Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monster Mega-Millions Jackpot Won

Interest had been steadily growing until the largest mega-millions jackpot in four years was finally won for the staggering amount of $390 million. The winning numbers were 22-24-31-52-54, with Megaball number 4. The final jackpot is the sixth-highest in the game's history.

But despite the staggering sum, the reward will not be as large as it seems since it will have to be split 7 ways. A group of Information Technology professionals at New York's Housing and Community Renewal in Albany, N.Y. will share the winnings. Hopefully dividing the total up will still allow each winner enough to survive on since, after taxes, they will be forced to subside on just $29 million each. How will they ever make ends meet?

That prized ticket was purchased at Coulson's News Center, a mainstay downtown news and convenience store in Albany, New York. The owner of the market stated about the ticket from his store, “It makes me feel warm inside." If that is true, I wonder what the inner temperature of the 7 winners is today? Perhaps theirs is somewhere in the vicinity of the surface of the sun! But as far as hitting the mega-millions, one lottery official said, “Given your life span, you might have better odds of getting struck by lightning more than 5,000 times before winning such a big prize.” In other words, you have almost as good a chance of winning even if you do not play as if you do!

Many Americans apparently dream of becoming instantly rich as evidenced by the intense interest in large lotteries and even gambling in general and especially on sports. From a biblical standpoint, there is nothing inherently wrong with having wealth. But Scripture cautions strongly and repeatedly of the dangers of having great wealth or anything material if it becomes life’s priority and driving force.

Several passages that are well known on the subject come instantly to mind. First and foremost could well be I Timothy 6:8-10. “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

There is also in Mark 10 - the so-called story of the "Rich Young Ruler." He came running to Jesus seeking eternal life but rejected the Savior’s offer because of his inability to free himself of his great earthly possessions. Verses 21-22 conclude the eternally tragic encounter. “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me. But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

Then there comes from the Old Testament the reality offered in Proverbs 23:5: “Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.”

But no familiar passage is more haunting than Jesus’ successive questions in Mark 8:36-37: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Hopefully those who together split this latest super-jackpot will not be utterly consumed by their newfound worldly wealth and have their lives literally ruined as has been the case with so many in their shoes. Hopefully they will take the opportunity to do much good – things they could not have dreamed of even a week earlier. (Galatians 6:10)

Hopefully these new millionaires already know Christ as Savior and fully comprehend what literal and lasting riches really are according to the words of 2 Corinthians 8:9. “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.” And hopefully those who do not know Him now will not have their hearts so deeply buried under their millions that they are unable to come to Christ who loved them and voluntarily gave up the riches of heaven itself to die as a pauper on a cross in their place.

Perhaps the entire subject is summed up best in I Timothy 6:17-19 as both a strong challenge for Christians, and as a stern warning for those who do not know Christ as Savior:

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.“

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Apple’s iPhone In The Hot Seat?

Few in the modern industrialized world would disagree that today’s technology is almost beyond comprehension and changing almost as fast as the speed that most devices today operate at.

For example, today’s smart phone market has far exceeded what most thought could ever exist and the units have become almost as common as the TV in the average home. But with the advent and advancements of the ‘smart phone’, that is really just a super small computer, comes some controversial issues concerning the various applications they carry or offer.

At the head of the class in many ways has been Apple’s iPhone with the competition constantly trying to catch up or bypass the amazingly sophisticated unit. The technology giant has been on the cutting edge and sought to police itself and eliminate some of the questionable content that could otherwise be offered on their devices. But now, the company is in the hot seat, so to speak, concerning some of their currently offered applications that relate specifically to moral truth, religious concerns, and biblical views.

Today the question of ‘religious’ applications are front and center - being applauded by some and enraging others who feel either left out or even attacked by a particular phone program’s content. Such is the case with an application sponsored by ‘Exodus International’, a biblically-based group now being accused of ‘helping’ gay individuals change their ways using the Bible's teachings.

Apple is a company that has been known for avoiding and weeding out sexually explicit content, offensive speech, hateful images and more. But they are now being pressured to rule on and rule out the Exodus International application through a nation-wide campaign by pro-gay groups who demand the removal the program even though it is not a standard feature on the phone and must be purchased separately by an owner. They are offended by the program’s very existence and demand its elimination even from the available list of downloadable options.

Jeff Buchanan, senior director of Exodus International, said the app is far less controversial than some may believe. He stated to Fox News, "It's being touted as a 'gay cure' app, and nothing could be further from the truth. We present a redemptive, biblical worldview on sexuality. It's a message of love and acceptance of those that are struggling with same-sex attraction. There are other applications by other world religions currently on the Apple platform and they will need to determine if they will ban all religious applications that promote ideals or beliefs that are deemed offensive to others. This issue is more than just an app. It represents a conflicting point of view on many things - issues that grip all Americans. It extends beyond Exodus International, beyond the app store, and beyond the iPhone."

How many would have ever dreamed that there would come arguments, battles, and perhaps even legal fight concerning the very existence of religious applications and views on a smart phone? But any so-called ‘smart phone’ can be only as smart as those who design it and those who invent the applications that run on it. In the case of Exodus International, it appears that their ‘smarts’ stem from biblical wisdom and truth. And if that is the case, then regardless of whether Apple yanks them or not, their Scriptural data plan remains readily available elsewhere. If their phone program derives its contents, views and suggestions from the Scriptures, it does not matter who opposes it and for what reason. Any who really want the truth of God’s advice on important life subjects, including salvation, has the means in an advanced culture to find them – with or without an iPhone!

In John chapter seventeen 17 Jesus was praying for his disciples and, by extension, all who would follow in their footsteps. He declared the absolute veracity of Scripture beginning in verse 16. “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” The writer of Hebrews adds, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12). Then Paul weighed in on the subject in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 writing, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

Only time will tell if Apple will cave in and eventually give in to the demands to ban the Exodus International app and, along with it, other religious oriented applications in general. But for those who really desire to know and learn the wisdom that matters most in life, and the solid foundational truth that never fluctuates with public opinion or pressure, the only application required is called the Bible. It is God’s word alone that proves to be fully stable, truthful, incorruptible, and also eternal as Peter clearly declared in his first epistle.

“Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever." (1 Peter 1:23-25)

Bill Breckenridge

Unexpected Miracles Still Happen

For the sake of privacy, I’ll give just her first name. It is Maureen. Until last Thursday night, I had never laid my eyes on her or knew she existed. But God did!

Maureen was a former friend of a lady who has has attended our church for many years. The two had not seen each other for 20 years until ‘accidentally’ bumping into each other at the local library. During their brief time, while no doubt rehashing the old days, our church member decided to take a chance and invite Maureen to a ladies meeting at the church on Tuesday night. It is a monthly event and just ‘happened’ to coincide with their meeting. She said yes and she came.

Then after the Tuesday meeting, Maureen was also invited to the church, this time to a special prophecy series on Thursday evenings with Dave Virkler as the guest speaker at Chapel On The Hill. This too just ‘happened’ to be starting that same week. Again, Maureen said yes, and again showed up – an amazing thing considering she likely knew little about Christianity in general much less the sometimes complex subject of Bible prophecy.

But there’s more. Just before the Thursday night message began, there was a brief announcement made about an opportunity for any who might be interested to work with Samaritan’s Purse, a church supported ministry headed by Franklin Graham. It was to help some of New Jersey’s flood victims and would occur two days later on Saturday. When the meeting ended, guess who approached me for details on the work? You guessed it. Surely this was just informational or curiosity? But lo and behold, on a rather brisk morning at 7:30 a.m., there stood Maureen at the prescribed site where the orientation for the day’s activities would begin. She showed up and would become part of a team made up primarily of our church people and one other outsider.

She came ready to roll up her sleeves and help some total stranger who a week earlier had her property flooded for the 4th time in the last 5 years. So this dear woman had come to three church functions in a period of five days, including one that would require her to perform manual labor. That is not only highly interesting, it is closing in on the miraculous in a day when getting many ‘regular’ church people to consistently attend their own churches on Sunday morning alone can be a difficult task. And for the record, Maureen was there again on Sunday morning too! So make that final tally coming to four church functions over six days! To some, this might be considered as unusual if not down right mind-boggling!

To get to the point of the story, our particular relief team including Maureen helped a widow clean up her property after the flood. We learned she was trying to sell her home on the river and move closer to her grandchildren. So helping to clean up and spruce up her property would help her in some small way with that goal and desire. Also, she was a committed Christian lady with a huge sign in her front window stating, “Jesus is Lord” – the primary reason the Samaritans Purse representative stopped by and asked her if she needed help. I could not help but think of Paul’s words 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.” So our effort there was not only helpful and kind. It was also biblically based.

When the work was completed on the property, a Bible was presented to the stunned homeowner with the signatures of the entire crew. Maureen signed it, too. We then gathered in a circle and held hands. I was asked to close in prayer, which I did. So we did our thing and were done there – or so we thought.

It was at that precise moment when two of Samaritan Purses’ chaplains, who always make contact with the homeowners, said that they had one last comment before we parted for home or another assignment. While we were still gathered in the circle they announced, “We just wanted you all to know that we just led our team member Maureen to Jesus Christ even as the work was proceeding.” I’m not exactly sure of the details or how that came about, but it was a surreal moment! You could hear a collective gasp around the circle accompanied by tears, applause and hugs. The Christian homeowner immediately embraced Maureen and said, “Welcome to my new Christian sister.” It was an experience I will never forget. It was likewise a humbling reminder that God’s Holy Spirit is often working through and behind the scenes in ways that we can’t even imagine.

Later that night, an e-mail arrived from Maureen. It said simply, “I came to help others and, instead, I found Christ.” The words were few but the impact stunning!

It was also a stark reminder that God uses His people to reach precious lost souls when they simply dare to take the opportunities set before them to speak a word of testimony or even invite someone to hear the Gospel message presented and demonstrated. The result can be the total spiritual re-birth and transformation of a heart and life - even in the midst of the most unexpected or unlikely of circumstances.

As Mike, the foreman from Samaritan’s Purse, told me before departing, “This all was no accident. This did not just ‘happen to happen’. It was the hand of God using several of His people from an unlikely start to a glorious finish.”

Mike was right! The one who began the process with her simple invitation, the local church, the work team, the relief organization, the homeowner, and the finally the chaplains, all shared in the blessing. Each, in their own way, were part of the result that can arise when Christians take seriously the command in 1 Peter and chapter three to help prepare the soil for the redemptive work of Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:8-9)

“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)

Welcome to your new forever family Maureen!

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Earthquakes, Tsunamis and the Future

Japan is terribly maimed by the twin disasters of earthquake and tsunami, the one causing the other. Loss of life apparently numbers in the thousands. The Japanese economy is crippled and its stock market has taken a blow. Further trouble lurks in unstable nuclear power plants causing massive evacuations, wafting radioactivity windward and spooking off shore aid vessels, which detected radiation above acceptable norms.

For the Bible student, especially those prophetically alert few, this tragedy focuses on end-time disasters with extreme clarity. Christ and the prophets forecast a uniquely troublous time of Tribulation following the return of Christ for His church. We are likely in the lead-up time now. Consider these several prophetic texts:

“And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.” (Luke 21:11 – emphasis mine)

In the last year, terrible earthquakes have hit Haiti, Chile, New Zealand and now Japan.

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea (the sea or oceans) and the waves (crests or swells) roaring (a loud or confused noise)…” (Luke 21:25)

The sound of the tsunami as it carried houses, vehicles and all matter of debris inland would have been something no one there had heard before.

“So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.” (Rev. 16:2)

The word “sore” may be interpreted as a kind of ulcerous affliction. Radiation sickness may be implied. Radiation from damaged nuclear plants could fall in snow, rain or in the open air.

“‘For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’” (Rev. 18:17)

This verse is speaking specifically of rebuilt Babylon, but it indicates that a major economy can collapse in a very brief period of time. If multiple natural catastrophes occurred in our day, the global economy could collapse “in an hour.”

“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Romans 8:22)

“Groan” is to moan in pain as a woman would in childbirth. The imperfection of the earth is clearly seen in the crushing deadly influences of plate action and erupting volcanoes. Weather disasters such as hurricanes, heat waves and flooding are also results of an imperfect global condition.

A cross reference truth here is that Genesis 7:11, 12 recounts a subterranean collapse, perhaps a lowering of the land mass, in Noah’s day. “…the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.” It has been noted that under normal circumstances, rain will not fall for 40 straight days. Evidently these underground water reservoirs and perhaps volcanic action pumped huge amounts of moisture into the atmosphere to cause this long rain.

“Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. (Rev. 6:14) “Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.” (Rev 16:20)

Interestingly, Japan is an island, and the earthquake moved the land mass eight feet to the east. If the mountains fell and floods converged, we would have a precise fulfillment of these verses.

“After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.” (Revelation 7:1)

Violent winds will need to be restrained. The intensity of the earthquake altered the earth’s axis by four inches. While not overly dangerous, several similar episodes could alter the earth’s behavior enough to change wind speed and climate.

“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matt 24:38- 39)

Looking forward to the surprise of the Second Coming for unbelievers, this word of Christ recounts the incredible surprise that came to the unsaved population in Noah’s day. The Japanese tsunami swept people away without warning in minutes, a caution to anyone to be ready for death at any time by previously trusting Christ as Savior.

Recent news articles report the possibility of a huge tsunami destroying a presumed “Atlantis” civilization in southern Spain 2,600 years ago. Not only that, but huge solar flares are reported on the sun’s surface that could disrupt global communications systems. North Korea is working on an electromagnetic pulse bomb which, if exploded 25 miles above the US, could instantly wipe out most of our communications.

We are also being warned of approaching asteroids that could destroy huge areas if they impacted earth. Mark 13:25 says, “And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.” Rev. 6:13 adds, “And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” Every New Testament usage of the word translated as “star” is the Greek word “aster,” from which we get the word asteroid.

When these prophecies were given, there was little or no common scientific thought or evidence of their fulfillment. Writing from exile, John, an ordinary fisherman turned believer, forecast astonishing events beyond his ability to imagine or even understand. Yet, faithful to God’s divine inspiration, he wrote it all down. In the case of Christ, He made all creation (John 1:3, Col. 1:17 and Heb. 1:3), and He could forecast whatever would happen to the material creation.

All the strange predictions of end-time earth catastrophes can now be effected either by accelerating natural disasters or the abuse of modern technology. If multiples of these combined, ultimate terror would ensue. They likely all will coincide in the Great Tribulation, which will follow the removal of the Church when Christ comes for His redeemed people.

In a time when "men’s heart [will fail] them for the thing coming upon the earth” as Christ predicted (Luke 21:26), believers in Christ may have “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” and which “will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7).

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nuclear Crisis In Japan Increases

Continuing news from Japan reveals that the nuclear aspect of the disaster is worsening by the day with yet another reactor catching fire and more radiation escaping into the atmosphere. The danger of exposure to this can be harmful and of course deadly. But beyond that, it is always a reminder of the explosive power of the atom as seen in an atomic bomb – ironically only seen in the war with Japan back in August of 1945.

The Bible speaks about the atom in 1 Corinthians chapter fifteen in the context of Christ’s soon return for His church. Verses 51-52 read, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed - in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”

The word ‘moment’ is derived from the Greek term ‘atomos’ from which the English word 'atom' comes. It refers to a time so short as to be literally indivisible or unable to be cut. That is the speed at which those who know the Savior will be ushered into His presence someday soon and away from all of the woes of a fallen world filled with increasing agony and trouble.

Pray for the people of Japan as reports show that only about 5% regard themselves as Christians. Pray for the suffering believers there, that they might be able and willing to share their faith with those whose hope has been literally washed away. And pray that those who escaped death during the recent events will turn to Christ and be ready to meet Him in the air when that seemingly nearing ‘atomos’ time of Christ comes!

In Revelation 22:12 Jesus declares, "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me." The word ‘quickly’ means shortly, suddenly and by surprise – and will be more shocking, more drastic and far more powerful than even the greatest earthquake or tsunami the world will ever know.

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20)

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, March 14, 2011

The World’s Richest Man Dies

He lived in a relatively struggling nation economically speaking and yet that did not prevent him from becoming the world’s wealthiest individual. But on March 9th, 2011, he entered eternity and today is literally penniless!

His name was Carlos Slim, a Mexican tycoon whose telecommunications and mining businesses placed the 71-year old at number one, according to Forbes magazine. To put his wealth into perspective, his reported $74 billion dollar fortune was nearly twice the projected 2011 gross domestic product of Lebanon – the nation from where Slim's father fled to Mexico in 1902 to escape Ottoman rule.

Just as others in his category, like Bill Gates of Microsoft Corporation and Warren Buffet, Slim was involved in some philanthropic causes. But apparently he kept a tighter rein on his fortune, most of which was controlled by his family. He often stated, “Businessmen do more good by creating jobs and wealth via investment and not by being Santa Claus."

The spiritual condition of Carlos Slim’s heart is unknown – at least to me. But a good percentage of students of the Scripture will have one verse surface when thinking of the death of a man possessing worldly wealth that is nearly incompressible. The passage is, of course, the sobering words in question from the Savior’s own lips in Matthew 16:26-27. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul.”

Also, in Luke 12:16-21 Jesus, by use of a parable, declared the ultimate need to avoid being consumed by economic gain and affairs and thereby being fully unprepared to face eternity, perhaps in an unexpected moment like so many in Japan this past week.

In verse 16 He began, "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry." But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

Then too, in Mark chapter twelve, the Lord spoke to the real issue of true philanthropic motivation and rewards. In verse 44 we read, “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."

Then there comes the warning seen in Proverbs 23:4-5 concerning wealth in general. The wise author cautions all using the following words. “Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.”

Those who possess earthly riches and material goods, on all levels, will all someday leave them behind when they ‘make wings toward heaven’ as Proverbs puts it. And when this life ends, all thinking will instantly turn to one's eternal dwelling place. It will be about arriving or not arriving in heaven - something depending only on possessing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. (1 John 5:12) That, and that alone, will fully dominate every second forever. And along side of that most critical truth comes God's advice and principles on matters of material wealth and worldly goods to those who know and love Him:

1. Seek treasure in heaven, and not on the earth, where rewards are both important and fully secure. (Matthew 6: 20-21)

2. Attempt to help others and do good in God’s name now – especially if you have been blessed in the financial sphere (Galatians 6:9-10)

3. Never forget Paul’s words to Timothy that the ‘love’ of money is the source of all kinds of evil and troubles that can easily lead to numerous and unanticipated sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

4. Attempt to adhere to and apply the words of Jesus in Mathew chapter six concerning life’s ultimate practice and priority. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

5. Hold dearly onto the proper spiritual perspective concerning what is real, worthy and lasting wealth as spelled out by in 2 Corinthians 8:9

"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."

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Good News

I recently attended the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, TN. It included encouraging reports from internationally significant speakers who understand the Gospel and its stupendous spiritual impact of global outreach.

Among the speakers was Jay Sekulow, founder of the American Center for Law and Justice. Sekulow recounted victorious legal proceedings in which he has had a part. Years ago, he argued before the Supreme Court in protecting the rights of Jews For Jesus to freely distribute gospel literature in public places. He also argued before the International Court at the Hague in securing the safety and departure from Gaza of the family of a Christian bookstore operator who had been assassinated for operating that bookstore.

Sekulow also told about a number of cases he is currently involved with including opposition of the mosque at Ground Zero, litigation that could end Planned Parenthood, fighting for crisis pregnancy centers, and countering the dangers of “Obamacare.” He has also trained lawyers who are involved in the formation of the new nation of South Sudan. It was encouraging to know that there are people like those at the American Center for Law and Justice and other Christian legal aid organizations who are representing the cause of evangelical Christians and conservative values.

At the International Luncheon, broadcaster Paulus Wiratno told about his radio ministry in his home country of Indonesia where his ministry operates 40 FM stations, some in very dangerous places, reaching a potential audience of 46 million people. He estimates that one person is saved every day through each station’s broadcasts. He is striving to start up hundreds more stations because the time is short but the “door is wide open.” Through the outreach of radio, he has been able to plant 257 churches, and he is hoping for increased numbers of workers to plant at least 500 more.

Wiratno recounted other victories taking place in this “closed” country where Christians experience persecution and hardship. Abandoned infants are being rescued, radios are being given out in prison, and people are asking for more radio outreach. A Muslim imam even asked permission to use Wiratno’s daily broadcast of Scriptures from the Psalms and Proverbs.

Well known Christian apologist and evangelist Ravi Zacharias preached a moving message, which he closed by calling for Christian rededication. He also announced that he had recently seen 3,000 come to Christ in Egypt about the time the tragic unrest began.

The good news of Christian missions is that Christ is building His church through the good news of the Gospel. In all the overload of dreadful and unsettling current news flashes, Christian believers need healthy encouragement that all is not lost and, in fact, so much is being gained.

Let us never forget that the Gospel is, by definition, a “good message,” or, as we say, Good News. Even in the Apostle Paul’s pagan-influenced days of extreme problems and pressures, he wrote, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

An additional encouragement regarding evangelism outreach bringing many to Christ is the wondrous expectation of Christ’s return for His completed church. At the conclusion of that vital first church council in Jerusalem, James noted that God was first “calling out a people for His Name” and that after this Christ would return (Acts 14:14–16).

With all this good news, the time of His coming appears to be very soon.

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

High School Basketball Star Wins and Loses?

It was truly a storybook season – until just seconds after the last heroic play that led to a 20-0 season for the Fennville Blackhawks in Michigan.

Wes Leonard was a star player at age sixteen. The gifted young athlete helped his team to a perfect season and even scored the winning shot that brought that exciting dream to fruition. The crowd went wild as the team and fans celebrated the amazing accomplishment. But it would all be short lived. Very short!

Leonard sent the ball through the hoop from close range with less than 30 seconds left in overtime to secure the a 57-55 victory over Bridgman High. As the teams exchanged handshakes and began scrambling to organize a team photo to commemorate their undefeated record, the 6-foot-2 inch, 215-pound player collapsed before 1,400 stunned fans. The problem was apparently an undetected enlarged heart condition which caused cardiac arrest, Despite all medical intervention, the young boy’s life came to an abrupt end the very next day.

"Thirty seconds earlier, he was laying in the winning bucket," said Ryan Klingler, the basketball coach in Fennville. And then 10 seconds later... everything's pulled out from under you, from out of nowhere." The shocked and traumatized team has decided to go on to the state tournament in memory of their fallen comrade.

There are some things that are just not natural and not supposed to happen in life. A child is not expected to experience death before his or her parents. But we live in a fallen and sinful world, and as the coach said, “This came out of nowhere”. And it is exactly for these kinds of consequences that Proverbs 27:1 wisely declares, “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.” And this truth is exactly why Paul wrote to young Timothy, “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

Physical death is a painful reality – one that stems from the spiritual death all enter into at the moment of birth. That is the sad news. But there is also good news – very good news! God has made it possible for fallen and sinful man to experience both peace ‘with’ Him through salvation in Christ and peace ‘from’ Him when life turns difficult, ugly, and even unthinkably tragic.

Peace with God and forgiveness of sin is related in passages like 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For He made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him". And in 1 John 1:6-7 we read, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Then for those who have trusted in Christ’s atoning sacrifice and finished work on the cross, there is made available through His indwelling Holt Spirit a special and unique peace only attainable for a true believer to tap into. Paul speaks of that in his letter to the Philippians in chapter four. He states there: “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". (Philippians 4:6-7)

Life can be hard, and sometimes very hard. It certainly is that today for the family and close friends of Wes Leonard. But for those who are ‘in Christ’ there are positive and life-altering promises of comfort, power and peace that the world cannot know or experience. This supernatural ability can make all the difference in this world and the life to follow. Jesus explained it this way prior to His departure as He spoke of His soon arriving replacement in the person of the Holy Spirit.

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Last WWI Soldier Survivor Dies

His name is Frank Buckles and he was the last living U.S. World War I veteran before dying at age 110. Plans are being made to allow his casket to be displayed at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington before moving his remains to Arlington National Cemetery. A family spokesman said that Buckles, who turned 110 on February 1, 2011, died peacefully in his home of natural causes.

Buckles served as a U.S. Army ambulance driver in Europe during what was then known as the "Great War," where he reached the rank of corporal before the war ended. His assignments included escorting German prisoners of war. And in a shocking turn of events he himself became a prisoner of war during World War II when a merchant vessel he was employed on was captured by the Japanese. He was held for three years before he was freed by U.S. troops.

The first World War saw 4,734,991 Americans serve in uniform. More than 116,000 were killed, and more than 204,000 wounded in the 19 months of U.S. involvement. The overall death toll of the 1914-18 conflict was more than 16.5 million, including nearly 7 million civilians, and more than 20 million who were wounded.

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, a House sponsor of legislation to upgrade the DC War Memorial, stated, "We have come to the end of a chapter in history. Frank was the last ‘American Doughboy’ - a national treasure. His life was full and varied and an inspiration for his unbridled patriotism and enthusiasm for life."

The nation owes a deep debt of gratitude for the Frank Buckles of the world, and others like him, who sacrificed for the freedoms we and other nations still enjoy. A memorial in Washington is the least that should be done to honor them all – now including the very last of his breed from the so-called “Great War”.

The Bible indicates a general life span for the average man or woman. It is said to be in the area of seventy years, although today’s medical technology in advanced nations has helped increase that number somewhat. But if an average world-wide census were to be taken, including third-world nations, that number just might even out today according to the biblical pattern.

But the larger issue has never been when one dies – whether at age 10 or 110. What is truly critical is what happens in that very next second after one breathes his or her last and no longer reveals a pulse. It is at that most sobering of all moments that Hebrews 9:26-28 becomes very real and very important. The writer there declares, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”

Life is a gift from God. But the length of any life is highly insignificant when compared to the spiritual conditions of the heart – and not the one that pumps blood and keeps the physical body alive. The problem in a word, is sin, along with the above mentioned judgment and the unimaginable eternal penalty it can bring. That is why Scripture reveals that all men require a new spiritual heart - one that will guide them throughout this life and fully prepare them for the next! (Romans 3:23, 1John 5:11-13)

The source, capabilities, and procurement of this unique and optional heart is explained briefly but fully in Romans 10:8-10. “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Again we applaud and honor the Frank Buckles of the world. We also pray that his spiritual heart was ready for eternity when his physical one experienced its last beat. But for those who are alive today, there is still that precious, and perhaps limited, time to prepare for that ‘appointed day’ through trusting Jesus Christ as Savior here and now! (Acts 16:31)

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Bill Breckenridge