Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Star Pitcher Denied Team Access?

The Florida-born 16-year-old's name is Anthony Burruto. His is a sophomore in an Orlando high school. But is also not at all your typical or average student. Burruto is an athlete, and a very gifted one at that! The pitcher can throw an 80-mph fastball. That is a speed that is not far below some of today’s successful professionals in the sport. He was even was featured recently for his special ability on the cover of ESPN Magazine.

Anthony is indeed rare and incredibly unique. Here's why. The boy had his legs amputated as a baby because he was born without a shinbone in his left leg and without a fibula in his right one. But instead of sitting back, being depressed, withdrawn, or just honing his skills at video games, he turned to baseball. The modern world of prosthetics, not only allowed him to play, but eventually to exceed all expectations - even of those without his unique ‘disability’.

That is the good, encouraging, and inspiring news for most people with and without these kinds of special physical handicaps to contend with. The bad news is the decision that was made by the high school’s principal and the team’s coach to exclude the miraculously repaired and highly talented player from the varsity baseball team. The ‘stated’ excuse was just a single word - ‘bunts’. Yes, the coach was reportedly ‘worried’ that Burruto would be unable to field bunts if and when they occurred. Really?

I was listening to the major sports radio show in the New York City area recently on this story. Interestingly, as well as accurately, the host stated that most modern high school players are fairly clueless concerning the forgotten skill of bunting anyway. Few are taught this in this steroid age that focuses primarily on high batting averages and especially hitting for power. He even said at one point that a good number of college, and even some professionals, are not very effective at this dwindling aspect of the game.

Then, too, there is that little matter of opposing batters in general not being able to catch up to this kid's pitches at all – whether swinging away or trying to lay down an occasional sacrifice bunt. And when that occasion arises, cannot the third and first basemen 'cheat' by playing in a little closer to the plate and thereby compensate a little? It is no secret that not all great pitchers are also golden glove fielders. Many already rely heavily on surrounding infielders to help them out in this specific area of the game anyway. To me, something seems wrong!

Dennis Rasmussen, who pitched in the majors for 12 seasons, said simply, "This decision was wrong. He (the coach) crushed a young man with no apparent reason." The mom commented to the local newspaper, "He's not looking at him as an athlete. He was looking at him like he's a disabled person." I agree! Something here appears wrong!

My semi-educated guess is that this is primarily about some jealous parents of other pitchers who were probably seniors or juniors. My assumption is that they loudly, but secretly, voiced that they were not about to let their kids be bumped from the roster by the young phenom and maybe end their own kid’s dream of a scholarship or a shot at the pros - something that nearly every parent assumes their child is capable of today. And it seems that few realistically deal with the reality of the staggering odds of this ever coming about.

I played varsity baseball – what now seems like about a thousand years ago. In contrast, maybe we used caveman’s clubs for bats. They were certainly not the $300 advanced aluminum weapons that arm young hitters today. But as far as I know, you still today make the team by ‘trying out’ at this level. This is not T-ball for 8 year olds or town little league where all who sign up get into the games at some point - talented or not. In high school, where the players are nearly grown men, normally the best players play and the rest cheer from the bench, stands or find something else to do where they might be more suited or gifted.

To add to my personal suspicions of some shady dealings here, it was even suggested by some that Anthony spend a season on JV. That is like the high school version of the minor leagues. Interesting offer. But do they not bunt there, too? Something is wrong – very wrong! So maybe there was supposedly a concern for his physical safety? But do other kids not get hit by pitches, break bones in outfield collisions, get spiked, and tear up knees and ankles sliding - sometimes causing long-term and serious bodily damage at this advanced level? Something is wrong – very wrong! To his credit and honor, Anthony Burruto doesn't make any excuses. He simply stated to the papers, "I want to earn my position on the team. I want him to say I'm good enough to play." Well at least here is something finally right – very right!

And speaking of very right, very honest, and very up front, the God of the Bible has not, nor ever will, do anything to intentionally hurt or hide the truth from anyone for any reason. He has taken the time to clearly, openly, and truthfully spell out in Scripture all that man needs to get on His permanent ‘team’ through faith, and to please Him and follow His will.

But the difference between making God’s team and making a varsity or higher sports team is massive. It could not be more of a contrast since it has nothing to do with performance, ability, or favoritism. It has only to do with personal faith and trust in what Jesus Christ did for us because we have no ability whatsoever to save ourselves for the power and penalty of sin! The Bible abounds in proof texts to this effect, like those found in verses like Romans 3:23, 6:23, and 10:13. But nowhere is this great truth better revealed than in Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Once someone makes God’s team and enters His faith family, each is given at least one spiritual gift to be developed and used for His glory. It was the apostle Paul who spelled this reality out using words guided by the Holy Spirit in Romans 12:4-6. “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them:”

What was done to Anthony Burruto was very wrong at worst and shady at best! Hopefully this seemingly bogus decision will be reversed and he will be able to play and go on with his life with the confidence that he was indeed better than good enough.

But infinitely more important is that all of us who know we are, and never were, good enough on our own to please God, not only become members of His family by faith, but that we also carefully use the special gifts given us at the moment we were united to Him in Christ.

The second part of the above mentioned salvation verse in Ephesians chapter two continues and declares, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Can There Really Be Freedom in an Islamic Republic?

A wildfire of democratic hunger is spreading across Arab lands. It is fueled by electronically savvy youth seeking freedom from economic poverty, political subjection and, if the truth be told, Islamic oppression.

It has been wisely pointed out that this uprising cannot be blamed on Israel as most Mid-East ills usually are. But the Iranian leaders are inclined to blame the United States for this in some convoluted accusatory reasoning. In this case, the United States should gladly accept the charge, realizing that the rage comes not from direct U.S. subversion. Rather, it is the inevitable result of human yearning coupled with awareness of free world democracy that is exemplified in our wonderful Constitution under the flag waving “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

The major difficulty of these growing rushes toward democracy is that they are built on a shoddy foundation of Islamic fallacies—the incorrect belief that Islam empowers the sinner and frees him for wise preferential voting and stable government.

Islamic takeovers, such as the Iranian debacle of 1979, are described as “Islamic Republics.” When that ill-fated upheaval occurred, I went immediately to interview the head of International Missions, Rev. William Tarr, for our radio broadcast. Bill had spent years as a missionary in Islamic lands. In the interview, he mentioned that the Ayatollah had proclaimed Iran to be an Islamic Republic, but as far as he knew there was no such thing. He was correct. Islam knows no separation of church and state, much less ultimate elective power in its people. Imams are viewed as agents of God, and the Islamic beliefs that have made their way into Sharia law are to be imposed by the leaders, not debated by the masses.

These youthful freedom movements, as in Egypt and in growing numbers of other Arab countries, are well meaning but misguided. To build freedom on Islam is futile and likely heads the idealistic freedom fighters into the swamps of Sharia law.

Islamic democracy is a contradiction of terms, never known anyplace at any time. Islam is a pagan, 6th century dark age of scientific nonsense, demonic visions and political dictatorship. To think otherwise is to foster a growing erosion of stability at home and abroad.

We enjoy the freedoms and prosperity of present-day America because our founders built on the Holy Scriptures, upon the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the Jesus Christ of the New Testament. Lest there be any doubt, read what former president John Quincy Adams said on the 4th of July in 1837:

“And why is it that, among the swarming myriads of our population, thousands and tens of thousands among us, abstaining, under the dictate of religious principle, from the commemoration of that birth-day of Him who brought life and immortality to light, yet unite with all their brethren of this community, year after year, in celebrating this, the birth-day of the nation?

“Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies, announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?”

Adams noted a unique Old Testament prophecy. “…This was indeed a great and solemn event. The sublimest of the prophets of antiquity with the voice of inspiration had exclaimed, ‘Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once?’ (Isaiah 66:8). In the two thousand five hundred years that had elapsed since the days of that prophecy, no such event had occurred. It had never been seen before. In the annals of the human race, then, for the first time, did one People announce themselves as a member of that great community of the powers of the earth, acknowledging the obligations and claiming the rights of the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. The earth was made to bring forth in one day! A nation was born at once!”

Adams continued that America was a Christian nation. “…[T]he Declaration of Independence announced the One People, assuming their station among the powers of the earth, as a civilized, religious, and Christian People, – acknowledging themselves bound by the obligations, and claiming the rights, to which they were entitled by the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God …”

Toward the end of his very long speech, Adams said,

“Why is it that six hundred years before the birth of the Redeemer, the sublimest of prophets, with lips touched by the hallowed fire from the hand of God, spake and said, – ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound?’ (Isaiah 61:1). And why is it, that, at the first dawn of the fulfillment of this prophecy, at the birth-day of the Savior in the lowest condition of human existence, the angel of the Lord came in a flood of supernatural light upon the shepherds, witnesses of the scene and said, ‘Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people?’ Why is it, that there was suddenly with that angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men?’ (Luke 2:9, 10, 13, 14).

“What are the good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people? The prophet had told you six hundred years before – liberty to the captives, the opening of the prison to them that are bound. The multitude of the heavenly host pronounced the conclusion, to be shouted hereafter by the universal choir of all intelligent created beings, ‘Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”

U.S. leaders are often unwilling to believe the truth, much less express it, that Islam and our republican system of constitutional government are perpetually contradictory. Perhaps it is the decades-old infiltration into American thinking that Islam is just another brand of fine religion. Perhaps there is the fear of appearing prejudiced, but the two foundations for civilization are mutually exclusive. To attempt a democratic superstructure on the sinking sands of illiterate, ecstatic ravings, said to be inspired by the angel Gabriel, is futile.

However, there is an amazing revival of Christian evangelism in Muslim lands. Millions are coming to Christ, many through the electronic breakthrough of radio and TV and the secretive and often death defying outreach of foot soldiers of the Cross. If the yen for freedom can be harnessed to the glorious freedom in Christ through His shed blood and victorious resurrection, there is hope for the Muslim world and hope for the rebirth of nations and a peaceful era. To this end we should pray and work.

An example is the “Son of Hamas” as he calls himself, who heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, received Him as Savior, renounced his life of violence against Jews and Christians, and now shares the precious fact that “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17). That is only is the basis for personal redemption and political freedom.

Dave Virkler

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Past and Future of Egypt

Egypt has zoomed into daily front-page news covering demonstrations, violence and American-Egyptian relationships. Bible students are caught unawares as most end-time prophetic teaching centers on areas of the world elsewhere than Egypt.

Everyone is focused on Egypt politically, but few are aware of Egypt prophetically. Egypt is mentioned in 32 books of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, with 250 Old Testament prophetic verses written of Egypt’s future. Entire chapters refer to Egypt’s fate, verses which are not fulfilled to date but may be fulfilled shortly.

Centuries of dynasties gave us the pyramids, the Sphinx, astounding culture and complex paganism. But biblical references to Egypt are many and varied. Looking back in Bible history, Egypt is significant for multiple reasons:

• Abraham traveled there in time of famine (Gen. 12:10)

• Its northern border was a benchmark for the southern border of Israel’s land grant (Gen. 15:18)

• Joseph was sold into slavery, rose to fame and power and delivered his family there (Gen. 37-50)

• Moses was born there and led his people out in the Exodus (Ex. 1-15)

• Jeroboam took refuge there (I Kings 11:40)

• Some Israelites took refuge there to escape the Babylonians (Jeremiah 42)

• Christ was given refuge there as a baby (Matt2:13-15)

Largely ignored and enigmatic prophecies concerning Egypt’s future are found in Isaiah 19 and Ezekiel 29-32.

Isaiah 19 records that the Egyptians will fight each other, a cruel lord and fierce king will rule over them, top political advice turns out to be “stupid,” the Nile dries up, vegetation along its banks suffers, and the fishing and textile industries will be damaged. Eventually there will be a great national revival with Israel, Assyria and Egypt in praise of the Lord.

Ezekiel 29 & 30 forecast marine creatures thrown up on the banks of the Nile, a forty-year deportation and then a return. Egypt becomes desolate among other desolate countries, a great fire is set in Egypt, and the rivers are dried up.

For centuries, these prophecies were so improbable that Bible students either consigned them to a figurative interpretation or ignored them altogether. Only in our recent age of technology and more recently in the current strife do we find some movement toward literal fulfillment.

Until the Aswan Dam with it huge Nile River impoundment in Lake Nasser could we observe any possibility of this. The Russians, against the better engineering judgement of the US who refused to build the dam, took a mortgage on the Egyptian cotton industry and constructed the dam. It now appears that the rulers' judgement was ill advised.

The Aswan Dam is killing Egypt by eliminating the annual floods that brought free natural fertilizer, rodent control and rinsing the soil of excess salinity. The lack of river silt means it runs faster, eroding shoreline and bridge supports. Altered wave patterns in the eastern Mediterranean are eroding delta farmland and affecting the fish and shrimp harvests. Silt is building up in the lake causing pressure behind the dam.

Nuclear threats now abound in the Middle East, and recent news releases note that Egypt has had its own nuclear developmental program for twenty years. A “fire set in Egypt” may refer to a nuclear explosion. If that happened to include the Aswan Dam, it would release a radioactive flood of waters to throw dead fish on the banks and make the land uninhabitable. Enemies of Egypt may make such an attack, and it was even once suggested that the Dam be blown to restore the Nile to its previous state.

The recent civil strife surely sounds like “Egyptians set against Egyptians” in fulfillment of Isaiah 19:2. Christ repeated this prophetic theme speaking of “nation against nation” or ethnic groups against each other in Luke 21:10.

The best hope in the prophecies regarding Egypt is in Isaiah 19:19-25:

In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. And it will be for a sign and for a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the Lord because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Mighty one, and He will deliver them. Then the Lord will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day, and will make sacrifice and offering; yes, they will make a vow to the Lord and perform it. And the Lord will strike Egypt, He will strike and heal it; they will return to the Lord, and He will be entreated by them and heal them.

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians.

In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, “Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.”

A bad day is at hand for Egypt, but a better day is coming when the Lord Jesus Christ rules all nations from Jerusalem in the blessed Kingdom age and Arabs and Jews will worship Jehovah together. “And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—‘The Lord is one,’ And His name one.” (Zechariah 14:9)

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How Really Super Is The Super Bowl?

All in all it was a decent and pretty good game. But the 45th such contest's primary claim to fame, for the moment, is that it broke the standing record for viewership numbers.

The nation’s top sporting event in 2011 saw two evenly matched teams, the rugged Steelers of Pttsburgh and the storied Packers from Green Bay, go head to head in Texas on Sunday, February 6th. The big game’s legendary commercials lived up to their reputation, and should, for what they cost during the monster event. As usual, some were hysterical, others very clever, and again a few thrown in that were not quite kid-friendly, as has become typical.

When the dust settled, the Giants of the gridiron (not the New York brand, but the Packers) came through by a 31-25 score and thereby winning the sport’s coveted trophy . The victory is especially sweet for the fans of that area since the special hardware is named after Vince Lombardi, one of Green Bay’s former coaches, and arguably the most famous to ever lead a professional football team to a world title.

As far as those who watched the game on some level for some period of time, Super Bowl XLV averaged 111 million viewers and became the single most-watched television program in U.S. history.

USA TODAY's Gary Levin revealed, “The game beat the previous record of 106.5 million, set during last year's Super Bowl, which shattered the 27-year record held by the series finale of M*A*S*H (106 million), which held the viewership record from 1983 to 2010. This marks the sixth straight year that Super Bowl viewership has increased.” These are stunning numbers although it is up for debate how many were real, or fully rabid, football fans other than just for that 3-4 hour period.

But largely unknown to hard core fans and those who just enjoy a good party and chuckle during the commercials phase, is that well over a dozen players on each teams openly proclaimed Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Several gave outstanding and clear cut testimonies to the media, stating that their highest priority was beyond their fame, the lucrative benefits, and the gaudy ring soon to adorn their finger indicating their place in football immortality.

For these, biblical truth has tempered any earthly accomplishments and allowed them to stay grounded and spiritually focused. They understand well the words of. Proverbs 23:5. “For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.” These get the sobering truth of Mark 8:36. ”For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”

Also this select group of sports icons, who had nearly an entire nation, and many others around the globe watch their every move, have unique perspective of what it means to be in the limelight when compared to the stunning forecast in Revelation 1:7. “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.”

The Steelers, and especially the victorious Packers, are to be congratulated on rising to the top of a most coveted earthly profession. But the ones who are the most truly blessed champions are the ones that understand the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead is the greatest highlight of their now exciting and storied earthly lives. These will someday be raised up by God, reign with Him forever, and enjoy rewards that never fade and will last an eternity! (Matthew 6:20-21, Romans 8:11, Corinthians 6:14)

The Apostle Paul explained and predicted it like so. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

The Super Bowl is the greatest event the sports world has to offer. Ratings again proved that. But the dictionary definitions of ‘super’ far better reveal that greatest of all of life’s moments – the one Scripture speaks about when true Christians are raised, or changed, to meet Christ, become like Him, and enjoy Him forever. The terms include: over and above, higher in quantity and quality, more than superhuman, surpassing all others of its kind, superior in status, title, or position. Superb, superpower, marvelous, magnificent, glorious, sensational, and appropriately - sovereign, incomparable, and out of this world!

For Christians, including those who played in the big games, there will someday be an event so incredibly superior as to make even the greatest Super Bowls collectively seem "Super Boring” in contrast, and of course, in eternal importance!

Perhaps it is time for the NFL to change the name of their signature event? In comparison to the indescribable future awaiting all real believers in Jesus Christ, maybe they should consider a more honest and accurate title – something like the "Sunday, Sub-par, Subordinate, Substandard, Superficial Bowl”? Well, this may be an interesting concept - at least from a Christian standpoint. But don’t look for, or expect, that to happen anytime soon or ever.

But at least don’t forget to learn, and act upon by faith, on the super biblical and super crucial spiritual truths surrounding the above comments and issue either!

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ronald Reagan’s Spiritual Roots

One hundred years ago, he was born over the bakery in an obscure Illinois town. His father said he looked like a fat little Dutchman but maybe someday he could be president.

With no thanks to his alcoholic father but enormous gratitude toward his thrifty, Bible teaching, church leader mother, Ronald Reagan appeared on the state and national political scene after a long period when his religious roots were temporarily eclipsed by secular pursuits in acting and activism. But the biblical dictum of Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he shall go and when he is old he will not depart from it when he is old,” was probably never more true than when Nelle Reagan’s church-going son ascended to the presidency of the United States, saying he intended to govern as he campaigned—conservatively with spiritual values front and center.

I was privileged to ask Reagan a question in a unique press conference sponsored by the Eastern Chapter of National Religious Broadcasters. It was held at Liberty University when he was first a candidate for the U.S. presidency. Standing only a few feet away from me, Reagan spoke of open support for the freedom of school prayer in public schools.

On several other occasions, he spoke at national gatherings of the broadcasters. Listening to the golden phrases in support of God’s Word and the predictions of the collapse of the Soviet oppression sharpened our discernment of a steady fire in his spiritual being to see Communism tossed on the ash heap of absurd atheism.

As liberal pundits warned against antagonizing the threatening Soviet brute Reagan had called an “evil empire,” he stood and declared on January 31, 1983:

“Think of it—the most awesome military machine in history—but it is no match for that one man, hero, strong, yet tender Prince of peace. His name alone—Jesus—can lift our hearts, soothe our sorrows, heal our wounds and drive away our fears. He gave us His love and forgiveness, taught us truth, and left us hope. In the book of John it tells us that, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’”

Reagan also touted his proclamation of 1983 as the Year of the Bible with hopes that more Americans would read it. Moments before he quoted John 3:16, he had taunted the Soviet Union saying, “To those who would crush religious freedom, our message is plain—you may jail your believers, you may close their churches, confiscate their Bibles and harass their rabbis and priests, but you will never destroy the love of God and freedom that burns in their hearts—they will triumph over you.”

We broadcasters glanced at each other in stunned amazement as thunderous applause echoed through the hall. Could it be we had a conservative Christian president who didn't fear political opposition, global bully or threatening atheism? His two terms proved we did.

On a hot July afternoon in 2004, I stood on Main Street in Tampico, Illinois and viewed the second-floor apartment over humble stores below. It was a Saturday, but no car passed for twenty minutes. Tampico looked like a western cattle town with all the cow hands elsewhere. “This is the birthplace of Ronald Reagan?” I mused. Isaiah 58:10 says, “Then shall thy light rise in obscurity,” and Reagan’s surely did.

Too much time is spent analyzing Reagan, the man in the White House, rather than looking at Reagan, the boy in church.

Several miles to the north of Tampico is Dixon, Illinois where Reagan grew up. The Sears Roebuck catalog kit house is modest, but its history is staggering. Reagan often dragged his drunken father in from the front lawn and found his strength to go on and excel by attending the Christian church down the street. There, he heard preachers tell of the dreadful persecution of Christians in the recent Russian Communist takeover and of God’s grace toward a dying world.

As a boy, he eagerly read a popular youth novel and emulated its hero, who eventually entered public life and changed history. On finishing the book, Reagan told his mother that he wanted to be like that man and that he wanted to be baptized. He was baptized shortly thereafter, but becoming like the novel’s hero took much longer.

Reagan emulated good and godly preachers, taught Sunday school, and watched his godly mother, Nelle, share the Bread of Life and perform endless charitable deeds. He was so articulate and winsome a speaker that some thought he’d naturally go into the ministry (and much later it appeared he had done that as a minister in the vein of Romans 13:5). As a lifeguard at the local waterfront, he rescued dozens and then off he went to college and a string of broadcasting jobs, and then acting. He evolved from uncertain Democrat into conservative Republican.

Spiritual events after the obscure years refocused his mind on biblical, godly truth, concentrating it all in his near death from the assassination attempt when death’s bullet lay inches away in his chest. It was then that Reagan declared all the rest of his life was to be lived for God’s glory.

In these rededicated years, we all heard him speak—not the stilted necessary religious drivel so common to political climbers, but the steady course of a man who never forgot his roots in his mother’s home and God’s church.

At his funeral, 18 hymns were played or sung. Judging by the copyright dates, most all were sung in Reagan’s boyhood church.

On February 6, Reagan’s 100th birthday, honors come with ease. All who cherish honesty, transparency and genuine spirituality thank God for living in America, hearing him speak and enjoying the expansion of freedoms while he presided for two terms in the White House.

Maybe there is another obscure town like Tampico waiting to birth another like-minded leader who can be raised by a godly mother and nurtured in a biblical church to lead us in a troubled age. Peggy Noonan, Reagan’s friend, speechwriter and biographer, themed her book well. The title, When Character Was King, pretty much says it all.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Billy Graham Fellow Legend Turns 102

His singing voice was as distinct and recognizable as was the world-famous evangelist he traveled with for countless decades. And he was always featured just prior to countless thousands of gospel messages by the world’s best known preacher.

He is George Beverly Shea, who greeted this week birthday number 102 on February 1st. Not only did the gifted musician reach another chronological milestone, but he was also honored with something he never expected. As he closed out year number 101 and entered another new year of his Lord, he received a phone call informing him that he had been given the Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award.

When asked about the award Shea stated, “It was a great surprise. The president of the recording academy phoned me about a month ago. I couldn’t figure out why he would be calling me, because it’s been a while since I’ve made a new record. I have received a Grammy before, but it was back in 1965.”

When questioned about any current performances, the 102-year old said that he still sings at the Cove (Billy Graham Training Center) about eight times year for senior adult events and at Christmas time.

Finally Shea had the question posed as far as his personal advice to those who have walked with the Lord for quite some time. His immediate and concise response was, ”Keep your devotions, study the Word, enjoy His presence, and learn from Him daily.”

Geroge Beveraly Shea is a seasoned senior citizen by any standard on earth. But his life, ministry, and advice is as fresh and new as the snow that blanketed half of the country on his latest birthday. His unwavering testimony, and the use of his special gifts for God for a lifetime, is a vivid reminder of the Parable of The Talents in Matthew chapter twenty-five.

The Lord described a master who had given his servants differing amounts, or talents, that he expected them to work with and multiply in his absence. Some did fair and others did nothing. But one exceeded all expectations. This one servant is discussed in verses 20-25. "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." (Matthew 25:20-21)

It will be a sobering and hopefully a positive moment when every true Christian someday stands before their Savior and gives account of their lives as believers. (Romans 14:12) But if anyone will hear those same blessed words as did the faithful servant in the above passage, George Beverly Shea will certainly be in that list - along with those he served with for decades and others whose life priorities reflected their Lord’s word and will.

For those of us who may have more time left on earth than does this giant of the faith, we too can hear the only words that will matter in that momentous future moment. It will require following the example of the faithful and fruitful service, and great and godly wisdom, of a 102-year old servant of God offered to all who still have time to fully please and worship their Lord.

”Keep your devotions, study the Word, enjoy His presence, and learn from Him daily.”

Bill Breckenridge