Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In Bad Need of Good Knees?

One of the greatest benefits of living in 21st century America is the ability to take advantage of many of the new medical and surgical procedures that have been developed in recent years. Some wonder if, given enough time and money, man might eventually conquer almost every physical malady known to his race?

For example, I have bad knees – very, very bad knees. And I’ve had them now ever since my high school years. This painful reality is due to sports and primarily to a 15-year-long ice hockey habit that was my passion from my early teens through most of my late twenties. It was fun most of the time, despite being plagued and limited by knee pain not long after I began the sport. To this day, my mother claims that God was not happy that I was playing some of my games on Sunday mornings at church time. It does seem in hind-sight that some of the more serious and freak injuries occurred during those times. Maybe she was right on the money? And now, this daily worsening problem is affecting nearly every area of life including just plain walking, and is only fixable at this point via double knee replacement.

But again, today’s advancing medical techniques has meant that some have new hope that their more serious medical issues can now be addressed or will be in time. But in the area of today’s all too common knee problems, a new process has been developed for certain candidates who qualify. Healthy cartilage cells are taken from the knee using an arthroscopic tube. The cells are sent to a lab where they are cultured and multiply in about four to six weeks. A layer of tissue is sewn over the damaged area. The new cells are injected under the patch, where they will regenerate cartilage with surrounding cartilage. It is an amazing concept and technology to say the least!

The doctor, who performed the first ACIs in the USA in 1995, has done approximately 600 procedures and says his success rate has been nearly 92% thus far. Unfortunately, my joints are now far too beyond this new process.

I also have another related problem. While not too many things scare me, the thought of this particular procedure turns me into a total coward. Part of that comes from having gone through multiple knee surgeries in ‘the old days’. The other aspect may be from some additional words of my mother who, after having her own double replacement due to a car accident, stated, “Now I think I can better understand what hell might be like.” Now how’s that for motivation for having a surgical procedure regardless of how badly it may be needed?

So my current game plan for the moment is looking to the rapture and why one of my favorite Bible verses has become Philippians 3:19-21. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body…”

As stated, the Bible does make the promise of a future new body – a great source of comfort for all but especially for those who suffer with any long-term serious physical ailment. But for that amazing promise to become a reality requires another procedure to occur first. There needs a repair to the human heart, but not the physical unit that is the crucial and central organ of the human frame. There needs to be rather a spiritually repaired heart meaning the soul. That’s a procedure that comes only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. (John 3:16, 1 John 5:12) When God forgives sin and renews the human heart, the Bible proclaims a complete and successful spiritual operation with miraculous, life-altering, and lasting results. 2 Corinthians chapter five makes reference to this great healing change with verse 17 stating, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Modern-day surgery can be a true blessing to those who desperately need it and, like some of us, are not afraid to go through it. But it can still be quite scary because of the potential risks, pain, and sometimes the agonizing process of rehabilitation. Plus there are those times when it does not totally achieve its intended purpose. Also, there are those who are ineligible for certain procedures for a variety of valid reasons. Some simply can’t afford cutting edge medical intervention or may not have access to advanced medical help depending on their individual circumstances.

But unlike when dealing with the physical failings of the vulnerable and frail human body, the method that delivers the damaged and deadened human soul from the power and penalty of sin is 100% available, 100% effective, and 100% permanent.

There are literally none that do not qualify fully and unconditionally for the spiritual healing attainable from personal faith in Jesus Christ. (John 6:37) The procedure for the total repair and rehabilitation of every broken soul has always been the same – by faith. (Romans 4:3). God’s reconstructive spiritual heart surgery cannot be replaced or improved upon according to biblical truth. His redemptive plan is pure and perfect. It is all about, and only about, simple saving faith in the finished work of His Son. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross fully atoned for the sins of the world. He alone can repair the relational breach between the Creator and those He created and loves. And only He is capable of dealing with the short and long-term destructive consequences of human sin.

And the great part of the ”good news" is that this requires no insurance, causes no pain, comes as a free gift, and is fully accessible to any who humbly admit their need of forgiveness and the necessity of having their damaged heart repaired and restored by the Great Physician.

To some this all may seem simply too easy to be true. But according to numerous passages in God’s word it is! What Christ did to procure man’s salvation is something we will likely never comprehend. But what He requires to take advantage of it is easy enough even for a child to grasp! “That whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)

Bill Breckenridge

Friday, September 24, 2010

Who or What Really Parted The Red Sea?

As usual there is no shortage of skeptics when it comes to the Bible and especially the more spectacular and well-known stories contained there. This time, the ‘secular’ explanation’ for a Scriptural miracle comes via the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The head title of the article from their study was “Mother Earth, not Moses, could have parted Red Sea.”

Team member Carl Drews stated that a strong east wind, blowing overnight, could have swept water off a bend where an ancient river is believed to have merged with a coastal lagoon along the Mediterranean Sea. He said that archaeologists and Egyptologists have found little evidence that any events described in Exodus actually happened, but a so-called ‘perfect storm’ could have led to the historical biblically stated escape that saw Israel trapped between the water and Pharaoh's advancing chariots.

Drew and his colleagues used models that showed that near hurricane level winds of 63 mph, lasting for 12 hours, would have pushed back waters estimated at a depth of 6 feet. This in turn could have could have exposed mud flats for four hours, creating a dry passage about 2 to 2.5 miles long and 3 miles wide. That would have been long enough for Moses and his followers to pass through, but precisely short enough to drown the pursuers just behind them. The New Testament reveals the Old Testament event, briefly recording, “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.” (Hebrews 11:29)

The attack on the historical accuracy of the Bible is nothing new. And often such declarations, like this recent one from the NCAR, seem to require nearly as much faith, if not more, than just accepting what Scriptures teach.

For the sake of argument, perhaps there was that rare ‘perfect storm’ with all of the precise ingredients occurring simultaneously. And perhaps this allowed Moses and his followers to pass through, but then it amazingly ended and crashed down on the Egyptian henchmen. But could that not have simply been the hand of an almighty Creator God manipulating nature to achieve His own divine will for His own chosen people? Again it would seem to require even more faith to think that Israel would be at the exact right place at the exact right time for their deliverance and the enemies of God’s people at the exact perfect spot for their demise.

The assault on the Scriptures has been around nearly as long as the Bible has. Attacks were even used as a weapon against the One who authored them when he was tested in the wilderness just before His public ministry on earth began. Luke 4:1-13 reveals how Satan twisted the Old Testament Scriptures to tempt Christ into serving him and to and create doubt about the Lord’s appointed purpose on earth. But God’s Son eventually won the battle and wore the devil down using biblical passages in their true and accurate context. He then went on to win man’s redemption through his life, death and resurrection from the dead – perhaps the most attacked Bible aspect because of its personal and eternal ramifications.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research or any others who take some portion of God’s Word and explain it away in natural, secular or scientific terms create a serious question concerning the entire Bible in general. When chunks of biblical truth are questioned or explained away by whatever means, where does it end?

What then about what the Bible teaches, especially the main issue of man’s salvation? If the stories like the Red Sea, Noah’s Ark, and Jonah and the great fish can be doubted or rationalized away in some fashion, then why not a more crucial and profound passage like 1 Peter 1:17-21? “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

Then, of course, there is that great statement concerning faith and redemption in John 3:16. Would these all-important promises also be suspect? Are they to be taken as literal? Are they taken at face value as absolute life-changing truth?

Again, doubting veracity of the Scriptures has been a familiar theme all along and may even intensify as human history winds down before the return of Christ for His true church. Those who are spiritually prepared for that awesome moment through faith will be ready because they have personally experienced what the Bible teaches in Romans 10:17. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” These will escape eternal judgement because they believe the Bible is God’s perfect and completed manual for this life and the after-life. For these, God’s Word is not in doubt since they trust fully in its accuracy and base their beliefs on passages like the ones found in 2 Timothy 3 and 2 Peter 1.

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.” (2 Timothy 3:16) “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)

“Mother Earth, not Moses, could have parted the Red Sea.” Interesting theory? In reality, neither did. It was the God of the Bible using both!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

50 Years in the Shipping Business

Seldom have such compelling flashbacks been concentrated for me in such a brief few hours.

I was honored to be invited as a special speaker at the 50th Year Celebration for Rev. & Mrs. Robert A. Johnson (affectionately known as “Mr. Bob” and “Miss Debbie”). On Saturday afternoon, September 18, they were honored for 50 years of service at New Life Camp—10 under the previous director, who was Bob’s father, and 40 as camp leaders themselves. This month, they turned the leadership over to a new director.

In 1963, I was invited to speak at the camp’s first Junior Counselor Teen Week. Actually, I was a substitute for their first choice, my brother-in-law, who was unable to accept the invitation. He lent me $15 for oil for my motor-worn car, and I drove 500 miles to the very rustic and remote youth camp carved out of a pine tree-covered slope near Raleigh, North Carolina. Nineteen campers heard me speak 15 times, and God blessed that week.

During subsequent years, I was the speaker at Teen Week 29 times as well as at a couple of retreats. In the early years, the facilities were rustic, simple cabins, and meetings were held in a humble screened chapel with no air conditioning. In total, I traveled 30,000 miles and spoke a 450 times, 58 of them at campfire testimony services, some lasting several hours. The decisions for Christ over those years simply staggers my mind.

Focusing all those blessings into a 15-minute message as hundreds of friends, supporters and former campers met in a splendid new gym was a heady challenge. I felt led to illustrate the camp ministry as a shipping operation. Here’s the basic outline:

Ownershipping: “…you are not your own … you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (I Corinthians 6:19 & 20) We belong to God. Bob and Debbie understood that, when we are saved, we have a responsibility to honor the Lord in all we do.

Lordshipping: “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:38) Jesus is Lord not just of life but also of evangelism and outreach.

Stewardshipping: “Let a man so account of us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” (1 Cor. 4:1-2) The word “steward” is from the Greek “oikonomia” from which we get economy. Through hard work and economical measures, the camp has been improved from its humble beginnings into a larger complex that includes two full sized gyms and a fabulous in-ground swimming pool. It is prime commercial land worth millions, but they will not sell because the message of the Old Rugged Cross is worth more than all the world’s millions.

Fellowshipping: “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Spontaneous camper-initiated prayer meetings, some with up to forty kids, were often held on the basketball court before breakfast. Life-long friendships were made, and some even met their future spouses. I often prayed with Bob before meetings and was reminded that, as someone once said, “You may forget those you have laughed with, but you never forget those you’ve prayed with.”

I closed by describing the successful shipping line:

It is owned by God the Father and guided by Jesus Christ, the “captain of [our] salvation” (Hebrews 2:10). The ship sailed forth at Pentecost picking up passengers along the way. It regularly sails into port at New Life Camp picking up thousands of passengers through the years. It has wonderful crews who maintain the equipment and tend new arrivals on board. It has fabulous investors who pay for expenses. The seas are often rough, but the compass never fails and the anchor always holds. One day, the passenger list will be complete and, with every cabin full, it will sail into Home port. Until then we keep the lower lights burning so the ship can sail safely on.

As the baton passes to a new camp director, I reminded the audience of a special danger noted in Ecclesiastes 7:10, “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ for you do not inquire wisely concerning this.” The good old days should not form a mere plateau for remembering but a stepping stone to future victories.

After the celebration was over, I interviewed Shannon Scott, who was the MC, for our radio broadcast. That first year I spoke at camp, Shannon surrendered his life to preach. Since then, he has pastored four churches. His current church is just down the road from camp, and the congregation of 600 has sent out 120 full time workers into the global harvest fields. He has a radio ministry and a TV outreach. He conducts five evangelism series in other cities annually, and has a special ministry to Muslims in Nepal and Canada. Shannon is only one of thousands the Lord has touched through the dedicated lives of Bob and Debbie and the ministry at New Life Camp. I’m privileged to have been a part of it through 29 years there.

And it started with me as a substitute speaker with a $15 loan for oil. It reminds me of my great substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18), and of the anointing of the Spirit: “You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.” (Psalm 23:5)

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Recession Is Over?

The "The Great Recession" has ended – at least according to the Nationa Bureau of Economic Research, a private, nonprofit research organization.The NBER said Monday that the recession, which began in December 2007, actually ended back in June 2009. This is an interesting assessment to say the least!

The recession, that has now supposedly ended, was the longest of any since World War II. Before it, the second worst came in the form of two16-month sessions in 1973-75 and 1981-82. The NBER said it chose the June 2009 date based on data including gross domestic product, employment and personal income. They also said that the recession’s official end some 15 months ago in no way means the economy is healthy and that overall conditions remain well below what would be deemed normal and adequate.

This latest news is likely to shock or puzzle the millions of Americans who continue in economic struggles, who are without employment, and for the scores of businesses that are going or have gone under in the past year or so.

If this latest assessment is accurate, it should begin to reveal itself in more tangible forms than what is seen outwardly at the moment. It would be a blessing for everyday families to begin to see the economic light at the end of the tunnel – even though that light is said to have been shining now for 14+ months. And hopefully the badly shattered consumer confidence will come to an end and help spark the hurting economy once again.

The direction of the U.S. economy is always of great concern to those who reside in this nation. A recession has a lingering and sometimes staggering impact on the middle and lower class. But even the recent andserious downturn rarely seemed to turn the hearts of the nation’s people and leaders towards God. Congress never mentioned any possible spiritual implications or considerations to the country whose currency still says,“In God We Trust”. Perhaps if the recession had been far worse, more would have invited God into the equation. One thing is certain. The situation was apparently not dire enough for most to seek solutions from above.

The NBER normally takes its time in declaring if and when a recession has started or ended since mountains of statistical data must be considered and reconsidered. But amazingly, the devastating and permanent spiritual recession that all mankind enters into at birth, can be fully and instantaneously recognized and repaired according to biblical truth. The new birth is something that ends man’s eternal spiritual crisis at the exact moment anyone expresses saving faith in Jesus Christ. (Acts 16:31,Luke 23:43)

But for some that experience the miraculous new birth, there is sometimes an aspect that parallels the assessing and evaluating when an economic recession start and ends. It takes time and is difficult to see the proper spiritual results come to the surface.

The Bible stresses to new Christians the need to grow and mature in their faith. But the tendency for many is to remain spiritually immature, since growth requires effort and is not automatic. Peter addressed that issuein 2 Peter 3:18 when he wrote, “but grow in the grace and knowledge ofour Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Both he and the Apostle Paul stressed to all new believers to move on from the baby stages of the faith as represented by the milk of God’s Word. Both wrote of a higher caliber of spiritual food – the biblical diet of "meat" that leads to spiritual growth, maturity, and completeness. (1 Peter 1:22, 1Corinthians 3:1)

America’s greatest need is not economic but spiritual. And if her people ever experience a serious revival, and would take seriously that motto seen on their money, they would soon find money would not be a problem. More importantly, economic success and security would no longer be their main priority! (1 Timothy 6:10)

The official recession may be over and perhaps the signs will soon become more evident. But at the same time, America’s economic woes remain even in a worse form. Some forget that she has borrowed herself into a staggering debt by owing trillions to foreign powers along with long-term interest rates beyond the minds of mere mortals. And this does not even consider the crumbling moral foundations of the culture in desperate need of repair and renewal. America is still in great trouble. But thereis still a great hope for rescue!

Hopefully the nation with the great Christian heritage will recognize that the lasting solutions to all problems, individual or corporate,begin with a right relationship with Jesus Christ. Hopefully a much-needed revival will soon begin and turn the most blessed nation on earth back to her former glory, sparked by those who already belong to God. And hopefully the often quoted words of 2 Chronicles 7:14 will come to mean far more than does the motto on America’s coinage at this hour.

But if this is to ever occur, the responsibility has been placed squarely at the feet of the church - those who know, obey, and honor the God of their salvation. Hopefully a time will soon come when Christians will not have to look back and long for "The Good Old Days". Instead there will come a time when they will be gazing back at the days when their crumbling country had a significant spiritual awakening and are enjoying the blessings of God promised through the words of the prophet.

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

'Hipster' Christianity vs. Authenticity

Is your church ‘cool’? Is it on the ‘cutting edge or perhaps falling over the ledge? It is up to date or practically outdated in every way? And does it create interest to a modern savvy generation – those who have grown up surrounded by the latest and greatest and fully submerged in the hi-tech trends of the new century?

The follow-up question would then be this. If your church is not cutting edge, trendy, and cool, does that make it seem irrelevant, unappealing, and in dire need of some form of 21st century makeover?

This, in many ways, has become the question of the hour in church circles across the nation. There are proponents on both sides of the fence, each with strong opinions on the subject. There are some still sitting on the fence to see which way the church style winds will blow. Others don’t know what to think, remain clueless, or simply paralyzed concerning the generation that is leaving the organized church in record numbers and avoiding it like a plague. Statistics reveal that scores leave the church, many for good, immediately after leaving home and getting out on their own. This is a most serious issue in a culture that has already become largely man-centered and in need of a major spiritual revival far more than a radical change in political leadership.

Brett McCracken, a student at Talbot School of Theology, who authored Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide, feels the church's attempt to be ‘cool’ is not the answer to drawing the next generation towards Christ. He stated, "I think it's the biggest problem because the nature of 'cool' is always changing, Anytime you are a church, and you are trying to be relevant, you will end up looking a little desperate.”

McCracken also suggested that the next generation is ready for authentic Christianity -- not a "superficial" religion. He feels the church should respond by focusing on the gospel rather than the pursuit of "cool." He stated, "As a twenty-something, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don't want cool as much as we want real. If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it's easy or trendy or popular -- it's because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true."

Nobody really knows where all of this is heading, how far it will go, or what the end result will be. Interestingly, these exact concerns and debates have been raging, in one form or another, for centuries - not just for a few recent decades. But it would seem that the current push for ‘upgrading’ how church is done comes from the notion that going to church is somehow irrelevant and flat out boring – at least for a growing number in the younger age brackets.

So who is right? Would it be those who push for an entire overhaul of the typical church experience? Or might it be those who cling to the older more traditional ways because they were successful in the past. Or maybe it is actually those who try to carefully blend the new and the old as to not offend those who are now there while trying to draw in and interest those who are not? The answer to this question is, to say the least, serious both to the survival of the local church and even to the nation in which it resides.

Solomon linked true biblical spiritually with cultural blessing and survival in Psalm 127:1. “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” And Psalm 33:12 adds. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.” Simply stated, remove God and we remove any chance for the nation’s long-term success, security, and survival!

As a struggling nation treads deeper into the 21st century the church of Christ needs to step up to the plate more than ever and become the ‘salt and light’ of culture it was meant to be. But the methods of worship, whatever the style, will be irrelevant if the love of God and the vast potential of the word of God are not clearly brought to bare from the pulpits on the lives of people in the pews – young and old alike. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) The message and spiritual potential, purpose, and power in the gospel message can and should have the same impact to the twenty-year old as it does to the ninety-year old.

The resisting of all church change in a fast-changing and sophisticated culture should be carefully considered and prayed over by the leadership of every local ministry. There may be some ‘wiggle room’ for improvement and advancement without a total restructuring or removal of all things sacred.

If a local church has ‘seemingly’ become irrelevant, boring, or ‘uncool’, it is likely not because of how its ministry is structured and conducted. It is probably more because the excitement and deeper knowledge of God’s love, redemption, standards, and power have not been adequately conveyed with passion and excitement from the pulpit. (Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 119)

If the church of Jesus Christ is not exciting it is mainly because the people have not come to know the ultimate excitement found through the head of the local and universal church, Jesus Christ! His word and ways are ‘cutting edge’ in every century. And they, if properly presented, remain anything but irrelevant and boring – and that goes for any setting and to those of any age!

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, September 13, 2010

Problems with Burning the Koran

Florida pastor Rev. Terry Jones is a global news sensation after announcing he’d burn the Koran. So significant is such an inflammatory action that the U.S. State Department has been in touch, President Obama made reference to it, and the famed Ground Zero mosque proponent imam appeared on Larry King Live to warn of widespread violence in Muslim lands if a single copy of the Koran is burned.

I have no use for radical book burning—the Koran or otherwise—unless it is the voluntary torching of occult books as found in Acts 19:18-20. “Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”

The burning of rejected or suspicious materials is best left to volunteerism. I have seen it done at many youth campfires over the years. Occult gadgets such as “Dungeons & Dragons” or harmful music records (yes, I’m that old), tapes and CDs were publicly pitched into the flames, and scores of ensnared youth got personal victory over their various bondages. These actions were the result of education and conviction of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of biblical principles.

Book burning is not the answer to literary problems or theological errors. The best path is education, not eradication. Book burning makes people angry, not informed. In a case such as the Florida pastor or anyone burning the Koran, a kind of martyrdom or rage by Muslims results, seemingly proving their position that they are being persecuted. It stirs irrational rage such as the warnings by imams and others who may subscribe to doctrinaire violence to spread their brand of outreach or punish their adversaries.

When I ran for our local school board some years ago, some who knew my biblical stand were inclined to link me with book burnings, especially since I objected to some of the textbooks and library books. I carefully declared that we are not to burn books but read them. I did that, and, in one instance, took my case before the school board officials who accepted my reasoned argument, removed the book, and complimented me for my careful approach to the issue. In fact, I leaned the routine for complaint by carefully reading the school district’s Policy Book, which apparently few even knew about and almost nobody read.

The best advice for quizzical people is to read the Koran in order to determine whether objections are merely personal preferences or profound horror over its actual teaching. Another worthy avenue would be a careful study of Islam’s origin and history. When facts are clouded by supposition and obscured by hearsay, we risk a dangerous rush to judgement.

Stating that all religions are created equal and that they all outline different roads to the same Heaven reveals deep ignorance of both the Bible and the Koran. Even Christian President George W. Bush tragically declared at one several Islam-honoring White House events that the Koran was a “God-given” book. I have concluded that the present spiritual ignorance results from the majority of Americans knowing no more about the Bible than they know about the Koran.

Paul enjoined Timothy, his spiritual son in the faith, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). “Be diligent” is the translation of the Greek word “spudadzo,” which actually means “speed it up” or “make a real project out of it.”

Years ago, before all of our amazing technology, I heard of a banker who trained a new employee regarding counterfeit bills. He made him sit down for hours and study authentic bills so he could tell at once when bills were the real item.

The real issue is whether believers have a burning desire to study God’s Word. When it becomes part of us as Christ is exalted, the change will produce a curiosity in others as 1 Peter 3:15 says. “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…”

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More Teens Becoming ‘Fake’ Christians?

Kenda Creasy Dean is a minister and a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. She has also authored a new book with a catchy and rather sobering title - "Almost Christian”. Her main premise is that many parents and pastors today are unwittingly passing on a self-serving and "mutant" form of Christianity, one she terms as "moralistic therapeutic deism." Dean states, “It's a watered-down faith that portrays God as a "divine therapist" whose chief goal is to boost people's self-esteem.”

The National Study of Youth and Religion included in-depth interviews with 3,300 American teenagers between ages 13 and 17. It included everything from Catholics to Protestants of both conservative and liberal denominations. It revealed that most American teens that called themselves Christian were indifferent and inarticulate about their faith and can't talk coherently even about their core beliefs.

Also, a great number of those surveyed seemed to practice the “gospel of niceness” – a basic belief that God simply wanted them to feel good, do good and not ruffle any feathers. This, too, misses the mark since the Bible clearly teaches that the cross of Christ is an offense to those who resist its claims and demands. A casual reading of Hebrews chapter eleven will show that radical and outspoken Christianity may well ‘ruffle feathers’ sometimes to unimaginably horrendous levels. 2 Timothy 3:11-12 substantiates the serious truth seen there by stating, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”

The ‘watering down’ of the solid and biblically-based gospel message has been a subject of concern and debate for several decades now. Many in the pulpits of America have traded the full message of personal faith in Christ for one that centers more on personal relationships with others. Their reasons vary. But the evidence is clear that this style puts more people in the pews.

For some, that is priority one. The Scriptures are about a relationship, but one that keys primarily on the union between God and man and not mainly the one between man and man.

The fact that a large percentage of teens don’t, or can’t, articulate the basic facts of the faith likely means that some have perhaps not really entered the family of God through faith. If Christianity means only what is mentioned above, that may also mean that they have no grasp on true salvation and how it changes a life from the inside out. This flies in the face of 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 where Paul the Apostle writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” There should be serious and noticeable changes to those who have been indwelled by God’s Spirit through the new birth!

Then a few verses later Paul adds the prime directive and responsibility for all who have become new creatures in Christ. Verse 20 begins, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Also, 1 Peter 3:15 reveals the need to be able to share the clear facts and outward hope of one’s personal faith. “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.” Those who cannot at all articulate their faith have a problem. At best, they are ineffective in impacting and influencing a spiritually needy and lost world. At worst, they may themselves be in desperate need and a part of that lost world.

It is beyond obvious that the church and spiritually-grounded Christian parents have their work cut out for them. Many precious children seem to be falling through the church cracks and in danger of becoming so-called “Fake Christians”. Many seem to remain confused about the core facts of true biblical salvation - not to mention the terrible possibility that they do not even possess it. Nothing is more critical than addressing this eternal issue while time remains.

As Dean’s book title reads, “Almost Christian” is simply not good enough. That position may actually be a harder place from which to spiritually correct and reach those who reside there. But it is clear that there is no ‘almost’ when it comes to true redemption in Christ – a fact clearly pointed out by the inspired words of 1 John 5:11-13.“

"And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

Bill Breckenridge