Monday, November 30, 2009


The ultimate security breach was mysteriously accomplished at the first White House State Dinner, which honored Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. A clever and vivacious couple, Michaele and Tareq Salahi, managed to enter the affair and even have themselves photographed with high ranking guests including President Obama and Vice President Biden. They may have gone undetected had they not posted pictures on their Facebook page, evidently in hopes of momentary fame and a reality show slot in the future.

News analysts and investigators are still probing how this weird security lapse allowed these professional gate-crashers to slip through the ultra-tight security sieve and freely consort with the high and mighty of the nation in what is thought to be the most carefully guarded house in the land. Shocked and irritated security men and others who value Presidential protection in our dangerous world are calling for full-blown investigations and appropriate legal action against the adventurous couple.

Career gate-crashers are a fixture of public life with some previous innovators being banned from the Capitol. A more subtle spiritual deceit is a major theme of Christ’s teaching concerning entrance into the Kingdom of God. Every day, millions are guilty of a deliberate attempt to evade the entry requirements of Heaven. Mostly, they are self-deceived, establishing their own standards that contradict security passage. Christ outlined their attempts and condemned them in the strongest terms: "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber."(John 10:1)

That Christ Himself is the solitary entryway is clear in John 10:7–10. "Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.’"

This imagery of exclusive entrance to salvation is written into the old hymns of the church. In "There Is a Green Hill Far Away" by Cecil F. Alexander, we find one verse that reads,

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of heav’n and let us in.

In "The Way of the Cross Leads Home" Jessie B. Pounds penned,

I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but this;
I shall ne’er get sight of the Gates of Light,
If the way of the cross I miss.

Then I bid farewell to the way of the world,
To walk in it nevermore;
For my Lord says, "Come," and I seek my home,
Where He waits at the open door.

Somehow, the White House gate-crashers got past security without their names being on the official guest list—a remarkable feat of deception. But now, their lust for fame and wealth has done them in, and they sacrificed their honor and character for a few miserable moments in pictures—moments of infamy that mean permanent exclusion from the White House and possibly Washington, DC.

The "thieves and robbers" who propose entry to Heaven by a lie are consigned to permanent exclusion. The guest list is a registry of the redeemed. "Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life." (Revelation 21:25-27)

In the hymn "Is My Name Written There?" Christian author Mary A. Kidder asks the timeless question and answers in faith.

Lord, I care not for riches, neither silver nor gold;
I would make sure of Heaven, I would enter the fold.
In the book of Thy kingdom, with its pages so fair,
Tell me, Jesus, my Savior, is my name written there?

Lord, my sins they are many, like the sands of the sea,
But Thy blood, O my Savior, is sufficient for me;
For Thy promise is written, in bright letters that glow,
"Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them like snow."

Oh! that beautiful city, with its mansions of light,
With its glorified beings, in pure garments of white;
Where no evil thing cometh to despoil what is fair;
Where the angels are watching, yes, my name’s written there.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Thanksgiving assumes both a recipient and a benefactor. Atheists must have severe ambivalence even celebrating the holiday. If there is no God, why observe a holiday begun and repeated as a grateful admission of all God’s goodness? In our tough times of financial stress, they could report for work the 4th Thursday of November, but even dissenters find a fringe benefit in the Thanksgiving holiday. (Actually, the word holiday derives from "holy day")

Thanksgiving is always a God-thing that reflects our national history and undercuts atheism, which snubs the very notion of God. It is amazing how the Plymouth Pilgrims were etched into our national history even before there was a United States. Perhaps its was their tenacity in sailing a wild ocean in pursuit of religious liberty or their famous pre-debarkation Mayflower Compact that begins "In the name of God, amen."

President Obama emphasized the Pilgrim spirit in his 2009 Thanksgiving Proclamation:

"What began as a harvest celebration between European settlers and indigenous communities nearly four centuries ago has become our cherished tradition of Thanksgiving. This day’s roots are intertwined with those of our Nation, and its history traces the American narrative. Today, we recall President George Washington, who proclaimed our first national day of public thanksgiving to be observed ‘by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God,’ and President Abraham Lincoln, who established our annual Thanksgiving Day to help mend a fractured Nation in the midst of civil war..."

Commendably, Mr. Obama concluded the proclamation, as with all presidential proclamations, with an obvious reference to God’s greatest gift of Christ:

"IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth."

The formality of ending "In the year of our Lord…" is a testimony to early national acknowledgement of the Lord Jesus Christ as the author of our calendar and the foundational truth of the nation. The phrase "In the year of our Lord," also appears in the conclusion of the U.S. Constitution signed in 1787. The founding fathers apparently knew more about the anchorage of history to the coming of Christ than modern detractors are willing to admit.

More specifically, the Bible enjoins divine thanks through Christ as the central figure of gratitude. Hebrews 13:11-16 clarifies it: "Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."

The old Swedish hymn by August L. Storm, written about 1891, says it eloquently:

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

Dave Virkler

A ‘Panda Protection Program’

It is not certain if panda bears can contract the H1N1 Swine flu. But China is taking no chances.

A research center in northwestern China has closed its doors to all visitors as a precaution to protect endangered species – the giant panda being priority one. It is not known if the beautiful creature is really susceptible even though reports from some veterinarians claim that small pets have indeed been infected. The center has banned any employees from the site who evidence any flu-like symptoms.

The giant Panda is viewed like a nation treasure in China and few would argue over the magnificence of the rare creature. Also, not many would even go against any normal attempts to protect the amazing creature from harm if possible. But this topic brings up a fundamental problem. That issue arises when the intense care and respect for an animal, any animal, is placed above the needs, rights, and value of people - all made in the image of God! (Genesis 1:26)

Modern China has come a long way in recent times and has become one of the economic superstars of the global community. But the nation is also resides near the top of the list in blatant human rights violations and has for countless decades. In her recent visit to the country, secretary of state, Hillary Clinton said human rights could not be permitted to “interfere” with larger concerns, such as global climate change and financial-market mayhem.” Apparently 'larger concerns' do not include government forced abortions?

When any system devalues human soul, the root cause is quite simple. It is all about, and only about, human sin. And the hands-down best description of the source and scope of sin comes from the pen of the Apostle Paul in chapter one of his letter to the Romans. He condenses the immense problem into a few well-chosen words beginning in verse 21.

“Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” Translated – they were willing to worship and adore everything and anything but the God who made them.

Then later on, Paul adds the eventual impact of suppressing the obvious existence and demands of the Creator. Verse 28 reads, “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.” When a debased mind controls a heart, an individual becomes incapable of basic understanding. He or she can no longer rightfully judge simple matters of right from wrong! This, in turn, causes all manner of evil behavior - some of which is spelled out in verses at the chapter’s end. Then, too, a mind in this state may eventually come to value, and treat better, animals over humans. A reprobate mind is, without exception, the worst and most dangerous spiritual condition possible. Left unchecked, it will one day bring the fair and right judgment from a holy God. (Romans 1:18-21)

Basic human rights and value do not originate from human beings. America’s founders understood God’s role in the equation. They got it fully right in the Declaration Of Independence. Their all too familiar, and nearly divinely inspired, words read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are CREATED equal, that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain ‘unalienable’ Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The church of Jesus Christ should be in fervent prayer for their oppressed brethren in China and other similar places. They should pray for that nation’s leaders, and that they somehow realize that they too are made in God’s image and desperately need His redemptive work in their hearts. But at the same time, Christians in American should pray for their own spiritually floundering nation. They should intercede for a culture in obvious moral decline - one that has seen the value of human life quickly erode. Like China, theirs is a nation in serious need of a serious return to their Creator – the one who alone allowed them to achieve the greatest prosperity and freedoms the world has ever known.

China’s ‘Panda Protection Program’ may help to save their valuable and precious creatures. But God’s priority is the saving of infinitely valued souls - all miraculously created in His own image and for His glory!

“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.” (1 Timothy 1:15)

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, November 23, 2009

When Enough Is Enough!

It is called 'The Manhattan Declaration’ and while its full impact is yet to be realized, its basic purpose is beyond overdue!

On his appearance on the "Huckabee" show, Charles Colson gave a review of what is known as The Manhattan Declaration (MD). The document was drafted on October 20th, and released a month later on November 20th. The MD by definition is said be ‘A Call to Christian Conscience’ and was brought about by a cross-section of Christian leaders as a reaction to their spiritually decaying culture.

The document is not meant to be a theological treatise, even though its basic three-fold purpose is based on generally accepted biblical truth. In other words, while the signers have certain doctrinal differences they are fully united on the goals they hope to achieve.

The MD shares its primary purpose like so:

“We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

The sanctity of human life.
The dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
The rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

During Colson’s brief airing he stated how he and the other signers were willing to commit civil disobedience and even accept jail time, should their strong stand ever bring that kind of persecution. The MD is more than a collection of profound words. It is apparently backed by the willingness for personal action.

This same idea is not at all new. Back in 1981, theologian Dr. Francis Schaeffer authored a book entitled "A Christian Manefesto". It was a best seller. It dealt squarely with the nation's rising plague of secularism and humanism and the possible need someday for civil disobeience by the true church in America. Just imagine what Schaeffer would write some 28 years later in 2009?

In Acts chapter five the apostles found themselves again on trial for their faith. Their opposition was again the continually irritated high priests. The bad blood was caused by constant preaching of Jesus' followers despite being forbidden to do so. Verse 27 describes the rather intense confrontation.

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!"

After hearing this latest round of threat and accusation, Peter came forward as the group spokesman. His powerful declaration came right to the point. Verse 29 reads, “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men.”

After much advice and careful consideration, the high priests decided to release the men out of fear for their own safety. This was not, however, before offering yet another severe warning. “And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” (Acts 5:40-42)

Although some may not approve of civil obedience for the Christian, there is certainly a prime example of its use in the New Testament. Others may claim that the Acts incident was different because it involved only the freedom to preach the Gospel and was not just about cultural moral issues.

But the Bible is a moral and cultural book. It declares that faith apart works is dead or useless. And when that is linked with concepts like seen in Ephesians chapter five, it surely appears that Christians have certain biblical rights and duties as citizens of both heaven and earth.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them." (Ephesians 5:8-11) “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15)

Scripture teaches that the church is to bring its beliefs to bear on its own society. Christians need to sometimes to speak out. This is especially crucial when their nation's leaders, and the culture in general, turn their backs on God and replace His holy principle with any morally harmful laws of man. For a chilling description of what a culture will eventually become when godly influence is silenced, read Romans 1:18-31. When any society spiritually crumbles, the godly and ungodly alike will share in the painful and dreadful results. Even the quickest review of Israel’s history will clear up any doubts as to the reality of this tragic truth.

The Christian life is not a spectator sport. If it is genuine, it should cause believers in Christ to openly share their faith while attempting to uphold the moral issues that should accompany it. Neglecting either brings about the terribly sad results offered by Jesus' own words and recorded in Matthew's Gospel account.

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:13-15)

The Manhattan Declaration has declared its intent and taken a bold stand. Hopefully the church in America will understand the times, before it is too late, and soon do the same!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Better Health Care? Just Tax The Rich!

As Americans get more and more concerned over who will ‘really’ pay for the massive new health care proposals, more and more seem to favor one source: anyone but themselves. Translated into everyday language: tax others, namely the rich.

This comes from a new AP poll based on phone interviews with 1,502 adults from October 29 to November 8. The findings were good news to Democrats who now hope to get their lengthy legislation package through the Senate after narrowly passing in the House.

Lawmakers are also looking at other options including taxing insurance companies, drug companies and medical device makers. The only problem with these measures is that any additional expense would eventually target the consumer anyway when prices are raised to pay for added tax hikes. Also, taxing the rich at a higher rate carries with it more than a strong hint of socialism - a system that has never worked for very long or advanced any nation very well.

Health care is critical. The issue’s current fever pitch surrounding it (no pun intended) makes that fact beyond the obvious. And it would be a gross understatement to say that there is much at stake to those with and without adequate coverage. But there is another struggle –one that infinitely exceeds any level of maintaining or repairing the physical body alone.

While the country’s leadership debates and battles on how to best alter, and then pay for, the perceived benefits for its citizens, the spiritual health of America remains assigned to the back burner – if it is even on the stove at all. And only a precious few politicians ever equate the results of sin and reckless living with the skyrocketing need for bigger and better care.

But there is at least one leading political voice that gets it. He stated his simple and common sense position like this. “America does not have a ‘health care’ problem as much as it has a basic health problem.” His point was right on target. In other words, if Americans would simply elect to live cleaner, healthier, and morally responsible lives, that ingredient alone would help to financially unburden the current system. That in turn would mean less overall medical intervention while allowing unavoidable health problems to gain the adequate treatment they require.

Heath care is an expensive proposition both in the physical and spiritual realms. The first category costs the nation ongoing aggravation and vast sums of money. But the other came at a cost to God’s Son and went far beyond any financial figures or fix. One requires a constant and ever-growing cash flow to meet the ever-increasing demand caused by poor personal choices and/or legitimate human sickness. The other was paid for in full when Christ died for the healing of the souls of men. His sacrifice never needs any improvement or adjustment. “It is finished” (John 19:30).

God’s spiritual wellness plan, in one way, did tax the rich to heal the poor. It covered the price forever for those who could never meet the requirement of the Creator of absolute holiness. (1 Peter 1:15-16)

Paul shared this sobering doctrinal truth in 2 Corinthians 8:9 where he wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” The tenants of socialism, which will falter in any secular setting, become the very pinnacle of success and the ultimate spiritual solution. Basically, God’s redemptive plan was patterned upon socialism. It took the sinless perfection from His holy and beloved Son and placed it squarely in the account of any sinful man who freely embraces God’s grace and mercy through faith.

The hymn writer spoke that miraculous and ultra-effective plan like this:
“Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it what as snow.”

America is in far greater need of spiritual revival than some man-made rejuvenation of its health care procedures – whether good or bad. In reality, the former could have a massive positive impact on the latter. But as long as the nation refuses to recognize or accept the cause and effect link between physical and spiritual health the current dilemma and plan will likely become more frustrating, expensive, intrusive, and ironically, more inefficient as time as precious time proceeds.

That is a rather unattractive option number one. The second alternative option comes via the supernatural wisdom given by the author of life, designer of the body, and Savior of the soul in Proverbs 3:5-8. The choice is simple - but the results are both practical and even eternal!

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. 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.”

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One Point

Get the point? Two sports teams got it, and two lost it in the final seconds of their respective games.

Nursing a 0-9 opening record, the hapless New Jersey Nets faced off with the Miami Heat last Friday evening. They had stifled the superstition of "Friday the 13th" and a 0-10 loss. With 4.1 seconds to go, the Nets were leading 80 to 78 and Miami had the ball. The Heat’s Wade got the inbound pass, dribbled unsteadily for a couple of those precious seconds, and pumped up a long shot from three-point range. And—swoosh—the Nets were behind one point with 1/10 of a second left. Their inbound pass was futile with only a sliver of a second, and they sadly lost their 10th straight game.

Two days later, a decades-old rivalry brought the New England Patriots to face the Indianapolis Colts. Toward the end of a brutally hard-fought turf war, a questionable 4th down call by the Patriot’s coach gave the Colts the ball, and they ultimately pushed on to a very late touchdown and a "squeaker" 35-34 win to maintain their undefeated season. Again, it was the slimmest of margins, but one point is all it takes. Be it ever so late, that single point spells victory.

Baseball icon Yogi Berra said it well despite his grammatical slang. "It ain’t over ‘til it’s over." While there is game time, there is hope.

Many a Christian victory is within reach, even though the human chances seem slim. Too often our self-prediction of seeming failure is self-fulfilling. If only we’d have pushed on.

Christ said, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4). The old Christian song says,

Encamped along the hills of light,
Ye Christian soldiers, rise,
And press the battle ere the night
Shall veil the glowing skies.
Against the foe in vales below,
Let all our strength be hurled.
Faith is the victory, we know,
That overcomes the world.

The author understood the battle pressure of the fleeting moments of sunset—that terminal opportunity is extremely fragile.

Years ago, I was preaching in Bangor, PA, and we closed with the invitation hymn "Just As I Am." The hour was getting late, and we’d sung a number of verses, so I closed in prayer. Afterward, man came to me and said, "If you had sung just one more verse, I would have come forward." Sometime later in another place, a man shared how he had walked forward to receive Christ on the fifteenth verse of "Just As I Am."

Galations 6:9-10 declares, "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." The word "opportunity" is the translation of the Greek word "kairon," which is an unrepeated time frame of set length. It is best described by being a sacred parenthesis with beginning and ending.

Pro athletes know that they need to spend every ounce of competitive energy until that last second has expired, for the last second may mean the winning or losing difference of a single point. Fighting the good fight of faith, as Paul describes it in I Timothy 6:12, is no less demanding.

Dave Virkler

Monday, November 16, 2009

Find Your Financial Soul Mate

Money matters – A Lot.

That was the title of a recent article dealing with marital finances. Good Housekeeping puts it this way. “The best case scenario is that you find someone whose money strengths and values complement your own.” Their reason is simple. Money conflicts are one of the primary factors leading to today’s high divorce rate. To some, the matter is so weighty that they suggest that some general questions on the subject should be attempted even on the first few dates. The goal is to get a better sense of your date’s true money identity.

The subject of money is of course a crucial aspect of everyday life. The more modern the culture, the more money is an interracial factor in daily affairs. Knowing this to be true, the Bible also speaks to the subject – only in a different light than most economic and marital experts of the day.

The Scriptures seem to care little about how a couple handle their family money issues – with a few notable exceptions. For instance, there is reference made to the principle of lending. In this area, Luke 6 speaks to motives of God’s people when they feel the desire to lend a helping hand financially speaking. When they do, it should not be for some future material benefit for themselves. Verse 34 begins, “And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.” It is also a given that God also expects those who are on the receiving end to be thankful, responsible, and to never take advantage of the goodness of those who help out.

Later in that same gospel account, a story is told about a woman who would be scorned by any of today’s typical financal gurus. The writer tells of her actions in Luke 21:1-4. “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had."

Just try to imagine today anyone sanctioning the giving to God of nearly all of one's worldly assets and then trusting Him to supply all of their personal daily needs? That kind of attitude would be considered as pure madness without a clear understanding, and sound believing, in Jesus’ striking words about “seeking God first” in Matthew 6:33.

In the Old Testament book of Haggai, the prophet lays out a principle that certainly escapes the notice of those outside of God’s family. Tragically, many inside His inner circle of faith miss it as well. Verse 2 of chapter one begins with God’s serious indictment of all those who primarily focus their own material wealth and selfish wants.

He writes, "Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: 'This people says, "The time has not come, the time that the LORD's house should be built."' "Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?" Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts:" Consider your ways! "You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes." Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider your ways!“

The financial principle here is quite plain and not at all difficult. Separate God’s will from your wallet and find that your finances suffer or even collapse - no matter how cleverly or professionally they are handled!

The profit Malachi likewsie brought it all into the briefst and most understandable of terms in the third chapter and the 8th verse. Two short questions and two equally quick answers are listed there. “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings.”

For a Christian, it is not finding a “Financial Soul Mate" that is all-important. The Bible is concerned first that people agree, and be ‘equally yoked’, in the faith. (2 Corinthians 6:14) Afterwards, it becomes God’s desire for His people to agree to offer Him dominance in every aspect of life - including the use and distribution of their material blessings. When this is done, to the contrary advice of the ‘experts’, it is then that the personal promises of God come into play and the primary purposes of God are played out!

The Apostle Paul laid out one such promise for the serious disciple of Jesus Christ like this. “But this I say: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-9)

Yes, Money Matters - but only “A Lot” when used to achieve God’s eternal work and will!

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lessons in Leaves

In many parts of the world, the cool chill of fall means a cascade of multi-colored leaves as the deciduous trees shed their food factories for another year.

In completely calm weather, some of these leaves head gently earthward. Add a drenching rain or howling wind, and some are simply wrenched off their branches. Whether by advancing season or an additional nudge from nature, they all become earthbound unless a temporary stop occurs in a bush or in the roof gutter. Most of this plunge is unappreciated, especially if a homeowner is stuck with laborious leaf-gathering and disposal.

The special blessings leaves afford are largely lost with those terminal fallings and cold rush of winter snows. In summer, leaves provide shade from the scorching sun and coolness beneath by transpiration, that marvelous means God built in to move moisture directly from the leaves into the atmosphere. (Remember shivering after coming out of the water after a swim? Evaporation removes heat and leaves you cool).

The falling leaves can teach us so much of Bible truth. Many believers pass off the earthly scene, and their special impact for Christ is as quickly forgotten as the withered and colorless leaves. Old age and the final departure can be a burden unless we understand each person’s inherent worth and precious focus for the Savior and retain it in our consciousness. Parents may have shaded us from the burning problems of life and cooled us down when we tended to overheat in a temper tantrum. And then the years speed by, and it’s time to move on from the summer of this life to an eventual eternal springtime in the next.

I recently considered the various descents of leaves. Some simply plummet down, with no grace or artful maneuvers. The final moments are no subject for a photo or picturesque narration. They just come down—period! Others seem to flutter, wobbling this way and that in an unpredictable dance with death. Some spiral like a glider squeezing out extra seconds of airborne grace. A few sometimes catch an updraft from a building or other object and soar magnificently for a few fleeting seconds before being finally earthbound. Oak leaves are among the last to fall, and some even linger for months until heavy snow or even the first flush of spring takes then down.

The annual leaf fall is a profile in the final variables of ultimate human descent. Recently, four friends went to be with the Lord, and their passage varied as do leaves heading down.

Dot lived for 95 years and was in great health for almost all of them. Then, at nine and half decades, way beyond the proverbial "threescore and ten," she left so very quickly. Florence reached 84 and spent the last few years in her room and in bed as she tumbled downward in a long spiral. Bill developed a treatable disease that slowly worsened with ups and downs, taking back healthy ground and then losing a bit more. At 67, long before anyone expected him to go, he simply plummeted down and went to be with Jesus. William spent his final years surrounded by family in graceful decline as retirement lowered him gently.

But they all eventually dropped away as Ecclesiastes 8:8 says. "No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death, There is no release from that war…." And, as Eccl. 3:1-2 says, "To every thing there is a season, A time for every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck up what is planted…"

Years ago, my dear musical evangelist partner, blind Erick Webber, often sang "Where the Roses Never Fade" in our meetings. Sixteen years ago, he suffered a stroke, and, after months of downward spiral, left for Heaven.

I heard of Erick’s Homegoing while leading a tour to Israel, the same place where Jesus said to a grieving sister, "I am the resurrection, and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live" (John 11:25). As we traveled through a huge Israeli farm of thousands of acres of bright-faced sunflowers, I shared the lyrics of the song with our group:

I am going to a city,
Where the streets with gold are laid;
Where the tree of life is blooming,
And the roses never fade.

In this world we have our troubles,
Satan snares we must evade.
We'll be free from all temptations;
Where the roses never fade.

Loved ones gone to be with Jesus,
In their robes of white arrayed;
Now are waiting for my coming,
Where the roses never fade.

Here they bloom but for a season,
Soon their beauty is decayed.
I am going to a city,
Where the roses never fade.

(Janie West Metzgar – 1929)

Roses … leaves … humans …. They all tumble downward to the ground from which we were taken. For believers in Jesus Christ, the physical journey may be to the ground, but the spiritual transition is to God.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Commander and Comforter-in-Chief

To say that the office and job of the President of the United States is a complex one would be a massive understatement. Not only does he oversee the most formidable military on earth, but he sets the agenda for the most powerful and influential nation on the planet as well. But sometimes the job requires other seeming lesser things – like comforting just a small percentage of the nation’s citizens who have experienced some sudden tragedy or deep form of heartache.

That was President Barak Obama’s task this week as he tried to offer words of comfort and hope to the devastated families of those brutally murdered at Fort Hood. His was not any enviable position to be in. But his is the position that demands it.

Bill Clinton helped rebuild his troubled presidency with the way he reacted to the vicious Oklahoma City bombings. Then, too, George W. Bush governed throughout some of the worst events ever in American history. There was 9/11, the worst terrorist attack ever on the nation’s soil. That was soon followed by Hurricane Katrina, the most traumatic and crippling natural disaster to ever hit the U.S. mainland. Along with these there came a series of smaller but still difficult events like the space shuttle explosion, a terrible shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, a tornado that wiped out a Kansas town, a bridge collapse in Minnesota, Midwestern flooding and the catastrophic California wildfires.

When horrific events like these hit, it is the responsibility of Commander-in-Chief to be the chief comforter to the individual citizens he leads. Again, it is a difficult requirement but a worthy and sacred role. It is also true that the popularity of a President, and even his platform, can be altered depending on how key events are handled in public.

The God of the Bible is well aware of the grief and frustration that is the eventual part of every life. The ability of the Creator to relate to those He created is mentioned in Hebrews 4:15. The writer records there, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” The Bible stresses forcefully that Jesus was 100% man while, at the same time, being 100% God. (Philippians 5:2-8) This miraculous and mysterious union enables Him to know how we feel when we face what we face. And while Christ’s human side can fully relate to our trials and needs, as fully God, He is able help man rightly respond and overcome them.

During His great prayer in John 14, Jesus was preparing His followers for His death and soon departure. He informed them that His leaving would not leave them some terrible void or sense of loss. Rather the Lord gave them a glimpse of the One who would take His earthly place on a full-time basis. It would be none other than His equal but in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This part of the triune Godhead would not, in any way, be an inferior substitute to Christ’s physical presence. Instead, He would make available to all believers certain supernatural gifts and abilities.

One of the most critical of those assets is named in verses 16-18. John records Jesus’ words as follows. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”

He later re-emphasizes the reason for, and benefits of, His leaving. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7) The Spirit would no longer come and go for specific and limited ministry tasks as was the case in Old Testament times. (Psalm 51:11) But He would now empower and dwell permanently in the hearts and lives of every true follower of Christ. Jesus was simply trying to convey the superior value of this new spiritual relationship.

Pain and suffering have always been part of the human condition. The reasons should be obvious. First, man lives in a sinful and broken world. Then secondly, man has been made in the image of God! (Genesis 1:26-27) This amazing blend allows him to share certain of God’s attributes - the ability to love and sense grief and loss being a prime example. Emotional and relational suffering is a natural part of being human. But dealing with it, with any lasting degree of success, requires something unnatural – better yet, something supernatural. It requires the ongoing presence of perfect Comforter. It requires the helping and healing power of the Holy Spirit. And that requires an intimate knowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and also as Lord.

The words of the President to hurting families at Fort Hood were perhaps helpful – for that moment. But the words of Jesus to His family members allows for something outsiders can only dream of, and long for, when times of crisis arise.

“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.” (John 14:27)

America’s “Comforter-in-Chief” may offer fine words of peace, But they cannot ever replace or equal the ministry of “Chief of all Comfort”.

Bill Breckenridge

Berlin Wall Anniversary

It has been 20 full years since one of history's most symbolic moments captured the gaze of the entire globe. It is a story of heartache, struggle, death and finally victory!

On November 9, 1989 one of the all-time great examples of tyranny began to crumble - literally.

It was the Berlin Wall. The structure had separated more than just scores of German families and the country’s most notable city. It separated the opposing principles of freedom and bondage and simple good versus evil. It was a line that had divided, in many ways, the civilized world for 28 long and painful years. The 96 mile long span was also the site of the 136 deaths of those who thought it important enough to risk their lives rather than live in bondage.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday that "the ideals that drove Berliners to tear down that wall are no less relevant today." And Lutheran Bishop Wolfgang Huber told the congregation at the Gethsemane Church, "We remember the tears of joy, the faces of delight, the liberation."

His words rang true, but only those who personally experience a Berlin Wall, or something like it, can truly relate to its devastating and lingering effects. All others must try to imagine what that specific form of suffering might be like.

The existence and tearing down of the Berlin Wall carries a deeply significant spiritual illustration. There is a wall that separates God from all men. It begins at birth. It affects all the same. But it does not come through the typical treachery of some earthly entity. Scripture teaches that man is born in sin, separated from God, and without hope in the world (Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:11-13). Even so, the Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear that these effects of this grim reality are reversible when man’s faith is linked with God’s grace. He condenses the matter down to just a few powerful and profound words in Ephesians 2:8-9. “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.”

A few verses later Paul reveals some of the spiritual mechanics of how God accomplished this miraculous and eternal task. He uses language similar to that often used of Berlin’s wicked wall. Ephesians 2:14-17 reads, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”

Scripture is clear that man is born into sin, separated from God, and without hope in the world (Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:11-13) Fortunately it is equally clear that sin’s dreadful effects need not reign supreme since there is a way to flatten this most destructive of all walls. Romans 5:8 provides the foundational reason for God’s tearing down of the relational wall between Himself and those He made. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It was that unique love that caused Christ to fully smash through the wall of sin that divided all humanity from Himself. The route of escape has been fully cleared. That is all about God’s grace. But each and everyone must chose to walk it to arrive at the place of spiritual freedom. That is all about man’s personal faith.

It seems highly symbolic that Bishop Wolfgang Huber addressed his congregation from a church called Gethsemane – the name of the place where Christ prayed just before becoming the divine target for the sins of man. No doubt many in Huber’s flock recalled the building and tearing down of Berlin’s wall of woe. Some there maybe lived behind it until escaping its destructive grasp. With that said, those and likely many others still live today behind a self –imposed ‘spiritual’ iron curtain. Perhaps they recall well that moment of great national freedom. Some will remember vividly gaining their own physical release, but unaware that they remain captives from birth in another realm on this great anniversary.

Some will be forced to live in physical bondage for part or all of their earthly lives. That is just a tragic part of life in a fallen world. Then there are those who are blessed enough to never experience that brand of suffering. But both share equally in something far more serious and infinitely deadly.

All who will ever draw a single breath are born spiritually captive and in desperate need of escape. They face together a serious universal flaw but have access to the solitary universal cure. That exclusive repair is quite simple in its requirement (2 Corinthians 11:3) but beyond stunning in its impact. (Colossians 1:13) It requires only a sincere act of faith in response to God’s sacrificial act of grace. And when that great wall of separation is broken down by God’s greater act of grace, then will the great words in the Bible writer become the equally great testimony of the Bible reader!

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Political Redemption?

Social conservatives in my home state of New Jersey are especially pleased with the outcome of the governor’s race. Republican Chris Christie, announced pro-lifer and supporter of conventional marriage, beat liberal Democrat Jon Corzine. Christie has a normal family—that is, a wife and kids—while Corzine is divorced. Christie’s election may give him the opportunity to nominate four New Jersey State Supreme Court justices. His belief in traditional marriage would hopefully mean that these nominations would dampen the chances of activist legislation from the bench. Christie is also tough on crime having formerly served as a U.S. Attorney for the State of New Jersey who tried 100 criminal cases successfully without a single reversal.

There is indeed, political redemption in New Jersey, and, if here, perhaps it can happen in any state. That a state previously so left-leaning as to sweep Obama into the White House with a stunning plurality only a year ago could upend Corzine, who is pro-choice and would sign a same-sex marriage bill, is a comfort in politically left-moving times. And in Virginia, which went Democrat in the 2008 presidential election for the first time in decades, Republican candidate Bob McDonnell, a social and religious conservative, also trounced his opponent in the governor’s race.

Perhaps a significant block of New Jersey voters has commendable second thoughts about government spending excesses that will potentially bankrupt generations to come. Perhaps a good number are reconsidering the faulty wisdom of government funding of abortions in an unwieldy health care bill. Perhaps a majority is enraged over government corruption, immoral legislation, sleazy politics in general and negative campaigning specifically. Hopefully, rampant property taxation, wild deficits and liberal nonsense are being seen as the moral insanity they really are.

More importantly, I hope all this reflects a healthy return to biblical morality—a mirror of Heaven’s principles for conventional marriage, healthy families and fiscal responsibility. The campaigns of winners and losers alike were financed by currency bearing the inscription "In God We Trust," and our national Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase "one nation under God."

The timeless warning still stands in Psalm 9:17. "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." To those yearning for spiritual stability, the wonderful alternative still stands in Psalm 144:15b: "…Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!"

Dave Virkler

GOP Offers 'Condensed' Health Bill

The battle has raged on for months but seems like it has been going on for years. And in some ways it has. It is the highly controversial and comprehensive revision of the health care system in America. The fight has been vicious because the outcome promises to be so very vital.

Obviously, even the very best system of care can be approved upon. But many oppose this major program that is a major part of the President’s campaign promise of 'Change you can believe in'. They believe that the new plan will corrupt the world’s best overall health care. Further, they cite that it will place massive financial demands on an already fragile economy while reducing personal freedoms.

Part of the debate has been over the mountain of paperwork that makes up the Democratic plan. The legislation consists of approximately 2,000 pages of heavy legislative language. That alone leaves many skeptical, or seriously scared, since few can read it all and most could not understand it even if they could.

In reaction, the GOP has released a much more compact version that pares the opposition’s guidelines to ‘only’ some 230 pages – an approximate 90% reduction. The Republican plan focuses more on incentives, medical savings accounts, lessening jury and malpractice awards, and other similar things that tend to run insurance premiums through the roof. The plan differs, too, in that it would not require all employers to offer insurance and make all persons and families to buy some sort of protection even if it be against their will. And unlike the Democrat’s bill, the Republican plan would also stop funding on most forms of abortion.

Once again American’s citizens have been plunged into a massive cloud of bureaucratic confusion perpetrated by those who are elected serve them. They are being asked to accept a life-altering law that even those with legal backgrounds admit not having fully read or adequately grasped. And the people are being asked to trust the government to control the most personal and crucial aspect of their daily lives even while that same entity is near legendaryfor its absurd levels of inefficiency and endless red tape.

In short, the U.S. government has grown too big, too powerful, too aggressive, and too complicated to effectively satisfy and serve those it was designed to protect. Foe instance, just take a peek at the current IRS code. Bottom Line: Citizens are being forced to sort out, and side with those who claim to be most truthful, caring, and competent - a Herculean task to say the least!

On this hot topic, one prominent leader has taken a different tact. He contends that the so-called ‘health care crisis’ is more a ‘health crisis'. It does seem to make perfect sense that a serious decline in health care costs would results if the American people ate better, slet more, exercised some, and resisted physically negative and morally detrimental types of behavior. An improvement in the nation’s physical and moral behavior may just be the single best, and cheapest, way to improve overall health standards and also stabilize current health care costs. Sadly, that solution is viewed as too simplistic and seems just too logical for most bureaucrats to grasp. Besides, most politicians are too scared for their jobs to ever point fingers at the voters who elected them – even if those things be true and right.

As confusing and overwhelming as the current health care legislation is, thankfully the one thing of infinitely greater value that has been made crystal clear. Religious systems over the centuries, even some under the banner of Christianity, have made salvation and the forgiveness of sin far more complicated than the actual requirement of the Creator God.

In 2 Corinthians 11:2-4 the Apostle Paul made reference to allowing man’s conditions for redemption to alter or exceed those of God’s. In verse 3 he wrote, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Salvation is amazing and miraculous. But has been also made quite simple.

Ironically, the ultimate example of this very truth was seen at Christ’s crucifixion. One of the thieves being executed at His side recognized the Savior’s deity and ability. At one point he uttered these word in the midst of his great agony, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." (Luke 23:42) The Lord’s simple response to this sincere request is seen in the very next verse. “And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." A wicked and guilty man’s external redemption could not have come more simply or dramatically. And the same blessed method still holds true some 21 centuries later!

The details and facts of the current health care maze has exceeded the average man’s grasp. Even those in the ‘know’ really don’t 'know' what the extent or the ultimate impact on the nation will be. But God’s spiritual health care plan is, and has always been, both clear and comprehensive. The premium was paid in full on the cross at a price far beyond what money can ever buy. (1 Peter 1:18, Isaiah 55:1)

God’s forgiveness policy is available, free of charge, to any and all who choose to accept it in simple saving faith. There must be only a full understanding and a serious and correct answer to the question asked 2,000 years ago by a desperate man in a dingy prison cell. His plea from the heart was this. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:29) The immediate answer was every bit as short and profound. “So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31)

When this powerful response becomes one's personal reality it will always bring the greatest possible 'Change you can believe in'. That divive alteration is spelled out in 2 Corinthians 5:17)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

How do we know that change is really true and lasting? First, because it happened to me. Then too, scores of others, who have believed in the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ, have likewise experienced the supernatual results and eternal promises of His great salvation plan.

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, November 2, 2009

New Promises For Windows 7

The long awaited Windows 7 has arrived. And for scores of PC users it promises to be their computing 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 for being slow, oversensitive to assumed security threats, and incompatible with scores of hard and software that many users needed to accomplish their everyday 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 time period 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. Neither is flawless, but perhaps one is better when the two are honestly 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.

And 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 best news is, and will always be, the “Good News” of salvation in Jesus Christ. His is a promise to save fully and finally 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