Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New York Legalizes Gay Marriage

It was a banner day for both sides of the heated issue when New York became the sixth and the largest state to put a legal stamp of approval on gay marriage by a vote of 33-29. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law for same-sex marriages that will begin in July. The Governor said, "We made a powerful statement. This state is at its finest when it is a beacon of social justice." The bill makes New York only the third state, after Vermont and New Hampshire, to legalize marriage through a legislative act and without being forced to do so by a court.

Because of the state’s size, the new law will essentially double the number of Americans living in a state having legal gay marriage as an opportunity. Fully one in every nine Americans will live in a state or jurisdiction where same-sex marriage is legal.

The leading opponent, NY Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz, declared, "God, not Albany, settled the issue of marriage a long time ago." The Catholic Bishops of New York said the law alters "radically and forever humanity's historic understanding of marriage." And Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary stated, “By any measure, this is a massive development in the nation’s legal and moral life.”

The big win for gay rights advocates is expected to galvanize the movement around the country after an almost identical bill was defeated in New York in 2009 and similar measures failed in 2010 in New Jersey and this year in Maryland and Rhode Island.

The acceptance or rejection of gay marriage, or any other cultural issue, should only be viewed as right or wrong according to the source being used to evaluate its morality and legitimacy. The state’s Governor again stated, “This state is at its finest when it is a beacon of social justice." But the question instantly arises as to what source he is using to define ‘social justice’.

Just one hundred and fifty years ago, there were scores of Americans who felt that ‘social justice’ included the right for one human being to outright own another. It was called 'slavery’. But now, a century and a half later, it is unthinkable as being acceptable or ‘just’ on any level. Eventually, enough found this accepted practice in many places to be both immoral and intolerable. For anything to be seen as right or wrong requires some unchanging and truthful foundational basis. There must be some just standards that exist and remain firm despite the fragile and fickle beliefs of flawed men and women who will often accept almost anything that benefits them personally – the 'ends justifies the means’ mentality.

For this nation, the Bible has been that standard, despite what historical revisionists may now claim. It was eventually a renewed conscience from God’s Word that led a nation to conclude that slavery was wrong and evil. Without such a standard why would that, or anything else, not be fully be acceptable depending on the personal view of the individual? The end result of such thinking was spoken of in Judges 17:6 that declared, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

When it comes to the subject of gay marriage, and homosexuality in general, the Bible is not silent despite those who ignore its content or reject its validity or authority. Scripture is clear that all have sinned and thus all are lost irregardless of their sexual preferences. And all sin is an offense to a holy Creator God and must be rightly judged if He is to remain consistent with His own divine nature and standards. So for anyone to lift out any particular behavior activity from the comprehensive lists of inappropriate behavior found throughout the Bible is an intentional denial of what God’s Word teaches. And His Word rarely, if ever, leaves any so-called gray areas along these lines.

For example, Romans 1:26-29 is fairly hard to brush under the moral carpet when this recent issue in New York is addressed. The Apostle Paul stated, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due...And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality.” In the previous verses he pointed out the equal sinfulness of heterosexual sins as well.

Paul includes this same behavioral pattern as sinful in1 Corinthians 6:8-11. He does not distinguish it from other sins, sexual or otherwise. But it is there in print, nonetheless. He writes there, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” And even back in the Bible’s first book, this activity is clearly condemned in Genesis 13:13. “But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” So to deny that this specific lifestyle is not negatively addressed in Scripture is simply not true. It can be ignored or scoffed it, but the references are quite clear.

Additionally, 1 Corinthians 6:18-19 indicates that all sexual sin, whether heterosexual or homosexual, does have a slightly higher degree of offense and danger associated with it. Paul’s explains it like this. “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” There is something unique involved when sin in this area is involved. And then, of course, there is the pattern set up in the Garden of Eden with the first two people and the fact that Scripture always refers to the marriage bond as being a man and a woman.

So where do we now proceed since it is fairly obvious that this trend is picking up steam? How are we supposed to act and think to this major cultural shift in our nation? Perhaps the familiar saying, that has been around seemingly forever, does ring true when trying to grapple with this explosive issue. It basically advises trying to despise the sin while not doing the same to the sinner. That is not letting someone off the hook so to speak. In reality, that is exactly what God has done for all of us apart from any sexual orientation. His infinite love drove Him to offer up His Son to pay for the sins of the world. This included all sins in all areas of life and for all of us!

Gay marriage may slowly but surely become the law of the land. But that does not make it 'social justice’ or biblically acceptable in the eyes of God. All sin, socially accepted or not, will ultimately be dealt with and properly judged by a Holy God. That reality is described briefly in Hebrews chapter nine. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

But God’s first choice, and His supreme priority, is rather to justify sinners through the sacrifice of His own Son according to 1 John 2:2. He made it possible to escape the clutches and ultimate penalty of all unforgiven sin. John wrote, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” 

For biblically and morally minded Christians, who struggle with the dreadful moral decline in America, their responsibility is to hold the line and speak out about God’s ways and will while trying not to be too obnoxious about it. The role model for how to react to sin and sinners is the seen in the Lord himself. Jesus always revealed and dealt with sin openly when it stood in his path. He always did so in a consistent, loving and controlled manner (though His harshest rebuke was saved for the hypocritical Pharisees). He did that with the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well – both of whom were involved in current sexual misbehavior.  (John 8:1-12, John 4:5-30)  He even did so with the savage criminal on the adjacent cross on the day the Savior took upon Himself ‘all’ the sins of humanity. Before His death He assured the dying thief that he would arrive in heaven that same day based on his simple statement of faith and admission of who Jesus really was in Luke 23:42.

And if that does not help Christians still struggling with in their response and attitude to the current harmful and sinful cultural changes, then perhaps consider the background of the man who wrote half the New Testament, including several of the passages dealing with homosexuality. This powerful religious leader spent years hunting, imprisoning and torturing believers in the early church. He would, after his salvation, call himself the “Chief of Sinners” in 1 Timothy 1:15.

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” This man was none other than the former Pharisee - the Apostle Paul. This was the same man who was God’s chosen chief vessel to build and instruct the first century church, pen a major portion of God's Word, and someone we may well rub elbows with in heaven someday.

Through the love and redemption found in Christ, all sin can be fully forgiven. (1John 1:9) And through the world's only Savior the attitudes an actions of lost souls can be internally rearranged to outwardly reflect what is morally right, not by the eyes of misguided men, but in the mind of a holy and unchanging Creator God.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Political Newcomer Upsets Long-time Incumbent

It was a stunning local political story. A young newcomer beat an 11-year incumbent against all odds.

June 7 was primary election day in New Jersey for state, county and local offices. Primary elections are notorious for inattention. People care little for this elementary refining process, and a “Who cares?” attitude is sadly typical. I try to vote in every election, no matter how obscure, because it is my patriotic and spiritual duty. In America, citizens are the ultimate government, and voting is rendering to Caesar his due as the Lord commanded (Matt. 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25).

This year was amazing in the race for Morris County freeholder. A young man named William “Hank” Lyon sought to defeat an 11-year incumbent in the Republican primary. He was a political nothing from nowhere, except that his home since boyhood is my hometown of Towaco, NJ.

Hank mounted a fantastic visitation and roadside sign campaign. Weeks before the election, his father visited every house on our street leaving a campaign folder. He explained that Hank had never run for any office, but, on graduating from college, he had a growing passion to serve in politics. The ad folder quoted Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln. Further examination of his folder said, “Hank attends the Jacksonville Chapel in Lincoln Park. One of his favorite activities is meeting with his small group from church in Pompton Plains. Here he has an opportunity for fellowship and friendship….”

Here was a vibrant, committed conservative with forthright Christian faith blended in an obscure candidate. Since his values and ideas reflected ours, we voted for him. I confess I thought that, humanly speaking, his chances were slim to none as he was up against a formidable opponent.

But the day following the election, the results published in the newspaper showed 23-year old Hank Lyon winning 12,234 to 12,228. That’s a winning margin of just six votes out of 24,462 votes cast. What a surprise, and what a breakthrough for a political novice whose raw commitment and courage challenged the establishment. And he didn’t hide his Christianity under the proverbial bushel basket. Six votes out of 24,462! Amazing!

The final tally held up even a bit better. After some late returns were in and an election challenge defeated, the final percentages were staggering. Hank won 49.95 percent to 49.91 percent – by 4/10 of one percent! (Lyon’s opponent has contested the results, but no results are available as of June 24.)

A few people could have stayed home that day and sunk Hank’s political fortunes. The “overwhelming minority” voted and altered Morris county politics with an upset win.

I don’t know the names of some others who voted for Hank but I know I will know them someday when the Lord will likely say, “Well done, good and faithful political servant. You took seriously my words about rendering to Ceasar what is his. You put a church-going, Christ-honoring dedicated Christian in office. Well done, enter in the joy of your Lord.” (My expanded paraphrase of Matt. 25:23)

With the presidential political season already coming to a boil, our prayers are needed even for the primary candidates of both parties (I Timothy 2:2). All obedient believers should plan on voting in both the primaries and general election. If we do less, the old adage is doubly sad: “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.”

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Palin’s E-mails and Christians’ Lives

Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate, is the whipping girl of the liberal establishment. Whatever she does seems to elicit special scrutiny and harsh criticism. She must be doing something right to attract all the negative attention.

When the state of Alaska released 24,000 of Palin’s e-mails from her term as governor, a flock of liberal reporters descended like birds of prey swooping in the for delectable kill. Hoping to pick up some damaging information, they were sadly disappointed. Travel expenses for these raptors and the arduous hours spent in examination netted them absolutely nothing of negative substance. It was all a pompous exercise in futility.

But I suspect the secular media’s sleuthing effort will continue as long as there is the remotest prospect of a juicy tidbit. If other politicos were subject to this degree of scrutiny, few would be found fit for office.

For Christians, the Apostle Paul outlined the ideal blameless testimony in the everyday world. When we use terms like “open book,” we are wisely parroting Scripture. “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3 – NIV). The context shows Paul describing these local Christians’ lives as actual letters from Christ.

Believers don’t belong to a secret society but part of the public domain of reflected truth. When Paul defended the work of Christ before King Agrippa, he said “…this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). Christian teaching is to be open and forthright as was Paul’s in Ephesus. He “kept back nothing that was profitable…but proclaimed it… and taught…publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).

It is a choice blessing to be able to say as Samuel said, “‘Here I am. Witness against me before the LORD and before His anointed: Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I received any bribe with which to blind mine eyes? I will restore it you.’ And they said, ‘You have not cheated us or oppressed us, no have you taken anything from any man’s hand.’” (1 Samuel 12:3-4)

My son once worked for a U.S. congressman. In his job training, he was told, “Don’t do anything you don’t want on the front page of the newspapers.” Jesus said as much in Luke 8:17. “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.” Christ’s ministry was marked by plain talk and open living. “‘I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing.’” (John 18:20)

Today, we live in a world of open access with no place to hide. If any accusation against us be made, hopefully it would only be as against Daniel as it was centuries ago.

“So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.’” (Daniel 6:4-5)

Let us be aware that in this spiritually hostile world, enemies of the Lord and His people are sorting through our lives’ personal e-mails one page at a time.

Dave Virkler

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Are The World's Oceans Really Dying?

The planet’s oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists comprised of coral reef ecologists, toxicologists, and fisheries scientists.

The new report reveals that ocean life is "at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history,” caused by issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change that are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognized. The report also notes that previous mass extinction events have been associated with trends being observed now such as disturbances of the carbon cycle, and acidification and hypoxia (depletion of oxygen) of seawater.

The major impacts are already affecting humanity, according to Alex Rogers, IPSO's scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University. "As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realized. The challenges are vast; but unlike previous generations, we know what now needs to happen.”

Anyone with any form of modern communications can see that the earth has been going through some rather rough collective changes, especially with the major natural disasters, that are happening faster than the average person can even keep track of.

Earthquakes are occurring at a record-setting pace both on land and under the sea. The devastation is sometimes like the magnitude of events in Haiti, or tsunamis like the recent one in Japan and the one that killed over a quarter of a million lives several years back. Tornadoes and floods are also occurring at record rates and doing record-setting damage in the U.S. Sometimes these storms are take place in unexpected areas, thought to be safe, such as the storm a few weeks back that killed four in Massachusetts – not exactly a part of so-called “Tornado Ally”. Rising temperatures in many places are causing drought and eventual additional starvation. Even the level of the oceans themselves are beginning to alter. And no one knows if the hurricane season has another Katrina in store, as these storms seem to be intensifying in number and scope. So the fact that the oceans and the life in them seem to be also struggling at the same time should comes as no shock, especially to those who are students of biblical prophecy.

The Scriptures indicate strongly that, before the return of Christ, certain signs in nature would be evident and often terrifying. When talking of His own return, Jesus said in Luke 21:25-28, "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 and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." In other words, get ready, stay ready and make the very most of the precious time God has given you to serve Him.

The Lord added in Mark 13:8, “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 growing possibility of being caught in, or even just the ability to view, the great and growing global disasters should serve as a reminder of the words offered up in Proverbs 27:1. The writer wisely declares, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” And this same warning applies to small personal events where there is always the real possibility having some unexpected life-ending accident at any given moment.

Those who are not yet ready to ‘meet their maker’, because they have not put personal faith in His Son, should seriously consider dealing with that all-important issue - today! (Acts 2:21) There is no guarantee that anyone will survive the remainder of even this today – a simple reality in a sinful and fallen world. But Scripture does guarantee that there is but one way to be fully prepared to face God and escape the unimaginable and eternal terror that the Bible teaches will follow this life for those who remain outside of Christ.

The Apostle John put it this way. “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2) As far as there being some other means of escape, the Bible also assures that there is no other route to spiritual safety and eternal security. Nothing can be substituted for a new life in Christ. Paul spells it out in 1Timothy 2:5-7 as simply as possible. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

The signs of the end times and the demise of the current creation seem to be coming fast and furious. And someday all will vanish as the Bible reveals that everything will burn up with fervent heat, even down to the very elements themselves. (2 Peter 3:12) But anyone can be firmly and fully prepared, by recognizing their need of the Savior and accepting the free redemptive offer of the One who created the universe and holds it together even now. (Colossians 1:16-17) He alone can miraculously create a new and clean heart – something that allows those who possess it to view the even most difficult signs of the times with a sense of supernatural peace and joy from being firmly rooted in His glorious person, infinite power and unfailing promises!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two Strikes, One Stroke, and You’re Out?

Harold Camping, the Family Radio minister who inaccurately predicted that the world would experience Judgment Day last May 21, recently suffered a stroke. The 89-year-old head of the Oakland-based evangelical media company was ushered to a local hospital after suffering the attack following an evening radio broadcast.

Camping’s second failed prediction of the world’s end via the “rapture” apparently left him greatly distressed. The day after his promise failed to materialize, Camping told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter he was "flabbergasted" when the End Times did not arrive at his appointed moment. Some estimates suggest that nearly 100 million dollars have been spent advertising and supposedly trying to ready those on earth to meet their maker through the preacher’s predictions. Many of Camping’s followers had cashed in their savings, sold their homes, quit their jobs, and even took their kids out of school because they were so convinced that their prophet and leader was dead on target with his May 21st forecast. In addition, 14-year old girl in Russia was reported to have committed suicide because she felt she was not righteous enough and as afraid for what was coming, based on hearing him on the radio.

After a day or two in seclusion Camping re-appeared and obviously needed an excuse or reason for why his second such error concerning the Rapture failed. So, as expected, he offered up yet another slant. He now believes that the world was visited and spiritually judged by Christ in May and that the real end will come exactly 6 months later on October 21, 2011. So he simply made a slight mathematical mistake. Of course, that is somewhat easy for him to say as he did not totally rearrange his whole life as did thousands of his devoted followers who expected to be ushered from planet earth and to heaven on May 21st around 6:00 EST. Harold Camping is now batting 0-2 on his rapture predictions. Fortunately for him, these are not Old Testament times or he might have found himself under a bloody pile of rocks for his second major prophetic blunder.

The radio and TV broadcaster may still be "flabbergasted", and some of his devoted followers now homeless, jobless, and penniless, but to other students of the Scriptures, this second and now third prediction are not even worthy of any serious biblical consideration. Some may now be wondering more if Camping himself will even be alive when his rescheduled October date arrives?

In Mark 13:31-33, as well as in Matthew and Luke, Jesus addressed the end of the world and His future return. As far as knowing precisely when this would happen, He could not have made the subject in question more clear. He even removed himself from the equation as far as knowing the exact moment - a theological mystery that may be a bit hard to grasp. In Mark 13:31 He declared, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.”

On the other end of the spectrum, He did say that Christians could have a general idea of the time frame of His return based on certain signs and the general climate that would reign upon the earth. In Luke 21:28 He said, "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 and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."

So what Jesus left for those who make up His true church was the firm hope and absolute reality of His coming and the general time of His appearing. But for anyone attempting to be the self-proclaimed one to nail down to the hour the time of this greatest of events is not only non-biblical, but spiritually careless, dangerous and would seem to display a rather large dose of ego as well..

Mr. Camping, who proclaims far and wide that you cannot really know if you have been saved, has been telling millions and spending millions urging listeners and supporters to be ready for eternity by getting saved? Maybe it is just me, but I find his theological advice and position on the subject to be rather confusing and even contradictory.  For some reason, this seasoned Bible scholar seems to misunderstand, ignores, or puts no stock in some of the more clear and forceful passages in the Bible concerning redemption. Again, this includes his belief that people cannot assess the signs of a true salvation experience or have any real reassurance that they possess it. I’m not sure about Camping’s version of the Scriptures, but those I read certainly reveal many verses on the subject like the ones below. They appear in plain sight and they don’t seem to need a theology degree to digest.

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know   that you have eternal life. “ (1 John 5:13)

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” (1 John 3:14)

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Roman 8:16)

“For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)

But getting saved, and then knowing you are,  is certainly not one of them. For God to send His Son to die on the cross to save lost sinners and then obscure, or make unclear, how they can take advantage of His great sacrifice and forgiveness would make no sense and be counter-productive. For God to leave people who sincerely come to Him by faith for redemption with doubts for a life-time about their eternal destiny would be cruel and ridiculous. A true salvation experience can be seen and should evidenced internally and externally. It should inspire holiness, confidence, and a desire for Christian fellowship and service - not fears, doubts, questions and a general lack or interest in spiritual things.  (1 Peter 1:15, Ephesians 2:8-10, 2 Corinthians 5:17)

October 21st will likely come and go, unless the Lord arrives to rapture His true church first on the Father’s appointed date. The issue thus becomes, not spending life’s precious time gazing at the stars and wondering if the next prediction date is right, but instead making absolutely sure that your own heart is right with God. The real focal point  is spelled out in Hebrews 9:27. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” And this sobering truth then makes 2 Corinthians 6:2 priority one! “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Once these two concepts are understood properly, the all-important next step has been revealed quite clearly in the Bible’s most familiar salvation verse. The apostle John writes, “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)

Life is sometimes hard and perplexing. Many questions arise and many will go unanswered. Some things will not be understood ever in this life. There are things that happen along the journey that just remain unexplainable. But the confidence of possessing salvation through Christ, being forgiven of sin, and someday proceeding to a heavenly home for eternity are not among them!

Perhaps during Mr. Camping’s stroke recovery period, he may have precious time to reconsider  the above, verses. And just perhaps he will somehow be afforded the comfort and confidence of the ‘blessed hope’ that so many in the family of God with far less experience, and far smaller biblical IQ’s than his, now enjoy and being based on passages like 1 Peter 1:3-5:

I do not know the heart or spiritual status of Harold Camping. I only know I disagree with a large
segment of his theology and teachings. But I do at least wonder, after this rather timely stroke, if God may have said, enough is enough! No more scaring and spiritually misleading people. No more attacking my precious church on earth as being apostate. No more doctrinal splitting and dividing up of  married Christian couples and their families. And no more wasting vast  sums of money that could be used to win lost souls until I do come in My own specific timing.

And as far as why Christ has not yet come back, a quick look at 1 Timothy 2:3-4,  2 Peter: 3:4,  and 2 Peter 3:15 should serve to clear up any confusion and then answer that eternally crucial question simply and quickly.

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

"Where is the promise of His coming? (2 Peter 3:4)

"And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation." (2 Peter 3:15)

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lessons from the Anthony Weiner Scandal

Just when we think things can’t get any worse after the Arnold Schwarzenegger scandal, they do just that. A case in point is Congressman Anthony Weiner (NY), an incorrigible pervert who used social networking to establish long distance, on-line imaginary sex with several women. Concurrently, former senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards is under indictment for misuse of political campaign funds to stifle word of his “sexcapades” with a videographer and the resulting love child. Edwards may hold the record for marital deceit by convincing a friend to claim paternity of the child while his faithful wife was dying of cancer.

In both instances, the empty innocent pleas took similar paths. Both Edwards and Weiner at first said it didn’t happen, categorically denying their errant behavior. Then there were denials by Edwards that any money had been misappropriated and by Weiner that he had engaged in a cover-up. Both men eventually owned up and confessed their crimes against family, friends, society and the media. Stunningly, both loudly deny that any laws have been broken.

Evidently, immoral behavior minus technical illegality is a pathetic redeeming factor in today’s twisted secular thinking. Social forgiveness may be possible since the moral level has swirled to new depths in modern society, but their crimes reach to Heaven. Our culture has descended to the cellar of morality where a valid appeal to technical legality strikes a responsive chord. Such is the turpitude of mindless men cut adrift from biblical norms and guidelines. Not once have we heard that either man had broken God’s laws and had asked His forgiveness for these high crimes against a righteous God.

What spiritual lessons are in these dismal stories?

Satan and his brainchild, sin, are masters of deceit. Even true believers are warned, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb 3:13) We must keep in mind that “Satan fell in Heaven, Adam fell in Eden and Peter fell in Christ’s presence,” as I once heard. I also heard someone say, “The best saints need to be warned against the worst sins.” The warning sirens of subtle sinning are muted by the fraud of iniquity. Even someone as powerful and admired as King David could adulterously lust after Bathsheba, decoy his act by luring her war veteran husband home and later eliminate him in battle, and then appear horrified to hear his sinful biography couched in a prophet’s parable (II Samuel 12).

Regarding these brands of cover-up, Proverbs 28:13 decrees, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Even age is no immunization against folly. As someone once told me in commenting on an aging sinner, “There is no fool like an old fool.”

How could Weiner—a rising star in the Democratic Party, articulate spokesman for Obama policies and husband of a high profile aide to Hillary Clinton—be so dumb as to risk it all in public forums on Facebook and Twitter? It seems to be a mix of lust, heady political intoxication, fallen human nature and the extremely devious quality of sin. Weiner and Edwards may lose it all, not to crafty political foes but simple self-destruction.

In the men’s explanations, apologies and even repentance, there is a striking absence of admission of sin before a holy God. All sinning is ultimately against Almighty God as King David described his offense: “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight…” (Psalm 51:4). David’s social sins were against his family, himself, his society, Bathsheba, her military husband Uriah, his fellow solders in the field and against his country since his sin elicited foreign blasphemy.

But David knew his ultimate crime was against Heaven, and only God could cleanse that. He confessed and was forgiven as he wrote. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7). Hyssop was used to apply the blood of redemption (Ex. 12:22) and in cleansing the leper (Lev. 14:5).

Christ’s shed blood alone can set the sinner free from guilt and, ultimately, hell. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

The words of an old hymn remind us of all that the sinner really needs.

“I Need No Other Argument”
Lidie H. Edmunds, 1891

My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed;
I trust the ever living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.

Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him,
He’ll never cast me out.

My heart is leaning on the Word,
The living Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s Name,
Salvation through His blood.

My great Physician heals the sick,
The lost He came to save;
For me His precious blood He shed,
For me His life He gave.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

God In The Political Process?

Is this really happening? Is a potential Presidential candidate really calling for a day of prayer to seek God’s wisdom to help solve the devastating and growing problems of this financially and morally crumbling nation?

The answer is yes and his name is Texas Gov. Rick Perry. And yes, he has ‘ordered’ a day of prayer and fasting on Aug. 6 to “seek God’s guidance and wisdom in addressing the challenges that face our communities, states and nation." It is part of what is being described as a non-denominational, apolitical, Christian prayer meeting hosted by the American Family Association at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

Perry will participate in the all-day event that encourages people to bring a Bible and a notebook. Perry has invited every governor in the country to attend, and he is urging them to issue similar proclamations. The Texas Governor stated, "Given the trials that beset our nation and world, from the global economic downturn to natural disasters, the lingering danger of terrorism and continued debasement of our culture, I believe it is time to convene the leaders from each of our United States in a day of prayer and fasting, like that described in the book of Joel. I urge all Americans of faith to pray on that day for the healing of our country, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of enduring values as our guiding force.”

Finally, a man of faith has come out publicly and boldly, and seems willing to put his political future on the line for what he believes is needed to help restore faltering nation to her former spiritual foundation, health, and state and glory. His plan is refreshing and right. But the question lingers. Will it get off the ground in a secular dominated political atmosphere? That became evident as it took little or no time for the protests to his proposal to arise.

The Secular Coalition for America, the national lobby for secular and non theistic Americans, has called on all elected officials to reject Perry's invitation, saying the event favors Christianity over other religions and beliefs. Sean Faircloth, executive director of the organization, stated in reaction to Perry, "The last thing our officials should do in times of national struggle is promote a divisive religious event that proposes no real solutions to our country's real-world problems. Calling upon all Americans to embrace Perry's personal belief system is an insult to the millions of upstanding citizens who practice religions other than evangelical Christianity, as well as the millions of secular Americans who contribute to society without pushing their views on others."

It is beyond tragic, not to mention dangerous, that so many modern day-Americans and those they elect fail to see the importance of acknowledging God and following His basic biblical laws and decrees. Apparently, at least Texas Gov. Rick Perry gets the truth of doing this. First he gets it for the individual as spelled out in Proverbs 3:5-10. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones. Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the first fruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.”

Then too, Perry apparently realizes that honoring God, and inviting Him and His Word into the national debate, has major positive and healing national implications as the Psalmist forcefully declared in Psalm 33:10-12. “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is to be applauded for his spiritual and biblical commitment and for his effort to offer up the basic solution to a nation’s many and growing ills. And pray that some of those with whom he has influence will somehow “get it” and react as did a select group of spiritually minded leaders described in 1 Chronicles 12:32. “The sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.”

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, June 6, 2011

D-Day and the Great Commission

Today is the anniversary of D-Day. Since I couldn't say it better a second time, here's a re-post of an entry from 2008:

June 6, 1944, is a day that will live in victory. American air and sea forces landed in German-occupied Normandy, and it was a turning point in World War II. Movie makers called it "The Longest Day," and "Saving Private Ryan" caught the grim fates of countless casualties.

Lost in most annual D-Day recollections is the stunning stress felt by Allied Supreme Commander General Dwight Eisenhower as he planned the fateful day. I quote from "D-Day: The Invasion of Europe," published years ago:

On Sunday night, June 4, 1944, the planners of the Normandy invasion met again. A high wind shrieked outside and rain lashed the headquarters windows. In spite of this, the weathermen predicted that the storm was breaking up and that by June 6th conditions would be much improved. While the High Command wrestled with the problem, the convoys were sent out again—subject to recall.

As the final deadline approached, the generals and the admirals had their say; then the meeting fell silent. The final decision and responsibility were General Eisenhower’s alone. At 4:15 on Monday morning he said briskly, "O.K., we’ll go." He had accepted the gamble and chosen to launch the invasion only one day late. Tuesday, the sixth of June, was to be D-Day.

In the nervous hours of June 5th, General Eisenhower prepared for the worst, writing on a slip of paper an announcement he hoped he would never have to make:
"Our landings in the Cherborg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops… The troops, the air, and the Navy all did that bravery and devotions to duty could do. If any blame attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."

He shoved the paper into a jacket pocket. He was too busy for the next six weeks to remember the note’s existence. When he found it there, it had become history that had never happened. ("D-Day: The Invasion of Europe," Pg. 26 & 27)

The Lord Jesus Christ, briefing His troops for a world-wide, age-long assault upon the Devil’s territory, pledged Himself to accompany them into battle. "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15) and "…lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20) have been at once the Great Commission and the Great Comfort. The disciples had been sent to a task for whose victory the Commander had promised to take full responsibility.

When the great missionary David Livingstone, who explored much of Africa sharing the Gospel, reviewed his success, he affirmed the integrity of His Lord time after time. In his diary, when death lurked near, he quoted the Matthew passage and wrote of the calm and comfort Jesus’ promise provided.

When Livingstone returned to his homeland later the same year, the physical marks of illness and injury obvious, he again spoke of the precious promise of Christ. F. W. Boreham quoted Livingstone in "A Bunch of Everlastings" (Judson Press, 1920). "Would you like me to tell you what supported me through all the years…? It was this: ‘Lo, I am with you even to end of the world!’ On those words I staked everything, and they never failed. ... It is the word of a gentleman of the most sacred honour, so there’s an end of it."

Upon the truthfulness of God’s Word, the success of the Christian mission has always hung.

Dave Virkler