Thursday, October 29, 2009

Taking Offense at the Cross

A seeming “tempest in a teapot” has brewed a storm of controversy at Penn State University. A majority of students approved the annual “White Out” t-shirt to be worn creating a sea of white at the annual “White Out” game. However, some highly offended objectors noted that the single vertical blue stripe with “Penn State” in bold letters printed horizontally across it was too much like a cross. Six students officially objected the shirt’s design, but the Nike-produced shirts are a sell-out with 30,000 shirts sold.

The Philadelphia Anti-Defamation League even lodged an official complaint citing the design’s Christian connotation. Designers claim any similarities to the Cross are purely accidental.

What should be noted at this great institution of higher learning is not the offense of the cross but the incorrect grammar on the shirt’s back inscription. In large letters across another vertical blue line is printed: “Don’t be intimidated… It’s just me and 110,000 of my friends.”

While that is generally accepted expression, it is technically incorrect English. “Me” is cast in the nominative case, not objective, and should properly be “I.” But it is better, I suppose some would say, to see unintended crosses everywhere than note improper English 30,000 times at the State University football game.

Actually, the oversight is a compliment to the cross. When people object to the visibility of the cross, it underscores 1 Corinthians 1:18. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing….”

Crosses in the ancient world were death instruments—necrotic emblems of rebellion against Roman authority. In Christian history, the cross is the place of Christ’s ignominious death and the shedding of His blood for our sins. Crosses can adorn chapel spires and even be icons worn around one’s neck, but imagined on college t-shirts is just too much for the nit-picking, politically correct crowd.

If the offense is because of the cross’s true meaning, a kind of perverse appreciation is accepted. Christ endured it and so should all believers. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The strict demarcation between competing philosophies and colliding world views is spelled out in 1 Cor. 1:18 and 19. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’”

The only way we rid ourselves of death, hell and even improper philosophy and lifestyle is through the cross as Paul says in Galatians 6:14. “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Who would have thought that a secular design on a state university t-shirt would give me the opportunity to share the real meaning of the cross? Perhaps it is a fulfillment of
Psalm 76:10. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You…”

In the hymn “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” Elizabeth Clephane caught the meaning of the cross:

I take, O cross, they shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss;
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Windows 7 - Still More Promises

The long awaited Windows 7 will make its debut on Thursday. And for scores of PC users it promises to be their computer’s salvation.

Microsoft, who is the author of the operating system that fuels the mass majority of the world’s personal computers. is hoping to erase the painful memories of their previous Operating System that was called Vista. The much-hated software became notorious forbeing slow, oversensitive to assumed security threats, and incompatible with scores of hard and software that many users needed to accomplish their every day tasks. But Bill Gates' company promises that Windows 7 will fix all of that and eliminate the negative issues from virtually all previous versions.

Mac, who is Windows main competitor and known for a much more stable OS, has been airing clever ads in reaction to the Version 7. In one convincing TV commercial, two men are speaking on the subject. One represents Windows and the other the Mac. When the Mac man asks why Windows 7 is a worthy purchase, Mr. Windows begins a series of reasons, all coming with older and older changes in his clothing style. Each wardrobe switch goes back to the release of the previous Windows OS. For example, he states that Windows 7 is worthy because it fixes all the issues of the previous version - Windows XP. The next change shows an even older clothing and hair style, only this time he states that buying XP was good back then because it fixed all the issues of the previous OS – Windows 2000. This backwards progression, using the same promise of better things to come, continues all the way back to Microsoft’s earliest operating systems.

The Mac ad is simple and quite effective. It suggests that Windows has been making huge promises of correcting their previous operating systems since day one. If so, why would the new Windows 7 be any better? The ad does have an element of truth. It is clever and convincing since Mac has suffered far less ‘issues’ over the years than their arch rival.

The public will soon have yet another opportunity to use their purchasing powers based on each company’s current promises and performance records. Of course neither company's OS is fully flawless, although one does seem somewhat more stable when both are evaluated side by side. But in the end, all that is at stake is a small expenditure of cash and perhaps some computing frustration and productivity.

While computing is used in nearly all areas of modern life, it is far from the most important thing in all of life. The Bible speaks on the only subject that will matter after the last operating system is devised and the power cord is yanked on the last computer. The issue then will not be about what was the better way to get to heaven – but what was the only way?

The writer of the book of Hebrews reveals the superior nature of the ministry of Jesus Christ. In the eighth chapter he pens, "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises." (Hebrews 8:6)Then in the following chapter, the author reveals the additional promise and eternal life in Christ. "And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."

That unique role as the ultimate Mediator is further defined in 1 Timothy. In chapter two the Apostle Paul describes how the better ministry of Christ is, in fact, the only valid way whereby man can be redeemed from the plague and penalty of sin. Verse 5 begins, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."

Windows 7 may just keep some of the promises it boasts of. If so, that is good news to its users. But the best news is, and will always be, the "Good News" of salvation in Jesus Christ. His is a promise to fully save and fully secure as Hebrews 7:25 confirms.

"Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him,since He always lives to make intercession for them."

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Unique University

It’s not often I admit to being completely "taken" by an ad. By that I mean "taken up with" and not "taken in by." The ad was as honest a piece of effective advertising as I had ever seen. Sure, it was an ego seeker and its focus centered on me, or was it us?

A fine company that makes custom t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats must have found that there were lots of Virklers in the United States. There are, as our two-volume family lineage book shows. It is published every few years to update the family tree, which also includes the Farney and Zehr lineages. The families were interrelated way back in 1834 when my forebears sailed to America as immigrants.

Months ago, we received a classy, full color ad card offering a customized set of shirts and caps with "Virkler University" in block letters across the front at entirely reasonable prices. Just getting mail with personalized text is enough to catch your attention. We ordered enough for the immediate family, and, when the shirts came, we donned them for a choice family photo.

When I was speaking at a Bible conference this summer, I wore my Virkler University shirt to the dinning hall. The puzzled stares were a profile in group curiosity. Finally, a retiree who had some acquaintance with the name and had taught school in my hometown of Baldwinsville, NY, ambled over and asked, "Is that some sort of joke, or is there really a Virkler University?" I answered, "It’s really not a joke, and there is a Virkler University in the informal sense. Come to the men’s prayer breakfast tomorrow, and I’ll tell you about our school."

The next morning I shared the inside story.

A spiritual "school" with education in personal salvation and life’s hard knocks had been established in Alsace-Lorraine, France by Amish Mennonite farmers who had emigrated from Switzerland to escape religious persecution. They were in the Anabaptist tradition, and their religious convictions prohibited military service and membership in the state church.

The French government eventually ordered them to serve in the army, so in 1834, the small student body crossed the Atlantic Ocean seeking religious freedom and economic prosperity. After 42 days on the Atlantic, they settled in an area of upstate New York known as New France, a sprawling land tract in the North Country then claimed by Napoleon’s brother.

University "administration" was headed by fathers, and "satellite schools" were founded when families pushed across the country from upstate New York. As family size and enrollment increased, two tracks developed—one with a secular major, and one with a spiritual major. Some students worked primarily in secular pursuits and expanding their financial horizons. Others became students of unique higher education by studying the Bible and preaching the Word.
In my family’s particular campus branch, the records show each generation of students focused on Christ as Savior. Classes were mostly informal but purposefully perpetual. Many were held around family meals and devotions, some on vacations together, others in church—always in real time and real life.

A few special guided studies were like no other. For example, I studied radio long before becoming a broadcaster. When I was a boy, Dad took me to an early Sunday morning live radio program where he, his three quartet buddies and a young preacher were airing the Gospel. It was a fantastic lesson, and its impact is still felt every time this student makes a program even after 45 years of broadcasting.

I graduated not with a formal diploma but with a steady disposition to seek God’s best. Thelma and I established our own university campus, and our children have now graduated. Many Virkler University graduates have passed the final test and gone on to the ultimate post-graduate school in Heaven. They have laid all their educational achievements at Jesus’ feet while they await the rest of us graduates.

"Virkler University" may not be actual buildings and land, but it is a real school of spiritually guided studies. The core values courses remain unchanged with a changing world offering new and challenging electives. Our university on two continents and educating many generations is a great school with an enduring legacy. We wish this type of university education for everyone.
The name on the shirts and caps may vary, but the education of the soul ought always to be the same.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Atheism Alive and Well In The Big Apple?

Now it is their turn, according to the Big Apple Coalition of Reason, a group of organizations untied by one overriding principle - atheism.

Beginning on October 26th, the group will blanket subway stations in Manhattan where some 5 million computers travel each day according to the Metro Transit Authority. The advertisements will ask one simple question. "A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?" The New York City campaign is just one component of a "nationwide effort" that will see billboards and postings in transit systems across the United States.

Michael De Dora Jr., executive director of the New York Center for Inquiry, defends his group, citing the recent American Religious Identification Survey. The study found that those checking "none" for religion was 8 percent of the population in 1990 but has almost doubled to 15 percent in 2008. This effectively makes "no religion" the fastest growing religious identification in the United States. He also says that the ads are not meant to be anti-religious. They are rather to raise awareness about people who don't believe in a god and to show that individuals don't need religion to be good people and productive members of society.

Many people view atheists as those who have just considered the available options about God and have come to the conclusion that He simply does not exist. That is not a very good option according to Psalm 14:1 where the writer says, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

But disbelief in the reality of a Creator-God takes far more than a simple decision based on simple evidence or supposed lack of it. According to Paul in Romans chapter one, it takes a great deal of conscious effort and the mental stiff-arming of obvious facts to arrive at such a conclusion. He shares his reasoning, beginning in verse 18 of the chapter. “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.” (Romans 1:18-20)

The Big Apple Coalition of Reason is just partly right when they claim that people don't have to believe in a god to be good people and productive members of society. They may indeed be great cultural assets, using their God-given gifts and abilities. They may even be ‘good’ by the standards of society. But Psalm 14 totally dismantles the definition of ‘good’ when it is applied against the standard of a holy and just God. Verse 3 reads, ”They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.”

For any ‘good’ or productive member of society to someday face the living God, and avoid His righteous wrath, will require that they first stop suppressing the idea of His presence both in the universe and in their lives. Hebrew 11:6 puts it like this. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” God requires the believe that He 'is' real.

But that faith must be more than only admitting He is there somewhere and somehow. That is just the start. The faith that turns a lost soul into a living saint is spoken of later by Paul in Romans 5:1 where he writes, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And in verse 8-9 he carefully records that God’s love and redemption is open and effective even while we suppress and reject his existence or plan of salvation. Verse 8 declares, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

The question to appear in Manhattan on the 26th is, "A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?"

The answer again that most profound of all questions, at least on the spiritual level, is ‘no’. Why? Because, "There is none righteous, no, not one.”

But even that wretched 'no' can be instantly changed to a wonderful ‘yes ’when the truth of 1 Timothy 4:10 is personally applied from the heart.

“Because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." (1Timothy 4:10)

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Youngest Global Sailors

The last few months have seen several young people tackling one of the most unusual and dangerous of all attempts – sailing around the entire world alone!

This time, just on the heels of the successful trips of two others, 16-year old Jessica Watson of Australia will captain her ‘pink’ vessel. She would be the youngest ever to sail ‘unassisted’ solo - as opposed to the recent trips that were in the ‘assisted’ category. ‘Without assistance’ means a vessel may be beached or anchored but may not receive any kind of outside help or take on board any supplies, materials or equipment during the attempt. In addition, any repairs must be made without outside resources, materials or help.

A month ago, my family and I attended a conference just outside Washing D.C. It was called ‘Do Hard Things’ and was the vision of two teen boys who had already written a book on the subject and who own one of the most popular blogs for teens on the web. Their goal is to challenge young people to resist living lives steeped in mediocrity, that are focused mostly on having non-stop fun before ‘real’ life rudely interrupts the party that is their birthright. The meeting was an eye-opener for me, to say the least.

During one of the conference breaks, my daughter had her copy of ‘Do Hard Things’ autographed by one of the Harris brothers. The verse he inscribed was from 1 Timothy 4:12, which happens to be the overall theme verse for their ministry. In the passage Paul is writing to Timothy, his young friend in years and son in the faith. Verse 12 reads, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

A casual glance at this verse reveals that God expects those in His family, even if few in years, to be model citizens spiritually speaking. The challenge, despite their tender age, is to become literal role models to other Christians – at any age. The verse does not limit their performance to just those of their peers. No room for failure is allotted simply because of a short life span. If they are ‘in Christ’ they are expected to be ‘like Christ’ – period!

If God fully expects those young in faith and body to be successful examples of Christ-like behavior, what does He ask of any who are older and have also been in the faith for an extended period of time? Simply stated – He requires the same if not more! He accepts no excuses from those that have aged chronologically but have remained babies in matters of the faith? Paul describes and indicts those who do just that in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4.

Society should take a deeper look at the Jessica Watsons and Zac Sunderlands of the world who do hard things despite their lack of years and life experiences. Others, as typified by the Harris brothers, have used their natural abilities, God-given gifts and faith to achieve what most of their peers would never dream of. They are not all that different than others their age, but they are supreme examples of what vision and dedication can achieve when rightly motivated and properly channeled.

For believers, doing life’s ‘hard things’ includes being all they can be – but primarily in the spiritual zone. When service and exemplary things are sincerely attempted for Christ, they are always in the ‘assisted’ category as they are always done with the aid and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. And this will always bring the kind of results Paul shared by Paul in his letter to the young church at Galatia. “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; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Galatians 3:23-24)

The Bible has one great overriding message for Christians - of all ages. “Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” In others words, be ready and willing to do hard things for God.

The reason is simple: It is God's priority and therefore the Christian's purpose. It is for our own good and for His own glory. Nothing else will ever matter and certainly nothing else will ever last!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rev. Moon's Newest 'Mega-Marriage'

It has been almost 50 years since the Rev. Sun Myung Moon performed his first mass wedding. And now at age 89 he is at it again. This time the uniting and reaffirming ceremony will include some 40,000 people. Some of the couples to be forever linked have never laid eyes on each other. Half of the group will gather on location at Moon’s university south of Seoul Korea while others will be in various locations like the New Yorker Hotel that is now owned by the church.

Moon, a self-proclaimed Messiah, claims that at age 15 Jesus Christ called upon him to complete His ‘unfinished’ work.

The Unification church leader believes his unusual monstrrous ceremonies to be part of that work. He stated, "My wish is to completely tear down barriers and to create a world in which everyone becomes one, There is no other faster way than a cross-cultural wedding to reach the ideal of a peaceful world. We must marry people from countries we consider enemies to achieve our goal of a peaceful world as quickly as possible."

Rev. Moon’s words and views are bizarre, not to mention just plain wrong. First, there is no record in the book that Jesus Himself authored about turning his ‘unfinished’ work over to the leadership or control of one man. Actually, the concept itself is quite interesting considering Jesus’ last words from the cross were, “It is finished” in John 19:30. He indicated there His own view on the effectiveness whereby He carried out His main ministry and mission.

Then His primary command after His physical departure is recorded in Mark 16:15. He told His followers there, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Part of the pattern is also given for the ‘continuation’ of his work in Ephesians 4:11-13. “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

These two passages confirm that all believers are to be involved in Christ’s work in one way or another. His work was never ‘unfinished’. It was rather meant to be continued on through those who know Him and have been uniquely gifted by Him for the task at hand. That task was the building and refining of His precious church.

Rev. Moon’s concept of breaking down barriers and building a peaceful world is a nice thought, but little more than wishful thinking. Others have tried the same and failed miserably. One major reason is their failure to fully comprehend the existence and devastating effects of human sin. As with many others like him, Moon’s methods and motives are faulty because his theology is futile.

Ironically, real and lasting peace on the personal or global scale actually does require the presence and power of just one man. But not just any man. It requires the man Christ Jesus who is both fully man and fully God at the same time. (Philippians 2:5-11, 1 Timothy 2:5)

As the Creator-God He alone has the ability to achieve His unique peace as the apostle wrote of in John 14:27. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

The world has long sought peace on the individual and corporate levels. In some ways it is the single greatest asset and blessing anyone can possess! But peace with a holy God, the peace given through a loving God, starts and ends with the Prince of Peace. Was His work somehow ‘incomplete’? Peter seems to think so. You be the judge.

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:2-4)

It appears to me, too, that the Savior's work was ‘finished’. But mine continues in Him, through Him, and for Him!

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Parental Rewards

News recently came of the passing of a dear friend and ministry supporter. Bill Wang loved the Lord, and he had a heart for missions, which influenced both of his daughters. He followed our ministry with prayer and, while he was in good health, regular financial support.

Bill outlived his dear wife, Helen, by several years. She too, was a godly servant of the Lord and a mother whose heart was an example of sacrificial devotion to the missionary outreach of the Kingdom. Bill’s passing fulfilled his desire to be with Jesus and his precious wife.

The news of his heavenly Homegoing brought to my mind the memory of two missions conferences where I spoke.

Some years ago, I brought a missions challenge at Chapel on the Hill in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. After the meeting, Helen came to me and asked whether I remembered another missions conference at the church where I had given a challenge to commit to full-time Christian service. I did indeed remember.

Throughout that earlier service, God was working in many lives, and some young people had publicly responded by walking to the front in dedication. Helen was the church organist and was playing appropriate missions-themed hymns in the background. When I asked if there were parents who were willing to yield their children to missionary service if the Lord should so lead, the music stopped. Helen ceased playing, left the organ bench and came to stand in the silence before me along with others who indicated full surrender.

After she reminded me of that meeting, Helen paused and said, "Dave, I want you to know that decision cost me both of my daughters." Yes, commitment to global missions can be costly. Both of Bill and Helen’s daughters entered foreign missionary service and went with Wycliffe Bible Translators to Papua New Guinea. One has been serving there for over two decades. I remember a time when she was about to return to the field after a furlough, and Bill said to me, "She is going back, and perhaps I’ll never see her again on earth." I asked Bill if he wished things were different, and he said, "No, Dave, I’d not want it any other way."

I had a part in Helen’s funeral several years ago. As I spoke to the family by the freshly dug grave, I shared these precious memories with the family, which by then included grandchildren. They had not known until then about the decision made when the music came to a stop or fully understood the sacrificial ways that family life had been crafted to encourage their foreign missionary service. It was a comfort to them in their earthly loss.

Bill is gone now, too, leaving on Oct. 8, 2009 to his heavenly reward. Or is it what Dwight L. Moody said when he was dying and someone suggested as much? "No, the records aren’t all in yet."

I am grateful to Helen and Bill. They enriched my life and gave me a special insight into parental missionary passion—especially when the music stopped and there were no regrets.

Their ministry lives on through their children and through our continuing ministry in Dedication Evangelism. The records aren’t all in yet, and their reward is still growing.

Dave Virkler

Monday, October 12, 2009

China’s Missing Gender

It seemed like a good idea at the time. In reality, it was horrifically wrong and has led to something that should have been easily foreseen.

The most populated nation on earth is facing a shortage. It is not one of food, jobs, energy, or any of the standard items that are routinely seen. And it is certainly not a shortage of an able-bodied work force – one that has thrust the country into economic prominence for the new century. The missing asset is none other than women!

For many years China has had a policy that allows just one child per family – something presumably done to curb the ever-exploding and gigantic population. But because of the value placed upon males for economic and other issues, many families have opted to abort baby girls until a boy is conceived. What has occurred in the process is that now some 30 million men are without wives and not likely to find any over the next 20 years. The ratio is up to 130 boys to every one hundred girls in some areas, and represents a cavernous gender gap that is unprecedented worldwide.

The fateful decisions to limit family size and to abort living souls that God has created is greatly affecting China in the social realm. But of far greater importance is the impact it has, and is making, morally speaking. Some may debate the ethical aspects of the one child policy, but no such argument holds any weight once murdering innocent children enters the equation. In addition to the moral discussion itself, there are the personal spiritual consequences to any of life’s actions. Paul spelled it out like so. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. “ (Galatians 6:7)

In Numbers 32 Moses was cautioning the people to be obedient to God’s marching orders and to not ignore his clear-cut will for the nation. His pinnacle of his warning is seen in verse 32. “But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out.”

It is evident that many think that God does not exist, does not see, or perhaps does not care about those aspects of their lives that anger and offend Him. After all, He is a loving God, is He not? But they seemingly prefer to wear spiritual blinders to cover up the other side of His character – the one that is holy, righteous, and demanding of justice. Yet, even the briefest gaze at Romans 1:18 clears that mistaken view up in one big hurry. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” This verse assures that resisting or ignoring God is intentional and will eventually bring righteous judgment.

Sin brings consequences although they are sometimes postponed to a future time. That idea is confirmed in 1Timothy 5:24-25. “Some men's sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden.”

Sin may well result in misery in this life. That is just the nature of the beast and simply a cause and effect thing. But sin is guaranteed to bring certain wrath in the life to come – or is it? Scripture shows that there is an escape from future wrath – all of it! Paul explains how it works in Romans 5:7-9. ”But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

Unlike in China, there are no limitations to how many can be part of God’s family – providing the one basic qualification is fully met. Its life-changing promise is clearly guaranteed in just one concise verse. "Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"It ain’t over…"

Brett Favre has surged once again into further athletic immortality by leading his newly adopted Minnesota Vikings to victory over his former Green Bay Packer teammates and giving them a 4–0 record. The ratings stats indicate the marvel of the moment with a record 22 million viewers following his flawless quarterbacking making it the most watched cable television program ever.

Favre retired from the Packers but then went on to the New York Jets where he finished poorly with an ailing right arm. When he joined the Vikings, sports fans held their breath. Could this aging veteran throw for Viking victory? Monday night silenced any critics and boosted Favre’s football stock right off the charts.

Brett Favre’s mere gridiron victory is not the most stunning breakthrough of his long and fabulous career. Favre turns 40 on October 7. That’s not extremely old by today’s general longevity, but it’s ancient by football reckoning. The knees tend to give out, one’s whole frame gets shaky after all those hits, and a questionable arm is no asset either. But Dr. Anthony Romeo, a surgeon at Rush University, said, "Brett Favre’s probably going to get stronger and stronger as the season goes on. The chances for this deteriorating are far less."

Perhaps Favre’s football passion is fueled by a desire to disprove the cynics or at least powered by his indomitable spirit and stunning athleticism. But one thing is certain—he is an inspiration to all aging people who refuse to pack it in because of advancing years.

God’s people have a higher calling of Christian testimony and service than mere personal satisfaction or fame. They serve in the tradition of renewed spiritual energy drawn from the Lord’s inexhaustible supply.

Isaiah 40:28-31 says, "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."

The Psalmist wanted to hang in there until he had impacted the generations to come. "Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come." (Psalm 71:18)

I once heard a speaker say, "I’ve heard so many talking about ‘burn out.’ The issue is not burn out but burn up." He meant that our life force for Christ needs to be productively harnessed for as long as God’s timing dictates. And I’ve heard it said, "When it comes time to die, be sure the only thing you have left to do is die."

Way back in Old Testament times, after calling fire down from Heaven and then running about twelve miles ahead of King Ahab’s chariot, an exhausted Elijah fled wicked Jezebel’s threat. One hundred and twenty miles to the south, he excused his failures by suggesting he was the only faithful one left in all the country, and he wanted to die. God’s answer was that he should stop complaining, get up and go, and anoint two kings and a successor. Read the whole amazing story in I Kings 19.

Years ago, John Philip Sousa, the incredible bandmaster and author of "The Stars and Stripes Forever," was asked when he’d retire. "The day you hear of my death will be the day you hear of my retirement." Both happened when he had a heart attack in the early morning hours of March 6, 1932 after a rehearsal with a local band of "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

Baseball legend Yogi Berra lives in Montclair, NJ, which is just a few miles from our Towaco headquarters. He has been honored in a museum on the campus of Montclair State University, which gave him an honorary degree despite his awkward and even weird grammar. One of those statements is probably Berra’s most significant: "It ain’t over ‘til it’s over."
Nor should it ever be!

Dave Virkler

Now What Would Jesus Do?

The saying has been around for some time now. It comes in the form of a short but sobering question. It asks simply, “What would Jesus do”?

Former model Kathy Ireland recently has written an article on the subject that appeared in Christian Living entitled, "Christians in the Age of Social Networking." Ireland’s piece had to do with the use of modern communications resources like Youtube, Facebook, and Myspace for online evangelism.

In the article she states, "As Christians, we can use these wonderful new tools to spread the Gospel beyond the reach of our own church doors. We are able today to go directly where needs are found. We have the opportunity without leaving our homes to tell the world about Jesus Christ," Kathy Ireland is right on the money about that. The advent of a newly wired world has made it so the command, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), can be on the resume of any garden variety Christian with a modern PC and a heart for the lost!

There is no doubt that today’s widespread forms of instantaneous communications allow for nearly endless possibilities – both for good and, sometimes, the not so good. And perhaps the single greatest use of any technology on the good side of the ledger would be to use it for the teaching of God's Word and spreading of the message of redemption in Jesus Christ. And only eternity will reveal the overall impact made for the Kingdom through these ever-evolving online efforts. But at the same time Facebook should be no substitute for face to face contact.

Some misguided Christians feel that their physical gathering together with others of like faith is of little consequence. Some believe that they are spiritually strong enough to forego attending the services in a house of worship. Others may admit that their physical absence may have some negative effects – but only upon themselves. It is their choice as long as others are not negatively impacted. The term “Myspace” seems a good description of their general view on their relationship to others in, or even outside, the body. Both opinions are dead wrong! It has been said that no man is an island – and that is of far greater consequence when dealing with all issues eternal!

The writer of the book of Hebrews warned about the tendency for those in God’s family to be casual about coming together up close and personal. In Hebrews 10:24-25 he wrote, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” An examination of the passage shows that the reason for the churches coming together is for spiritual instruction and service preparation.

Then Ephesians 4:11-13 contributes to the issue, adding this, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but regular absence from a live church setting weakens the spiritual heart and hinders meaningful Christian service and the effective overall use of one’s God-given gifts.

But equally important is that maintaining a regular distance from other believers in the corporate setting has far-reaching effects that go beyond any negative personal level. The passage in Ephesians described the duty of every Christian to “edify the body”. And then Hebrews shows the extreme importance of personally bolstering our brothers and sisters in the Lord. The writer spoke there how each believer is responsible to stir up love and good works while exhorting, or inspiring their faith family – all things somewhat less effective online – not to mention flat-out impossible when missing in action.

It is a great day of evangelistic opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ. Modern online capabilities can, and should, be a wonderfully effective and fruitful part of the mix. But those with the ability and resources to use such stunning technology must also use caution. They must resist the temptation to replace both God’s blessings and His commands to cultivate ‘face to face’ contacts with those in the church or fully substitute the modern methods of a Facebook style of Christianity to share His great plan of redemption with those still outside it.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

Bill Breckenridge