testament wisdom book, wrote of this unique ability in chapter one of his letter. In verse 24 he penned, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Then, too, Peter reaffirmed this amazing potential for the Christian in 1 Peter 4:12-13. “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

The unlikely scenario of possessing a consistent inner joy, come what may, is also confirmed to and guaranteed by the one who offers it as part of His salvation benefits plan. In John 15:11, Jesus stated, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.“ Paul also shares the source of spiritual joy in Romans chapter fifteen. Verse 13 states, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

For the young and old alike who struggle with hopelessness, the only sure remedy in this life and the promise of eternity with God’s in the next, is through the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit. This is a real and ‘living hope’ – one that explains the Christian’s unexplainable victories even in the face of life’s most unmanageable problems!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23)

Bill Breckenridge