Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The New King of Communications

It’s called simply Twitter and it is being called the ‘Face of 21st Century News’.

Twitter is fast becoming a household word. It is basically a microblog of sorts. It is a flowing feed of real-time information online. And its constant updating of up-to-the-minute reactions has, in some instances, threatened to usurp media coverage of breaking news. And today, most news outlets now have a presence on Twitter that directs readers to their respective sites.

Ross Dawson, a communications expert, said of Twitter, “It is "the CNN of the new media generation and absolutely changes the media landscape." Andrew Keen, author of ‘The Cult of the Amateur,’ believes Twitter represents the future of both the Internet and media. But there are some down sides of Twitter – one being its reliability. Entries can be composed and spread without any accountability or proof of the presented ‘facts’. News that circulates on Twitter by constant ‘re-tweeting’ can be on the cutting edge of truth or spread lies and rumors in a very short span of time. There is also the concern that some people or governments may use Twitter to spread dangerous misinformation.

Also, the existence and use of the internet in general has had both positive and negative effects even on today’s Christians. Anyone can see that an entire generation is absolutely hooked on text messaging, Facebooking, and now Twittering. A huge percent of younger people spend an equally huge amount of their time passing largely useless information back and forth. And when anything becomes that consuming, it can become a major distraction away from things that really matter. Tweeting, typing and texting the minute details of one’s personal life to scores of so-called "friends' is beginning to occur more and more in the most inappropriate of settings - including while driving! There are now even official titles for those addicted to these activities, and new programs designed just to ease or break their ever-tightening grip.

Then, too, today’s quick and instant sound bite mentality has altered a generation’s thinking about how much time is required to get the whole truth or full opinion on any given subject. The ease and speed of gaining online information has led to a form of laziness. Digging deeper on any subject has become just too hard or seen as unnecessary when a quick sentence or two can do the job. This is quite unfortunate especially since serious study is essential for complete and meaningful understanding of the Scriptures.

The Bible was written when the communications technology, routinely used by today’s 10-year olds, would have been considered as pure fantasy. Christians of even a century ago could not have grasped it on any level. But perhaps this meant far less distractions and allowed them more precious and uninterrupted time to concentrate on Scriptural commands like seen in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Paul said to the believers, “Pray without ceasing”. That is not easily done if one’s days and nights are used to ‘text without ceasing’!

And maybe the absence of so many of today’s fascinating and habit-forming ‘toys’ allowed the early church to better apply the mandate of Ephesians 5:15-16. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” It is hard to see how anyone addicted to texting and twittering can make the most of the crucial time God has allotted them to communicate with Him and about Him!

Technology has made possible a level of mass, and personal, communication such as the world has never known. And today nearly an entire generation is engaged in the seemingly endless sharing with most anyone who will listen. And while most of it is generally harmless, it is also often useless. Perhaps the need is for some good old-fashioned balance between the ratio of time spent offering up what is valuable and what is silly or worthless. And maybe that shift might come through a serious evaluation of the content of Jesus’ own words in Matthew 12:36-37 is in order. “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

Again, the efficiency and availabilty of modern communications has changed the world. It has translated many former dreams into useful commonplace realities. But some of these good things could become great things if more Christians would simply couple the culture's present communication opportunities with their own texting tendancies. Just imagine how great, and how etenally profitable, it could be if the church would fully redeem their time by using this new ‘Face of 21st Century News’ to share Jesus Christ - the Face of the Good News of that 1st century.

Now that is something fully and enternally worthy to 'Tweet' about!

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cash for Kidneys?

It seems hard to fathom, but it is true. Some in the U.K., where the credit crunch is perhaps worse than in the U.S., are beginning to sell their expendable organs for desperately needed income. For example, advertisements have recently appeared in the internet offering to exchange a kidney for cash at the hefty price of $40,000.

For the most part, these organ deals are due to a seller’s severe financial condition. But amazingly, others seem willing to give up a precious piece of themselves for lesser reasons like home improvement projects such as remodeling their kitchen. Nearly 7,000 people in the U.K. are currently in need of kidney transplants and 300 died last year while waiting for the life-saving organ.

One British cab driver explained his rationale for offering up his kidney. He had refused to sell it to a ‘client’ he believed would just resell it for a profit. He stated, “I thought I was going to give another man a chance of life. I wanted to help myself at the same time.”

It is fully understandable why some would be willing to pay almost any price in order to extend their own lives. But it is somewhat hard to grasp how those on the other side would feel compelled to receive any money matter through such drastic measures – especially considering the basic truth offered in Ephesians chapter five. While dealing with husband and wife relationships, the author records in verse 29, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.”

In the spiritual realm there is a comparison to the above issue, only it departs significantly on the details that really count. The Bible clearly states how each of those who make up the human race are on a list and one that eventually leads to death. All are born equally with no hope of buying, working, or wiggling their way off that list. They are simply and fully dead in trespasses and sin according to Ephesians 2:5. That is the bad news. But the good news is shared in that same passage. Verse 6 goes on to say, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

The good news is that each one on the ill-fated eternal death list may turn to Jesus Christ to in order to depart it. They can be transferred to another list in an instant - to one Scripture calls the 'Lamb’s Book of Life' in Revelation 21:27. But for that to have ever occurred required something huge. It was unimaginably drastic and beyond difficult. It meant the willingness of God’s Son to give up His own sinless body to allow a transferral of His forgiveness and divine nature. His is a supernatural life and far more important that anything physical could ever be. It is spiritual and it is eternal!

The Lord spoke of the sacrifice of His own body when he first instructed His followers to observe what we know as the Lord’s Supper. His exact words are preserved in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In John 10:17-18, He revealed how this offering of His body was through His own power and for His own purpose. He declared, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”

The eternal fate of those who have died in the U.K., or anywhere else, while waiting for a healthy kidney is now sealed. But those who remain alive in hopes of a medical miracle should use their precious time most wisely. They still possess a golden opportunity. They all equally head the list for the ultimate transplant. It is a list comprised of those having promises abundant life now and the guarantee of the glory of a heavenly to follow. And all that come will find no frustrating waiting lists, possible rejection, outrageous costs, or any other disappointing stipulation. The transplant is free and requires only that they fully trust the forgiveness of their sins and the future of their souls to the ‘Great Physician’, Jesus Christ!

The prophet Isaiah spoke of God’s great invitation His abundant and free life in chapter fifty-five. He explains the amazing cost factor in verse one.

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk, Without money and without price.”

Then New Testament explains the miraculous mechanics of this most glorious healing like this.

“Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life." (Romans 5:18)

Cash for kidneys, and a temporarily extended life, may be the future for a fortunate few. But Christ for life everlasting brings far better and glorious future and is available to all!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Foul Ball and Profiles in Character

May be you missed it if you have no interest in baseball, but the story of a baseball-loving father who loved his daughter more is a classic, perhaps one of its kind in all sports history.

At a baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals, Steve Monforto viewed the game from an upper deck with his three-year old daughter, Emily. As every attendee knows, snaring a foul ball at a big league game is an experience few sports enthusiasts ever enjoy. In the fifth inning, a towering foul came to Monforto as nearby watchers cheered. He handed the captured prize ball to young Emily who, following some instinctive urge, tossed it away toward the field. For a brief second, Dad looked surprised, even stunned, and then swept up his little girl and hugged her. TV cameras caught the drama and aired it repeatedly making it a top news story.

Both the father’s and daughter’s reactions are profiles in character. Dad could have scolded his daughter but, realizing what she didn’t realize as a three-year old, he hugged her. Later he said, "I didn’t want her to think she had done something wrong." When given the ball, the little girl seemed instantly focused on returning the errant ball to its rightful owners.

Whatever the details, the incident is etched in both the dad’s and daughter’s minds, and their quick reactions provide entertaining but abiding lessons for us all. Monforto overcame unexpected disappointment with a hug, and his love overcame an unknown mistake. (As a sweetener, the Phillies came by his upstairs seat and gave him a replacement ball.) When Emily grows to womanhood, she will remember her father’s love and pass it on to succeeding generations.

And the dad is assured his daughter is a returner of whatever she concludes belongs to someone else—in this case, players on the field who lost their ball. That too, my have been an instant reflection of her dad’s character training. As Mike Huckabee repeatedly says, "It is never right to do wrong nor wrong to do right."

God’s Word covers such parental influence in numerous verses. Solomon said in Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." New Testament fatherly advice includes Ephesians 6:4, "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." Hebrews 12:8-11 adds, "Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

Thanks Steve and Emily for giving us a delightful snapshot of love and honesty in a hateful and crippled world.

Dave Virkler

More Swine Flu Questions

The questions now are, who gets what, why, how much, and when? Those are the things being asked as far as the administering of the much anticipated Swine Flu vaccine.

The answer, by those who supposedly are in the know, is simple. All in need of a vaccine against the regular winter flu, should be the first in line for the H1N1 version. According to the government, those topping the need list when the medicine begins to arrive next month are:

- Pregnant women.
- The young, from age 6 months up through age 24.
- Health workers. for those with chronic health conditions.
- Caregivers to the high-risk babies under 6 months old.

One other key question, among many, is exactly how many doses will it take to protect kids under age 10? Because of their more immature immune system, they often require more doses than an adult. This would mean having to receive two at 21 days apart. Also, if a very young child happens to be getting their first-ever regular seasonal flu vaccination this year, that would mean four shots - two against regular flu and two for Swine. Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated, "This is going to be a complicated flu season.”

It appears that Americans range from mildly tense to fully terrified at the prospect of H1N1 crossing their personal paths. Obviously, many can already attest that having any type of flu is an unpleasant experience at best. But the present fear is that, at worst, the Swine Flu could literally end one’s life or that of a loved one.

Despite all the questions associated with this predicted plague, the overriding question is why such paranoia and why the fear? Is it about the potential of dying an unpleasant death? Or is it just about dying, period?

Whatever the reason, there seems to be one pertinent follow-up question that not many seem to ever ask. What have those who do fear death done to prepare for it? It appears that the possession of adequate life insurance does relatively little to reduce worry over dying and death. But for whatever reason, only a precious few ever seem to seriously grapple with what comes in that first moment after they draw their last breath?

The answers to life's most crucial questions are dealt with extensively in God’s Word. For example, Hebrews 9:27 provides the ultimate warning for all to be ready to meet their Creator. The sobering reason is this. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” And in Luke 12, Jesus added some detail about what this judgment would mean to the spiritually unprepaired. "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5)

As far as sin-sick residents of planet earth, none are in any greater, or lesser, need than others. That sad, truth is presented concisely and quite forcefully in Romans chapter three. Verse 23 reads, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Fortunately, there has been a complete cure prescribed by God for the scourge of sin that has sickened and cursed the entire race of men. It is simple, fully effective, and readily available. The cure for sin works in an instant. The results are staggering and they last forever. (2 Corinthian 5:17, John 10:28-29) But best of all, it is free!

So the question that looms large is still this. Why are people so afraid of any life-threatening sickness, if a total cure is theirs for the asking? And why would anyone take even the slightest the chance of dying in an unforgiven state without ingesting God's miraculous solution?

A loving Creator's great plan for spiritual wellness is best revealed in what may be the Bible’s most familiar New Testament verse. The Holy Spirit led the writer John to reveal it this way. “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." (John 3:16) Then the Apostle Paul also shared, how this supernatural healing power is made available to any and all who dare to claim it. "For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)

Many questions remain as to how the nation, and the world for that matter, will be affected by the so-called Swine Flu. Some of them may never be fully answered. Perhaps others not until the sickness runs its course. But no question exists on the precise requirement needed to inoculate the human heart against sin and bring total immunity against all future eternal judgement.

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, September 21, 2009

Move Around or Depart Earlier!

It is never too late to improve your health and perhaps extend your life. That is the finding of a new study released by the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study involved 1,861 Jerusalem residents who were 70 years old in 1990 and whose health and activity levels were monitored through 2008.

Israeli researchers found that the three-year survival rate was tripled for active 85-year-olds compared with those who seldom move around. The study considered getting less than four hours of exercise weekly as inactive. Also, more active ‘octogenarians’ reported less depression and loneliness, along with a greater ability to perform daily tasks.

For Christians, taking proper care of their physical bodies should be on life’s priority list. There are the obvious physical reasons as just stated. But for believers there is also a secondary and higher level of motivation. They are considered as temples. As such they literally house the Holy Spirit of the Living God according to 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”

The body of the Christian is sacred and is far more than a miraculous collection of bones, tissue, and blood! With their physical bodies in tune, and at peak performance, they are better able to share the life-giving message of the Gospel to those who are spiritually ill and literally dead in trespasses and sin. (Ephesians 2:5-6)

In 1 Timothy Paul writes to Timothy in his first two letters to the young pastor. In Chapter 4 he says, “But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. “ (1Timothy 4:7-8)

Paul does not exclude or ignore here the proper care of the human body. He simply puts it into a balanced perspective. He stresses both the short and long-term importance of proper spiritual conditioning. In addition, he mentions how one’s spiritual status can, at times, have a serious impact on one’s physical state. (1 Corinthians 11:28) Then too, Proverbs 3:7-8 seems to verify this same basic concept but in more positive terms. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.” How much more straightforward could he have made it here?

In modern-day America, medical advances have kept millions alive for far longer than the previous generation. That, coupled with proper personal care of the body, can extend length of days and the opportunity to enjoy them more. But the real and lasting value of any extra days on earth is not about just enjoying life. It is far more about the pursuit of godly character and faithful service to the Savior. And again, that most profound biblical matter is shared best through the pen of the apostle in his personal letter to his pastor-son in the faith:

“For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. “ (1 Timothy 4:8)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Truth About Lies

“You lie!” Those two words have set off a firestorm of political and racial tension. Congressman Joe Wilson’s accusation against President Obama for his stated exclusion of illegal immigrants from health care became front page news and back page gossip. Muted boos, sneers or mild, dissenting vocal rumbles have marked other speeches by U.S. presidents to joint sessions of congress, but “You lie!” simply set off a torrent of criticism and, sadly, an undercurrent of racial charges.

Wilson’s two words were like a shot heard ‘round the world. No one steps forward to defend Wilson’s lapse of judgment and wretched decorum. Accusing someone of lying is the basest of charges, and concluding someone to be a liar demotes him to the lowest moral level.

But everyone should ask why it is that the accusation of lying hits such a sensitive nerve. Its explanation is found in the biblical revelation of demonic subterfuge in human history. The first liar was the Devil, who ensnared Eve with stupefying contradiction. “You will not surely die” is the ultimate falsehood in Eden. Read all about it in Genesis where God’s prohibition (Gen. 2:3) was subtly countermanded by Satan’s lie (Gen. 3:4). Because of that first lie to Eve, “in Adam all die,” and “death passed upon all men.” (I Corinthians 15:52 and Romans 5:12 respectively).

Jesus Christ, who was God incarnate, affirmed this Satanic deception and linked untruth with murder. “You (Christ’s religious detractors) are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44-45)

The biggest lie of all is rejecting Christ as Messiah and King of Kings and Lord of lords. I John 2:22 says, “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?”

It is no coincidence that Antichrist is linked with lying. The big lie of our day and of the end times is that Satan is God and Christ is the impostor. The Apostle Paul says that unbelievers will be deceived in this misidentification. “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 – emphasis mine)

The Antichrist issue (extensively described in Revelation 13) is serious. Even before the seven-year Tribulation period, little “antichrists” will arise. The second half of 1 John 2:22 warns, “He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.”

Lying is a favorite pastime of Satan, and he lures fellow travelers into his demonic camp with the most seeming of “white lies.” Moreover, our denial of personal sin and guilt accuses God of the ultimate falsehood. “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.” (1 John 5:10 – emphasis mine)

To refute any declaration of God is a much worse crime than any Joe Wilson can commit. The sincere acceptance of all God says, especially personalized in receiving Christ, whom He sent to be our Savior, ceases our calling God a liar. If you believe God’s truth and receive God’s Son, you can stand in total truth.

And that’s no lie.

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The' Iron Horse' Surpassed

He sits alone at the pinnacle of New York baseball history. His name is Derek Jeter – the long-time Yankee star shortstop who broke into the big leagues with the Bronx Bombers at age 20.

On September 12, the 35-year old Yankee captain managed one of his typical right field line drives past the Baltimore Orioles first baseman to collect his 2,722th hit. The hit surpassed the team’s all-time record held by baseball immortal Lou Gehrig – also know as the ‘Iron Horse’. The previous record had stood for 70 long years until Jeter’s heroics. The new mark may well now stand even longer since players rarely stay with one team in today’s lucrative free-agent market. The Yankee icon’s parents were among the 46,771 excited fans who gave their future hall of fame son a thunderous 3-minute standing ovation.

Lou Gehrig, like Jeter, was admired for the great skill but also for his legendary durability. His lifetime statistics included a 340 batting average, 2,721 hits, and 493 home runs. His career brought seven all-star selections, the American League's Most Valuable Player awards twice, and the Triple Crown in 1934. Also, his record of 2,130 consecutive games played stood for nearly a half century until shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. broke it in 1995. Gehrig’s impressive numbers accross the board contributed to a unanimous induction into the Hall of Fame in 1939.

But the ‘Iron Horse’ is also remembered for the class and humility he revealed even after developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) later known as "Lou Gehrig's disease." It ended his career early and finally claimed his life at age 37 in June of 1941. Yankees Manager Joe McCarthy described the New York born first-baseman as "the finest example of a ballplayer, sportsman, and citizen that baseball has ever known.” The team retired Gehrig's uniform number making him the first player in Major League Baseball history to receive that honor.

Not long after #4’s death, his life and career were immortalized in the 1942 film, "Pride of The Yankees". The moving story is known, not only for the portrayal of Gehrig’s great talents on the field, but for his comments in a special ceremony at Yankee stadium honoring his life. On July 4, 1939, the dying star uttered his amazing, and now famous, words. "Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

It has been said that records are made to be broken, and indeed most are by someone at some point. But broken or not, earthy accomplishments are of little or no value when stacked up against the serious pursuit of spiritual service and heavenly rewards.

Matthew’s gospel records the words of Jesus on the subject in chapter 6. Verses 19-21 declare, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Peter likewise speaks about the fragile and temporary nature of material things as opposed to those that are spiritual and eternal. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” (Peter 1:3-4)

Then too, Matthew 16:26-27 strips away all exterior confusion and excuses on the matter and sums it up in the most serious and sobering of terms. ”For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”

Derek Jeter and Lou Gehrig are in some ways decent role models - especially in a day when that seems in short supply. They are to be commended for their dedication, for developing their craft, and for using to the fullest their great God-given abilities. But all earthly achievements matter little or nothing to God when made by those who are not on His faith team or not offered for His glory by those who are part of His lineup. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) Paul, in Colossians 3:23-24 reveals what is to be the correct pattern and the ultimate purpose for all of life’s actions. In verse 23 he writes, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.”

Derek Jeter and Lou Gehrig seem to be decent men and perhaps adequate role models to a generation of baseball fans. They have excelled at their sport while displaying certain admirable human traits and ethical behavior. But there is but one who is the supreme and eternal role model. His actions literally changed the world. He is the ultimate example of dedication and sacrifice. And He acted fully upon His God-given abilities and responsibilities because he was, in fact, God in the flesh!

The Apostle Paul descibes Him this way. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus Christ sits alone at the if the pinnacle of perfection. He alone is the living and eternal role model. And it is His life and His priorities that set the pattern for all who know Him and love Him.

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Merciful Deliverance on 9/11

It is now eight years since that calm, beautiful, cloudless day over northern New Jersey. That morning, my wife, Thelma, and I got in our car for the brief drive to our doctor for routine physicals. We realized later that one of the ill-fated airliners had flown nearly over us as we drove. While we were in the waiting room, our family physician learned of the Trade Tower attacks and led a poignant prayer for our country and our safety. Later, from a high hill near our Towaco office, we could see the smoke curling up from the fallen towers.

In the hours and days that followed, I heard amazing stories and personally interviewed individuals who had a special insight into 9/11.

My son-in-law, David Justnes, was working at Newark International Airport that day and had unknowingly walked past the line of terrorists and passengers cueing up for Flight 93. That evening he shared with me how he had been in meetings at the airport that morning with Port Authority personnel who had come from their offices in the World Trade Center. They all watched the second plane hit the tower and then watched their office crumble. In an interview for our radio program, "The Word and The World," David described watching the terrible scene and how he bowed his head and prayed, an action taken by untold millions throughout the day.

Though the day was one of devastation and death, it was also a day of God’s merciful deliverance.

One of David’s sons had a friend whose father worked in the World Trade Center. That morning, he had to catch an alternate bus and was running fifteen minutes late and escaped death.

A few days after 9/11, I attended a regional National Religious Broadcasters convention where one of the speakers was Pastor Rod Caesar of Bethel Temple in New York City. Of his church members who worked in the Trade Towers, he found that nearly all were either off work or late for work and were not killed. He called other churches, some with thousands of members and possibly hundreds who worked in the disaster area, and asked for their casualty reports. They all said that 99% of their people who worked in the Trade Center were not in the towers that day. Either plumbing broke, a child got sick, or they missed their bus and were spared.

I also interviewed Guy Yasika who reported for his job that morning on the 73rd floor of the south tower. Because a conference call cancelled, he and an associate went down to the 43rd floor for breakfast. They felt the tower sway and eventually made their way down all those fights of stairs, and Guy arrived home safe later that day in southern New Jersey.

Months later, I met a man whose business card read One World Trade Center. When I asked how he survived, he said, "We had two offices, one at the Trade Center and one in Jersey City across the river. We were all at the Jersey City office that morning."

A man I met in western New York State said he had contracts in the Trade Towers and was assigned a job there on 9/11. He said he couldn’t go and was told that if he didn’t he would be fired. He replied, "So be it" and lived to tell about it.

Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle spoke at a later NRB convention and told how an attendee of his church, Genelle Guzman, was in the stairwell when the tower fall on her. Trapped for hours, she cried out to God for mercy, confessing her immoral lifestyle and asking God for another chance. Cymbala said, "She was the last person to come out [of the wreckage] alive, and whenever the church doors are open, she is there."

A young woman from one of the Chinese churches were I often preach said that her group had many who worked in the towers, but they all came out alive.

Alan Unruh is active in the Crisis Pregnancy Center movement in South Dakota. In an interview for our program, he shared how a young woman came into their center one day immediately following 9/11 by "accident" thinking it was an abortion clinic. At the time, there weren’t any local doctors who performed abortions, and abortion doctors had to travel to South Dakota. Because all flights were cancelled immediately following 9/11, the doctors couldn’t fly in.

Since she couldn’t have gotten an abortion that day no matter where she went, the woman stayed at the center. She agreed to an ultrasound, which showed she was carrying twins. She said, "I’m a twin. I can’t go through with the abortion." When her boyfriend arrived later, he agreed with her decision. Unruh continued, "One year later, they brought in two lovely girls dressed in red, white and blue, all because of 9/11."

Though so many died that day, we thank God for all the merciful deliverances as Psalm 76:10 says: "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain." And Psalm 91:5 & 6 declares, "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day, nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday."

"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1)

Dave Virkler

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Labor day

Labor Day marks a subtle shift in multiple aspects of most everyone’s life. Vacations draw to a close as the summer sun moves slowly southward. Schools are back in session after earnest shopping for clothes and supplies. Kids’ unaccustomed early rising is followed by piles of homework and a better organized routine for parents. Daily traffic volume changes with the back-to-school schedule. Labor Day may also mean an intensified church schedule as programs get back in gear.

Over 100 years ago, leaders of the Labor Movement organized huge parades to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold" in the words of John McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor.

According to the Department of Labor, the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City and planned by the Central Labor Union. They held a second Labor Day holiday a year later, on September 5, 1883. In 1884, the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday.

By 1894, 29 states had passed laws observing Labor Day as a state holiday. That year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday. In 1909, a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention designated the Sunday preceding Labor Day as Labor Sunday dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

Work and workers in the Bible have a both a negative and positive aspect:

The thrill of harvest contrasted with the waning deliverance from impending attack and deportation is outlined in Jeremiah 8:20: "The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!"

The futility of working only for food is mentioned in Ecclesiastes 6:7: "All the labor of man is for his mouth, And yet the soul is not satisfied."

Employment pressures can point us to Christ who invited, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matt 11:28-30)

Working for salvation is futile and forbidden. Ephesians 2:8, 9 declares, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Titus 3:4, 5 adds, "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit…" Romans 4:5 indicates that salvation is expressly not a result of works: "But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…" The work of Christ is alone able to save. "So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit." (John 19:31)

Positively, the works within salvation are carefully noted and rewarded. "For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister." (Hebrews 6:10). Our positive efforts done out of gratitude will linger for time and eternity. The final book of the Bible summarizes all believers’ labor days: "Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’" (Revelation 14:13)

Have a good Labor Day weekend. It is best when we work for the Lord since we can fully retire in Heaven forever because of His finished work.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Was The Holocaust For Real?

Hamas is in denial, but not about some of their more vicious terrorist activities. But now some of the organization’s leadership, including the infamous Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are highly irritated about teaching children that the Holocaust of World War 2 really occurred and was anything but minor in scope.

After hearing that a new United Nations program, one that deals with Palestinian refugees, may teach the Holocaust to eighth grade students from a human rights perspective, Hamas leader Younis al-Astal wrote, "Adding the Holocaust to the curriculum would amount to marketing a lie and spreading it. I do not exaggerate when I say this issue is a war crime, because of how it serves the Zionist colonizers and deals with their hypocrisy and lies.”

Many Palestinians are reluctant to acknowledge such major proportions of Jewish suffering. Their attitudes range from a total denial of the reality of a historical Holocaust to challenging the horrific scope of the brutality inflicted on the Jewish people.

When it comes to the Bible, the reality of God, and His precise requirements for salvation, some also enter into a total denial. They either scoff at the very concept of an eternal and personal Deity, or they may resist believing in the realness, and the absolute seriousness, of their sin and its dreadful consequences.

The Psalmist addressed that faulty kind of belief system as simply and directly as he could in the first verse of Psalm 14. He recorded there, “The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God.” But there is a God, like it or not! And it is absolute silliness to think otherwise.

We are all free to believe, with all our heart’s energy, that the earth is flat, that the moon is made of Swiss cheese, or even that the government would be best at running a national health care system! But these things will never be true or line up with reality no matter who passionately believes them or not. Likewise, a denial of a holy God of creation, of sinful man’s guilt before Him, or of the only effective solution He offers through the sacrifice of His Savior Son is irrelevant. In the final analysis, these things are true or false because they are either true or false – not because of man’s personal preferences and whims.

Romans 1:18-28 gives what is the single most comprehensive description of why the race of men is in the ruin it is. And whether or not man denies his desperate plight, and his responsibility in it, Scripture assures repeatedly that God is real, sin, judgement and justice are real, salvation is real, and that there is no real excuse for not knowing and dealing with all of it through Jesus Christ.

Paul writes in verse 18 of chapter one, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

Verses 25-28 then go on to vividly describe the downward spiritual spiral that comes when God’s Word and will is stiff-armed and the glory due Him ignored. Paul writes that a mind that rejects God will not only engage in extreme forms of sin, but will, over time, be unable to even properly judge simple right from wrong. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.” (Romans 1:28)

There is more than ample evidence for the existence and the severity of one of history’s most brutal regimes and for the massive suffering they dealt out during World War 2. But even so, there is even greater proof that a loving, omnipotent, and omniscient Creator God is real and that He has clearly presented Himself and His will to a broken human race through His creation, His Word, and His Son.

Arguing about the details of history may be interesting and, in many cases, of some redeeming value. But not getting the facts straight about God, sin, and the reality of being redeemed by His Son, is the only thing of value when all is said and done.

“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

Post-Rapture Pet Care?

It may just be one of the strangest business ventures ever conceived – but it is real. It's called or EEP. And as the title suggests, it revolves around pets. But closer scrutiny reveals it to be a post-rapture pet care service developed by people who do not believe in a real God or Rapture for those who really do.

The service was founded by atheists whose target clients are devout Christians. They hope to ‘help’ those who are anticipating a soon-coming rapture and who are concerned over the fate of their beloved four-footed, winged, or finned earthly companions. The starting subscription fee for EEP for is $110, which promises that if and when the rapture occurs, they will care for any pets left behind.

The founder of EEP states that all members of his organization have three basic qualifications. They are of good character. They love pets. And they have all blasphemed against the Holy Spirit of God according to Mark 3:29. "But he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation."

The idea of pets being left behind could be a concern to those who love them. It is understandable that the thought of someone caring for them would be comforting. But the crucial issue is, who will care for those left behind if a rapture does come? According to Scripture, caring for pets, after what would be the world’s most shocking event ever, may well be that last thing on the agenda for any who ignored the warnings and invitation of God’s Holy Spirit.

The Bible teaches the concept of a literal rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” Scripture also reveals that, after the church of Christ is ushered into His presence, the world will face a time of unimaginable and unparalleled horror. Matthew’s gospel describes it this way. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:21)

The concept of a literal snatching away of the ‘Christ’s Bride’, the church, has lost some of its popularity in recent times. But even that was predicted in Scripture in 2 Peter 3. Verse 4 begins, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." But then verses 8-9 reveal the explanation and the reason for this ‘seeming’ delay. “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

A careful look at the passage shows that the ‘postponing’ of Christ’s return so that Christians can use the time to share their faith with the lost. Verse 9 says that His longsuffering or patience is “toward us” wishing that none should perish. Simply stated, God is giving those who are saved additional time to reach those who are not!

Those who run Eternal-Earthbound-Pets may have no clue or interest in God or salvation whatsoever – and even proud of it. That is their prerogative. But Christians who might use their services for their beloved pets should be more concerned about the fate of these precious souls who are beloved by God and who face a future of unimaginable torment apart from Christ. (Luke 12:28, Mark 9:42-48, Matthew 10:28)

Bill Breckenridge