Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Great Theological Truth From The Sinner's Tongue

It is sometimes called Holy Week. Others prefer Easter or Resurrection Day. But it is that time on the Christian calendar when the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ are front and center. Of course it is not the huge and extended holiday celebration that takes the nation over and sends children to bed on Christmas Eve with “visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads" Today that line would have to be adjusted dramatically to include visions of smart phones, Ipods, and Netbooks!

Christmas and Easter are different but they work together as a single indivisible unit. They are both part of the core and foundation of the Christian faith. Remove either and you have nothing with the exception of an entire human race in deep trouble and having no way to atone for their sins before a holy God. Without Christ’s birth at Christmas there would never have been the opportunity for His ministry, crucifixion, or glorious resurrection to follow. Had the incarnation taken place, but with no crucifixion and resurrection to follow, the race of men would still remain lost in sin and having no advocate to plead their case before a righteous Creator and judge of the earth. Again, both events are related and absolutely essential to God's redemptive plan!

There are scores of profound verses in God’s Word. Actually they are all special since they all originate from His infinite mind and are preserved through the use of His hand-picked biblical authors. But it is obvious that some verses carry more impact than do others. There are verses so significant and so powerful as to nearly all alone lead a lost sinner to salvation in Christ. Classic examples would be John 3:16 or perhaps Ephesians 2:8-9. And many believers will site certain verses that have become personal favorites or have some special meaning to them for one reason or another.

But when it comes to the season surrounding the resurrection there are many marvelous and meaningful passages with great spiritual significance. But for me, there is one in Mark 15 that has always seemed unique and special. The reason for its impact is mainly because of what was said, but perhaps even more because of who it was that said it.

This very short passage contains some of the shortest, but greatest, words of theological truth ever spoken. But sadly, they were offered up by some who were about as spiritually uninformed as anyone could be. They were without question marvelous words of life-changing truth. But again, were spoken through the ignorant lips of sinners who harassed the very one, and only one, who could save them from the horrors of an eternity in hell.

Mark 15:27 describes how two robbers were crucified with Jesus, one on His left and the other on His right. Verse 28 reveals, "And He was numbered with the transgressors." This was just one of the hundreds of prophecies concerning Jesus Christ that were fulfilled in Scripture. Verse 29 then describes the hostile reaction by those who gathered o that fateful day to view the horrific and cruel death of an innocent man. Perhaps that was the entertainment for the day for some . Of this bunch, verses 29-30 state, “And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, "Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!" None of them realized that Christ could have done just that, and might have, had it not been for the infinite and special love He felt for each and every one of them.

But it is verse 31 that has always intrigued me since the first time I read it and was able to fully understand the simple but profound truth it revealed. This time the taunting of the suffering Savior originated from some of the more verbal and constant opponents of His earthly ministry. It was in this strange moment in time when their hatred of Jesus coupled with their 'seeming' victory over Him verbally spilled out for all to hear. It was in their great bitterness, and even greater ignorance, that came some of the most theologically astounding words ever spoken. Verse 31 reads, “Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, "He saved others; Himself He cannot save.”

Just linger on those final seven words for a moment. At perhaps the most important moment in human history it was the most spiritually lost of that moment who stated the greatest truth of the moment concerning the mechanics of true salvation. They were as right as they could possibly have been about Jesus saving others only by not saving Himself. Had Jesus come down from the cross and saved Himself, and He could have, He would not have been able to save another single soul from the eternal wrath deserved by all. Only by remaining upon the cross until the appointed time of his death could He finally cry out the words that would change the course of human history and eternity!

The Apostle John describes the final moments of the epic scene in chapter 19 as follows. “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!" Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit." (John 19:28-30)

By not saving Himself, the Son of God gave opportunity for all who would in faith trust Him as Savior to themselves be saved from the power, guilt, and eventual penalty of sin.

Mark 15:31 may just be is my favorite Easter/Resurrection verse. But my all-time favorite salvation verse amazingly dovetails perfectly with it. It comes from the pen of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter one. And it also includes both those who understand exactly why Jesus would never have come down from the cross to save Himself along with those tragic lost souls who were never able to figure that great truth out.

“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.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, March 29, 2010

Toyota's Woes

Toyota is the current whipping boy of investigative journalism and government oversight. Crashes mount, and the injured bring charges of super acceleration without cause. Recalls covered gas pedals and floor mats. Now the chief suspect is electronic interference.

One analysis revealed that wild acceleration occurred as the drivers passed high-power lines. An article posted on the Fox News website says,

“While it’s not clear exactly where the Camry started to malfunction, the car passed under a bridge and several power lines shortly before impact. Big power lines that can generate powerful fields of energy.

“Professor Paul Steffes of the Georgia Institute of Technology says ‘those invisible fields are caused by current flowing through the wire…also the electrical voltage on the wire creates a different kind of a field called an electrical field both are capable of creating voltages in other devices.’”

Thirty-nine suspected Toyota sudden acceleration deaths do appear to be loosely clustered around the heaviest parts of the U.S. electrical grid, but no definitive link between the two has been made.

However, this is not idle speculation in view of the restriction on use of electronic devices while airliners are taking off and landing since they may interfere with the aircraft’s electronic controls. Some years ago I tried working my small electronic Franklin Bible in my car. Every time a key was pushed, a loud buzz could be heard through the radio.

Recently, a report from Great Britain revealed that some GPS-jamming devices had been used by thieves who had stolen cars so equipped to divert detection. The device costs about $49. Should this be used on commercial airliners, it could cause a crash since electronic controls would be altered.

When a car’s cruise control button is held down, the car accelerates evenly. I have speculated that perhaps some kind of interference is making this happen with the computers in Toyotas and possibly other auto makers as well, and the car speeds up as if the cruise control was in the accelerate mode. It may have nothing to do with manufacturer’s incompetence but everything to do with external electronic influence.

With computers, cell phones and other electronic devices being used more and more often in or near autos, it may become apparent that otherwise harmless situations could turned deadly if the car’s controlling computer receives unintended foreign impulses.

While Toyota’s problem may not be a specific precursor to global collapse, it focuses on the fact that electronic weaponry could be employed to subdue the world. What if some saboteur is experimenting with the influence of electro-magnetic pollution? What would happen if terrorists could confuse whole areas—an entire city, for example—where all the vehicles would go a bit berserk?

Electronic terrorism is likely the weapon of choice for Antichrist who will appear in the Tribulation after the exodus of the redeemed and completed Church in what is called the Rapture (I Thessalonians 4:16–18). I suspect that the stranglehold of Antichrist will be a computer access code available only to his worshippers.

Further, it appears that in the Tribulation the global economy crumbles in a very brief period of time—a single hour according to Revelation 18:10. If the global economy is all on computer, anyone who could totally control it electronically could destroy it in a single second and even possibly hold the world hostage.

Electronic chaos—accidental or otherwise—has shown its ugly face. Anyone have a better explanation for Toyota’s woes than electronically-created computer failure? Think what could happen if its intent was wide-spread malice.

Dave Virkler

Friday, March 26, 2010

Questions about Health Care Reform

Health Care Reform, according to President Obama and the Democratic congressional majority, is now the law of the land. Apart from debating the philosophical merits of the issue, I share some troubling observations.

When did congressional bribing become legal? How can taxpayer funds be channeled to obstinate or hesitant members of Congress and the Senate to be bought at will? Shouldn’t votes be made on the basis of district sentiment or at least personal convictions? What does this indicate to impressionable youth or unstable voters? When the highest officials in the land countenance huge political payoffs to pass a measure rejected by a majority of Americans—a measure affecting one sixth of the national economy and every person in the U.S. who breathes—it is obvious our country needs a moral and spiritual revival.

When the chief executive totally reverses promises made while campaigning and refuses to give an explanation but rather taunts legitimate questioners, it is a sad day in America. Transparency? A joke! Never passing legislation by a 51% margin? Another travesty of honor.

And who would think that abortion, scarcely mentioned in the 2008 presidential campaign, becomes the hinge on which perhaps the most massive legislation ever passed in modern times is found to turn? Who would think that an obscure congressman from Michigan, whose basic moral conviction is pro-life, can be forced into voting subjection with threats of retribution (which is likely what happened), lead fellow congressmen into a legal morass, and willingly be led over the reelection cliff? Isn’t something wretchedly wrong with this picture?

Despite arguments to the contrary, abortion is not an obscure issue nor is the pro-life position an outdated argument. Instead of crafting the law against it, the caving congressman was thrown the sop of a pathetically non-binding Executive Order and sacrificed personal conviction on the altar of political expediency.

Have we become a nation of morally bankrupt politicians who serve either dangerous preferences or, worse, sinister invisible influences marching us lock-step toward socialism and globalism? Time will surely tell, but it appears this might happen sooner rather than later.

Speaking of a biblical principle, Proverbs 18:13 says that a man who “answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Almost no one read the entire bill. We were told that it was too long and too complicated. But proponents voted for it anyway.

And how can intelligent men and women assign to government the questions of life and death in health care? Doesn’t our coin and currency say, “In God we trust?” Don’t we pledge, “One nation under God?” Relative to spiritual insight the slim political majority pushed the accelerator to the secular floor while hitting the spiritual brakes.

America’s founders wrote into the Constitution that the entire House of Representatives may be turned inside out every two years. Christians should be praying as always for politicians whether they like or loathe them (I Timothy 2:1), but rendering to Caesar, as Christ commanded in Luke 20:25, will be the voter’s obligation next November. In America, Caesar is the Constitution, which assigns ultimate responsibility in government to the voters, who may either affirm all I’ve negatively outlined as questionable or even dirty politics or resist and set a new course for the health of the nation, spiritually and physically.

When leadership is deceptive, elections can be corrective. The choice is ours unless even this precious Constitutional heritage is subtly corrupted.

Dave Virkler

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Don't Worry About It"

Kermit Tyler’s name is obscure, but his four words, “Don’t worry about it,” uttered on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941 are indelible historic milestones in United States history. You may have missed it when his passing on February 25 was noted in the news, and so I recall his involvement with one of the worst quirks of our national history.

On Dec. 7, 1941, as Hawaiians and the United States' sprawling military in Pearl Harbor edged into a balmy tropical morning, two novice radar operators on the northern end of Oahu reported a blip on their screen indicating the approach of a air squadron of perhaps 50 planes (in fact, there were hundreds coming). Air Force First Lieutenant Kermit Tyler confused the strange radar blip with a flight of friendly U.S. B-17s due in from the mainland, and he replied with four calming words that would ring in infamy: “Don’t worry about it.” Hundreds of Japanese planes droned on bent on destroying the U.S. naval fleet anchored Pearl Harbor.

In that zone of radio silence, Japanese lead commander Mitsuo Fuchida listened to the uninterrupted Sunday morning music aired over the Hawaii radio station, a signal that the Americans would be caught completely off guard. The attack need not have surprised us but for those four calm but totally erroneous words: “Don’t worry about it.” All Pearl Harbor should have been worrying about it, but the moment passed, and, while much of the military slept, lulled by the balmy breezes, fair weather and four infamous words, the day of infamy dawned.

Today, many still slumber under the deceptive working of spiritually-camouflaged surprise attack. Christian witness and the Word of God are twin warning sirens against Satan's war effort.

First-alert believers should never be in short supply. They are watchmen on the wall with solemn responsibilities. “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.” (Ezekiel 33:6)

Psalm 19:11 outlines the alerting quality of God’s Word noting His law, testimony, statutes, commandments, fear and judgments, and adds, “Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.”

Death is often a sudden attack, and mortal departure is reviewed in Ecclesiastes 8:8: “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 wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it.”

Death, sickness, troubles, and misfortunes may all be stealth attacks—unseen, unexpected and striking instantly—but in Christ, we are ready for anything. Not knowing what any day may bring forth, “We, walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

If there is no salvational faith in Christ, we should indeed be worried about our destiny and even temporal future. Heaven and Hell are in the balance. Much of today’s errant theology advises, “Don’t worry about it” when we should be doubly concerned.

Conversely, believers may rest in the fact that nothing ambushes God’s people, and, while not knowing what another day may bring forth (Proverbs 27:1), we understand that each sunrise assures us that “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

The old worship song “O Worship the King” covers the issue:

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies, how tender! how firm to the end!
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!

Dave Virkler

Monday, March 8, 2010

Son of Hamas

It may be the most stunning book on religion and Christian conversion to hit the bookstores in a long time. It is entitled Son of Hamas.

A few days ago, I had a most stirring experience of hearing noted prophecy speaker and author Joel Rosenberg talk about the awesome tension created by Islam. Rosenberg, a converted Jew who had an Orthodox father, was the featured speaker at the International Luncheon at the National Religious Broadcasters in Nashville, TN, on Tuesday, March 2. My wife and I joined hundreds of other missions-minded attendees who were soberly informed of the tragic twin threats in Iran—religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and political leader President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They are the two most forceful proponents of the view that Israel is the Little Satan and the United States is the Great Satan. Both countries are slated for annihilation in their master plan for end-times Islamic global domination, and that is made more feasible by Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

In closing, Rosenberg introduced an enemy of Islam, Mosab Hassan Yousef, who is the son of one of the leaders of Hamas.

Growing up, Yousef hated Jews and plotted their destruction. He landed in an Israeli prison only to find violence by Muslim against Muslim, which profoundly disquieted him. He later served the Israeli security organization Shin Bet and became an Israeli double agent alerting the Israelis of bloody plots against the highest Israeli officials and even helping to deliver an Israeli prime minister from assassination.

One day, as he passed the famed Damascus Gate on the north side of Jerusalem’s Old City, someone invited Yousef to a Bible class and gave him a Bible. He was struck by the teaching of Christ to love one’s enemies, a concept so foreign to Jihad and Islam in general that he sought God's further truth and became a believer in Jesus Christ.

Yousef’s brief autobiographical sketch left the audience in grateful silence except at the end when we all broke into thunderous applause.

Rosenberg announced that Yousef’s book, Son of Hamas, was to be released the next day and that CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour would be featuring Yousef’s testimony on her program. She did that on Sunday, March 7.

Mosab Yousef is a marked man. He is marked by Christ as Paul outlined in Galatians 6:17: "From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Further, he is marked for destruction by Islamists. And, hopefully, he is also marked for the ardent prayers of Christians.

Yousef’s exposé of the god of Islam as a global gangster totally contrasted with the loving God of the Bible will play out in countless debates and, hopefully, in thousands of conversions from false religious systems to faith in Jesus Christ, who is, as He Himself said in John 14:6, "…the way, the truth and the life."

The conclusion of that memorable moment in Nashville is eternally etched in every attendee’s mind—when Jewish Christian convert Joel Rosenberg embraced Arab-Muslim Christian convert Mosab Yousef. Hundreds stood to applaud, some of us with speechless praise to the Prince of Peace, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has broken down the middle wall of separation and made us one in the Savior (Ephesians 2:14).

Dave Virkler