Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Penn State and the Fallout from One Man’s Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Virkler

Monday, November 21, 2011

Amazing Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Intel Celebrates 40th Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, November 14, 2011

Smokin’ Joe Loses His Greatest Fight

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smokin’ Joe Frazier always gave his 100 percent as did Steve jobs. Both rose to the pinnacle of their chosen professions through drive, commitment and God-given talent. But even with all of their great and historic accomplishments, unless they all had a personal union by faith with the Son of God, it all means absolutely nothing now. It was Christ’s unimaginable commitment, and the giving of His very best, that made their personal justification and redemption possible. This is partially explained in Philippians 2:5-8.”Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

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

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

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

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

Bill Breckenridge