Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trapped Miners Set New Record

Thirty-three trapped miners in Chile equaled the all-time entrapment record today of twenty-five days, set in China last year. Amazingly, most all the workers in the gold and silver mine remain positive and upbeat. Some have even been able to send video greetings through three small drilled holes where life-sustaining food, water and medicine are dropped to keep the men alive.

Meanwhile, the rescue efforts continue by the state-owned mining company which began by boring a rescue hole Monday afternoon wide enough to pull the men up through 2,300 feet of earth. If successful, each man will eventually experience a half-hour long ride to the surface. The larger machine will slowly grind through a smaller hole forcing crushed rock to fall down into the mine shaft area near the trapped men. That means that the imprisoned workers will themselves have a huge part in their own rescue having to clear 3,000 to 4,000 tons of debris by working 24/7 shifts. Their own efforts may well determine whether the escape plan works and how long it lasts.

One miner, 30-year-old Osman Araya, spoke as he began to cry. "Tell my mother, I love you guys so much. I'll never leave you, I will fight to the end to be with you."

Few things in life are as frightening as the thought of being literally buried alive. And even with today’s technology, many that become trapped far under the earth’s surface find that terrifying spot to be their final earthly grave if they are not reached in time. Hopefully that will not be the case in Chile this time.

Once again the wisdom of Proverbs 27 rises to the surface. Verse one declares, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” It is likely that not one of the thirty-three trapped miners ever expected the collapse of the main shaft on August 5th. Most assumed they would be home after their respective shift, enjoying the comforts of normal life and joy of their families. But now, that is water under the bridge – or more like under the ground! They are in a literal life and death struggle. And it is now that one all-important and overriding concern that quickly rises to the surface - even if they never do. That is simply each man’s personal spiritual condition before God and whether or not they are trapped in sin along with being trapped in the mine.

It is reported that some of the men are believers in Christ. These have already been rescued, spiritually speaking, and are ready to face both life and death with the hope and confidence that only salvation in Christ can bring. Hopefully their faith is their primary life-line and source of encouragement. And hopefully, this dire situation is giving these the precious time, opportunity, and motivation to share their faith with those who are doubly trapped – in the earth, and even worse, in sin.

Christians should pray fervently for the physical rescue plans to succeed and for the safe return of the thirty-three ill-fated miners. But there should also be prayer that, when the men are brought up from the depths, many will hit the surface having been likewise pulled from the power and penalty of sin through the One who says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)

The trapped mine men in Chile have hope but a hope that still has a massive amount of work involved if they are to share in their own liberation. But those who would be freed through Christ need no such self-effort. They need only to believe and apply from the heart the words recorded 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.”

When this is done, the truest sense of freedom is understood and becomes a glorious and permanent rescue and reality. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Mother Of All Traffic Jams

Few enjoy the sght of a long string of red tail lights coming into view as they round the bend on the highway expecting to arrive at their destination rested and hopefully somewhere near their appointed time. And very few who live anywhere near a larger metropolitan area have not experienced the frustration of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for construction or some other reason.

But now the term “traffic jam” has taken on a whole new meaning – at least near the capital of China. A section of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou highway in Huailai was the site of a sixty-mile backup. The mega-mess began with construction on August 13th on the road also known as National Highway 110.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that automobile sales in China passed the U.S. for the first time last year when 13.6 million vehicles where sold. The country is now playing catch up and racing to provide adequate roads for the scores of new drivers. To make matters worse, many existing roads are in poor condition and need improvement due to the extra wear and tear from trucks carrying illegally heavy loads.

The jam even affected downtown traffic in Beijing. And on top of the obvious irritation of those crawling through the area at a snail’s pace, some residents in the area were offering food, water and other needed items at outrageous prices to the helpless victims caught in the worst ‘web of driving woe’ ever!

The thought of a 60-mile traffic jam is beyond the ability of most of us to fathom. I sometimes get edgy when sitting at a light for 60 seconds if no one passes through the intersection as I sit there.

But patience is something spoken of at length in the Scriptures. One of the better known passages would be James 1:1-5 that states, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Later in the same wisdom book, it is the Lord Himself who is used as the ultimate example of patience for the benefit of those of His family to emulate. “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure." (James 5:9-11) Other examples of the value of this godly trait are seen in verses like Colossians 1:10-12 and Romans 15:4-6.

The jam in China was a vivid reminder of the difficulty, but the value, of having patience. It brought to mind a cute little song we used to play for our children – but one that impacted me as well. The main, but clever, line was, “I just can’t wait to have patience.”

But the ultimate form of patience is spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. It relates the need to wait patiently, and be fully ready for, the Lord’s return to claim His redeemed church. Verse 15 begins, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 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.”

The church has been waiting some 2,000 years for this great promise and may need to be patient just a little while longer. But when this most special and miraculous of all moments arrives, literally millions will rise from their graves with no worry of even a split second of delay or waiting in line. The patience sometimes desperately needed to face life’s trials will be over and the highway to heaven will be clear and lightning fast. Once in God’s presence, the difficulties of this life will be erased forever and a new life of blessing, worship, and joy will takes its place forever! Until that day, every believer should attempt to duplicate the example of their brethren in the faith in the fledgling church described in 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10.

"For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

Bill Breckenridge

Glenn Beck’s Call for Revival

Glenn Beck has pulled off one of the most impressive marches on Washington ever held. On Saturday, an estimated 500,000 or more people jammed into the area between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument to support the notion that America needs to recapture its founders’ vision and rekindle its spirit through religious revival.

The event—a reflection of Beck’s growing concern for reestablishing God in American life—is a brutal indictment of many of our churches. When Glenn Beck is promoting God-sent revival in America while many churches are find their highest calling in seeker friendliness, soft man-focused sermons, thin doctrinal discourse and musical happy hours singing only repetitive and often shallow praise and worship music, the church of the living God in America is in sad shape.

Instead of a clarion call to repentance and revival, much of contemporary Christianity in America is just that—contemporary, that is, crafted for the moment without anchorage to timeless truth as a rudder for sailing through troubled times. The very word smacks of fleeting impact. A formal meaning would suggest merely being “with the current time,” which conveys a temporary quality. The word “traditional” is almost a dirty term in some quarters.

Today’s “churchianity” seems adrift from doctrinal anchorage. Years ago, I heard someone say, “Jesus unites, but doctrine divides.” Good! Let it happen, and we’ll distinguish light from darkness and good from evil. Tradition and traditional can have an enervating effect as Christ warned, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3) But there is good, even commanded tradition as the Apostle Paul declared: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

Good tradition and sound doctrine are fine fellow travelers. As the word “doctrine” has fallen into disrepute, so has the authority of the Bible and the spiritual impact of the church. Paul spelled it out in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Evidently, we are living in the days of negative prophecy for Paul also wrote, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

But back to Glen Beck. On his weekday Fox News broadcast and at Saturday’s massive Restoring Honor rally in Washington, Beck is calling for wholesale return to the biblical revival that birthed America. It was a result of the fiery preaching of George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley, and the prodding, preaching eloquence of John Witherspoon, the only preacher to sign the Declaration of Independence.

Perhaps much of today’s preaching is a result of spineless timidity, a caution about losing tax-exemption or a misguided notion that biblical preaching is necessarily straight-jacketed into a few salvation verses or that ultimate pulpit safety if best attained by stressing the spiritual “feelies,” what A.W. Tozer called “The Modern, Smooth Cross.”

Glenn Beck’s astounding Washington rally first exhilarated me and then troubled me. Indeed, when a talk show host does better at promoting biblical revival than the average preacher, it can make concerned people sick, I being one them. I hope to feel better in the future. And when I can rewrite this blog when our churches are up to Beck’s speed, I will feel much, much better.

Dave Virkler

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Issues with Islam and the Ground Zero Mosque

A strange multi-focus – religiously, historically and politically – is centered on a damaged building near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. A professedly moderate Muslim imam, Faisel Rauf, who interestingly has been sent to foreign nations as an official U.S. government spokesman for better Islamic relations, wants to build a 13-story mosque two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks.

Critics point out that Muslims, whatever their brand, were the sole perpetrators of the disaster, and the Muslim mosque, legally permissible as it might be, merely refreshes painful memories and opens old wounds.

The imam’s wife, Daisy Khan, worsened the strife last Sunday by saying, “We are deeply concerned, because this is like a metastasized anti-Semitism.” She added, “It’s beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims.”

It has been wisely observed that hatred of Muslim never materialized after the 9/11 attacks. Islam generally was not blamed nor were mosques set upon. But the proposed multi-story building by the Cordoba Initiative is just too similar to historic mosque-building associated with Islamic takeovers of captured churches and synagogues.

The name refers to Cordoba, Spain, which 1,000 years ago, was a great city that was dominated both politically and religiously by Islam. The imam says the name reflects the peaceful co-existence between Muslims and other faiths, but Cordoba was conquered through jihad, and the mosque there was originally a church.

Other cities where mosques were built over churches include Damascus, Jerusalem and Constantinople. Gabriel Scheinmann wrote in an August 23, 2010 blog, “Moreover, recent territories that have returned to Muslim rule following decolonization have seen the return of the conversions of religious sites into mosques. Muammar Qaddafi, the ruler of Libya, converted 78 synagogues into mosques in the 1970s. In 1975, the Great Synagogue of Oran was confiscated by the Algerian government and similarly transformed.”

Of special concern is the prominent victory memorial in Jerusalem known as the Dome of the Rock, which is a showcase of Islamic dominance, forbidden turf for Jews and a solemn warning to Christians.

Inside are inscribed these discriminatory words against Christians: “O People of the Book! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning God save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His Word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and say not ‘Three’ - Cease! (it is) better for you! - God is only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. ... Whoso disbelieveth the revelations of God (will find that) lo! God is swift at reckoning!”

Little wonder that many have severe misgivings about a 13-story mosque built on a site where flaming wreckage fell on 9/11. Hundreds of years of Muslim oppression is now nominally to be restored in lower Manhattan as an example of peace and harmony.

Careful Christian students of Islamic history, while not fostering religious discrimination, will likely reject plans for a subtle Islamic victory monument in the heart of the cultural, communications and financial heartland of the Western world.

They wonder about the extra-biblical revelation given to Mohammed from the angel Gabriel in 610 AD (and for forty years following), which was years after the birth of Christ, especially since Revelation 22:17–19 says revelation is hereby finished. They wonder about a prophet who first thought his visions were the result of demon possession, who received them in sweaty fits often terrorizing those nearby.

They have trouble seeing the divine wisdom of establishing one pagan god among many as the ultimate deity and of worshipping a moon god (Al Illah) as depicted by a crescent moon atop every mosque. They are puzzled by the “Satanic verses” uttered by Mohammed which originally proposed worship of the moon god’s daughters. They wonder about a criticism of the Trinity, which Muslims falsely believe is Father God, Virgin Mary and Jesus, who Islam says was neither crucified nor rose from the dead.

Others can’t figure how four wives for any Muslim man is okay, but the Prophet Mohammed was a divinely given revelation of 13 wives as an exception. Some can’t figure out how women are demeaned as less than men in worth or for testimony purposes.

Some are curious about the killing and pillage that financed early Muslim advance. Still others can’t figure how military jihad was recommended for taking new territory if other means were ineffective.

And some wonder how the Quran freely contradicts itself yet is revered as the Word of Allah.

Currently, some question how a New York imam who declares that America has more blood on its hands than Al-Qaeda can be the honored moving force to raise millions of dollars for a mosque near Ground Zero and how the Imam can be sent world-wide to improve international Muslim relations.

They also wonder how a U.S. president can compliment Islam in international speeches while apologizing for America, can bow to a Saudi King and can sponsor a Ramadan dinner in the White House in which he gave a speech touting the constitutionality of the Ground Zero mosque. Some of the leaders at that dinner are said to be associated with anti-American causes.

Further many wonder at the wisdom of even considering including Sharia law in America’s legal system. Sharia law is a convoluted and sometimes barbaric codification of outdated Islamic regulations about every aspect of Muslim life.

Not a few are concerned about the mathematical reality of “only” 10% of the Muslim world being radically militant. The Muslim population worldwide is estimated at 1.57 billion globally, 23% of the world’s population. Ten percent of that means more than a million and a half radicals who would be committed to violent jihad. Many say something drastic has to be done by peace-loving Muslims about their radical 10%. Building a mosque at Ground Zero doesn’t address this problem.

What are the real issues for Christians? All this may have come about because there was no Arabic translation of the Bible in 610 AD when Mohammed’s visions began. He did not know what the Bible said, which opens the mind for anything the Devil wants to say.

Divine visions beyond the conclusion of Scripture with John’s penning of Revelation, veer sharply away from God’s truth.

Paul had it right in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” (emphasis mine)

And Galatians 1:6-9 says, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (emphasis mine)

That’s a flashback of an Old Testament disorder found in 1 Kings 13 where one prophet was deceived by another and it cost him his life. The false prophet said that an angel had spoken to him, and the true prophet believed him. Because he was taken in by falsehood, he was slain by a lion. (See 1 Kings 13 for the full story.)

This issue for believers is not about constitutional religious freedom but a clear perception of what is truth and what is error. Believers must understand that the extra-biblical system of Islam pits them against any and all competitors, and, without a strong spiritual defense, our personal freedoms and our entire country are jeopardized. Let us pray for spiritual discernment in a confused age. Let us pray for wisdom for our country’s leaders in such a confused time. And let us carefully study God’s Word and get dressed for battle.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the Wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:10-13)

Dave Virkler

For more on this subject, listen to September 5 broadcast of "The Word And The World" at our website (www.wordandtheworld.org). After they air, broadcasts are archived there for 12 weeks.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

America’s Far East Debt

Chinese and American fortunes are being bound ever more closely together, not always in a positive way.

Communist China is the leading creditor of the 36 nations (121 if each subsidiary group or nation is included) that have loaned money to the United States. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury Federal Reserve Board, our debt to China as of June is almost $843 billion, and that does not include Hong Kong at $141 billion. Japan is our second largest creditor with over $803 billion. Other Far East nations to whom we owe include Taiwan ($128 billion), Singapore ($50 billion), Thailand ($43 billion), and South Korea ($38 billion). And these figures are exploding upward as America borrows more to cover wild stimulus spending programs. Vice President Joe Biden’s description of “spending our way out of deficits” is the weird order of the day.

Estimates are that by 2012 America’s national debt will be about 101% of our GNP. Aside from the fact that we are either presently bankrupt or soon will be, our foreign debt may soon be used against us politically. Our ally Taiwan, a republic form of government in contrast to communist China, is constantly threatened by China, and that is more so currently as America has agreed to sell $6.4 billion worth of fighter jets to Taiwan.

In addition to government loans from these many foreign countries, of which China is the foremost, the manufacturing trade imbalance is additionally troubling. A few weeks ago, my family went to IKEA, the popular international home products store. While the women shopped, my son-in-law and I occupied ourselves by checking the labels of dozens of items. As imagined, “Made in China” appeared on more products than any of the other 24 import countries we identified. Amazingly, the only American-made products we identified that evening were some garbage cans and U.S. postage stamps in a vending machine. The U.S. is a pathetic debtor nation.

Latest reports reveal that China became the world’s fastest growing economy in the last quarter, and some predict it will be the world’s largest economy in the near future. America bought all of China’s toys, and now they are loaning our money back to us at painfully high interest. We have spent and then borrowed ourselves into potential oblivion, perhaps the means of America’s lack of prominence in end-time events.

The Bible says, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). The U.S. is placing itself into international servitude, a slavery from which there may be no escape and a foreign domination that will herd us toward “globalism” at its worst. A communist country may want to use their influence against our Christian standards.

Our debt to China may pale in comparison with the military threat of China’s development of an anti-ship ballistic missile. It would be capable of traversing up to 1,000 miles over water to disable aircraft carriers, America’s chief instrument of maritime dominance in the area.

About two millennia ago, God gave John the Revelation, which included a unique insight into all this Far Eastern upsurge. “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared” (Rev. 16:12).

The size of this military mob is found in Rev. 9:13-16. “Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.”

A footnote for Rev. 9:16 in The Living Bible, which is copyrighted in the early ’70s, says, “If this is a literal figure, it is no longer incredible…. In China alone in 1961, there were an ‘estimated 200,000,000 armed and organized militiamen.’ (Associated Press Release, April 24, 1964).” Obviously, China’s population and that of other Far East nations has increased dramatically in the last 50 years, and that number is even less far-fetched.

The Greek word translated “east” in “kings of the east” in Rev. 16:12 means “of the sunrising,” literally “the rising light of the sun.” Japan already has that symbol on its flag. With China and Japan as the economic giants of the East vying for supremacy, the storming across the Middle East likely toward the Armageddon encounter (Rev. 16:16) seems a fast-approaching reality.

Our world is hopelessly enmeshed is godless, secular pursuits, and it is operating without God’s wisdom. As such, it is doomed, but those who have trusted Christ as Savior have a destiny above all this chaos.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Belly Bulge - Deadly For Adults

A new study out of Chicago confirms an old truth.

Much extra weight can mean much less life!The new study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is the first to analyze waistsize and deaths for people in three body mass index (BMI) categories: they include normal, overweight, and obese. In all three groups, waist size was linked to higher risk in a number of serious health issues. The bottom line of one of the largest studies to ever examine the dangers of abdominal fat revealed that those with the biggest waistlines have twice the risk of dying compared to those with smaller belt sizes.

Bulging bellies are a problem for most Americans older than 50. But the problem is steadily creeping downward to those in the younger categories as well, due to a fat and sugar filled American diet and an overall lack of meaningful exercise. It's estimated that more thanhalf of older men, and more than 70 percent of older women, have bigger waistlines than recommended. And the growth rate of waistlines overall has expanded by about an inch per decade since the 1960s.

There is no doubt to anyone who opens their eyes on a beach, in a food store, restaurant, or even in their own church that America’s people have grown larger and softer, even as their economy has shrunken. Many are cutting back in spending to weather the economic pressures, but apparently not at the dinner table! And with the serious health issues which arise due to the increasing poundage comes the inevitable, and ever increasing, medical bills that are passed along to all of us - both the thick and thin.

But what about the question of this issue from a biblical perspective? Is this at all a matter of concern in the Scriptures and therefore something meaning to God in any way? Or as God, is it only the spiritual condition of the heart that matters since that determines every man’s eternal destiny and because of what is penned in John 4:24? “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." And is the physical body of much ultimate value since God’s reference to making man in His own image in Genesis 1:27 clearly refers to things other than human anatomy?

When scanning biblical truth it becomes apparent that the physical body is indeed valuable and of concern to God even though it comes in at second place when analyzed along side the condition of the human soul. That basic truth is spelled out best in 1Timothy 4:7-9 where Paul writes, “But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”

But the Scriptures also repeatedly point out the vital part played by the physical body in the spiritual realm. A great example is revealed in Paul’s first letter to the struggling young church at Corinth. He forcefully reminds the early believers there, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Later in the same letter, in chapter six, the apostle expands on this same theme of how the body is to be used and considered. Verse 18 begins, ”Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.”

Then three chapters later Paul relates how the body is connected to Christian service and even the heavenly rewards that are yet future. Verse 27 keys in on his own self-directed efforts to ensure complete control over the acts and actions of his own physical unit. He begins with a sports-related analogy starting in verse 24 - hoping that some of his readers will already know or get the general answer. ”Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

An omniscient and omnipotent God designed an amazing human body to house a miraculous and eternal soul. That alone makes physical issues important enough to pay proper attention to. A poorly functioning physical frame can negatively impact the ability of any Christian to fully serve the Lord with the unique gifts given him or her at the moment of redemption.

But beyond the special care that helps a body function better and longer comes one more crucial biblical principle. When adhered to, it also adds physical vitality and greater ability to glorify the God who created all to fellowship with with Him for eternity through the salvation found only in Jesus Christ. This great truth came through the special revelation and legendary wisdom via Proverbs 3:5-8. Often the first two verses are highlighted, preached on, and memorized while the following two are given little or no attention.

“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.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rich To Give Away Half Of Their Wealth?

According to “The Giving Pledge” it was announced last week that 40 of the world’s billionaires agreed to give away approximately half of their individual wealth. In America, Bill Gates of Microsoft fame and Warren Buffet have led the charge to convince others in their extreme financial stratosphere to do likewise. At this point in time, the pledges are only moral commitments to give, not a legal contract, and do not involve supporting a particular set of causes or organizations.

At present, more than three dozen of America's wealthiest individuals and families have joined Gates and Buffett in agreeing to give away at least half their fortunes to philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice, either during their lifetime, or after their death. According to Forbes magazine 400 list of richest Americans, half their net worth would amount to $600 billion. The United States has roughly 400 billionaires which amounts to about 40 percent of the world's total.

If and when any or all of these wealthy individuals give parts of their personal fortunes away, they are to be highly commended. There will be many whose suffering will be relieved and whose lives may know times of joy that may not otherwise come – at least in this life.

But the Bible is simply filled with references to the attitude about and uses of money, both in the positive and negative contexts. Perhaps the most well-known warning verse on the subject is presented by Paul to Timothy in his first letter to his young pastor-son in the faith. In 1 Timothy 6:9-10 he records, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. “

Then too, a warning was offered by Jesus Himself in a parable found in Luke 12:16-21, where He spoke about those who feel secure in life due to their more than adequate resources. Verse 16 begins, “Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?"

Also, there was the famous encounter in Mark chapter ten known as simply the story of the “Rich Young Ruler”. This man came to Jesus seeking true salvation - at least it looked that way on the surface. Tragically, he left empty-handed spiritually because he was unable to comply with the Savior’s request – namely to give away all of his sizable earthly fortune to the poor and to then faithfully follow the Lord. (Luke 10:17-22)

But then there is also the sobering and humbling New Testament biblical record of a woman who fell at the extreme opposite end of the economic spectrum. Her story is found in Luke chapter twenty-one. The chapter begins with the assessment of the motives and value of a poor widow to the work of God. The apostle writes in verse one, “Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."

Bill Gates and others who have become motivated to give huge sums of their personal wealth to others are to be highly commended, regardless of their motives. If others would follow suit, much of the world's physical suffering could be eased even through the sheer excess of such materially blessed people. The limits and reasons for what they do may remain highly personal.

Perhaps part of it is because they, too, are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-17) and thus have experienced the simple joy of helping others in need. Not only is this felt by anyone who does so, but beyond that, it is a command for anyone who knows Christ as Savior. Paul spelled out clearly this principle, and even the personal benefits, in Galatians 6:9-10. “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.”

But even the thrill and benefit of doing good for others materially speaking, will never compare on any level to the giving away of one’s personal faith. Jesus revealed the difference between physical and spiritual well-being when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness just before He began His public ministry. In Luke 4:4 He offered up His biblically-based defensive and offensive words to His arch enemy stating, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'"

In 1 Peter 3:15 the apostle referred to the absolute crucial nature of giving away the faith wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

There remains a somewhat hidden top priority of those with the staggering resources to keep scores of precious souls physically well and even alive. It is simply so that those already in the family of God through saving faith in Christ might have additional opportunities to reach these with eternally crucial truth as seen in Jesus’ own words in John 6:35-36 and in verses 47-48.

"I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life”

Bill Breckenridge

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Problems with Ethanol

It all started from the best of intentions. It would reduce groundwater pollution becoming a substitute for a pesky carcinogen. It would make the air cleaner to breathe and life better to live. It would lesson our dependence on foreign oil, and the abundant U.S. corn crop could be partially diverted to its production.

The idea gained momentum from “green” conservationists focused on a purer environment and others who felt foreign oil dependence was an onerous burden of national security. And all this was accelerated by legislators rushing to judgement with federal mandates to hasten the change from mere fossil fuels to an alcohol blend from corn products.

So, since 2006, gasoline manufacturers have been blending in ethanol, a corn derivative, usually up to about 10%, but some now are adding more. Check your local gas pumps, and you’ll see the sticker indicating the percentage, if your state mandates such revelation at the pump that is.

But the cure is worse than the disease. Ethanol is so destructive to some engines, especially when the percentage creeps above 10%, that the FAA banned it for use in aircraft, and it is also discouraged for use in farming equipment. There would seem to be plenty of concern for other engines on the ground, but reality is slow to catch up to fantasy. Lawnmowers are stacking up at repair shops, and marine engines are leaving their owners sputtering as they do the same and even die on the water.

Ethanol is a solvent and water attractant, meaning some old stuff in the system breaks loose and clogs parts downstream in the engine. Ethanol’s love for moisture makes it collect water, and sludge in tank bottoms is sucked into engines. Worse, old fiberglass tanks are simply dissolved, which is especially serious in expensive older cabin cruisers that have these tanks molded into their hulls.

Further, the price of corn is up about $3 to $4 a bushel owing to the increased demand. This is pushing up the price of food prices since hundreds of products are derived from corn. This would seem to be a moral issue with extensive starvation stalking much of the world, an issue that I recall was raised when the corn ethanol rage began.

Did anyone think to consult God and ask His wisdom? Or are gasoline manufacturing, motor maintenance safety on the water, and tinkering with the global food supply simply too mundane for His attention?

James contrasted the sources of wisdom saying, “This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:15-18)

The source of all wisdom is not the clever human mind but God’s plentiful repository in Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3)

Today, massive plans for the restructuring of society and the world are being proposed by the U.S. government as well as others. Without God’s guidance, we will simply rush into more ethanol thickets—bramble patches that are hard to exit without serious wounds.

America’s national leaders who craft far-reaching and sometimes destructive legislation would do well to hear the words of Benjamin Franklin who exhorted his legislative fellows as they faced a political impasse at the Constitutional Convention in 1787:

“Have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probably that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings that, ‘except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’”

Franklin then suggested that their sessions begin with prayer to solve their vast problems. They prayed, and God answered.

The need is no less serious today and the issues no less profound.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

“Static Kill” in the Gulf and in Life

After 500 million barrels of crude oil gushed into the Gulf, the final solution is, in the official technical jargon, “static kill.” BP has injected mud into the damaged well permanently preventing any further leakage. The effort has a two options for long-term success: either permanently plugging the existing hole and/or drilling in from an accessory well to fill the shaft below the sea floor.

“Killing” the offending well is colorful language, but it is a notice that there are instances of legitimate deadly force to curtail extreme danger. For example, lesser threats, as in a runaway speedboat or other mechanical device, may be eliminated with what is called a “kill switch,” which cuts the power.

The most significant “kill” endeavor was the death of Jesus Christ. God knew that we could not get out of our problematic spiritual condition—that we are sinners on our way to hell—without Christ’s substitutionary death. The Apostle Paul wrote autobiographically, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) God saw the entire human race as dying with Christ so that believers could live together with Him. “For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.” (Romans 6:7-9)

God provided a merciful “kill switch” to solve our sin problem.

Years ago, I heard of a man who had been tried, convicted and sentenced to death for committing a terrible crime. When it came time to take him to be executed, they found that he had died in his holding cell. Since he had already died, they abandoned their plans for his execution. The cross was the death of spiritual death, and those who have put their trust in Christ are free from the double jeopardy of dying spiritually as well as physically.

Believers also understand “static kill” on their spiritual journey. When sins creep into our lives, we are to “put to death [our] members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

The old King James Version uses the word “mortify” for “put to death.” The word is akin to other familiar words such as mortician or mortuary. Actually, the word mortgage is also derived from “mortify.” It really means a “dead pledge.” The agreement “dies” upon full payment or upon default. If you fail to pay your mortgage, you will discover how deadly it is for your home ownership!

Whether it’s the old “mortify” or the newer “put to death,” the meaning of the original Greek word is actually “to kill at one blow.” When I was a boy, we acquired a dog that was a breed needing a short tail but born with a long tail. Being relatively poor, we couldn’t afford to have the vet remove the tail so Dad decided to do it himself. We gathered in the cellar with the dog, a block of wood, a sharp knife and some courage. Dad’s merciful slicing only succeeded in the dog yelping. I suggested that this needed to be done quickly and decisively. A makeshift tourniquet was applied, and Dad smacked the knife with the heavy blow of a hammer. One “Yip” from the dog, and it was all over.

The incident was my first introduction to the concept of “static kill,” meaning really dead, over, done with, gone, finished. It’s a description of what happens to our old lives and our old sins, which are “mortified”—put to death—at a single blow.

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Graves Labeled Wrong At Arlington?

Just when you thought it was ‘physically' safe to go into the grave, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri reported in her testimony at a recent hearing that conservative estimates may now reveal that 4,900 to 6,600 graves may be unmarked, improperly marked, or mislabeled on the maps at Arlington National Cemetery.

The present estimate far exceeds the one given last month by Army investigators who examined a small section of Arlington. At that point they found some 211 remains that could have been involved in the mix-up. But McCaskill stated, "We now know that the problems with graves at Arlington may be far more extensive than previously acknowledged. This is not complicated. It is called keeping track of who you bury where.” The number surfaced at a hearing where former cemetery officials were accused of incompetence, ignorance, fraud, and lax management of the cemetery on the paper records to manage the burial sites.

As awful and troubling as it would be to find that the resting place of a loved one’s remains is incorrectly labeled and perhaps irretrievably lost, the soul that was once housed in it is anything but missing to God. That can be the very best of all possible things or the very worst thing humanly imaginable.

The Apostle Paul, in his great doctrinal epistle to the early church at Rome, wrote in chapter fourteen, “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:11-12)

The human body is important while alive because it is loved by both God and man, but more so because it is the literal temple of the Holy Spirit for believers. (1 Corinthians 6:14) But it is the spiritual element of any person that is ultimately crucial, eternal, and responsible before God. The writer of Hebrews, like Paul, also made it clear that the physical body is not the primary issue to God when he wrote, ”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.” (Hebrews 4:13)

When the physical body declines and eventually becomes a thing of the past, the human soul that dwelled there will live on as long as will the God who created both. Those in Christ, through personal faith, will someday stand confidently before their Creator. His Savior Son will act as their personal and fully victorious defender against the terrible and long-term consequnces of human sin. John reveals this great truth in 1 John 2:1-2 when he writes, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

Those who ignore or reject God's free offer of Christ's eternal representation, and the resulting redemption it brings, will someday sense the unimaginable fear and horror as those described by John in Revelation Rev 6:15- 17. “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"

Earthly graves may occasionally get mixed up, moved, with their precious cargo eventually returning to literal dust as the Scriptures affirm. But aside from the understandable sense of loss on a human level, entering into the ground at life's end need not be feared by those who are secure in Christ. They can never be lost. (John 10:28) Their soul, after they draw their final breath, will be ushered instantly into the joyful presence of their God and Savior and will remain there for all eternity. That is, and should be, the blessed hope of every true child of God! (Titus 2:13)

The words of the apostle confirms the ultimate peace every Christian can know when that apponited and victorious moment arrives. "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

Bill Breckenridge