Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Long-term Error With A Loving Ending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Love Was The Foundation For Our Salvation 
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16-17)

God’s Love Secured The Salvation of His People Forever

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

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

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

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

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

- “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Bill Breckenridge

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thoughts on the Life and Death of Steve Jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lessons in a Lost and Found Moon Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Virkler

Monday, October 3, 2011

Recession Changes Life In America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Breckenridge