Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Reality Show On The Cutting Edge?

Anyone who watches a good deal of TV today knows that there is almost no limit to the number of ‘reality shows’ to be viewed. For the most part, these rarely appeal to me for a variety of reasons. First, few really represent reality on any level. I’ll never understand how anyone can act normal and ‘real’ with a camera crew and director a few feet away from what is going on at any given moment. There is also the reality that reality may have to be ‘spiced up’ at times to be made interesting enough to hold viewers and ratings. Then too, there is the subject matter that sometimes includes various levels of morally inappropriate subject matter.

Many will recall the wildly popular “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” that followed the ‘real’ lives of a couple who had 2 sets of multiple births, with the later one being sextuplets! The result, or should we say the ‘reality’, of their lives under a microscope was eventual infidelity and the total breakdown of a marriage between two supposedly committed Christians according to a book released just before it all unraveled before the adoring gaze of an entire nation. Amazingly, the show continues today. The current title is simply, “Kate Plus Eight” that showcases the single mom who, through numerous makeovers, now leads the life of a supermodel as much as a struggling mother tending to the needs of a huge family.

But now, there is another reality show to add to the mix, one that seems to go a bit too far, even when compared with others that have already pushed the limits (sporting titles like “Knocked Up”). But E! Network has outdone even themselves with this new concept called ‘Brideplasty’.

In this upcoming slice of real-life engaged women, in their preparation to enter wedded bliss, will be competing for the chance toget multiple cosmetic surgery procedures near or at the end of the show. Their goal is to achieveas near to physical perfection as possible prior to their big day. The winner will also receive a lavish, celebrity-style wedding paid for by E!

When the show season ends, and the wedding begins, there is also the reality of a groom standing at the alter who may get to say, “I do” to someone who may look nothing like the woman he proposed to months earlier. It should also be noted that the any groom who allows or suggests that his future mate go through a nationally televised circus-like event, and the reality of certain hazardous surgeries, himself has a few loose screws of his own in my humble opinion. It all reminds me of what I sometimes say to my teens when we witness someone saying or doing something highly inappropriate in public. “Now there is a real keeper.” They are even beginning, on occasion, to say it to me first before I get the words out!

The search for physical perfection has become an epidemic in 21st century America. The number of teens requesting and undergoing cosmetic procedures has increased dramatically over the last decade. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates that more than 333,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients 18 years of age or younger in the United States in 2005, compared to approximately 14,000 in 1996. In 2005, one in four of these were surgical procedures such as nose reshaping, ear surgery, breast augmentation, liposuction, chin augmentation, and tummy tucks. And obviously these numbers have risen significantly even in the last 5 years or so. It should like-wise be noted, again, that some of these procedures performed on these youngsters come with a degree of serious medical risk.

As with many of the reality shows, the contestants are as devious and underhanded as they can be to win the coveted prize – this time radical surgical procedures. This whole concept, at least for me, reveals that they need an internal makeover far more than anything desired to be improved upon on the outside.

In 1 Samuel chapter sixteen the writer records an event surrounding the search for a new king to replace Saul. Verse 6 reveals how it was assumed that Eliab would be the perfect choice because of his outward and external strengths. But shockingly, verse 7 declared a basic truth that should be a lesson for all of us – especially those competing on ‘Brideplasty’ or young people obsessed with surgically enhancing the physical attributes given them by their Creator. In verse 7 we read, “But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

There in nothing wrong with Christians taking good care of the body God has given them. Actually that is right since it is the literal temple of the Holy Spirit – the body used to serve and glorify God in this life. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 supports this reality. “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.”

The reality is this. There is no one who is “perfect” physically speaking. And those who may seem ‘close’, for a time, whether it be natural or through artificial means, will someday find their exterior attributes slowly failing them. And it is for that unpleasant reality, but for reasons far more critical, that life’s perfection should be sought and found through Jesus Christ – something stressed throughout the Scriptures. (Romans 12:2, 1 Peter 5:10-11, Ephesians 4:11-15, Colossians 4:12)

The Apostle Paul summed up the goal and the ‘reality’ of a real, meaningful, and eternal perfection in Colossians 1:28, when he wrote, “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Real Intent of Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving time, and most Americans are busy preparing for the day. Tragically, Thanksgiving may be better known as a school holiday, family feasting time or even “Black Friday” sales opportunity than the time of God-consciousness originally intended.

Pilgrims set the tone when, after anxious months of hunger, disease and death wiping out 40% of the colony, they held a time of gratitude for God’s fellowship and provision.

Years later, General George Washington, as Supreme Commander of the American military during the Revolutionary War, established a day of thanksgiving for the colonies’ victory in military conflict. In 1789, President Washington designated a day of national thanksgiving, exhorting his fellow citizens of the new nation.

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

Other proclamations would follow from President Abraham Lincoln and succeeding presidents. Nearly all end with the phrase “in the year of our Lord...” meaning the year was counted from the birth of Jesus Christ.

Centuries before, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15). Hebrews 13:15 suggests Thanksgiving is to be every day, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

Happily, Barack Obama has followed honorably in the presidential tradition by issuing the 2010 Thanksgiving Proclamation. It reads in part:

In confronting the challenges of our day, we must draw strength from the resolve of previous generations who faced their own struggles and take comfort in knowing a brighter day has always dawned on our great land. As we stand at the close of one year and look to the promise of the next, we lift up our hearts in gratitude to God for our many blessings, for one another, and for our Nation. This Thanksgiving Day, we remember that the freedoms and security we enjoy as Americans are protected by the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces. These patriots are willing to lay down their lives in our defense, and they and their families deserve our profound gratitude for their service and sacrifice. …

As Americans gather for the time-honored Thanksgiving Day meal, let us rejoice in the abundance that graces our tables, in the simple gifts that mark our days, in the loved ones who enrich our lives, and in the gifts of a gracious God. Let us recall that our forebears met their challenges with hope and an unfailing spirit, and let us resolve to do the same.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 25, 2010, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all the people of the United States to come together -- whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors -- to give thanks for all we have received in the past year, to express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and to share our bounty with others.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-third day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.

My favorite Thanksgiving story was shared with me by Anne Palmer, whose minister father wrote a touching song in 1927.

As a 12- year old, she sat at the supper table in a parsonage in western New York State as her father shared that the coal bill was due and they needed $100 to pay it, but there was no money. Right then the doorbell rang, and there stood a woman who asked whether the man opening the door was A.A. Luther. Hearing that he was, she said, “I have come by bus from Detroit, Michigan to fulfill my mother’s desire. She was much blessed by the song ‘Jesus Never Fails’ and told me that if Mr. Luther was alive when she died, I was to find him and deliver a $100 check.”

The woman declined Arthur Luther’s invitation to come in saying she had to go immediately cross town and catch the bus back to Detroit. Luther rejoined his family at the supper table, and they had a thanks and praise service like you can’t imagine. Anne told me that event stayed with her all her life teaching her the truth of Phil 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Jesus Never Fails

Earthly friends may prove untrue,
Doubts and fears assail;
One still loves and cares for you;
One who will not fail.

Tho’ the sky be dark and drear,
Fierce and strong the gale,
Just remember He is near,
And He will not fail.

In life's dark and bitter hour,
Love will still prevail;
Trust His everlasting pow’r,
Jesus will not fail.

Jesus never fails, Jesus never fails,
Heav’n and earth may pass away,
But Jesus never fails.

The Lord in presidential proclamations from George Washington to Barack Obama is the same Lord who told Arthur Luther and all of us through Philippians 4:19 that Jesus never fails!

Happy thanksgiving to you and your family as we express gratitude for the Lord’s unsearchable riches.

Dave Virkler

(Anne tells her story on the November 28 broadcast of The Word And The World, in which we highlight the stories of Thanksgiving hymns. Check our website for a radio station near you, or listen to it on our website as of 11/29.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Airline Security Procedures Under Heavy Protest

To say that many travelers are irritated, frustrated and flat-out offended over some of the new screening techniques at the nation’s airports would be a gross understatement. With Thanksgiving, the heaviest travel day of the year, upon us it should be interesting to see how passengers react when x-ray pictures are taken of their bodies, or the hands of total strangers begin touching them in almost every imaginable area of their bodies.

The current body scans take as little as 10 seconds. But people who decline this process must then submit to a full pat-down which takes much longer. This second option, if chosen, includes agency officials touching the entire clothed body including the genital areas of passengers. The fear is that the whole sordid scene will cause massive delays on Thanksgiving at dozens of major airports nationwide.

John Pistole, head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has pledged to review security procedures in the wake of a public outcry but states that this must be somehow balanced by people's demand for passenger protection. On an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Pistole stated, "Clearly it's invasive, it's not comfortable. But if we are to detect terrorists, who have again proven innovative and creative in their design and implementation of bombs that are going to blow up airplanes and kill people, then we have to do something that prevents that."

The head of the TSA is requesting that the flying public be patient with the current procedures despite the fact that many feel they are not only wrong, but also flawed and somewhat ineffective in what they are trying to achieve in the first place. But try telling that to the 100 people whose full body scans were somehow leaked onto the internet last week or the father of a 15-year old daughter whose body is being fully scanned, or worse - physically searched by a total stranger. I surely know what my reaction would be!

Privacy is a precious commodity and something Americans value highly, have fought for valiantly, and have come to expect despite more and more government intrusions into their personal lives. And this latest form of control is, without question, over the line and must somehow be adjusted or improved upon drastically. The future of the entire airline industry may well rest on its ability to do this job but in a far less offensive manner.

But as maddening as this new transportation fiasco has become, people should be far more concerned about what the Bible says about the constant inspection that takes place in the deepest parts of their lives every day – namely the ongoing inspection of their hearts and minds on a 24/7 basis.

The writer of Hebrews recorded a basic biblical truth in chapter four regarding the continual gaze of God into the hearts and souls of each and every living being. Verse twelve begins with the probing ability of the Scriptures themselves. That is then followed in verse 13 with a staggering reality – one that should be of even greater concern to everyone and far more than the current procedures for boarding an aircraft in a post-9/11 world.

Verse 12 begins, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 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.”

The battle and debate for security screening methods for boarding airplanes in America has just begun. It will likely rage on for years to come as both sides dig in their heels and bolster stances through their arguments and strategies.

But the battle and method for defeating human sin was accomplished some 2,000 years ago on a cross, long before mankind even dreamed of flying the previously “Friendly Skies”. It was there that the Son of God paid the price for the sins of men. When all is said and done, it will not be any human inspection, by any method, for any reason that will matter. It will be all about the condition of the inner heart and whether or not the all-seeing eyes of God detects His Holy Spirit living there through personal faith in His Son Jesus Christ.

Hopefully, going through or even reading about the current airport inspection system might act as a reminder to some that there is a future day approaching when all men will stand fully exposed before God. Nothing they did wrong, or failed to do right, will slip past His supernatural screening process. All that will matter in that eternally significant moment is whether their hearts are exposed and shown to harbor unforgiven sin, or their souls are viewed as clean and cleared through the purifying effects of salvation in Christ as eluded to in 1 John 2:1:

“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.”

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering Veterans of War and Faith

As I write, Veterans Day is focusing on remembering those who have served our military, many of them giving their lives to defend America in war and peace. The newspapers and media programs today feature gripping stories of military survivors whose memories recall gallant service and not a few recounting their fellow soldiers’ deaths in tortured battles around the globe.

Formerly called Armistice Day but renamed after World War II, Veterans Day recalls the end of World War I when, on November 11, the armistice became official in a railroad car at 11:00 AM in a French forest in 1918. Many observe a two-minute silence at precisely 11:00 AM each November 11.

This year, as Veterans Day approached, my wife and I realized our outdoor flags had worn out and not been replaced. It would be a tragic oversight not to replace them by November 11. Dutifully, we shopped last night at a nationally known department store chain only to find they did not stock any outdoor American flags. We drove away sadly noting the pathetic erosion of awareness and appreciation for those who have served, and recalling that when wars first raged in Iraq and Afghanistan, flags were flying and patriotism ran high. Now, we admitted, even though our troops are still fighting and dying, often leaving broken homes behind, the edge is gone, and we tend to forget.

First thing this morning, I bought two new flags at our local hardware store where they had an ample stock. One was for our residence and the other for the Dedication Evangelism headquarters building next door. The proper locations were awkwardly reached, but the mounting screws didn’t go in easily. At our Communications Center, the anchor place was just out of easy reach, and I had to position and reposition the ladder, then ascend slowly to properly install the flag.

It took much longer to put up the flags than I had planned, and I was tempted to complain and fret over the delay as other important business was waiting inside. But then I thought, “Why am I distressed over these few minutes when brave men and women have fought and died so I can live in freedom and preach the Gospel through our ministry? Shame on me!” And so I got the flags flying on this special day.

All this eventually turned my attention to God’s memorial passages of the Bible. One is Hebrews 6:10, where we find, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Hebrews 11 is an entire chapter honoring spiritual warriors who fought the Lord’s spiritual battles in faith. Some were prominent Bible figures, such as Abel, Noah, Abraham and Moses. Others were obscure, remote figures whose life flitted past with scarcely a lingering notice, such as Barak and Jephthah. (Read up on them in Judges 4, 5, 11 and 12.)

All heroes of faith are memorialized in God’s record books, even those who merely frequently fellowship in the Lord. “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.” (Malachi 3:16 & 17)

Human peace agreements are only temporary given the warring, uncontrollable nature of sinful man. When Hitler came to power to begin WWII and crushed France, French officials were forced to sign a surrender armistice in that same rail car parked in that identical spot in the French forest on June 22, 1940.

However, in Christian theology, our surrender becomes our permanent freedom. Calling on the Name of the Lord brings salvation as Romans 10:13 declares. In Christ we yield and are liberated forever. John 8:36 says, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Romans 5:1 reaffirms it: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ …”

November 11 will pass and veterans will be forgotten for another year, but we are never forgotten by “the captain of [our] salvation” (Heb. 2:10). “God is not unjust to forget….”

Dave Virkler

Monday, November 8, 2010

Giants Become Baseball’s Giants

It has been 56 years since their last title and the odds of them capturing baseball’s ultimate prize was 20 to 1 at the season’s start. But when it was all said and done, it took the Giants of San Francisco just 5 games to dispose of the Texas Rangers – the same team which was good enough to knock the heavily favored and defending champion New York Yankees out of post-season play.

Many experts attributed the Giants' success to the team’s mid-season roster changes. There was the departure of Bengie Molina along with the arrival of Buster Posey, and Pat Burrell coming in late-May. Javier Lopez was acquired just before the trade deadline, Cody Ross arrived in late-August. And for many fans, it was this odd cast-of-characters and seeming collection of misfits that made these Giants so easy to like and root for. Then there was the matter of that half-century championship drought.

Overall, the Rangers batted just .190 in the series. And after Game 1, they scored in only three of 35 innings while Giants pitchers posted a 2.38 ERA in the Series - and that's with an uncharacteristic 11-7 victory in game one in the mix. All in all, not too shabby – at all!

Sports is an odd entity as well as a big business. But raw talent and huge contracts do not always prevail even though it typically helps greatly. Approximately 80% of post-season teams tend to have the highest payrolls in most years. But sometimes the unexpected comes with the most unexpected results. This year’s series was a case in point. In the minds of most experts, it would eventually boil down to New York versus Philadelphia. Both powerhouses fell to the two teams that eventually battled it out for the Major League Baseball trophy. And for the last two standing teams, it was the one with the most recognizable stars that eventually fell fast and hard in just 5 games - losing at home no less. The bottom line is that anyone can beat anyone else – especially in a short series situation.

The 20 to 1 Giants, who have not won the championship in over a half a century, were low on baseball’s totem pole in spring training. They were not even predicted to win their own division, much less get anywhere near the final showdown. They were not the team for the most part with the high salaried, household name, and recognizable word-class athletes. But they won and did so convincingly.

Interestingly, the same sort of thing often occurs when it comes to those who eventually achieve spiritual salvation and win forgiveness of sin and a heavenly destiny through Jesus Christ. His roster of eternal life is made up of any, small or great, who have faith in His finished work on the cross on their behalf.

Beginning inn 1 Corinthians1:31, the Apostle Paul spoke about the typical kind of people that come to God by faith and find forgiveness and eternal life in His presence.

“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption — that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD."

A precious few gifted and wealthy athletes will lay claim to being world champions in their respective sport each year. But what dwarfs this seemingly greatest of earthly achievements are the value and rewards of those mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11. Some were household names, but most were no-name believers who knew what is most important and lasting in this life and were willing to literally give up theirs to prove that, as graphically described in Hebrews 11:32-40.

"For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented — of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise.”

Congratulations to the Giants of Baseball. But eternal kudos are due to all the giants of the faith that are destined for unimaginable rewards and honor that will last for eternity.

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Post-Election Observations

Across America, most election returns are in, and despite a few recounts or undecided races, the winds of political change blew in a huge Republican wave soundly trouncing the Democrats in the House of Representatives and becoming a significant factor in the Senate. Other political races have changed the political topography for years to come. Flips in governorships and state houses mean that conservative influence will hold sway in statewide redistricting and national policy-making for the foreseeable future.

The switch to Republican House control changes leadership on the floor and in committees meaning that the origin, flow and even debate of legislation has shifted from the President and his party. The socialistic trends in growing government healthcare, taxation and numerous other issues have been highly thwarted or even halted. International observers must be shocked by the turnaround in only two years—a shift from Western European socialism back to American individual entrepreneurialism.

Speaking of that swift transition, the founding fathers wrote a genius theme into their baby Constitution of 1787. Its checks and balances were necessitated, as they felt, by correctly observing that man was inherently sinful, power was naturally corrupting and absolute power was absolutely corrupting. The full House faces election every two years while the Senate races are staggered every six years. In our Republic, which the Constitution created, voters elect representatives.

That America is a republic is reflected in every pledge of allegiance “to the flag and to the Republic for which it stands...” It was my privilege recently to preach in the church formerly pastored by Francis Bellamy, who composed the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892. As I observed the commemorative plaque on the wall of the First Baptist Church in Little Falls, NY, I thought of the unique republican form of government our founders gave us.

This year of 2010 was one of those full House election years as well as one for a number of other crucial races. A Christian who did not vote was either ignorant of Christ’s political instruction or overtly sinning in disobedience. In New Testament times, Israel was tragically burdened by pagan Roman rule. A blasphemously self-deified, God-like Caesar had his image on the coinage. Christ viewed that likeness in an entrapment effort by his enemies and shocked them by commanding, “Render…to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25).

The obvious separation of Church and state—but the legitimacy of both—was thereby established for the New Testament Christian era. Few realize that in America, Caesar is not an individual or even a body of men but a document—the U.S. Constitution, and this stunning document assigns electoral responsibility to its citizens. Who better to obey Christ than believers who hold dual citizenship in both the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of representative government? Sometimes this choice can bring chaos and suffering, and sometimes it brings blessing and progress since God’s designated sovereignty includes political choice.

A whole new slate of politicians needs our prayers as Paul enjoins in I Tim. 2:1 & 2. “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” And even those who lost need our prayers for their grace in defeat and their continuing influence, whether little or much.

“All...in authority” includes all in influence—winners and losers. Those attempting to extricate us from the governmental excesses need prayer for wisdom even as those who plunged us into the chaos need prayer for their repentance. Elections should do more than merely switch party personnel. Unless guided by spiritual and biblical principles, political exchanges may mean that we have merely swapped rascals.

Several elections ago, I viewed a seeming endless forest of campaign signs stuck in several lawns touting candidates for various offices. In the distance, I saw one with indistinct lettering. Approaching close enough to read it, I was encouraged to find the homeowner had implanted a small election-like sign simply reading, “John 3:16.” Amid all the political advertising, it bore the solution to it all. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

In the election aftermath, with its exuberant victors and wounded warriors, let us not forget that personal salvation and even national deliverance comes from a free expression of redemption in Jesus Christ, and “if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36).

Dave Virkler

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Triple Importance of October 31

Sunday, October 31 was a trilogy of historic, political and spiritual confluence.

The last day of October, known as Reformation Sunday, recalled the day in 1517 when Catholic priest Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on his church door in Wittenberg, Germany. The event is generally recognized as setting off the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s byword became “justification by faith,” as Romans 5:1 declares it: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Luther was distressed by a nearby intrusive papal salesman, Johann Tetzel, hawking fund-raising indulgences to finance the beautification of Rome. The indulgences were purchased by the poor, and, according to Roman Catholic belief, would spring one from purgatory. Luther chose October 31, the evening before All Saints Day, as his day of protest. It was a time called All Hallowed Even or Hallowed Evening when the faithful prepared themselves to honor the departed in grace and martyrs of the church.

Hallowed Evening unfortunately had incorporated pagan occult practices to facilitate warding off returning spirits of the dead. The amalgam of sincere spirituality gradually merged with sheer nonsense to birth the modern Halloween (Hallowe’en) interaction with death and the dead. As Isaiah described the spiritually debauched condition of northern Israel’s “covenant with death” (Isaiah 28:18), shallow people erect tombstones, skeletons and ascribe reality to witches and ghosts in an annual exercise of public demonic occultism.

The Protestant Reformation eventually increased the desire for political freedom as well as spiritual deliverance and inspired some of the New World emigrations and the crafting of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The amazing U.S. Constitution, called “the most wonderful work ever struck off by the brain and purpose of man” by British statesman William Gladstone, calls for an electorate vote on the entire House of Representatives every two years, and this year is that election. Throughout the weekend, political candidates accelerated their push to either retain or gain national or state office. All legislation must originate in the House, and so the political tide of the country was being contested throughout the days observing Halloween and the Reformation.

But Sunday is the first day of the calendar week. It is the day Christians either tacitly or directly observe the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—that life-giving rebirth of the spiritually dead sinner to newness of eternal life. Even without significant attention to history, spooks or politics, every first day of every week of every year focuses on history’s most stunning truth: “He is risen, as He said” (Matthew 28:6).

When all the historical dates and absurd occultism and fevered political campaigns have ceased, the first-day cycle will remind us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old thing have passed away; behold all things have become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).

Dave Virkler