Friday, December 31, 2010

Lessons from a Snowstorm

Snow is both friend and foe. Just as folks in the snow-assaulted northeast know after several feet of the white stuff clogged highways, stranded motorists and cancelled 4,200 airline flights nationally. But skiers reveled in the white blanket as resorts filled their coffers in chair lift, equipment rental and accommodations income.

After a similar storm last December, I wrote about the Treasures of the Snow. Read it here.

In 1856, Henry David Thoreau is reported to have written of snowflakes, “How full of the creative genius is the air in which these are generated! I should hardly admire more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat.”

Without directly affirming the Creator, Thoreau points to Him since the “creative genius” surely does reflect God’s amazing craftsmanship. The ultimate wisdom of antiquity is found in Job 38:22, “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? Or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail …”

Snow frequently symbolizes purity, a pristine gifting from above. After his twin heinous deeds of adultery and murder, David pled, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).

This week, we revisited a spectacular local lawn display. Its makers left no Christmas theme unbuilt or unlit and spared no money to show it all during the Christmas season. Front and center was a manger scene complete with Mary, Joseph, shepherds and wise men. Behind the manger is a simple sign that reads, “The Reason For The Season.”

But the Christ child was not visible. The heavy snow had completely covered the infant in the manger, and there was only a mound of white! No one had cleared the snow away, nor perhaps should they. Christ was the very purity of heaven lying in that Bethlehem manger, and one day He would be stained blood red on the Cross so that I could be “whiter than snow.” Strange, isn’t it, how a brutal snowstorm can be a salvation lesson?

I thought again of hearing believers in the jungles of Mexico singing an old Gospel song:

Blessed be the fountain of blood,
To a world of sinners revealed;
Blessed be the dear Son of God;
Only by His stripes we are healed.
Tho’ I’ve wandered far from His fold,
Bringing to my heart pain and woe,
Wash me in the blood of the Lamb,
And I shall be whiter than snow.

Whiter than the snow, Whiter than the snow,
Wash me in the blood of the Lamb,
And I shall be whiter than snow.

None of these people had ever seen snow, but they knew Christ’s purifying forgiveness for their sins, and that is all they needed to know.

The real treasure of the snow and truth in its storm is the lesson of saving grace they bring.

Dave Virkler

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas and Freedom

Christmas is an observance that stretches all the way from commercial sales appeal to devoted family and church gatherings focused on the newborn King. However, the babe in a manger is but a warm sentiment when the world really needs a delivering Savior.

This season, I have received a number of letters and cards from prisoners who hear our radio broadcast and respond in gratitude.

One came from a prisoner in Trenton who referenced our broadcast about Mark David Chapman on the 30th anniversary of his murder of John Lennon. The prisoner wrote to thank us for our radio program and said he looks forward to hearing it. He also mentioned us helping to get the Gospel to every prison in America by aiding in the distribution of Chapman’s conversion story, and said that he would gladly pass it along to other inmates.

Earlier this week, a personal Christmas card came from Mark Chapman at Attica. He reported that “Project Chaplain” is going well with over 100 responses and counting, and he thanked us for our prayers. Some time ago, Mark personally shared with me his desire to place the story of redemption in all 4,000 U.S. prisons. That leaves only 3,500 to go!

Throughout history, people have been trapped in prisons other than actual incarceration. To those in prison or out, Christ announced his ministry purpose when he visited his hometown of Nazareth and read in the Temple, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)

The old hymn of Charles Wesley, who also wrote “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” speaks of this.

He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
He sets the prisoner free.
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

Two rarely sung verses read,

Harlots and publicans and thieves
In holy triumph join!
Saved is the sinner that believes
From crimes as great as mine.

Murderers and all ye hellish crew
In holy triumph join!
Believe the Savior died for you;
For me the Savior died.

Many in Jesus’ day were prisoners other than those who were physically constrained.

Shepherds had been locked into a dismal and harsh life in open fields tending flocks that some believe were destined for the endlessly repetitive Temple sacrifices. The “herald angels” released them from the drab winter routine and sent them from the manger with excited testimony.

Wise men from the East were trapped in grinding idolatrous paganism. The release from onerous fears and frustrations were worth the difficult overland trek across the desert miles.

Mary and Joseph, and all Israel, and you and I are released from personal guilt here and judgement and Hell in the hereafter. “He shall save His people from their sins,” as Joseph heard the angel say (Matthew 1:21).

Not everyone accepted the announced freedom. King Herod, while craftily using the Wise Men as an ancient GPS, never left his personal prison of pride, greed and spiritual rebellion. Haunted by multiple threats to his power and killing scores of feared competitors, Herod died a lonely man. His body was entombed in one of his opulent palaces near Bethlehem where the King of Kings was born. In recent years, his burial spot in the Herodium, as the cone shaped palace foundation is called, has been located. It is a monumental contradiction to the manger not far away.

Eventually, every believer enjoys release from any and all mortal prisons, even those of time and space. Years ago, I sat with confessed multiple murderer David Berkowitz, known as the Son of Sam. I asked David when he would get out of prison, and he simply said, “At the Rapture.” That’s when all God’s reborn children are freed. All of earth’s prisons are abandoned either at the believer’s death or the return of Christ.

Wesley had it right. “He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.”

Here’s wishing you a wonderful Christmas in “the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free…” (Galatians 5:1).

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Austerity - The 2010 Word of the Year

The Merriam-Webster has named its Word of the Year for 2010. The dictionary's editors announced Monday that the term would be "austerity".

In attempting to get the facts straight and the basic concept correct, I looked up the terms using several on-line dictionaries. The first definition was that kind that is often so enlightening and so very helpful. It said simply, “Austerity is possessing the quality of being 'Austere'”. Thanks! That was so useful. Obviously there needed to be just a little more research to shed some serious light on this year’s winning word.

One online source said this of the term: “Austerity is a term from economics that describes a policy where nations reduce living standards, curtail development projects, and generally shift the revenue stream out of the physical economy, in order to satisfy the demands of creditors. Typically, private banks, or institutions like the International Monetary Fund will demand an 'austerity policy' from a national government, as a condition for re-financing loans that are coming due. This might involve cutting food or fuel subsidies, under funding public infrastructure (transport, education, health care, water and power management), or rationing.”

That helped somewhat in understanding the word. But it was the enlightenment offered by a web-based thesaurus that really helped complete my insight on the term. It said primarily: "austerity - the trait of great self-denial (especially refraining from worldly pleasures) non-indulgence, asceticism self-denial, self-discipline and the trait of practicing self-discipline".

With the world economy being what it is, there should be no shock that ‘austerity’ would be selected as the word of the past year. Many have been forced to cut back, reduce their living standards, curtail certain pleasures and activities, and live new lives of self-discipline and denial – something many are not used to or at all appreciate. Of course this is all relative depending on the standards of the individuals. So concept in practice means much more to some than it does to others.

But it is now the Christmas season. This is the time of the year that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the little baby who would be the world’s only Savior. And when it comes to describing what the Son of God did for mankind, there is no single word, or any grouping of terms, that can even begin to relate the level of 'austerity’ that He willingly submitted Himself to in order to redeem a fallen, rebellious, and sinful race. Words just cannot suffice when trying to describe something of this magnitude and importance.

But if there had to be a selection of words chosen that would best attempt to describe what He did by denying His glory as God, and submitting Himself to an unthinkable level of sacrifice and self-discipline, they would come from the pen of the Apostle Paul in Philippians chapter two. The theological term for the passage is the word “Kenosis”. It is a Greek word that speaks about a spiritual "self- emptying". But it is the level of that emptying by the Creator God that is simply beyond man’s ability to grasp now and, perhaps, even in heaven.

Verse 5 begins this most profound truths seen anywhere in Scripture. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

Again, no finite mind will even begin to understand the level of ‘austerity’ evidenced in the incarnation revealed at the manger, nor the indescribable level of self-sacrifice and discipline displayed decades later on the cross.

But with that said, even those who cannot begin to grasp the depths of what Philippians describes about what Christ gave up to do, all are more than capable of comprehending the awesome love of God and the full forgiveness described in perhaps the Bible’s most well-known verse - “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.” (John 3:16-17)

If you know this personally through faith the babe of Bethlehem, and the Christ of the cross, then appropriately honor Him this Christmas. Seriously thank Him if you have experienced His miraculous salvation through saving faith. And perhaps, at this most favored and blessed time of the year, consider taking the opportunity to share this greatest of all gifts with someone who does not!

Bill Breckenridge

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 Person of the Year

He is the second youngest to ever receive the prestigious award. And although his name and face may be relatively hidden, his product is the exact opposite. It is seen by a staggering percentage of the world’s population. He is Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of the monster social-networking site Facebook.

For those still unaware, or uninterested, Wikipedia describes the world-changing software like this: “Facebook: a social network service and website launched in February 2004 that is operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc.As of July 2010 Facebook has more than 500 million active users. Users may create a personal profile, add other users as friends and exchange messages, including automatic notifications when they update their profile. Additionally, users may join common interest user groups, organized by workplace, school, or college, or other characteristics. Facebook allows anyone who declares themselves to be at least 13-years old to become a registered user of the website. Membership was initially limited to Harvard students. But it then gradually added support for students at various other universities before opening to high school students, and, finally, to anyone aged 13 and over. A January 2009 study ranked Facebook as the most used social network by worldwide monthly active users.”

The person of the year is an interesting award to say the least. Also according to Wikipedia, “The Person of the Year (formerly Man of the Year) is an annual issue of the United States news magazine ‘Time’ that features a person, group, idea, place, or even a machine. The selection is credited to someone or something that, "for better or for worse, has done the most to influence the events of the year.” This means it has included not just good and bad people like a Ronald Reagan or Joseph Stalin who both won the distinction twice. Charles Lindbergh was the first winner in 1927.

Again, sometimes ‘Person of the Year’ comes in some rather odd areas. In 2006, the selection was simply a “You”. There have been other rather unique choices considering the name of the award. It sounds as through it should be a singular person - male or female. Other illustrations include the Endangered Earth in 1988, U.S. Scientists in 1960, American Women in 1975, and the computer in 1982.

Facebook has undoubtedly changed the landscape of the communications culture, at least in nations where computers are common and in the hands of the majority. Its impact has been mixed with both good and bad, as many huge world-changing ideas and products do. For example, it has given ‘real’ friends and family unlimited opportunities to stay in touch and share their lives in a unique and timely fashion.

It has also been used for some less than honorable purposes. It has been discovered that Facebook is assisting in the breakup of countless marriages when old girl and boy friends stumble onto, or intentionally seek out, those with whom they had romantic relationships earlier in their lives. Then there is the serious addition factor and the very real privacy and security concerns. Then, too, there is the easy exposure of young teens to mature and sometimes very inappropriate subject matter by so-called ‘friends’ – some of which they don’t even really know. So as far as Facebook is concerned, it could be said, there is the “good, the bad, and the ugly” all at once.

But in the minds of at least some, there is one name that is conspicuously missing from the ‘Person of the Year’ list. Some might bristle at the fact that Jesus Christ has never been included, even though there have been other religious leaders included over the years. But when all things are analyzed, the Son of God and Savior of mankind, is far beyond any single yearly award. He is alone the single greatest "Person of all history and eternity.” He is equally fully man and also fully God. As such, His impact is not only good, it is beyond all human finite comprehension as His contribution literally rescues the soul of man from the power and penalty of human sin. That is why he came to earth. Matthew 1:21 sums it up quickly and concisely. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." The writer Luke adds his weight on the same truth. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11-12)

"The Person, or People, Of the Year” may enjoy their slice of time in the limelight. And we are thankful for those people, and things, that have improved life in one way or another. But even these unique individuals, along with the billions of obscure names and unknown lives, will someday stand before their Creator. No earthly resume or accomplishments will count at all at that time. But hopefully, in that most sobering of all of life’s moments, they will have already come to personally know and trust by faith the “Person of The Ages”, “The Creator of The Universe”, “The Babe of Bethlehem”, and the “Savior of Sinners”. If so, they will be able to stand before God confidently knowing and claiming on the words of the apostle in 1 John 2:1-2.

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

For these to who forgiveness of sin and redemption has become a reality, the blessed words of Christmas hymn, “Hark The Herald Angels Sing," has a special and miraculous meaning of the One who will save and protect them for all eternity:

Hail! The heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail! The Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die!
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Good News From The War on Christmas

For many, especially Christians, it seems long overdue. But basically, it appears that many of the nation’s top retailers have recognized, maybe not of their own choice, that the season we are now in will again be referred to as “Merry Christmas” around their premises. Like it or not, the name of Christ will be front and center along with some of the more recent, and totally secular, greetings.

It seems hard to escape the reality of connecting Merry Christmas with the holiday, that is if you can read at a third grade level. Like it or not or say it or not - it is all about Him. The millions spent on gifts are just evidence that the season is truly His. They serve as a biblical reminder of the greatest gift ever given to man – a gift beyond any dollar amount and far beyond any imaginable earthly value. It is a gift that is priceless, precious and will never wear out or be lost. It is eternal!

It appears now that pressure from customers and organizations, especially like American Family Association, have finally placed enough pressure in boycott form to turn the tide and bring the term “Merry Christmas” back into vogue – or at least be deemed as an acceptable greeting. Many major store chains like Walmart, Target, Sears and the Gap have come along side. As one major chain CEO stated, "The politically correct holiday verbiage is going away. Companies are getting the message."

But there are still some boycotted targets this year including Dick’s Sporting goods and Radio Shack who have still resisted simply giving Christ any due for a few short weeks in December.

"This seems rather foolish since shoppers vote with their wallets every day," said Ellen Davis, a VP at the National Retail Federation. "We see the word Christmas being used much more this year than three or four years ago. The pendulum seems to have swung back. Retailers certainly tread carefully when it comes to the subject of Christmas. This year's NRF/Big Research survey found that 91 percent of consumers plan to celebrate Christmas, compared with 5% for Hanukkah and 2% for Kwanzaa. Finally, Merry Christmas will resound more freely and not just ‘happy holiday’s or ‘season's greetings’. There will be Christmas sales and Christmas trees and Christmas carols galore – an amazing concept to occur at Christmas!”

The recent shelving of the term using the Savior’ s name has been a mere reflection and symptom of a nation that has lost its spiritual foundation and missed the light of the world (John 8:12) having been blinded by the artificial glitter and glamour of the super-season. But the most serious part of this truth and trend is not just being greeted with “Happy Holidays” instead of "Merry Christmas". It is rather the total ignorance of the person of the Christ of Christmas and especially why he traded the glory of heaven for a frail temporary human body. That knowledge is not just about how one refers to a national holiday, but about an understanding about the most serious of all of life’s ramifications – both now and in eternity!

Hopefully, during what is a temporarily spiritually heightened season, there will be some that will come to fully understand why ‘Merry Christmas’ is not only the correct term, but something that represents the most crucial internal change and blessing ever offered to any man. Christ is, as they say, ‘the reason for the season’. And the reasons He came as fully God wrapped in human flesh, some 20 centuries ago include the following:

1. He came wrapped in human flesh to reveal and illustrate the love, glory, and character of the eternal Creator God: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

2. He came to put an end to the rule of God’s arch-enemy and ultimately defeat Him fully. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)

3. He came as Savior to rescue humanity from the power, plague, and the judgement of sin: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:12)

4. He came as Savior to be ‘Emmanuel’ - to live inside all true believers now and forever: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." (Matthew 1:21-23)

5. He came as savior and Lord to fully, and forever, set free and change the hearts of all who would trust Him personally through trusting faith: “Therefore if the Son makes you free , you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

6. And he came to do what little Linus said on stage in the classic cartoon classic, “Charlie Brown Christmas”:

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:8-14)

The Christ of Christmas came to die in our place in order save us from our sins, make us all new creations, and create an eternal dwelling place where we will dwell forever with Him in heaven someday. So If you know that on a personal level, by all means, have a blessed, joy-filled, Christ-honoring, celebration. And take the opportunity, at this sacred and significant season, to tell others exactly why Christmas is so very merry to you as a child of Emmanuel.

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor: Enemies and Brothers

On December 7, 1941, United States military personnel eased into a typically balmy Sunday morning at Pearl Harbor. A midget enemy sub had been sighted and fired upon by the U.S. destroyer Ward near the entrance to Pearl Harbor, but the report was delayed and then received skeptically.

Two Army radar operators noticed an uncommonly large blip moving in from the north. Their superiors assumed it was a U.S. bomber squadron due in from the mainland that morning. But Japanese flight commander Mitsuo Fuchida who had an intense hatred of America, was guiding his deadly force across hundreds of miles of open sea. As the Japanese moved in for the kill, no one knew what lay ahead that Sunday morning.

Following Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered a surprise attack against Japan to disarm them psychologically. Brilliant airman Lt. Col. James Doolittle, just back from military retirement, was given the unenviable task of training the crews for a lightning raid on Tokyo.

Jacob “Jake” DeShazer passionately hated the enemy and had seized the opportunity for military service by enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1939. DeShazer became one of “Jimmy” Doolittle’s trainees.

DeShazer was overjoyed to be part of a top-secret task force to smash his avowed enemy. On April 18, 1942, in extremely heavy seas and still some 600 miles away from the coast of Japan, a Japanese trawler was spotted. Believing their cover had been compromised, Doolittle immediately led his sixteen B-25s off the pitching deck of the Hornet. Corporal Jacob DeShazer was bombardier on Plane #16—the last one off the Hornet. DeShazer’s plane bombed Nagoya, 300 miles south of Tokyo.

The original plan was for the planes to fly on into friendly Chinese territory following the bombing of Tokyo and surrounding cities. But they were ten hours off schedule, and there would not be enough fuel.

The success of the bombing mission was marred by the loss of all sixteen planes and the capture by the Japanese of eight of the men who had either bailed out or crash landed in a Japanese-occupied section of China. The crew of Plane #16 bailed out and landed in a Chinese cemetery, and Jacob DeShazer became a prisoner-of-war.

Of the eight POWs, three were tied to crosses and executed. A fourth died of malnutrition a year later. DeShazer and the remaining three were imprisoned and tortured. DeShazer came to hate the Japanese more than ever.

During those dismal months in prison, hope seemed slim. Then the Japanese gave the prisoners a Bible thinking its message would demoralize them since its chief figure, Jesus Christ, was killed. Although of Christian background, DeShazer had questioned the faith and never surrendered personally to the Lord. Incredibly, through the prayers of his mother and other people back home and by reading the story of Christ’s loving sacrifice for him, Jacob DeShazer was soundly converted in a Japanese prison and became a new person in Christ.

A genuine love for the Japanese people flooded DeShazer’s soul, and he vowed that if he were ever released, he would train for missionary service and return to Japan to preach the Gospel. In August 1945, the four prisoners were released—forty months after their capture.

DeShazer made good on his vow. In 1948, after graduating from Seattle Pacific College and undergoing special missions training, DeShazer returned to Japan as a missionary with his wife and young child.

During the early days of his ministry in Japan, DeShazer undertook a 40-day fast for a spiritual breakthrough. At the end of those days of fasting, he sensed that God was going to do something wonderful. The next day, a man came to DeShazer to profess Christ and be baptized. The man was Mitsuo Fuchida.

Mitsuo Fuchida had seemed to miraculously escape death time after time. Of the numerous Japanese officers involved in the Pearl Harbor attack, Fuchida was the only one to survive the war. He visited the doomed city of Hiroshima just a day before its nuclear obliteration. Shortly afterwards, he inspected Hiroshima’s ruins. Of the ten officers who accompanied him, all died of radiation sickness except Fuchida.

After the war, Fuchida turned to farming, but he felt a terrible emptiness in his life. One day, Christian missionaries were distributing tracts in Tokyo’s main railroad station, and one was received by Fuchida. The tract told the astonishing story of Jacob DeShazer. Fuchida’s interest was stirred by the account of a bitter enemy whose life had been changed by Jesus Christ and who was now sharing the Savior with those he formerly despised. Since it was the Book that had changed DeShazer’s life, Fuchida obtained a Bible and began to read it. When he came to the account of Jesus on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” Fuchida was overwhelmed and accepted Christ as his Savior.

Bitter enemies in war became good friends in Christ. Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchida created a mighty stir when they appeared on the same platform to share the saving and reconciling message of Jesus Christ. The Japanese were awed, and 600 received Christ as Savior.

Mitsuo Fuchida traveled widely in Japan, America and Europe sharing his testimony. In Berlin, they came upon a theater where a movie on Pearl Harbor was being shown. Fuchida was introduced as a chief figure of the film and the one who had advised the movie makers in production. At the end of each showing, the Pearl Harbor squadron leader gave his personal testimony. Because of Fuchida’s testimony, many Germans came to know Christ.

Mitsuo Fuchida died in 1976 on May 30, and Jake DeShazer died on March 25, 2008 at the age of 95. They are now together as brothers in Christ for eternity.

In the worst of situations, God’s grace can bring about thrilling personal redemption and wondrous reconciliation. If you are unreconciled to God and to those about you, Jesus Christ is the answer. Your decision may not be as historically dramatic as those I’ve just recounted, but it will be as personally satisfying and as eternally certain!

Dave Virkler

Note: The Amazing Grace of World War II, a more detailed account including what happened to Jimmy Doolittle, is available through our ministry. Beyond Pearl Harbor, is an audio version that includes DeShazer's personal testimony. Find them at our website.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Military’s New “Game-Changer”

The U.S. military calls it a literal “game-changer” as far as its counterinsurgency operations are concerned in Afghanistan. They are referring to the new smart weapon now about to be placed into the hands of the soldiers in combat in the Middle East. It is called the XM25 system. And beginning shortly, Special Forces will be outfitted with some 12,500 of the $30,000 smart weapons.

The XM25 will be the first-ever programmable "smart" grenade launcher. The shoulder-fired weapon uses micro-chipped ammunition to target and kill the enemy, even when the enemy is hidden behind walls or under other forms of protective cover. It is also the first time that smart weapon technology will be placed into the hands of individual soldiers. It will reportedly give American soldiers a huge edge in warfare, as the enemy will no longer be guaranteed safety by holding up behind some solid structure. For unsuspecting Islamist extremists, the new ‘game-changer’ may rock their confidence and current strategy of warfare. Hopefully it will help save the lives of many U.S. troops who may no longer need to come face to face in close quarters combat to defeat the enemy.

Throughout human history there have been many events that could be labeled ‘game-changers’. They have come about in nearly every imaginable sphere of life. And those who have been around a good number of years now have seen incredible and staggering technologies that have changed the lives of millions, if not billions, around the world.

When biblically minded Christians hear or read certain terms, there should often come something spiritual in nature to the forefront of their minds. For example, when I first read the term “game-changer” in the article about this new weapon, I was immediately taken back to a hot August night many years ago when the greatest imaginable ‘game-changer’ affected my personal life – forever. It was the night my life changed because Jesus Christ entered in as my Savior. In an instant my life was altered drastically and eternally. There was not immediate perfection, but there were obvious changes in my life’s direction, priorities, interests, and even the altering of my final destination after this life someday ends.

The Bible speaks clearly about the effects of a new life through Christ and what should occur if the game has truly been changed from within. Paul described the event and some of the obvious results of the change when one being held hostage in Satan’s grip ends and he or she enters the glorious and secure hands of God’s faith family through faith.

Colossians 1:10-14 shows some of what a truly changed believer is and looks like. “That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 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.” This is, with question, the ultimate life game-changer for everyone ever born. And it is not for a select few, but for all who are willing to change. (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, 13)

Then in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, the Apostle reveals what should be the bold and outward changes that are the evidence of a internally altered heart and life. Verse 17 begins, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

But then the next verse reveals that this game-changing spiritual alteration should bring an instant desire to help others to see their need of an internal change of heart through Christ as well. Verse 18 reads, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” Verse 20 continues, “ 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.”

Hopefully the military’s new XM25 smart weapon system will ultimately save many lives of America’s service men and women. But the larger issue, whether one is the hunter or the hunted, is that there eventually comes to each that great spiritual life-changing experience by trusting not in weapons and technology, but in Jesus Christ as their own personal Savior. (Psalm 20:7)

Some twenty centuries ago, God came to earth and took on the form on a man. (John 1:14, Colossians 1:15). His birth is celebrated each December. And His miraculous incarnation was for the express purpose of later dying on a cross and being resurrected three days later. This would be the proof of His deity and proof of His ability to forgive sin. This was, and still is, the greatest ‘game changing’ act in all of human history and eternity. And the irreversible and stunning results of that greatest of all changes is described throughout the New Testament including in John’s profound words in 1 John 5:1-13.

“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