Monday, December 19, 2011

Healthy Preemies Despite The Odds

They come into the world with phenomenal challenges. For most it is a literal miracle that some even remain there for any length of time, much less live on to any level of normalcy. The terrible truth is that the survival rate remains low due to countless physical issues and their hyper-fragile condition even when surrounded by the greatest medical technology of the day.

They are generally addressed as “Preemies,” meaning that they did not make it to the natural full-time needed for proper physical development before their birth took place. This means that most of their crucial body parts are grossly immature, making life extremely hard and often impossible to sustain. Obviously it is heart-breaking to give birth or even see an infant that weighs in at a single pound or less. The world-record low birth weight was to a Russian infant who tipped the scales at a mere 9.2-ounces. Many normal-sized healthy babies can come into the world weighing 9.2 pounds – or more!

Estimates are that about 7,500 U.S. babies are born each year weighing less than 1 pound. Sadly only about 10 percent now survive the massive physical complications this brings. That is the bad news and the sad reality. But a recent report did shed some hope and good news for that one in ten who defy the medical odds and somehow make it. Some of these tiny preemies do survive. They heal up, catch up, grow up, and go on to experience normal lives into adulthood.

The report, that sited several specific cases, included Madeline Mann who weighed in at a meager 9.9 ounces back in at 1989. She held the world record at the time. But despite her seemingly insurmountable prognosis, she fought hard and amazingly lived. She is 22 today and a college senior. In an e-mail to reporters who questioned her current status she wrote, "I'm a pretty normal tough cookie and nice kind of girl. I have normal interests and am a normal person, which I am very lucky to have become with so many things that could have impeded that process."

The few success stories of babies who should not have survived is an encouragement and should warm the hearts of anyone who has one. But at this particular time of the year, millions are focused on another baby – a very special and famous one. Actually this child’s survival at birth was a miracle like none other as all the literal forces of Hell tried to prevent His healthy arrival. (Revelation 12:4)

But He was divinely protected and born 2,000 years ago in a manger in Bethlehem. He was the opposite of a “preemie”. He came into the world at the precise and perfect time as was predetermined by God Himself. This is verified in Galatians 4:4-5. “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

This most special child could not be born at any other time. His coming was precisely foreordained before the foundation of the world and He was also, even as an infant in a frail human body, the almighty Creator God of the universe. (Colossians 1:16-17) John 1:14 describes this unique infant as follows. “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.” Then Matthew 1: 18-23 adds crucial details that clearly set this child apart from all others who would ever be born. Scripture affirms his full deity, and His status in the triune Godhead in Colossians chapter two.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: after His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 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."

When the God-man came to earth on that special day we now call Christmas, He was anything but a “Preemie.” Actually, He has always existed from eternity past – something no human mind can begin to grasp. But anyone can comprehend through Scripture that He grew to be a sinless man and for the express purpose of becoming the sacrifice for their sins and the sins of the world. (Romans 5:15) His supernatural earthly ministry accomplished three essential feats that every Christian should always keep in mind and especially during this remarkable season that honors the arrival of Emmanuel – God with us!

First, 1 John 3:8 says this. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” When He died on the Cross and cried out, “It is finished”, that great task that only He could perform became a reality. (John 19:39)

Secondly, those who realized and accept the ‘Babe of Bethlehem’, and His role as the Savior of all men, can cling to the truth and reality written by the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:1. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He adds in 1 Timothy 4:10 describing Christ, “who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.”

Then lastly, He also fully achieved the will of God that would characterize all who would receive His forgiveness and be justified though saving faith. Colossians 2:8-10 declares. “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Of course He did more than just these three, but they are at the top of the list for why He came while evidencing His unfathomable love for us all. (John 3:16) All of this proved that the Christ of Christmas defeated Satan, declared those who trust in Him for as fully righteous, and also make it possible for them to model His flawless life and evidence the fruit made possible by His indwelling Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Christmas is the time when millions world-wide focus on the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, surrounded by common barn animals, and lying in a crude manger under an unusually bright star. For a short season this all takes center stage even including many who remain clueless about God in human flesh and the reasons He did that. But those who do know Him as the Savior should be easily re-inspired and refocused on the blessing and reason for His coming – a reason revealed so profoundly seen in the simple title of an amazing song entitled, “Cradle In The Shadow of The Cross”.

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tim Tebow's Public Faith

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow could be the world’s happiest man if his detractors’ criticism matches his Christianity.

Tebow is catching direct hits and lots of flack as sports people express their unkind sentiments regarding the public expression of his personal faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior. Never bashful in this regard, Tebow is an easy target now that he has zoomed to a 7-1 record as starting quarterback, contradicting the critics who proclaimed he was unready for the major leagues.

Christian analysts apparently have it right in their assessment. In view of his current winning streak, the rumbling criticism really is objection to his Christian faith. Why else would an athletic winner and ideal role model suffer such caustic reviews other than that he somehow makes the less spiritual nervous? His new nickname, “Mile High Messiah,” may mean that the criticism is beginning to morph into respect.

In taking criticism for his faith, Tebow could indeed be the happiest man on any gridiron. Early Christians counted themselves honored to suffer for Christ. “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41-42) Christ had anticipated their joy. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

Christian persecution goes with the spiritual territory according to the Apostle Paul. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12-13)

Paul considered himself uniquely blessed to witness for Christ. “I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:” (Acts 26:2)

This happiness is reaffirmed twice by Peter in his first epistle. “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’ … If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” (1 Peter 3:14; 4:14)

A precious spiritual blessing rests upon every faithful believer who is persecuted for his faith. Tim Tebow is the public example of God’s approval and personal joy.

Dave Virkler

Friday, December 9, 2011

Powerball Winners Donate $1 Million

 A trio who just won the 12th largest amount in Connecticut’s history, a whopping $254 million dollars, have decided to donate a million dollars to 5 separate charities. Each charity involves veterans and members of the military who have recently seen active duty. The receiving organizations offer help with veterans' housing, mental health care, treatment and diagnosis of traumatic brain injuries, education and employment training and other similar services. The cause is obviously noble and the gesture wonderful. Also the group has stated that they hope their example with a portion of their prize will inspire future winners to do likewise.

The trust fund was created by Greenwich wealth managers Greg Skidmore, Brandon Lacoff and Tim Davidson after they learned they had won the jackpot claimed on November 28 at Connecticut Lottery headquarters. After the announcement of their victory and generous plans, there was some speculation that the three were not the actual winners, but protecting the identity of the real ones. This was based partly due to a sense to some that the group of three did not seem quite excited enough about their record jackpot. But either way, again, the giving to the military charities by the Powerball winners was admirable to say the least and their targeted organizations deserving.

The subject of giving is one that is not foreign to the Scriptures. And perhaps one of the better know stories, and for a good reason, is revealed in Mark chapter twenty-one. It is affectionately known to most familiar with the Bible as “The Widow's Mites”. The scene opens with Jesus sitting nearby the local treasury. Verse one begins the description of what took place and eventually includes the Lord’s own pointed words and the great spiritual truth He wanted to make known to all generations from that moment on..

“Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."

Multiple millions dream about winning a life-altering fortune. Also, far too many who cannot afford it spend far too much to achieve that extremely unlikely dream. But with that said, it would be indeed interesting to know how many who claim to be in God’s family would honestly give a similar ratio portion as did the widow to their Savior’s work if they won a mega-jackpot or came into a vast fortune through some other avenue.

It is no secret that a high percentage of churches, missionary groups, and other Christian ministry find themselves in a constant state of financial struggle. In some places on earth, that may be true largely because the average believer there is dirt poor and perhaps not even able to met the basic needs of their families. But that is simply not the case in America – at least for the preponderance of Christians who live there.

One very quick glance at what most drive, where they live, what they do, where they go, and all they own proves in a heartbeat that inadequate giving to the Lord’s work is really more about the condition of the heart. In other words, very few churches and ministries in modern-day America should be continually hurting financially and begging for the funds needed to carry on the Savior’s work on earth. Poor giving is generally not about materially poor Christians. It is a tragic symptom of poor spiritual priorities. It is simply a basic inability to understand, to really care about, or seriously believe in their hearts Jesus’ words on the subject as spelled out in Matthew 6:33 and especially as seen in Matthew 6:19-21:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

As one has said, “Your Christian life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you want. But you can only spend it once.” Those with the mindset of the widow in Luke twenty-one fully grasp this eternal concept and they spend their lives and their assets on the only thing that truly matters and lasts forever!

William Breckenridge

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pearl Harbor and Reconciliation

December 7, 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of the brutal Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a day which would “live in infamy” as President Franklin Roosevelt called it while urging Congress for a declaration of war. American casualties were unequalled until the savage attacks of 9/11.

Lost in the obscurity of the years are two figures whose lives would intersect miraculously in the will of God.

Captain Mitsuo Fuchida led the Pearl Harbor attack, exulting in the deadly carnage done for his emperor-god. He was the solitary Japanese officer to survive World War II despite breaking both legs in a sea accident and browsing the radiation-contaminated ashes of leveled Hiroshima. His post-war days were spent farming, but his soul was empty.

In the surprise retaliation attack on Japanese cities led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle in April 1942, Jacob DeShazer dropped his bombs on Osaka from plane #16, the last one off the carrier Hornet. He was captured after parachuting into Japanese-held territory in China and imprisoned by Japan for 40 months. Hatred for his torturing captors turned to love when he read in the Bible of Christ’s forgiveness through the Cross. His love abounded when he pledged that he’d return to Japan as a missionary if he survived the war.

Jake kept his vow, starting over 30 churches in Japan and preaching the Christ he once ignored. One day, after reading a tract telling DeShazer’s story given to him by other American missionaries, Mitsuo Fuchida bought a Bible, read of Christ’s death for him, and accepted Christ as his Savior. He went to meet Jake DeShazer to publicly profess Christ. As a team, they evangelized Japan seeing thousands come to Christ, and they are now together in Heaven.

The full story is on our website, but for now I emphasize the stirring truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17-19.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 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.”
Dave Virkler

Friday, December 2, 2011

U.S. Birth Rate Shrinks Again

According to health officials, the U.S. birth rate dropped for the third year in a row. The new report stated that the drop was true for most all ages and races alike. The findings reveal this to be the most dramatic decline since record-keeping in the field began back in the 1940s, and has impacted those in their teens and early 20s the most.

U.S. births hit an all-time high in 2007 with over 4.3 million births. But by last year it was down to just over 4 million, according to the new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – an interesting and ironic name for an organization dealing with the miracle and blessing of human birth and life. But many experts place the cause on the dragging economy as the trend began just after national financial problems began to increase around 2007. Their beliefs are that among young adults, worries have convinced them that they can't afford to start a family or add more children to an existing unit.

It is tragic on many levels that less are giving birth. There is the economic issue. When less children are born, whether by avoiding pregnancy or by abortion, that impacts the already floundering economy as there are fewer and fewer to someday enter the work force and pay into the benefit system of a growing older population who are living longer than previous generations.

Then there is the biblical and spiritual realm. We are told by the Psalmist, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD. The fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Psalm 127:3) Proverbs 17:6 records, “Children's children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father.” And even Jesus him spoke about how special children are even in Matthew 18:2-5. “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” (Matthew 18:2-5)

But when speaking about a decline in birth rates, Christians should be immediately reminded of another birth – the one spoken also by Jesus in John chapter three. The famed encounter involved a Pharisee named Nicodemus who was said to have been ‘a ruler of the Jews’. He was a spiritual leader. And yet he came to Jesus with questions that quickly revealed his total lack of understanding concerning true salvation. Despite this flaw, he was aware that Jesus was somehow special and spiritually unique.

Verse two records their famous exchange. “This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "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.”

In the Christian context, when, and how many children to have should be the prayerful decision of a married couple as they follow what they believe to God’s will on the matter. But in the context of helping to produce the new birth in lost sinners, there is no choice or limit according to the Scriptures for any committed believer. There is no adequate reason, for those who have been re-born through Christ, to allow anything to sideline them from sharing their great salvation experience through their Savior. Peter verified this when he wrote, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Near the very end of Christ’s earthly experience and ministry His last words and His highest priority to His disciples, and to all who would follow them, are seen in Matthew 28:18-19. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

The physical birth rate in America may remain static, or even drop more, as people evaluate their economic and family building options. But hopefully, those who now belong to the family of the living God will not remain as ‘babes in the faith' but will instead be what God has called them to be and take every opportunity to help others find their way to Christ through the new birth.

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Penn State and the Fallout from One Man’s Sin

Happy Valley has become Depression Gulch. Penn State still captures daily headlines for allegedly covering up a horrendous scandal of juvenile sex abuse by a prominent assistant coach several years ago.

One man has become an unspeakable liability to a respected institution whose football coach and winning teams are legendary. The result is that Joe Paterno, the winningest college football coach ever, is gone and the university president fired, their departures decreed by the governing board shortly after the storm broke. A blanketing gloom spread over the campus, making some cry and others violent. The spreading chill may affect athletic recruitment, enrollment and fund raising with a shadow across the support of its many alumni.

In a similar case, a longtime assistant men’s basketball coach at Syracuse University has also been fired amid allegations of molestation. The far-reaching affect of that case remain to be seen.

It is difficult to fathom how the sins of a single individual can impact the lives of so many. Not that accessories to the cover-up bear no blame, but the infectious disease is traceable to one man. His career is tainted, his family shamed, his college shaken, his associates degraded and his future is likely prison.

Bible students may easily shift from Penn State to the Garden of Eden. There we find that a single individual’s personal crime against God brought universal debauchery for all humans in all history.

Romans 5:12 clearly traces the sweeping consequence of a single sinner. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Think of that—one man sinning millennia ago still insures the fallen status of every human.

Although each human is born into the death of Adam’s fall, God still gives us all the choice of corroding personal preference or of uplifting generational influence. The sins of the fathers do affect the fortunes of the children as one of the Ten Commandments forbidding idol worship reminds us. “…For I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me.” (Exodus 20:5)

King David’s personal sin brought endless family troubles. “‘Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house…’”. (2 Samuel 12:10-11a)

New Testament believers as the Body of Christ are even more vitally interrelated. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
The Living Bible translates Galatians 5:9 with a powerful warning: “But it takes only one wrong person among you to infect all the others—a little yeast spreads quickly through the whole batch of dough!” This is the biblical equivalent of the old saying, “One rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel.”

Actions do have consequences as Romans 14:7 insures. “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.”
The positive side of an individual's actions is seen in selfless service as found in Isaiah 58:12. “Those from among you shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.”

That is a great incentive for people at Penn State, Syracuse University or anywhere.

Dave Virkler

Monday, November 21, 2011

Amazing Grace

The early afternoon sun streamed into Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, NJ where I was concluding three weeks of intensive therapy to recover from a stroke after a 13-day hospital stay in Philadelphia. I wheeled myself toward what I thought was the sun-drenched courtyard only to find the November sun had just left my intended spot.

In its place, the most beautiful music was coming from a piano strategically placed in a pleasant eating area. A fellow patient was playing old secular tunes, and I parked my wheelchair nearby to listen. I later learned that his name was also David, that he has been a paraplegic for some time, and that he was a believer.

His talent was obvious. A subtle bond was established as I moved my hand in a gesture of approval. Some mystical connection was made, and he modulated into another song. “Amazing Grace” drifted through the rotunda.

It had been 32 days since I left our home in Towaco for a simple overnight at my son and daughter-in-law’s in Reading, PA and nearly that long without a mouthful of food or a sip of water. I had spent lonely nights listening to the moans of distressed and troubled roommates. I’d had feeding tubes in my nose and one inserted into my stomach. I had suffered complications in surgery and received blood transfusions. I’d had atrial fibrillation in the middle of the night and been saved by heroic medical efforts. A test showed that there would be a future hospital stay for further surgery.

But for those few magical moments, most all of the stress was eclipsed by “Amazing Grace.” As David moved into a second verse, I began quietly mouthing my praise. “Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. ’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” Thanks, friend. I needed that!

David then swung into “The Old Rugged Cross” and rounded out the hymn trilogy with “It Is Well.” The last chasm between human troubles and divine grace had been bridged. The old hymns had spoken the message of the blood of Jesus, of God’s grace and His perpetual comfort. Thanks, Lord. I needed that!

And don’t we all, whether we are in sunlight or shadows.

Praise God for putting in hearts a new song that is really the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Intel Celebrates 40th Anniversary

It is hard to even remember a world without the personal computer (PC). Like it or not, we are all controlled and impacted by computers. That is life today in an advanced culture! And few ever pause to take into account the thousands of other applications and products that now use and that are powered by micro processors.

And the key player in it all, the Intel processor, has been the standard architecture for 40 years now. The 4004, the first ever user programmable microprocessor, was primarily the combined achievement of just three men - Ted Hoff, Masatoshi Shima and Federico Faggin. Hoff designed the logic of the 4004 but Federico Faggin did the implementation on a single silicon chip.

But most have never heard of the man who may well be the true giant in the beginnings of the original computer age. His name was Dr. An Wang. Born in China, Wang attended Harvard where he eventually started a company using his just his $600 life savings. He had no initial orders, no contracts, and not even any office furniture. The company was called Wang Laboratories and he used his contacts to sell magnetic cores which he built and sold for $4 each. Slowly Wang's company changed from being a consulting and research company into a manufacturer. His first machine was very successful, but the real breakthrough came when Wang realized that engineers and scientists needed a good desktop calculator. Later in 1971 he also saw the ‘handwriting on the wall’ for the calculator market and began The Wang word processors.

Interestingly, back in 1965, it was still believed that there was only a limited market for computers. Even Wang didn't want to get involved in building a minicomputer because he really didn't have any idea that there was a market for such a product. So he continued selling his highly advanced "calculators". The reason was that he found that, once the word "computer" was used, that management called in accountants for proposals and endless studies. By selling his machines as “calculators” he short-circuited management's attempts to control computers and allowed the engineers and scientists to buy what amounted to a minicomputer without having to seek approval from higher up! Also, a similar phenomena in the 80s got microcomputers into companies past the eyes of the data managers who were still totally preoccupied with their huge mainframes.

Today’s computers are truly amazing gadgets. Intel has just developed its 'Knights Corner' one teraflop accelerator chip capable of running at speeds equal to one trillion calculations per second. Ten years on, in 2018, Intel hopes it will be able to deliver so-called exascale-level performance, which is more than 100 times faster than currently available.

Today's processors do everything from  powering a simple GPS to directing smart bombs for the military. And most people have no idea that even their cars are running under the direction of a computer. Some find out suddenly and harshly when they have to replace one. Even the diagnosis for many vehicles  today come through a built-in micro-processor too. Most don’t understand, or care, how their PC’s work as long as they are working right. But in time, they all malfunction on some level and the average person has to either pay someone to fix them or simply buy another bigger and better model.

But when analyzing the incredible ability of even a common household PC, or even what a modern cell phone call do, I often wonder what the depths of God’s mind must be like? What must His full knowledge entail if he has given simple, sinful, finite men the brains to devise such incredible world-changing items as the mico-processor? Some feel our now highly computer-dominated world has great prophetic significance and that the Anti-Christ will put them into use for his wicked purposes as predicted in Scripture at the end of the human age. (Revelation 13:17)

But as advanced as the computer may become, its capabilities remain but an infinitesimal fraction of the knowledge of the mind of an almighty Creator. 2 Timothy 3:7 describes those who may have great levels of human knowledge, but cannot understand the most basic process and the deepest and most important data of all. Verse seven describes them as, “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That truth is God’s truth – the truth about man’s sinful condition, his redemption in Christ, and even about the purpose for life and the major issues affecting the condition and future of the creation itself!

Scripture reveals that those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ have something no computer can compete with, replace or figure out. It is described in 1 Corinthians 2:14-16. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For "who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” Having the ‘mind of Christ’ is a direct result of His glorious salvation and the subsequent and permanent indwelling of His Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:13 records, “These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”

Intel must be proud to have had such a major part in transforming the world via their micro processor over the last four decades. But the transformation that dwarfs the power and potential of any computer is the instantaneous change of the internal data in man’s heart when he or she attains access to the endless depths of the mind of Christ. This is all revealed on the spec sheet manual in God’s Word which becomes understandable and important to every true believer at the moment of the new birth. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 puts it like this, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Part of that ‘newness’ is a total upgrade in the heart’s and soul’s processor – something no man-made micro-processor chip will ever comprehend or compete with.

Computers will continue to get faster, smarter, better and gain more control of daily life. But they will never be any match to the internal wisdom that makes possible the quality of life available to those whose bodies house the ultimate and eternal living processor through God’s Spirit as Ephesians 1:17-18 describes.

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, November 14, 2011

Smokin’ Joe Loses His Greatest Fight

He was a household word in his sport. He was also best known as one of the two combatants at Madison Square Garden back on the 70’s in what is generally known as ‘The Fight of The Century’. His opponent, whom he beat that night in one of their three historic bouts, may well be the greatest fighter in all of history – Muhammad Ali.

He was Joe Frazier, nicknamed ‘Smokin’ Joe’, a name that symolized well his aggressive and relentless style in the boxing ring. But at age 67, the legendary champion who held the greatest title in the world, succumbed to a battle with liver cancer in his greatest and final fight.

There was a time when Muhammad Ali taunted Joe Frazier relentlessly. But after Frazier’s death, Ali had nothing but kind words for his greatest and most difficult opponent. "The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration. My sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones."

Bob Arum who once promoted Ali said, "Joe Frazier should be remembered as one of the greatest fighters of all time and a real man. He's a guy that stood up for himself. He didn't compromise and always gave 100 percent in the ring."

Some men and woman reach incredible fame and fortune in this life – sometimes for doing or being very good at something lucrative and other times for reasons not so honorable. Recently another household name, from a totally different sphere of life, died. Mr. Steve Jobs entered eternity after changing the world and amassing a fortune probably equal to the entirety of some third world countries.

The average person is utterly unable to even grasp the kind of wealth and luxurious existence of a Joe Frazier or a Steve Jobs. But in the final analysis, both rich and poor, known and unknown, will eventually come face to face with the Creator who gave them life and will deal with them appropriately after it physically ends. That reality is confirmed in the sobering words of Hebrews 9:27. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”

Smokin’ Joe Frazier always gave his 100 percent as did Steve jobs. Both rose to the pinnacle of their chosen professions through drive, commitment and God-given talent. But even with all of their great and historic accomplishments, unless they all had a personal union by faith with the Son of God, it all means absolutely nothing now. It was Christ’s unimaginable commitment, and the giving of His very best, that made their personal justification and redemption possible. This is partially explained in Philippians 2:5-8.”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.”

Perhaps this year, Frazier’s and Job’s worldly counterparts, Muhammad Ali and Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, will meet their Maker. None can predict when that most crucial of all moments may arrive as the Bible cautions repeatedly to be ready in verses like James 4:14. “Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away”.

As said earlier by one of Joe Frazier’s admirers, “He's a guy that stood up for himself.” But thankfully Jesus Christ did the exact opposite. His divine love drove Him to stand up for others - in the place of undeserving sinners as seen in Romans 5:7-9. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

‘Smokin Joe’, along with a select few others, held the greatest sports title in the world for a time. But that temporary honor is not even worthy to be mentioned in the same breath when compared to the One who died for him on the cross and for every soul ever born - both the mighty and miniscule. Some of His many eternal titles are recorded in 1 Tim 6:15-16.

"He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen."

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Long-term Error With A Loving Ending

It is a serious worry that sometimes runs through the minds of new parents who have just given birth. It is also something that hospitals should be very careful to avoid at all costs. But sometimes the unthinkable occurs nonetheless.

This time it involved two Russian families who had infant daughters born 12 years ago in the same hospital. Unfortunately they were mistakenly given to the wrong birth-parents. The terrible reality surfaced recently after the ex-husband of one mother refused to pay support for his daughter because she looked nothing like him. The court ordered DNA tests and the results showed that, while he had been the girl’s day to day dad at home over the years, that he was not indeed the birth-father. The families are now suing the hospital for $155,300 each – an amount that seems extremely low considering the amounts seen today in America for far less serious and often frivolous offenses.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is that neither child wants to leave their current home. The one mother quoted her daughter Irina as saying, “Mum, please don't give me away!” Her mother told the worried child, “I would never do anything against your wishes. Nothing has changed. I'm still your mother.” She also stated that her biological daughter, now living in the other family, also wants to remain in the home and with the people she knows and loves dearly now. So although there may be occasional visits now, neither child desires to leave her current home and those who have raised, protected and loved them since day one in after the great hospital error.

Tragically, human error, miscalculations, and sin take place even under the best of circumstances and even with the greatest safeguards in place. This time, as difficult and disruptive as the situation in Russia may have been, the positive element revolves around the love by the family members that overcame the shock made at the outset of all of their lives and even ties to legitimate bloodlines. In a strange, and very untypical, fashion these two girls were actually adopted, even though it was unintentional and not by design this time. But again, twelve years later, and with full understanding, they would not reverse what occurred because of the secure bond of human love created over that time frame.

But there is another level of love - one that far exceeds even this amazing human story of the super strong human bond it revealed. This other love is the unique, supernatural and unconditional love of God. It is spoken of throughout the Scriptures and is the basis for what the Bible is really all about. It is declares and describes in exact detail God’s eternal and incomprehensible love. Without it, all humanity would have remained spiritually dead from Eden forward and without any potential avenue of redemption.

Some of the key Bible verses below explain God’s plan, His love, and His Son’s essential contribution to the redemptive process. Together, they help explain God’s divine love and how that brings lost and helpless sinners into His family through faith in His Son. Also, there will never be even one case of mistaken identity or mix-ups as to who truly belongs to God and who does not. An error like this, while humanly possible as seen above, is fully impossible when dealing with the mind of an omniscient God. He alone knows the spiritual condition of every heart and will react and judge accordingly and righteously. (Hebrews 4:13) Some description of the impact of a loving God are listed as follows:

God’s Love Was Always There From The Beginning
“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4)

God’s Love Was Rejected By His Created Race  
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened.” (Genesis 3:6-7) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

God’s Love Was Undeserved by Those Who Rebelled 
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (2 John 4:10)

God’s Love Was Mightily Demonstrated Though His Son
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:8-9)

God’ Love Was The Spiritual Blood-line For Our Spiritual Adoption
“Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)

God’s Love Was The Foundation For Our Salvation 
“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)

God’s Love Secured The Salvation of His People Forever

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-29)

The 12-year old ‘birth blunder’ in Russia seems to be working out today with a happy ending. But those who did wrong may well pay dearly for their careless and costly mistake. But all that accept God’s sacrificial love in Christ by personal faith will never pay the penalty for any sin they commit. Christ already achieved that incredible feat on the cross for them. They are fully forgiven and forever ‘justified’ at the moment of their new birth. (John 3:3, Romans 3:24) And when they someday personally face their Creator, their sins, shortcomings, and unintentional mix-ups will be as though they never happened since God’s Holy Spirit will have brought them fully forgiven into His faith family forever. (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

There are many great samples of this theological truth that illustrate the results of the greatest love that mankind will ever know. They reveal the reality and basis for what alone can provide to the most fulfilling and purposeful life now and especially in the heavenly life to come. The Apostle Paul recorded numerous related passages on the subject. But nowhere did he make this all more clear than in verses like 1 Corinthians 6:11, Romans 8:1 and Ephesians 2:4-6.

- “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

- “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” 

- “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.

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thoughts on the Life and Death of Steve Jobs

Computer and hand-held technology genius Steve Jobs has died a comparatively young man at 56. Few entrepreneurs leave such a massive legacy.

Jobs was born to an unwed mother and adopted by working class parents. They saw that he went to college only for him to drop out. In a Stanford University commencement address in 2005, he explained it this way. “After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK.”

The rest is tangled, sometimes tortured, but electrifying personal history. By age 20, Jobs had teamed up with a friend to design computers. By 30, they had made Macintosh and Mac household words and were employing 4,000 people. When Apple fired him from his own company, Jobs became involved with Pixar and Next. He sold Pixar to Disney, and Next was so successful that it was eventually bought by Apple, and his work came full circle. Jobs became the guru of computer and personal electronic technology with the iPod and iTunes, the iPhone and the iPad. For a time, his company was at the top of global profitability.

But his life took another sudden down turn when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His Stanford speech revealed new discoveries. “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Jobs went on to remind the graduates that death is the fate of all of us and that they should live life to its fullest potential. “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Without particularly knowing it, Jobs was expressing the highest truths of Christian lives lived for God.

He was a visionary who shepherded the world to greener pastures of communications. Spiritual vision provides even more. In the old King James Version, Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Without a unique word from God, the people are running wild.

He had the nakedness of death right. “… naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

Steve Jobs leaves a legacy of triumph from tragedy. He said getting fired from Apple was the best thing that happened to him since he was free to explore and innovate. His attitude reflects a biblical principle of the Christian life, one that the Apostle Paul saw from a prison cell. “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident in my chains are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14)

And one more thing, as Jobs would say. Jobs’ unwed mother gave him up for adoption rather than aborting him. His adoptive parents received a call in the middle of the night that a newborn needed a home. They encouraged his interest in computers and saved money to send him to college, the final wish of his young mother just before she signed the final papers. Can we even imagine the world’s loss if she had aborted that tiny life within her?

Steve Jobs’ amazing story of only 56 genius-packed years and the legacy he left behind affirms the wisdom of Moses, tutoring his nation on a wilderness journey. “I call heaven and earth as witnesses this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and you descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lessons in a Lost and Found Moon Rock

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton’s old files recently yielded an incredible find. At the bottom of a box of Clinton’s old Arkansas gubernatorial files, Bobby Robert, Director of the Central Arkansas Library System, discovered a million-dollar treasure.

Years ago, a small moon rock, one of fifty small chunks given to each of the U.S. states, had originally been affixed to a special plaque. When Clinton lost a re-election bid in 1980, his things were packed away, and the speculation is that, in the course of time, the moon rock fell off the plaque and into the bottom of the storage box.

Other moon rocks have also been misplaced such as those given to New Jersey and Alaska. Colorado’s governor kept the rock on leaving office but agreed to give it back.

Some estimate that these moon rocks are worth in the millions of dollars. How can these small pieces be so valuable? It’s because they represent a historic space expedition, and their mineral content can be evaluated in a continuing effort to discover the moon’s origin and composition.

It is amazing when mere moon rocks are lost in obscurity. It is completely tragic when the greatest Rock of all time and eternity is shuffled into obscurity.

“Rock” is a name of God in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 32:18 is one example of many such references: “Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, and have forgotten the God who fathered you.” The references differentiate between spiritual rock formations as in Deut. 32:31: “For their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.”
When Moses struck the rock in Numbers 20:11 (“And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also”), it was a preview of Christ. “…our fathers…all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4)

Christ told his disciples that He was the Rock, the foundation of the church. “And I also say to you that you are Peter (“pebble” or “piece of rock” in the Greek), and on this rock (“boulder” or “massive rock”) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Houses unshaken in a storm were built on a rock, not sand, as Christ said. “He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.” (Luke 6:48)

Hymns and spiritual songs have been written extolling Christ, the solid Rock, such as “Rock of Ages, Cleft For Me”. Another is Vernon J. Charlesworth’s hymn “A Shelter in the Time of Storm” written about 1880:

The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

A shade by day, defense by night,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
No fears alarm, no foes afright,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

The raging storms may round us beat,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
We’ll never leave our safe retreat,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

O Rock divine, O Refuge dear,
A Shelter in the time of storm;
Be Thou our Helper ever near,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A weary land, a weary land;
Oh, Jesus is a Rock in a weary land,
A Shelter in the time of storm.

Losing a small moon rock is being careless with mere millions. Losing the Rock of Ages would be priceless error.

Dave Virkler

Monday, October 3, 2011

Recession Changes Life In America

It has become a fact of life, that life in America is different than life from even a year ago. The simple fact is that, as one article in USA TODAY put it, “The dismal economy is having a profound effect on the American way of life.” Other areas affected include some 200,000 fewer births to women ages 20 to 34 in 2010 and greater numbers of younger adults moving back home to lessen personal financial burdens or because of unemployment issues.

It is hard indeed to see or predict where the bleak financial trend is heading or for how long it may last. And its effects are certainly not confined to just America. But perhaps the results are more apparent in the U.S. because the lifestyle there has been so amazingly comfortable overall for so long a time. So it should shock very few that this unusual economic pressure would bring with it numerous negative and unwanted changes to families, businesses and individuals.

But there is another area of life where a very special and unique change should come when the proper positive conditions are miraculously met. This area lies in the spiritual realm and the noted change is to occur when a man or women’s inner core changes in the prescribed supernatural biblical mode. When one trusts in Christ, and is saved, they are immediately indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit. His predetermined ministry of inner and outer change to all believers is seen in passages like John 14:26, Romans 5:5, 13, 1 Thessalonians 1:5, and 1 Corinthians 2:13.

The third person of the triune god-head is the greatest, most positive, and only true lasting agent of change in any human heart. Perhaps the clearest New Testament passage confirming this truth is found in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Then also in 1 Corinthians 6:11 Paul, after recording partial list of sin-related actions, speaks to the reality of the drastic changes that should always come about in every new believer. After the review of many typical human flaws he writes, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

Few would any longer argue that America today is different than life from just a year ago. And again, few really know where this downward change will lead and for how long. They can only agree that it is painful, stressful, and abnormal in a nation that has been the envy of the world many long decades.

But the major inner change that accompanies true salvation in Christ is to be expected. It is normal and natural according to Scripture. It is the exact opposite of the agony and uncertainty surrounding America’s current internal troubles. The Spirit is to bring great and lasting alteration – one that occurs in the heart and soul of any follower of Jesus Christ.

Many Christians may face the same exact problems as all other Americans in these difficult economic times. But at the same time, they have an asset to assist, comfort and guide them in this and any other life struggle. But for that to be true, and remain fully effective, will require an awareness concerning the serious warnings given in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 and Ephesians 4:30. These will have primary impact and change, one way or another, in the life of every single child of God. His word declares in no uncertain terms, “Do not quench the Spirit.” “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

For the Christian, the best and spiritually normal way to approach life, even one that may include declining material changes, is to do all they can to inwardly and outwardly reflect the words of Galatians 5:25. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Flight 93 Legacy

A week after the 9/11 anniversary, I visited the newly dedicated Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville, PA.

The town gained unexpected prominence at 10:03 AM on September 11, 2001 when United Flight 93 from Newark, NJ screaming at 560 miles per hour crashed into the ground upside down at a 45-degree angle. Hitting the soft earth of a strip mine overfill, the plane basically disappeared, puzzling the first responders who could see little that resembled an airliner.

We later learned that radical Islamist terrorist had slain the pilots, taken control and were heading toward the U.S. capitol. Courageous passengers, aware through cell phone messages of the terror ahead, strove to overcome the villains, regain control of the aircraft and possibly survive. Time ran out as the terrorists chose death for all rather than capture, and the rest is history.

Aboard Flight 93 were two friends of mine, Donald and Jean Peterson, who were believers in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Also on board was fellow believer Todd Beamer, whose wife, Lisa, I had met years before when she was a teenager in Peekskill, NY. There may have been others who personally knew Christ as Savior, but I’m focusing on Don and Jean Peterson whom I knew.

Don was retired from his business, and he and his wife had dedicated themselves to supporting Christian ministries. Don was special to me. He had served with me on a Bible college Board of Governors, had engaged me to speak to neighbors gathered for Bible teaching in his home, had booked me to speak at a crisis pregnancy center event, and sent periodic gifts for our ministry. Further, he was counseling addicts at the Keswick Colony of Mercy in Whiting, NJ and had even helped some begin business anew after their recovery.

On September 11, 2001, Don and Jean were bumped to an earlier flight as they headed for a family gathering in California. But God had another plan to bring them to a heavenly family reunion via Shanksville.

When the first responders arrived at the crash site, only two objects could be clearly identified: a part of the aircraft landing gear and Don Peterson’s Bible—fuel stained, yet intact. Even more remarkable, inside the Bible was a loose sheet on which were the names of ten men in the addiction recovery program for whome he was praying.

Isaiah 40:8 promises, “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”

“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks (Hebrews 11:4 – emphasis mine). The godly speak long after their deaths as Revelation 14:13 notes, “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.’” (emphasis mine)

On Sunday morning, September 11, 2011, Bill Welty, Director of Keswick, shared Don’s story with the 40 men currently in Colony of Mercy rehab program. At the invitation, ten received Christ as Savior. Don is still speaking, and he does it again every time I tell this story in meeting, on radio and even now on the Internet.

Todd Beamer led the charge against the terrorists saying, “Let’s roll!” His faithful and courageous wife, Lisa, authored a book titled with those two words. It made The New York Times best seller list and is often read and reread. She has encouraged countless discouraged people to keep on in trying circumstances.

I’m so grateful to Don and Jean and Todd and others who “overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and…did not love their lives to the death” (Rev. 12:11).

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Two Pastors Shot in Florida

The advice is as valid today as it was centuries ago when given through the wise words of the author of Proverbs. In the twenty-seventh chapter he wrote, “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Again that is great wisdom for anyone, including pastors themselves, who have likely preached at some point from this very verse or at least its concept. (Proverbs 27:1)
    This was certainly the case in Lakeland, Florida this past weekend. On Sunday, September 18, at the Greater Faith Christian Center Church, the congregation had just bowed their heads in prayer. At that precise
    moment, a former church member entered into the quiet sanctuary and opened fire. He shot and wounded the pastor and associate pastor from behind before finally being wrestled to the ground in a six-minute long

    Pastor William Boss and associate pastor Carl Stewart were shot from behind. Boss was shot in the head, and Stewart, shot three times in the back. Jeremiah Fogle was charged with first-degree murder, and three counts of attempted murder, after his 56-year-old wife Theresa Fogle was found slain inside their home not long after the church attack. They were married at Greater Faith back in 2002.

    Sheriff Grady Judd stated, "He was prepared to shoot even more and we don't know exactly why he went into this mad rage." Judd also stated, "Of all the places you should be safe, you should be safe in a house of
    worship - especially on a Sunday morning."

    The practical and spiritual lessons learned from this latest of several terrible incidents in churches over the last few years are many. First and foremost, there is no really safe place physically speaking anywhere - not even within the sacred halls of God’s house on His special day. The only real peace and security that is guaranteed is the inner spiritual safety that can only originate through a true saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

    The Psalmist had it exactly right when he wrote on the subject of ultimate security being only in God. In Psalm 33:16-19 he instructed, “No king is saved by the multitude of an army; A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope in His mercy, To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine.”

    One of the other top lessons learned in the Lakeland, Florida incident is that sin is real and its results often ugly and highly destructive. Many times its target becomes Christian leaders. These are uniquely chosen by
    God and therefore pose the greatest threat to Satan’s work as they endeavor to thwart his evil schemes. But the same threat holds generally true to any serious believer who takes his or her faith seriously and serves the Lord faithfully.

    Again, the spiritual lessons abound when viewing the tragic episode in Florida. Another would be that Christians should be in serious prayer for their brothers and sisters in Christ there. (Romans 12:15) But the best overall advice was offered at the outset – that of expecting the unexpected and preparing accordingly in the light of 1 Peter 5:8-9. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith.”

    The reality is that Christians and non-believers equally live in an uncertain and sin-cursed world. Paul spoke concerning why this is so in Romans 5:12. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Thankfully the story does not end there. Shortly thereafter, he shares the encouragement of Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Sometimes sin seems to gain the temporary upper hand through some terrible event. Sometimes the pure volume and consistency of evil seems almost overwhelming. When that occurs, Christians must resist the
    temptation to simply stick their heads in the sand from fear and despair. Instead, they must place their lives and trust fully in Christ’s loving and protective hands and allow their hearts to cling to His promises like the one found in Philippians 4:6-7. There we find a guarantee of His special peace and the assurance of victory - something that defies all human logic and comprehension.

    “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

    Bill Breckenridge

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    America’s Poverty Level Increasing

    If you were asked how many Americans fit into the government’s standard for being at or below the poverty level, what would your answer be?

    From a personal standpoint, the statistic just offered by the Census Bureau shocked me and may well do the same to you. Their current figure is nearly 1 in 6. That bleak category amounts to about 46.2 million people, or 15.1 percent, and is a 27-year high. In addition, the number of people lacking health insurance now has increased to 49.9 million – an all-time high in the nation. These sobering statistics were released on Tuesday and covered 2010. The U.S. unemployment averaged 9.6 percent up from 9.3 percent the previous year. With that said, there is some question that the term ‘poor’ is being redefined upward by some politicians in order to bolster their own political philosophy and aspirations.

    The noun ‘poverty’ in the dictionary basically means the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor. It refers to deficiency of necessary or desirable ingredients, qualities, etc. Synonyms include thinness, scantiness, and insufficiency.

    Although poverty is a common concept, it is one that is rather hard to pin down to a standard definition. The reason is simple. Some who are considered poor in one place, would be seen as fairly well off in another. Having recently adopted an orphan from the war-torn Congo, we have seen this concept up close and personal. While we try and make ends meet each month, this little boy pictures us as near royalty as we may well have more in our small house than did his entire orphanage where some 50+ malnourished kids lived, often eating once a day, and sharing clothes with one another.

    Likewise, many who are just scratching out a living can’t quite grasp a professional athlete’s attitude of turning his back at a multi-million dollar contract because he feels he is worth more or it is somehow beneath him. Many in this position never think about why others can’t afford the expensive tickets to fuel his outrageous salary – one that may even exceed the fan’s lifetime total earnings in just one season!

    True poverty is a terrible thing and causes suffering and anguish that most in America still cannot really fathom. True starvation, an increasing world-wide problem, is an unimaginable way to die. It is slow and excruciatingly painful. And in life’s last horrific days, the body literally consumes itself. That is poverty! And that is something all Christians should be aware of and try to help alleviate on whatever level God may lead. The apostle related this idea in some rather pointed words in 1 John 3:17. “But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

    But there also exists another form of poverty. It can be true of someone starving in some famine, disease-ridden, or war-ravaged nation. Or it can also be the case in the lives of a multi-billionaire who cannot even relate to any need on any level. This, simply stated, is spiritual poverty! It is a condition that every soul is born into according to Scripture. It is due to sin and because all have fallen short of God’s holy standards. (Romans 3:23) Romans 5:12 leaves no doubt as it clearly defines its deadly and contagious nature. ”Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

    Anyone who knows anything about God’s nature, and what His word teaches, knows that sin must be dealt with. If it is not reversed, the future eternal consequences are beyond horrific. The concept of everlasting punishment, in a literal hell, is beyond the ability of the human mind to grasp. But the same God, whose own nature forces Him to deal harshly, justly and equally with all sin, also loved sinners enough to provide the escape from spiritual poverty and its wretched consequences. (John 3:16) His supernatural solution was to send His only Son to die in our place. This would take away our guilt and remove our deserved penalty. His willing sacrifice allowed those who will trust Him as Savior to be fully cleansed and forever justified in God’s eyes. (1 John 4:14-15, 1 Timothy 4:10)

    Through Christ’s love and mercy, we can become spiritually whole and rich. This required a willingness on His part to experience a level and form of poverty that even His own redeemed people will likely never comprehend. 2 Corinthians 8:9 substantiates this blessed, but very costly, truth. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” 

    Material and physical poverty has plagued mankind since sin entered the race and will continue until God someday ends it. But the far greater issue is unsolved spiritual poverty and the very real and eternal nightmare it represents.

    Those who have become rich in and through Christ should thank Him constantly - regardless of their life’s economic status. And they should also seriously share their faith with those still spiritually poor with a level of fervency as do those now in great physical poverty and fighting for their very survival.

    Bill Breckenridge

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    No Religion on 9/11?

    New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg disallowed any overt religious expressions in the historic 10th anniversary ceremonies at Ground Zero where the Twin Towers once stood and a memorial is open and buildings now rise. He said that not all religious beliefs could be included and no offense should be given to any. But prayer and religious references were there.

    President Barack Obama read at length from Psalm 46:

    “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling.

    There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

    The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.

    Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.

    Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

    The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.”

    Former President George W. Bush quoted a condolence letter written by President Abraham Lincoln to a grieving mother when he heard of her losing five sons in the Civil War. Lincoln wrote, “I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement….”

    On Sunday evening, President Obama book-ended his speech at the Kennedy Center memorial concert by twice quoting the latter portion of Psalm 30:5. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” refers to a time of mourning and then a time of joy.

    At the dedication service of the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on Saturday, President Bush quoted John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends,” which was spoken by Christ of His forthcoming death on the Cross. Those same words have been quoted numerous times in blogs and other 9/11-related writings.

    The newspapers on Monday, September 12, featured the moving picture. of a father kneeling with bowed head before the inscribed name of his fallen son and his arm outstretched across the sloping panel at the newly dedicated Ground Zero memorial.

    Top political edicts may forbid formal Scripture and prayer in public gatherings, but God’s Word and the hunger for spiritual meaning in tragedy cannot be excluded from human experience. Even if every Bible were removed from earth, the Eternal Word is still guarded in heaven. “Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89)

    Dave Virkler

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Lee: Bad Location and Worse Timing?

    It is obviously the last thing needed in many places along the East Coast after the desolation left by Hurricane Irene. But just when most flooded roads were re-opening, basements drying and countless thousands rebuilding, Tropical Storm Lee began to dump additional heavy rains on many of the same areas.

    Along with the downpours, Lee also spawned tornadoes, knocked out power to thousands, and swept several people away. Louisiana and Mississippi felt the greatest impact over the weekend. At least four people died because of the rough winds and drenching rains. The Gulf Coast also experienced an oil spill that left Labor Day vacationers and residents having to clean tar off of their feet that had washed up on the beaches there.

    Often life does not see fair. Many times it appears that certain people have far more unpleasant experiences than do others. At times, even committed Christians may wonder why they have not been spared particular trials because of their unique and spiritual bond to the Creator God who controls all things – including the weather. It can seem that there is little or no difference between the difficulties faced by believers and their unsaved counterparts. And sometimes the lost seem to live better, and even have an outward edge, over God’s own people?

    As far as this subject is concerned Matthew mentions something that must be remembered by every Christian when tough times come their way. Mathew 5:45 reads, “For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  We all live equally in a fallen and sin-cursed world. And although God does sometimes perform miraculous feats of divine protection for His own, it is simply folly and impractical to think that a monster storm would rush in and out of an area and only the homes of God's people would be left standing while all others are carried away. Christians suffer in this life too - but not like those who have no hope or the peace and power that originates from God’s indwelling Holy Spirit.

    Even the Psalmist Asaph wondered about this very thing and wrote his rather blunt feelings in Psalm 73. In verse 2 he speaks with great honesty about his struggle over the seeming prosperity of the wicked versus the apparent unfair trials and tribulations of the righteous.

    Beginning in verse 2 he declares, “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men." In verse 7 he adds, “Their eyes bulge with abundance; They have more than heart could wish."  Verse 12 then concludes the vivid description of his confusion stating, ”Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning.”

    Asaph had the honesty and boldness to write down what many of us may well be thinking but are afraid to openly admit. But as he heavily pondered this most troubling personal matter, God somehow broke through the darkness and shinned His guiding light on the issue. He revealed the spiritual dimension to His servant thus allowing him to understand the matter fully from the Creators’ perspective.

    Verse 16 concludes, “When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me - Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors.”

    Without any doubt, sometimes the ways and will of God are hard to grasp. (Isaiah 55:8)  But, at the same time, we can rest assured that His purposes are always perfect, righteous and just. He overlooks nothing and makes no mistakes – ever! (Genesis. 18:25)  His people are never left alone to struggle blindly and helplessly regardless of how high or fast life’s turbulent waters may rise. They are permanently anchored to the solid rock that is Christ. In Him alone they are secured and protected forever.

    And for those who may still ponder the source and scope of their own personal struggles, as did the Psalmist prior to his divine revelation, perhaps Psalm 46:1-3 offers the clearest understanding, peace and comfort found anywhere in the Scriptures.

    “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling.”

    Bill Breckenridge

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011

    Calculating The Cost Of Irene

    Besides the loss of life, interrupted lives, human suffering, and priceless possessions lost, there can now be an approximate dollar amount put on Hurricane Irene.

    According to an estimate by AIR Worldwide Insurance companies, the total sum paid out will reach between $3 billion and $6 billion to cover damage – the bulk of which is coming from massive flooding. For Irene, the wind was not so much the issue. It was the vast downpour that caused widespread flooding that went farther inland than usual for an East Coast storm. Even Vermont felt the storm’s wrath.

    Of course these figures are a far cry from Katrina in 2005 which caused $41.1 billion in losses, or Andrew in 1992, which caused $15.5 billion to Florida and Louisiana. But that was then and this is now. And for those who have lost some, or all of their worldly possessions, comparing one storm to another is rather meaningless.

    The sun now shines, the storm is gone and now headed for the record books. Only the carnage lingers and will for some time. So the question now becomes, especially for Christians, what do we do to help? First and foremost, we need to open our eyes and care – something not easy if we ourselves happened to ‘dodge the bullet’ so to speak.

    I personally led 5 separate relief trips from our church in New Jersey to Mississippi after Katrina devastated the Gulf coast. The stunning image in my mind of stepping onto the property, some 2 miles inland, where the Lake Shore Baptist Church once stood, are as fresh today as they were almost 7 years ago. I’ll never forget walking onto a concrete slab and trying to conjure up the 30-foot storm surge that carried the church, and most everything else there, away with it. Multiply that by 500 or 1,000 and perhaps you have proportions of the biblical Genesis flood!

    But for many of us, the damage this time is in our own back yards. Physically helping does not require an expensive 1100-mile journey and many long hours to get there. This time, we can easily help our own neighbors. This time we can volunteer through one of the best organizations in the disaster aid business – Samaritans Purse.  We can all use this opportunity to lovingly, and with sensitivity, share the Gospel of Christ and use these unfortunate circumstances to point out how fragile material things really are and the value of clinging to the saving and solid rock with is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). And we can all give, pray, and encourage those who have suffered loss just as Paul wrote about in Romans chapter twelve.

    “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” (Romans 12 10-13) Verse 15 adds, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

    After the chaos of the storm comes the chance to serve. There comes time to become the literal ‘Hands and Feet of Christ'. Hopefully His church will not squander this great opportunity, but will fully display His love and then His command recorded in Galatians 6:10. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith."

    Bill Breckenridge

    Saturday, August 27, 2011

    Earthquake Restores Hearing

    All earthquake results are not created equal according to the amazing story of Robert Valderzak of Washington, DC.

    The 75-year old had a fall in June and lost his hearing. Amazingly, after Tuesday’s 5.8 magnitude Virginia earthquake shook his hospital bed, his hearing returned, much to the amazement of doctors who are planning additional tests.

    His doctor noted, “Some people seem to be a little frightened by it, but he is delighted that this earthquake came along because soon after the event, he could hear everything in the room very clearly.”

    For both the hearing-impaired and those who hear fine, earthquakes are surely attention-getters. Countless people can tell you exactly where they were, what they were doing and how they felt about the big shake of August 23, 2011.

    I once heard that if God can’t use His Word to get people’s attention, He uses His works. In the case of an indifferent jail keeper in Philippi, God had to use as earthquake when His quotes proved inadequate.

    Acts 16 records how Paul and his company preached in the city. It created such a stir that jail time resulted. Surely the jailer knew of the preaching and likely even the content. He had heard of their work, seen them whipped mercilessly, clamped their limbs into stocks and fallen asleep, evidences of crass indifference to the Gospel and to human suffering. But when God sent an earthquake, the jailer had a different attitude.

    In the dark of midnight, as Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns (the original Greek word is “hymneo”), an earthquake shook the prison, disconnected the prisoners’ shackles and rattled loose the prison doors. The commotion shook the slumbering jailer into full consciousness, and the presumed escape of his charges totally unnerved him. The narrative of Acts 16:27-34 is so astonishing that I include it here:

    And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.

    But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

    Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.

    And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

    So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

    Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.

    And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

    Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
    Earthquakes can be a disguised blessing, especially when they open one’s ears to hear God’s truth and ask the ultimate question, “What must I do to be saved?” Those who fear no mortal earthquake can answer with personally known joy, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, and your whole household too, if they believe as you.”

    Dave Virkler

    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    Earthquakes and Other Disasters: A Sign of the Times?

    On Tuesday, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter in Virginia jeopardized Washington, DC–even opening a crack in the Washington Monument—and was felt hundreds of miles away up and down the northeastern U.S. Various reports of collapsed walls and falling objects punctuated reports. Some analysts said it was the worst quake to hit the region in 25 years. The same day, minor quakes hit California and Colorado.

    Today, weather reports declare that Hurricane Irene is set to slam the east coast and slither northward with undetermined amounts of rain and wind.

    All this is happening in the face of a tragic drought in Texas and adjoining states that has nearly decimated the wheat crop, pinching national and world supplies and no doubt ratcheting up food prices. Drought and famine are no strangers to Somalia and other African countries where millions are dead or teetering on the brink of starvation.

    Meanwhile the financial world experiences its own earthquake of shaky U.S. dollars and unsteady European currencies underscored by America’s national borrowing, often from unfriendly nations.

    The concentration of natural and man-made disasters has long been associated with end-time scenarios where men and nature seemingly revolt against standard behavior and herald an eventual Tribulation era of stunningly amplified catastrophes. We confess to not knowing the precise prophetic connection in the present conjunction, but neither do we conclude that they are not.

    Toward the conclusion of history as we have known it, the Bible forecasts strange birth pangs as time moves toward the return of Christ toward the earth in the Rapture, as it is called, of I Thessalonians 4:17 and then a terrible conjunction of global geological, astronomical and financial disorders of unparalleled magnitude.

    Mark 13:8 says, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows.” (The word translated as “sorrows” means “birth pangs.”)

    1 Thessalonians 5:3-4 repeats the warning: “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.”
    Whether imminent or eventual, spiritual preparation is ultimately our best defense.

    In the old song Day by Day, Lina Sandell wrote,

    Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
    With a special mercy for each hour;
    All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
    He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r.
    The protection of His child and treasure
    Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
    “As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,” *
    This the pledge to me He made.

    Dave Virkler

    * Deut. 33:25b – “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.”

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    A Winning Hockey Shot in Question

    Honesty is not the best policy; it is the only policy, and a Minnesota family agrees after a brief brush thinking otherwise.

    At a fund-raising event, 11-year old Nate Smith of Faribault, Minnesota skated out to compete in a contest to swat a hockey puck 89 feet into a 3½-inch plastic goal. Nate has a twin brother, Nick, who was the actual entrant since Nate had just had an arm cast recently removed. When Nick’s raffle ticket number was called, he was outside the arena, and twin brother Nate was hastily substituted.

    Amazingly, Nate did made the shot, and he looked to be set to receive a $50,000 prizeuntil the truth won out.

    The euphoria lasted a day until family consultations concluded that the winner wasn’t actually the winner and living with a lie, no matter how close to the truth, wasn’t worth the stress. Although Nate’s father, Pat Smith, had hastily signed a document affirming the absent son’s win, he later cleared the air explaining, “The next day we felt so badly, I called the organizers. We told them that Nate made the shot. We did the right thing.” (As of this writing, there has been no decision on whether Nate gets the money or not.)

    Indeed, the right thing always reflects ultimate truth. Living a lie, especially a family falsehood, mars parents’ example and degrades children’s character. The formative impressions linger into adulthood. As the twig is bent so grows the limb. The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) True freedom is not to freedom to do wrong but to do right.

    Years ago an Israeli politician faced a serious decision affecting the future of his country. He said that before he decided, he was going home to talk to two people. “I want to talk to my grandfather who has been dead for several years and I want to talk to my grandson, yet unborn.” Of course, he didn’t believe in speaking directly with either, but he illustrated the importance of recognizing the wisdom of the past and his responsibility for future generations.

    Every family needs to get its moral priorities straight. Thankfully, the Smith twins will grow up knowing that truth is priceless and ill-gotten gain is dangerous. Better still, I hope that all youths come to understand that Christ is, as He Himself said, “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

    Satan is “a murderer from the beginning, does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

    Thus, truth and error are in major disagreement. When truth wins, great blessing abounds.

    Dave Virkler

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Texas Governor Rick Perry Prays for America

    Overcoming a legal challenge by those charging him with violating the separation of church and state, Rick Perry, the Christian Governor of Texas, called for a day of prayer. On Saturday, over 30,000 believers gathered for prayer at The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis held at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Secularists and champions of the so-called separation of church and state decried the event as they always do. But Perry sees our national problems as a spiritual disorder, not a mere economic problem.

    God bless Governor Perry. At the prayer rally, he read Scripture and then humbly called on Jesus praying, “Lord, you are the source of every good thing … You are our only hope, and we stand before you today in awe of your power and in gratitude for your blessings, and humility for our sins. Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government, and as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us, and for that we cry out for your forgiveness.”

    This was on the same weekend that Standard & Poors, the giant credit rating agency, downgraded America’s national credit standing because there is questionable government ability to solve our problems and the recent budget efforts did not go far enough. As our financial standing buckled, Perry’s thousands bowed before God for His divine help.

    Though it is belittled and maligned by opponents, massive repentance and focused prayer alone is our only hope. Perry’s call for prayer follows the precedent of our founders who pleaded for divine guidance in 1774. George Washington urged his troops in Christian conduct and had prayer and Bible reading in his military tent each day for the eight years of the Revolutionary War. As president, he called for national days of prayer.

    Abraham Lincoln also proclaimed these days of national prayer and repentance as have most U.S. presidents including Barak Obama, who cited Lincoln in last May’s National Day of Prayer proclamation. “Prayer has played an important role in the American story and in shaping our Nation’s leaders. President Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.’” And the proclamation ends as do almost every one of approximately 100 annual presidential proclamations, with the phrase, “In the year of our Lord,” meaning Jesus Christ.

    Perry did in Texas only what the President does in Washington. If citizens of both state and nation heed these calls, there is hope for the country.

    When I receive phone calls soliciting financial support for politicians and political parties, I say something to this effect. “You get nothing from me until you recognize that our problems are not financial but spiritual.” Thankfully, Rick Perry already understands that.

    Dave Virkler