Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Retirement - Will He Or Won’t He?

In the light of the epic tragedy in Haiti, the contemplated retirement of Minnesota Vikings 40-year old quarterback Brett Favre seems a relatively small matter – and rightfully so. The future Hall of Fame QB saw his dream season come to an abrupt end after suffering an overtime playoff defeat, along with a brutal personal beating at the hands of the victorious Saints of New Orleans.

At the present, Favre himself is not certain of his own future. That, in turn, means the exact same dilemma for his current team. But retiring for #4 can mean most anything. He has retired twice before only to suddenly re-emerge with another team. As one reporter put it, “Even if he was absolutely sure today that he was returning or retiring, it wouldn't mean spit, because - as he has proven twice before. Let's face it, the only time we'll know for sure if Favre is retired is when they play NFL games and he's not in them.”

Brett Favre may, or may not, have intentionally toyed with teams or signaled mixed messages along the way. Nonetheless, he has created a degree of suspicion with some organizations that might think long and hard before pursuing his considerable gridiron skills.

One of the most important aspect of anyone’s character is the ability to be honest, trustworthy, and fully dependable. It has been long been assumed that a man is only as good as his word - although the value of honesty seems to have had a distinct decline in recent days.

The wisdom book of Proverbs vividly highlights any lack of truth as something literally despised by God. In chapter six the author declares, “These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” (Proverbs 6:16-19) It is likewise interesting that, of the seven things in the passage, three have to do with the ills of the human tongue, with two specifically mentioning the sin of lying! And the fact that lying is mentioned even in the same breath as murder is rather enlightening not to mention stunning!

In John chapter eight Jesus was speaking out about His eventual earthly departure. In verses 43-44 he offered some rather vivid and harsh language. “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”

Satan is fully devoid of any truth and has spread his lies about man’s desperate need to trust and obey God from the very start. (Genesis 3:2-5) A prime illustration of failing to resist his false and deadly venom is revealed in the New Testament in John 18:37. Jesus was standing before Pilate and speaking to His eternal authority and purpose. In 37 He declares, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." The governor’s subsequent words then revealed the depths of his own spiritual darkness – something still characteristic of mankind as a whole ever since. “Pilate asked of Christ, "What is truth?" How ironic that was since the very consummation of all existing truth in the universe stood in bodily form just inches from him.

Later on in John 14:6 the Lord would confirm to a confused Thomas what a calloused Pilate could not seem to grasp. “Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus does not just speak the truth. He is the truth!

In the grand scheme of life, death, and eternity the future career of a Brett Favre, or anyone else for that matter, is fully insignificant. When all is said and done, all that matters for him and his entire race is dealing with truth that salvation comes exclusively through personal faith in the truth incarnate – Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 states it efficiently and emphatically.

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti Rescue: A Miracle of God

On Tuesday, January 12, the annual mission team of 15 adults from the Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown, NJ was completing seven days of distributing $30,000 worth of medicines, supplies and toys to several orphanages in Port Au Prince, Haiti. In mid-afternoon, they were engaged in sports with some orphans in a cinder block-fenced, open field near a new orphanage building their church had helped build. Nearby stood a used school bus, the transportation they used to get to and from their several places of mercy and which their home church had also financed in part.

At 4:53 PM, they heard a terrible explosion followed by ominous noises described by one of their party as sounding like Haiti was being bombed. Their bodies swayed uncontrollably as the ground swelled like the waves of the sea. The school bus rocked to and fro and nearly upset. Two mission group science teachers recognized that it was an earthquake and directed the group of about 45 missionaries and children to sit on the ground for a period of time, a wise move as several aftershocks rumbled through. Screams of terror and pain where heard over the walls from a nearby village—walls that by then had tumbled into ruins but hurting none of the group.

The group’s only hope of escape was the airport some five miles away through the unimaginable rubble of Haiti’s worst earthquake in 200 years. A motorcyclist was able to scout a path through the jumbled streets and the fifteen U.S. missions team members bounced their way over cinder blocks and through the carnage to the only airport, a journey that took five hours rather than the normal 30 minutes.

Back in Hackettstown, word had been received that the group was alive but needed transportation out of Haiti as soon a possible. Four hundred people gathered in the church to pray.

Arriving at the airport, the team was approached by the crew of an Icelandic airliner who quizzed them as to whether they were Americans and had passports. Since they all did, they were boarded on the plane at the very time church members were interceding for them back in New Jersey. Icelandic Air flew them to the Bahamas where American Airlines transferred them to Miami. The group arrived at Kennedy Airport at 5:30 AM Friday for a joyous reunion with family and then home to Hackettstown and another incredible welcome at the church.

Frank Procaccini, a member of the missions group, calls it all a miracle of God. He shared that the building where they stayed in the Capitol was demolished, and broken concrete now lies crushing the beds they had slept in. The safest place when the quake hit was where they were in the open field. The school bus they had financed was preserved and able to navigate to the airport. An airliner was there to take them home in less than three days. All fifteen team members stood in the auditorium of the Trinity United Methodist on Sunday morning, January 17, and shared their praise to the Lord who delivered them.

Frank was there, and, since I had opportunity to meet him, I asked for an interview for our radio program, “The Word and the World.” He agreed, and I’m glad for this first-hand report of God’s protection and guidance in the worst of circumstances. (You can listen to the full interview in our broadcast archives at our website as of January 25, 2010.)

Pastor Frank Fowler, another member of the team, conducted devotions while awaiting deliverance in Haiti. His text was most appropriate for the team, and it is appropriate for anyone facing uncertainty:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3 (NIV)

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Aid To Haiti - Is Enough Being Done?

To say that the future of Haiti remains bleak would be an understatement as huge as the recent catastrophe suffered by the poverty-stricken and largely devastated and nation itself. The bottom line is that most of the country’s infrastructure needs to be rebuilt from the ground up – literally! Then there is the staggering matter of dealing with scores who now possess only the clothes, and often tattered rags, on their backs. Tens of thousands have no way of even feeding themselves or thier children – something that was not all that easy to achieve even prior to the killer quake.

One positive, in the midst of the tidal wave of near unimaginable negatives, is that many are responding to the physical and material needs there. A sobered world seems to realize that, at this jucture, that keeping people alive and safe is priority one. New technology has come into play as donations via cell phone texting has climbed to over 20 million dollars. Celebrities are doing their parts while relief organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision and Red Cross continue doing what they do best. Even the New York Yankees got on board early by promising one half million dollars to the cause.

But with that said, much more could be done by those who have already helped and especially by those who have not! What impresses God most is when His people give in the manner of the widow spoken of in Luke chapter twenty-one. Jesus complimented this rather poor woman highly stating in verses 3-4, "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." Hers was a true gift of extreme sacrifice!

Just as many have already shown their tangible concern, there are others who have fully ignored the monstrous and unimaginable Haitian tragedy. It is hard to believe that any have not been fully informed of the infinite needs in a news-saturated world. And it is even harder to fathom how anyone could look into the faces of the suffering Haitian people and simply turn away to their own concerns. To do so actually requires an effort of sorts. The reason is simple. Man is made in the image of God according to Genesis 1:27. That fact alone should bring to the surface some level of compassion and outward response. And Paul, in Romans, spoke of how Christians are to share in the lives of those about them – whether circumstances are going well or not. He admonished believers in chapter twelve, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

God is keenly aware of the inner workings of every man’s heart. No action, thought, or motive gets past His precise scrutiny. (Hebrews 4:13) Not only does He expect His people to reveal His nature and His love through their response to the downtrodden, but He also warns of the consequences of failing to do so. Proverbs 24:11-12 puts it this way. “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, "Surely we did not know this," Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” God is not unconcerned nor is He unaware!

Haiti today is a land plagued by awful oppression. But it has also become a land of ample opportunity! Not only do most believers possess some ability to meet material needs in God’s name, they alone can assist on another level – an ultimately superior one. They can fervently pray and help share the greatest answer to everyone’s deepest need by making known the riches of salvation in Jesus Christ to spiritually impoverished sinners.

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence.” (Ephesians 1:7-8)

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti – One Week Later

One week after the devastating Haitian earthquake hope is fast fading to find any survivors buried under the countless tons of debris. The focal point has begun to shift now to keeping those who lived through the disaster alive. Sadly, the absence of adequate medical help is causing many who were rescued to then painfully perish due to infection from unattended wounds. As one news anchor put it, “These are stupid senseless deaths.”

The main problem with getting the life-saving supplies to those that can still be saved is the clogged roadways, mangled port and a badly damaged airport. Officials claim that the runways should be operational in 2-3 days. Good news to many, yet news too late to help others. There are some 3,5000 U.S. military personnel on the ground in Haiti with more on the way. Hopefully their presence will help prevent more looting and the violence that has arisen from hungry and desperate people. So far, more than 30 countries have responded with some form of aid to the cause.

There are a reported 200,000-300,000 orphans in Haiti - and that was before the quake! In addition, a staggering 40 percent of Haiti's population is made up of children under the age of 14. This prompted Dr Irwin Redlener of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness to say, "This could turn into a children's disaster of unprecedented proportions. Kids are more susceptible to infections, dehydration and shock. And of course there is a tremendous emotional impact.”

The numbers of the dead remain unknown as so many are still missing and because mass graves around the city have become commonplace. The Pan American Health Organization are estimating the death toll at 50,000-100,000 while the Haitian government said the number from Tuesday's quake was likely between 100,000 and 200,000. Either figure makes the event one of the greatest natural disasters in all of human history. One positive trend is that individual Americans have already donated more funds to the relief effort in Haiti than was given during Hurricane Katrina.

In John’s gospel chapter fourteen, Jesus was speaking to His disciples. Beginning with verse 15, He offered both a command and a promise. The command was for those who know Him and claim to live for and serve Him. "If you love Me, keep My commandments." The promise then uttered in the next few verses had to due with the aftermath of His earthly departure. “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” Those in Jesus’ day were well aware of the existence and plight of literal orphans and His guarantee to His own spiritual children would have been beyond comforting.

James chapter one also references orphans and also offers two straightforward commands for those indwelled by the ultimate Comforter in the person of the Holy Spirit of God. Verse 27 reads, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

If there was ever a golden opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ to fulfill God’s will by meeting the dire needs in the lives of physical and spiritual orphans – Haiti offers it. Actually Haiti demands it - now!

Proverbs 31:8-9 spells out well what should be the heart’s attitude, and the tongue’s activity, on behalf of so many, who are suffering so much, and likely for so long.

“Open your mouth for the speechless,In the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, And plead the cause of the poor and needy.”

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hope for Haiti

The worst earthquake in 200 years is much worse since Haiti is such a poverty-stricken and voodoo-drenched culture. The poorest country in the Caribbean, Haiti’s origin is shrouded in occult mystery. When seeking freedom from the French, rebel leaders promised Satan that if he’d help them shake off their political shackles, the country would be given over to the Devil. For the most part, it has been under his dreadful sway. Now another foe, the crippled earth itself has become its immediate foe.

Except for grueling and difficult Christian missions work, the country would be totally lost. It has been largely lost politically, and now it is hugely lost physically as millions are homeless and untold thousands dead, injured or destitute.

Pray that rescuers arrive swiftly, that Christian missions stands in the forefront of recovery, distributing aid and rebuilding and sharing God’s truth, and that all Haitians accept that spiritual refuge in Christ is the ultimate answer for souls in danger of death and hell.

No human is promised another day on earth. Proverbs 27:1 cautions, "Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth." Departure may come with a slow measured approach, as in lingering illness, or it may arrive swiftly, unwelcome and unannounced as it did in Haiti.

Countless missionaries have preached eternal readiness in Christ, and those who responded were prepared to die or ready to survive and live to rescue and rebuild. Personal believers in Christ’s saving death and resurrection who are now gone were transported instantly to Heaven as II Corinthians 5:8 comforts: "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord."

Even Christians who survived can weather the earthquake storm. Missionaries report that believers sang in the streets, praising God for their deliverance and summoning needed strength. It is so appropriate as Job 35:10 speaks of "…God my Maker, Who gives songs in the night." Psalm 32:6 & 7 adds, "For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You. In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters They shall not come near him. You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance."

Spiritualizing may seem of little comfort in so severe a catastrophe, but the old song by A. A. Luther says it well. "Jesus never fails, Jesus never fails. Heaven and earth may pass away, but Jesus never fails."

Last year, Luther’s daughter Ann Palmer told me a wonderful story. Years ago, her pastor father gathered his family around the supper table to tell them that they had no money to buy necessities, and they needed $100. A knock came at the door. A woman in a distant state had been blessed by Luther’s song and had sent someone to find the author and give him $100. Pastor Luther learned a great lesson of trust many years after he wrote those touching words.

Pray for Haiti that spiritual light will pierce the darkness. Even if Haiti recovers from earthly disaster, eternity is till ahead. The troubled people of Haiti need a childlike trust in this time of gigantic disaster. In the words of the hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," they need "help for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessing all mine with ten thousand beside. … All I have needed, thy hand hath provided, Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me."

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti - Devastated Beyond Belief

The eyes of the world are riveted on the small nation of Haiti. The already poor and badly battered country, where the average income is one dollar a day, has suffered its worst earthquake in 200 years. The capital city is in ruins and some 3 million people are affected. The injury and death toll will not be known for some time but will likely be mind-boggling. The long–term results could be even worse and should put America’s current "problems" into proper perspective!

Believers in Jesus Christ should feel great sympathy for the people of Haiti and concern for the many missionaries working there. The two major needs should be obvious – praying and giving. The motivation should be equally clear – Christian compassion and biblical mandate.

The opportunity is great!

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

The responsibility is greater!

"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'" (Matthew 25:37-40)

The remedy is greatest!

"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." (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Pray that the world will respond to the overwhelming physical needs in Haiti. And pray that the church will rightly respond to the spiritually poor there who remain fully oppressed and in deep need of the rescue found only in Jesus Christ.

"I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." (1 Corinthians 9:22)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

An Unholy Kiss

It could be called the kiss heard around the airport and felt around the world. Newark Liberty International Airport’s five-hour shutdown on Sunday, January 3, was caused by a passionate boyfriend, not a vicious terrorist.

After a man was seen going the wrong way at a security check-point exit, fears of terror were amplified because regular security cameras were inoperative for five days previous to the security breech. Getting their collective acts together, TSA authorities checked Continental Airline’s video system – quite late because they didn’t have Continental’s phone number handy – and investigative reviewers saw a man duck under a flimsy barrier intended to designate the security area and embrace a woman. The kiss evidently was passionate, but it was costly for the thousands of stranded travelers whose fights were cancelled or delayed when the terminal was shut down. Such seems to be the absurd cost of love, especially in a ridiculous context of broken equipment and incompetent employees.

Several days after the incident, Haison Jiang, a quiet, reserved, 28-year old Rutgers graduate student from Piscataway, NJ was identified as the culprit. Arrested and facing fines, he’s also the focus of collective rage and irritation from the thousands of airline passengers who were seriously inconvenienced. A few stolen moments of kissing became a traveler’s nightmare and a global story. Jiang’s fleeting embrace could become the kiss of the year.

Kissing can be nice, nasty or neutral depending on circumstance and motive. Kissing in the Bible has profound meaning. Greetings by believers in New Testament times involved a "holy kiss" mentioned five times in four different books (Romans 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26 and 1 Peter 5:14). A holy kiss is not only an act of friendship but one of sanctity, purity and cleanness. The word "kiss" comes from "phileo", which is friendship love. It is the derivation of Philadelphia, the city of "brotherly love."

The worshipful and cleansed sinful woman of Luke 7:45 kissed Jesus feet with earnest passion. There, the word is "kataphileo" meaning much more fervor than a casual kiss.

History’s most famous nasty kiss came from Judas. "And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’" (Luke 22:47 & 48). This is in sharp contrast to Psalm 2:12, which says, "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him." Judas must have known that verse, which outlines reconciliation in a time of tension between two parties. His betraying kiss flew in the face of genuine love and admiration.

Judas could easily have also recalled the Bible’s second most memorable nasty kiss recorded in 2 Samuel 20:9 & 10: "Then Joab said to Amasa, ‘Are you in health, my brother?’ And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. But Amasa did not notice the sword that was in Joab's hand. And he struck him with it in the stomach, and his entrails poured out on the ground; and he did not strike him again. Thus he died."

A former subversive during Absalom’s rebellion, Amasa had been forgiven by David and appointed general of his army in place of Joab, who actually was Amasa’s cousin. Joab’s deadly kiss was a contradiction of David’s forgiveness and an act of gross insubordination.

Kissing is the universal act of affection but, if distorted into deceit, can tarnish one’s character and stand as the profoundest of subversion as exemplified by both Joab and Judas. The old expression "the kiss of death" is well taken. Until recent times an action that could kill a relationship or even a life was known as a "Judas Kiss." Now it is known as "the kiss of death."

New Testament believers may take a lesson that a proper kiss is to be with the right person, at the right time, at the right place for the right reason and, as such, it is properly known as "a holy kiss." Haison Jiang’s kiss turned out to be an unholy kiss, and thousands of inconvenienced travelers at Newark Airport would agree.

Dave Virkler

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cheating Death – Twice?

He was called “A Precious Storyteller” but now his voice will be silenced forever. His name is Tsutomu Yamaguchi and his claim to fame was a uniquely painful one.

On August 6, 1945 Yamaguchi was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was on a business trip for his shipbuilding company when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He was badly burned but somehow survived and returned home after spending one night in the decimated city. Home for Tsutomu was none other than the neighboring city of Nagasaki!

Three days after the first bomb leveled Hiroshima, a second blast destroyed much of Tsutomu’s home and quickly ended the war. Some 200,000 were killed by the dual mega-blasts. But by surviving the second blast Yamaguchi was the only person to be certified by the Japanese government as having been in both attacked cities and lived to talk about it. In his later years, Yamaguchi spoke about cheating death twice and often expressed his hope that such weapons would be abolished. Newspapers reported that Yamaguchi finally died of stomach cancer. The mayor of Nagasaki said "a precious storyteller has been lost."

Death is said to be the greatest enemy of man and all will face it at some point outside of some unique biblical ‘exceptions’. Some seemingly succumb early and quickly to the ‘grim reaper’’. Others, like Tsutomu Yamaguchi, may get chance after chance to escape his clutches – for a while!

But when death arrives, and it will according to Hebrews 9:27, those special ‘exceptions’ will be those who are alive when Jesus Christ returns for His precious church on earth. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 describes the awesome event. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

Death is the most certain part of life – even more reliable than being taxed. And while the demise of the human body is typically unpleasant, it need not be viewed as a brutal defeat by the ultimate enemy. As a matter of fact, it can even be met with a degree of victory, peace, and even a deep-seated inner joy. (Philippians 4:7)

Paul the Apostle explained how this seemingly irrational reaction may be realized. In his first letter to the church at Corinth he records in verse 51, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Life is a precious gift whether it ends in the womb before or lasts longer than normal. When it is miraculously created, so is an eternal soul that will live on as long as the infinite Creator who authored it. But the point of life is not to see how long it can be stretched out or how many material things can be amassed throughout. God’s great goal is that those to whom He granted physical life also experience His spiritual life through His Son – a passion spelled out in 1 Timothy 2:2-4.

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The National Debt - Stop the Bleeding

It now stands at a nearly incomprehensible 12.1 trillion dollars, a figure that even people who know figures and enjoy figuring can’t fully figure out. It is no secret that America’s indebtedness is spiraling out of control and may already be at the point of no return. The present numbers are so staggering that even Congress ‘seems’ to know there is a problem. Now that is progress!

It finally ‘seems’ that so-called bipartisan support is growing in Congress for some sort of serious action to stabilize the nation's exploding debt – a figure estimated to reach 20 trillion in the next decade if something extreme is not done and done soon.

Influential experts from former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan to former Comptroller General David Walker have joined the cause, recognizing the threat that could well cripple the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth. Some economists even foresee a day when the once honored American dollar is worth little and perhaps even rejected on the world market as a respectable form of currency.

At present the public debt, the amount owed to individual investors including foreign countries, stands at a massive $7.6 trillion this year alone. That is more than half the size of the nation's entire economy! Greenspan said of the dilemma, "The challenge to contain this threat is more urgent than at any time in our history. Our nation has never before had to confront so formidable a fiscal crisis as is now visible just over the horizon."

It has been said that, “Money makes the world go around,” and in many ways it does. Money is the key to material and physical well-being and for the many necessities of life. It is linked to any nation’s overall stability and military security. But economic success and prosperity without spiritual sensitivity and interaction is incomplete. Example one is the U.S.A. itself. The world’s most blessed, advanced, and powerful nation has fallen from great prosperity into great financial debt and constant economic struggle in seemingly the blink of an eye.

Although the factors of decline are complicated even to the experts, at the core is a simple factor that so very few see or understand or care to. The issue is in large part a spiritual one. The little, and rarely read, Old Testament book of Haggai points to what can happen to a prosperous people who give God no credit for His blessings and who spend the bulk of their time an assets satisfying only themselves.

Chapter one begins with God’s reprimand of His people through the prophet's words; "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! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified," says the LORD. "You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?" says the LORD of hosts. "Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house." (Haggai 1:2-9)

God also offered a similar strong warning of failure but with a corresponding promise of blessing through the prophet Malachi in chapter three. He begins in verse 8 with a probing question – one that should have awakened and humbled His people. "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,"Says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it." (Malachi 3:8-11)

When any nation focuses on their own homes and place of God’s house, on their own assets rather than God’s word and will, problems will come. When people turn to fragile markets at the expense of a their faith, the results will eventually be economical chaos and internal collapse. But when any nation places their faith, their finances and their future in the hands of God they can expect His promise of great success and bounty. When America gets to the point that they understand and apply the wisdom of James in his New Testament letter, then and only then will her people know real and lasting peace and blessing of prosperity.

“Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit "; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say,"If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:13-17)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hume's Solution To Tiger's Sin

Chief Fox Washington News analyst, Brit Hume will go down in history as one the most courageous Christian newscasters ever to grace the airwaves.

On Fox New Sunday, January 3rd he spoke about Tiger Woods’ possible recovery. "Tiger woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person is a very open question … I think he’s lost his family. It’s not clear to me whether he’ll have a relationship with his children but the Tiger Woods which emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal, the extent to which he can recover depends on his faith. He’s said to be a Bhuddist. I don’t that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be … turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

Hume reported that a flood of commendations came from fellow believers matched by disgust from detractors saying Hume had no business counseling Woods from a religious perspective much less from Christian doctrine.

Not backing down, on Monday night’s O’Reilly Factor, program host, Bill drew out a further recap and update from guest, Brit Hume. His personal coverage of the Tiger’s scandal and recommended possible recovery will stand as a profile in Christian courage and a reflection of biblical teaching on redemption. Hear it …

"Tiger Woods is somebody I’ve always rooted for as a golfer and as a man. I’ve greatly admired him over the years and I always said to people that it was the content of his character that made him, beyond his extraordinary gold skills so admirable. Now we know that the content of his character is not what we thought it was. He is paying a frightful price for these revelations. My sense is that he has basically lost his family and there’s a lot of talk about the endorsements he’s lost, but that pales, I suspect in his mind, with what he’s lost otherwise. And my sense about Tiger is that he needs something that Christianity, especially provides and gives and offers and that is redemption and forgiveness … I was really meaning to say in those comments yesterday more about Christianity than I was about anything else. I mentioned the Buddism only because his mother is a buddist and he has apparently said that he is a Buddist. I’m not sure how seriously he practices that. But I think that Jesus Christ offers Tiger Woods something that Tiger Woods badly needs."

O'Reilly and Hume exchanged comments about Bill Clinton and Chuck Colson seeking spiritual deliverance. Hume continues …

"What I’m saying is that if Tiger Woods were to make a true conversion, we would know it. It would show through in his being and he would know it above all and he would feel the extraordinary blessing that would be and it shine because he is so prominent … and it would be a magnificent thing to witness."

O’Reilly quizzed Hume about the reaction to his statement the day before. "I got some letters and emails from people who were like me who are believers who said, ‘Great way, right on, right on, way to go…’ I’ve heard a lot of unfavorable comments from people who claimed that I was a pompous jerk who had no business mouthing off on the subject and that I shouldn’t have belittled the Buddist Faith and so on. …"

O’Reilly asked, "What do you think drives the negative comments about Christianity?"

"I has always been a puzzling thing to me. The Bible even speaks of it that, you know, you speak the name of Jesus Christ and you know, I don’t mean to make a pun here, but all Hell breaks loose and it has always been thus. It is explosive. I didn’t even speak of the Name in that way. I simply spoke of the Christian faith. That was enough to trigger this reaction. I triggers a very powerful reaction in people who do not share the faith and who do not believe in it."

Isn’t it amazing that just after Christmas which celebrate the birth of Christ and right after New Year’s s which points to the birth of Christ as bisecting all of time BC and AD, that the very mention of Christ makes some explode in anger? Hume has done Christianity a great service in focusing on the tension over Christ. If He is just a historic figure who lived and died, what’s the fuss? But He is divider of men, even families as the Lord said it in Luke 12:52-53, "For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three.53 Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

The divergence of faith in Christ is plainly stated in Matt 12:30, "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad."

When Christ was born Mary was alerted to the tension in Luke 2:34-35, "Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

Jesus’ Cross, the source of redemption Hume refers to, is offensive as 1 Cor 1:18 says, "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."

Someone once said, "The same sun which melts the butter hardens the clay." Years ago in a meeting a man came forward to receive Christ and is still living for Him. A woman walked out muttering, "I don’t like what that man says." There is no neutrality regarding the Gospel and the Savior.

Opposition to the Gospel invariably brings some positive result. Years ago, enraged agnostic Robert Ingersol, the man who vowed to have the Bible in the morgue in a few years, swore blasphemously at Civil War General, Lew Wallace saying that Christianity was a myth and that Wallace, intelligent as he was, should write a book proving the fallacy of believing in Christ. Wallace accepted the challenge, researched the issue and wrote the most famous Christian novel of all time, Ben Hur, even made into the most epic film of modern times. It portrays the deity of Christ, His saving death and regenerating resurrection power. Bring on the opposition! It seems to energize an overpowering reaction in otherwise timid souls. And thanks, Brit Hume, for standing firm, speaking out and bringing on the opposition. You’ve done the church and the world a service.

David Virkler

Monday, January 4, 2010

Airport Security Gone Mad?

Ever since the attempted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound airline on Christmas Day, airport security has intensified greatly. Most passengers had almost gotten used to being shoeless, beltless, waterless and being subjected other frustrating and time-consuming procedures in order to travel the "friendly skies". But now, many are highly offended at the absurdly intrusive new trend - 'full body-scanning'.

There are 19 such body x-ray like machines now in use and the Transportation Security Administration said it has ordered 150 more scanners to be installed early this year. They also claim to have the funding for 300 more. The units are able to see through clothing and supposedly detect anything anywhere on the body that might be potentially used for terrorist purposes. Passengers who refuse to be scanned are then given a choice – for now, anyway. They must submit to a full physical "pat down" by a TSA employee - something maybe even more upsetting and obscene than the x-ray method.

According to Kate Hanni, who is the founder of, "The price of liberty is too high." Her advocacy organization for air passengers said that "the full-body scanners may not even catch the criminals and will subject the rest of us to intrusive and virtual strip searches." The TSA has tried to assuage privacy concerns by saying that the digital images would be deleted after passengers clear the checkpoints. But critics are not really convinced. Others feel the images are not all that clear and Jon Adler, head of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Associati said, "I think a bomb detonating on a plane is the biggest invasion of privacy a person can experience."

For those who feel a full body scan is a fair price to pay to ensure they reach their destination safely, the new technology may not be an issue. But for those who feel the technology is over the top, their choice is simple. They can give in and use the airways or alter their plans and hit the highways!

It is hard to know how this new system will work or even if it will be repealed or adjusted through public pressure or for constitutional reasons. Only time will tell. But it is quite certain that even the best of earthly security measures are flawed and can never fully promise to discover and defeat all the evil plots of wicked men. Also, there will be many who will seemingly get away with various, and sometimes vicious, crimes in this life. Others may not be so ‘lucky’ as in the case of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab on Christmas Day flight 253. That basic truth is confirmed in Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:24 where the Apostle Paul writes, "Some men's sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later."

But of far greater importance are the words of the writer of Hebrews in chapter four. Verse 12 addresses the potential and the power of the Scriptures themselves. "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two- edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Then verse 13 adds the chilling reality that no sin, no matter how carefully crafted or disguised, will ever escape the deep inner scan of the all-knowing judge and Creator of the universe. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

In many ways, worldly security is but a myth. Even at its finest, it remains a fragile and temporary condition. But those who have had their sins forgiven in Jesus Christ can claim a very special and unique promise. They are protected by a security that assures them of a future miraculous meeting of their Savior in the air according to Thessalonians 4:17 – an event immediately followed by safely reaching their glorious and eternal destination in heaven!

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28)

Now that is real security!

Bill Breckenridge