Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Politically Correct" Discussions of Islam

Bill O’Reilly and Juan Williams are in the media doghouse together, except that Juan is out of his NPR job as head news analyst.

O’Reilly has been the focus of news commentary regarding his visit to left-leaning TV talk show The View. Whoopie Goldberg and Joy Behar walked off the set after he made the statement that Muslims attacked us on 9/11. That, of course, was contextualized in the uneasiness about a Muslim mosque in sight of Ground Zero.

Williams was sacked by NPR on Oct. 20 after appearing on The O’Reilly Factor and expressed his personal uneasiness when on an airline with Muslim passengers dressed in their distinctive attire. Political correctness has a thin patience quotient proven by hair-trigger sensitivities to any mention of concerns over Islam.

What this amounts to is a pathetic suppression of historic reality and free speech. Any semi-earnest student of history had better keep his mouth shut, only complimenting Islam for giving us Arabic numbers, intriguing art and some medical and astronomical advances centuries ago, rather than pointing to a massive problem with Islamic history and the radicals’ recent savagery.

Mohammed, the founder of Islam, had twelve wives and dictated a presumed divine revelation that is so unscientific and violent as to challenge the imagination. His early financing came by raiding caravans. Those who spurned Islam were either killed, forced to convert or taxed to pay financially draining tribute.

The massive and bloody invasions of Christian lands by Muslims is too gross to recount. The Muslim Barbary pirates kidnapped or killed untold hundreds of thousands of innocent Christians sending them to slavery or holding them for expensive ransom. By 1794, the threat was so great to America’s shipping in the Mediterranean Sea and eastern Atlantic that the United States established a navy to eliminate the 20% of our national budget being siphoned off in extortion. The U.S. Marines put a stop to this debauchery, and to this day we sing about “the shores of Tripoli,” which was the deciding battle in Algeria on the Barbary Coast. The deaths of 1.5 million Armenians by 1915 at the hand of Ottoman Muslims would do nothing to comfort Juan Williams either.

If there were a massive call for internal Muslim reform, Williams might feel better, but the sad fact that neutral Muslims seem amazingly mute regarding former atrocities or even current 9/11 type behavior does seem to legitimately unsettle such an anti-prejudice minded man as Juan Williams.

Political correctness has been stifling free speech even when factually true. A strange dampening of Islam discussion seems to be a cleverly crafted effort to dignify Islam and demean Christianity. The Texas Textbook Committee recently voted 7-6 to reverse an imbalance in positive Muslim references over negative Christian ones. It brings into focus a ten-year infiltration of American public school textbooks by Islamic apologists, according to David Barton of Wallbuilders. This is known as subtle Jihad. The wrath and rage of Saudi Wahabis such as Osama Bin Laden is troubling much of the western world, but subtle Jihad is quietly eating away at open discussion of Islam. We are not at war with Islam, but Islam is at war with us according to doctrinaire radicals in open or subtle battle with the non-Muslim world and especially against any friend of Israel.

A personal friend of mine who is an adjunct professor at a Christian college recently put together an in-depth presentation on Islam only to find that the course was cancelled for want of registrants. Further, a Christian school declined his offer to present a free seminar on Islam for interested parents. An indistinct fear of Islam accompanied by refusals to even consider its implications and now the firing of Juan Williams for a single sentence regarding his personal concern are warning signs that all is not well in the world of studies of comparative religions.

While open civilized discussion is needed, more important is the sharing of the Gospel of Christ with the Muslim world. Author Joel Rosenberg reports that hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Iran and other Islamic nations are coming to Christ through radio, TV and quiet personal evangelism. You can read about it in his book “Inside the Revolution.”

The Gospel of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection for our sins and our blessed new life is still the best weapon in calming the raging storms in the human heart and between nations. Talk shows may present the problem, but only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the solution. Personal righteousness in Christ will always win over political correctness in public discourse.

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Unlikely Super Series Is Set

Few would have bet early on, or even after the baseball post-season began, that both the powerful club from Philadelphia and last year’s defending champions, the New York Yankees, would be watching the World Series at home after a rousing round on their favorite golf courses.

The Phillies great Roy Halladay had just thrown the first post-season no-hitter since Don Larsen and was on the top of his game – literally. He was accompanied by a formidable defensive and offensive lineup to say the least. Many picked them to go all the way. But they would most likely meet their match in the Bronx Bombers who had every reason to think they could repeat as champs with having an arguably better lineup than last year's. Most fanatical and casual fans of the sport were looking forward to a serious and competitive series.

But when the ALCS and NLCS ‘diamond dust’ settled, the two highly favored teams ended their seasons – and both on rather ironic notes. For New York, former Texas super-star Alex Rodriguez struck out, looking to end their comeback hopes and giving his prior team a little something to gloat about along the way. Then on the other side, perhaps the Phillies' most feared batter, Ryan Howard, also ended his team’s dreams by being struck out to end the game and his team’s quest for a series ring. The bottom line was that both of the favored clubs fell short of their goal and, in some ways, are today no different than teams that were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention half way through the season. And even now, one of the remaining two teams, Texas or San Francisco, will eventually see their coveted prize evaporate, leaving them only the bragging rights to say, “We almost won it all."

In one very special way, this year’s post- season series became odd reminders of a serious Bible reality. It is something declared throughout Scripture, but explained most clearly and quickly in Romans chapter three. The Apostle Paul is dealing there with the universal problem of human sin. Unlike with pro sports, where only the few blessed and talented few get to participate, in the game that is real life everyone competes from birth and until they draw their final breath on earth. And according to verse 23, everyone across the board on the human roster has failed totally. Paul relates, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

That fall is nothing insignificant. Actually it represents the single most important aspect of life – every life! In short, it means “to miss the mark” just as will every single major league baseball team but one. The problem is that whoever does hit the mark this year and bring home the highly prized hardware to their cities and fans will not likely win it again next year. New York found that out the hard way in 2010, despite owning the league’s most gigantic payroll.

Missing the mark in failing to win baseball’s biggest prize, or any or major sport for that matter, is ultimately quite meaningless. It is temporary and the excitement eventually fades. Few can even recall who were the winners of the 4 major sports from just 3-4 years ago. But missing the mark when it comes to achieving the standards of a holy God has temporal and eternal consequences – the latter being too horrible for the finite mind to grasp. (Hebrews 10:31, Mark 9:45-46)

But in stark contrast, there is only One who can fully meet God’s standards. He made it possible for everyone in the contest that is life, death, and eternity to make God’s team. But there s a hitch – a huge and significant one. It is not what most would expect and it is revealed in that very next verse just after the hopeless and dire situation of human sin is declared. After writing how all have missed the mark of pleasing a holy God, Paul sharply turns the theological corner with verse 24. There he states, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Salvation is a free gift of God’s mercy whereby even those who have badly missed the mark are justified in God’s eyes through Christ. In Christ they can be seen positionally as sinless – something else somewhat difficult for the human mind to grasp. But Paul explains how this all comes about later in Romans 5:1-3. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.”

Many kids grow up in America with some dreams of making it big in one realm or another. If more Christian parents would direct their children to ‘make it big’ in with spiritual matters being priority one, the nation would not be in its current condition. That is another whole issue.

But a select few will one day wear World Series rings. A handful may be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame or have their names written on hockey’s coveted Stanley Cup. But the true and lasting winners are only those who have “hit the mark” and achieved the righteous standing before God that comes only through a personal faith in Jesus Christ. He is the One who died in their place. He is the One who paid the price to make them positionally holy and eternally justified. And He is the One who guarantees their forth-coming inheritance and their heavenly residence.

I would have loved to hit a ‘walk off’ grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning in the seventh game of a world series. Who wouldn’t? But that is little more than temporal insignificant rubbish compared to what Peter describes for those who ‘hit the mark’ squarely in Christ.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:1-5)

Bill Breckenridge

Friday, October 15, 2010

Observations on the Miners’ Rescue in Chile

The rescue of 33 miners in Chile has been described as “the mother of all reality shows.” All of the men who were trapped in a gold and copper mine near the town of Copiapo have emerged safely from over 2,000 feet below ground. Never have miners so hopelessly trapped been raised to safety. This will be one of top stories of 2010, the century, the millennium or perhaps the top rescue story of all time.

The stunning feat produced a roller-coaster of human emotion, and it involved amazing technology and choreography, cooperative effort by local and overseas companies, and psychological determination. But beyond all that, the elements of faith and, more directly, biblical truth are focused clearly.

The miners were unable to save themselves. The miners were helplessly trapped by a landslide 69 days before the first rescue. If there was a self-made way out, they would have found it. All the well-wishing, all the denial of the problem and all the personal toughness of the men could not deliver them. Mankind’s similar spiritual entrapment of incurable sinful mortality is outlined in Ephesians 2:12. “…at that time you were without Christ … having no hope and without God in the world.”

Help had to come from above. Expert deliverance lay with saviors who were separated from the men by half a mile of solid rock. The Bible outlines God’s help from above in Christ: “…He also descended into the lower parts of the earth…He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens…” (Ephesians 4:9b, 10) “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man…” (John 3:13) An Old Testament precursor of this principle is written in God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery. “So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Exodus 3:8)

No cost was spared in the rescue. Estimates are that the operation cost between $10-20 million provided by private firms and the Chilean government. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera had declared that cost would not be prohibitive, and he personally pledged his presence and legal leverage to provide every equipment need. In reaching down to fallen man, God gave his best and Christ gave His all. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age…” (Galatians 1:3-5)

Life before the rescue was not normal. During the 69 days that the miners were trapped, we saw that life was possible but not permanently sustainable or even normal. The men were able to see their loved ones by way of video, and one man even watched his child being born. Just because life may exist or even temporarily have its joys, doesn’t mean it is normal. In our world of unbelieving men, some opt to merely endure or enjoy the present, not knowing there is an eternally satisfying deliverance from above. Christ said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Rescue was by willing participation. Not one miner refused to put himself into the slim and confining capsule, exercising deliberate personal faith in the cable hooked to the powerful winch above. It would seem strange if any, when offered the saving ride, had refused. Yet millions reject the solitary way out of sin’s personal condemnation by rejecting Christ, who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) And sadly, many a home is fractured when a dad, mom, son or daughter opts out of familial unity in refusing to be joined to the rest of the spiritual family by rejecting Christ.

The rescue brought men from darkness to light. They had spent so much time in artificial light that sunglasses were necessary to protect their eyes, but none would have chosen to remain in the dark. The Apostle Paul describes it this way: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14) Peter wrote of those who are born again, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

A strong cable made deliverance possible. While watching the cable draw the willingly rescued from the dark depths to the sunlit heights, a further spiritual illustration came to me. Hebrews 6:19-20 uses maritime terminology to show how Christ draws the ship of faith into the final harbor. “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The forerunner was a small ship that carried a larger ship’s anchor attached by a long rope into the snug harbor. Unable to directly sail in on its own, the larger ship was then slowly but safely winched into the secure anchorage.

In doomed Jericho, believing Rahab was to hang a scarlet cord from her window, a sign of faith and guarantee of protection (Joshua 2:18). There is a scarlet cord of redemption running through the Bible. It represents the shed blood of Christ, which when grasped, draws one to safety.

There was a type of rebirth. Recurring phrases and actions reminded me of spiritual salvation: “back from the dead” … “another birth” … “like they are born again” … “reborn.” The “rebirth” concept did flavor the entire operation, but there is a spiritual rebirth that is even more important. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7)

God was at work in a wrenching situation. Already, there are reports of decisions for spiritual salvation among the miners below ground and their families on the surface above. Perhaps their stories will bring others to a saving knowledge of Christ. The psalmist wrote, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry, He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:1-3)

God’s role in the rescue was acknowledged. The men wore t-shirts with “Thank you Lord!” on the front and “Jesus” on the sleeve. On the back was Psalm 65:4: “In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are His also,” and the phrase “To God be the honor and glory.” Some miners fell on their knees in prayer as soon as they left the capsule. Others waved small Bibles. One miner wrote that there were 34 in the mine, not 33, meaning God was present making hope and endurance possible.

There were messages of love. While in the mine, the men wrote love notes to their families. Observers at the top of the rescue shaft, the site of “rebirth,” report that every delivered miner said to the family members designated to greet them, “I love you.” In three words, that could be the theme of the entire Bible. God simply says, “I love you.”

There was rejoicing over each rescued man. As each of the 33 miners and then the six rescue workers was pulled from the depths, there were cheers and shouts. President Pinera stood there for 24 hours and welcomed each man. Joyous tumult complete with echoing cheers was heard across Chile and around the world. It is a comparative whisper when we consider the “joy in the presence of the angels” over one repenting sinner (Luke 15:10)!

The mission wasn’t complete until all were rescued. As I began writing this blog, not all the men were safely above ground. No one would be completely relieved until the last man was out. I thought of the completion of the New Testament church. We cannot rest in reaching out with the Gospel until the last person to be saved is saved. God is taking out a people for His Name (Acts 15:14). Each reborn believer is delivered into the Lord’s kingdom one person at a time. The individual raising of those 33 miners is a fitting expression of the Lord’s personalizing the spiritual rebirth experience for each newborn child. Mass evangelism may be possible, but God saves people one at a time.

Now that all are rescued, everyone is going home. In the aftermath, things are quieting down. Everyone is safe and sound. The families have left with their loved ones. The media are taking down their equipment and crews are going home. The area will revert to the quiet desert it was before the shaft was drilled since the mine will be closed forever. The rescue is complete.

Perhaps very soon, that last person to be saved and be joined to the growing New Testament church will be lifted to safety through personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Christian workers will go Home accompanied by the great throng in whose deliverance they had a small part in sharing the Gospel. There will be a split second shout and a trumpet blast, and the whole family of God will be Home at last.

“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

I have been reminded of the words of the old hymn by Charles Gabriel:

In loving kindness Jesus came,
My soul in mercy to reclaim,
And from the depths of sin and shame
Thru grace He lifted me.

From sinking sand He lifted me,
With tender hand He lifted me;
From shades of night to planes of light,
O praise His name, He lifted me!

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Common Solutions for Economic Crisis

Its name pretty much describes its goal. It is called simply ‘debt consolidation’.

Wikipedia defines it like this. “Debt consolidation entails taking out one loan to pay off many others. This is often done to secure a lower interest rate, secure a fixed interest rate or for the convenience of servicing only one loan. Debt consolidation can simply be from a number of unsecured loans into another unsecured loan, but more often it involves a secured loan against an asset that serves as collateral, most commonly a house. Debt consolidation is often advisable in theory when someone is paying credit card debt. Credit cards can carry a much larger interest rates than even an unsecured loan from a bank."

In the United States the Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP) allows students to consolidate school loans into one single debt. Consolidation loans have longer terms than other loans. Debtors can choose terms of 10–30 years. The Federal Loan Consolidation Program was created in 1986.

It is no secret that America is in an extended economic funk even though some claim it is beginning to show signs of recovery. But many families are in serious trouble and some are in, or are falling into, straggling debt. A good number have lost their homes or been forced into bankruptcy. Many struggle and live from pay check to pay check – and these are the fortunate ones in that they at least are employed. Many are not! And while this is the harsh reality for a certain percentage of the nation’s citizenry, there are others for whom the current recession is not even a blip on their financial screen due to their adequate, or more than adequate, personal resources. There are many who can’t even relate to what financial ills can be like since they may never have them in this life.

But for those in economic crisis, and for those not even close, there remains a serious debt problem – one owed equally across the entire economic spectrum. And it is not limited to this nation. It is a literal form of birth defect that does not consider one’s economic status - but only his or her heart’s spiritual condition. It is there whether they know about it or not. And it is a debt no person can pay off by consolidation, borrowing, or any other means of creative financing. It is the all-consuming debt of personal sin. And it is an issue that has caused everyone ever born to enter instantly into a life of spiritual bankruptcy. This is also an eternal debt and, unless properly paid off in time, it will bring its unimaginable consequences to bear on a soul forever.

The debt owed to God by every man and woman ever born can’t be paid off by anything they ever do, invent, or attempt. It is that serious, that destructive, and that far beyond them. But the amazing part of this all-encompassing dilemma is that it has already been paid for in full – meaning that everyone’s ‘sin slate’ may be wiped fully clean forever and in the blink of any eye.

Perhaps the most concise example of this instant and full forgiveness was demonstrated when the Son of God hung on a cruel Roman cross between two condemned thieves. His express reason for being there was to fully pay the debt of their sin, and in the process, those of the entire world. The one criminal rebuked and scorned Christ as they all suffered intensely there. But the other somehow instinctively knew that Jesus was more than just someone dying at the cruel hands of those in charge. This man admitted his own guilt and the debt of sin he owed before God. It was at that precise time that he turned to Jesus with some sincere words that were both unexpected but profoundly meaningful and theologically correct.

Verse 40 of Luke 23 shares the historic moment. “But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." Verse 43 then reveals the amazing conclusion and the renewed destination for a wicked man who seconds earlier owed a debt he had no time or ability to pay. “And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." When this poor soul who had lived a vile life said in verse 42, “Lord”, it was an actual acknowledgement of the deity of Christ and the Lord’s ability to deal with and forgive a lifetime of sin.

While a nation’s economy continues to stagger and stumble, so do many of its people. And again, there are others who suffer few economic consequences or pain and perhaps never will. But 1 Timothy 6:17-19 has insightful words for those for whom a recession or a depression is only a word. Paul says there, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

And then Ephesians 2:4-9 expresses what really matters in this life and the next and what the true definition of wealth is for those who have nearly everything and for those who have nearly nothing.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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.”

The Bible assures that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men. (1 Timothy 4:10) He is the only lasting solution to mankind’s universal spiritual poverty and the only One who can effectively deal permanently with eternal bankruptcy!

Bill Breckenridge

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Jericho's 10/10/10 Celebration

Most Americans will be unaware of a Holy Land celebration on 10/10/10. Well, almost the Holy Land if one realizes that Jericho is not technically in modern Israel. Ceded to Yassar Arafat as a capitol for the potential Palestinian State, Jericho has had to make do with the ups and downs of hopeful statehood punctuated by intifadas that periodically choked off the thriving tourist trade.

Jericho is said to be the oldest inhabited city in the world—some 10,000 years old—and to emphasize this conveniently round figure, massive celebrations are set for 10/10/10, that unique date coming only once every hundred years.

Tradition says that it was on the precipitous slope to the west of Jericho that Christ was tempted for forty days as the Gospels outline. A cable car lifts modern-day tourists above the tortured foot climb. Reports suggest that 800,000 people visit Jericho each year, if not the Temptation commemorating monastery above. So popular and strategic is Jericho that eager local dreamers imagine an airport built there sometime in the future. It’s unlikely in the short run as air travel over Israel is extremely limited because of security concerns.

Jericho is significant because of its Bible history, a solid apologetic for the veracity of the Bible. Biblically, Jericho dates back to the invasion by the desert-weary pilgrims who crossed the Jordan after 40 years of wilderness wanderings, marched around the doomed city 13 times and rushed into the stricken city over miraculously-collapsed walls. The harlot Rahab gained respite for herself and family by receiving and sheltering the Israeli spies and later became a lineal progenitor of Christ (Matthew 1:5). The ruins still abound, and one can find flint knives, a recall of the circumcision of the new generation of Israelites after the above-20 crowd had died off (Joshua 5:2).

It is a city under a unique curse of death to any who seek to rebuild it as Josh 6:26 warns: “At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: ‘Cursed before the LORD is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates.’” (Joshua 6:26-NIV)

In Old Testament times, it was a crucial pathway for Elijah and his successor, Elisha, as the whirlwind chariot exodus approached (II Kings 2:1-15). A “school of the prophets” was established there (II Kings 2:15), and Elisha miraculously sweetened the city’s undrinkable waters (II Kings 2:19-22). “Elisha’s Spring” is clearly seen from the mound of ancient Jericho.

In the New Testament, it is the city of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:2), the blind man Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46). It is mentioned in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30), and it is a waypoint on Christ’s final journey to Jerusalem (Luke 19:1).

Mentioned over 70 times in the Bible, archaeological and biblical truth abounds at Jericho. When we visited there on one of our ten trips to the Holy Land, our guide stooped down and retrieved a flint knife from the dust of ancient Jericho. Then he recounted how his own father had lost his firstborn son, and stated that it was probably a tragic fulfillment of Joshua’s forecast. Nearby, he walked to an obscure lane and cut a sprig of a plant called the “Plant of Hell,” the genuine crown of thorns Christ wore. Its spines were so sharp and poisonous that a mere brush against my skin caused pain and inflammation.

Jericho has also been a source of biblical scorn by unbelievers. Comparing Matt. 20:29 with Mark 10:46, they imagine a contradiction for how could Christ be leaving and entering Jericho at once in the same story. It is no problem when one considers that there are really three, possibly four, cities called Jericho in the vicinity.

Modern Jericho is a bustling town with a thriving sycamore tree recalling the story of Zacchaeus. But outside, the ancient “tell,” or hill, abounds with shattered clay walls, and an excavated 10,000-year old structure is visible a few layers below. About a mile away to the south is the broken remnant of New Testament Jericho where some of King Herod’s palace still stands. Some think it was here that Herod gave the word to behead John the Baptist. When we were there, we could see a small abandoned cluster of houses forming another very small Jericho slightly to the north. Obviously, one can be entering and leaving a Jericho at the same moment without contradiction.

So 10/10/10 will see Jericho celebrating lots of things but not the visit of the Lord Jesus Christ, who made His way up the steep ascent from Jericho at 820 feet above sea level to Jerusalem at 2,000 feet. Moving with a newly sighted man, a converted tax collector and the resurrected Lazarus, Christ made the trip from Jericho and entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on His way to the Cross, the empty tomb, the ascension and the Great Commission. Most celebrants will pause to recall that “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumbling down,” but the greatest collapse was the breaking down of the walls between God and man, between man and his neighbor, and even between Jews and Palestinians:

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” (Ephesians 2:14-16)

Dave Virkler