Monday, December 24, 2012

"That’s What Christmas Is All About"

Each Christmas season brings with it scores of TV specials, some quite old and others somewhat new. Some are a bit silly and really do not properly convey the meaning and magnitude of what the holiday is at its core. But many of these remain classics complete with touching story lines and fine and memorable acting performances.

But for myself, there is one that rises above the rest. This one would not seem, on the surface, to even be mentioned along with those of the caliber of  ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, ‘White Christmas’ or ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’ These are all wonderful stories in their own right. That said, they are lacking in something crucial that has been conveyed in a simple and low budget cartoon produced by Charles M. Schulz. It aired for the first time on prime time back in 1965 - some 47 years ago.

What is it that has made “A Charlie Brown Christmas” a classic among classics and worthy of being placed along side the likes of the great seasonal shows? The answer to that is simple. It is the very short segment of the show where a young Linus answers a highly frustrated Charlie who has just blurted out; “Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is all about?” As most know, Linus, with his famous blanket in tow, slowly wonders to middle of the stage. He pauses there, gently calls for single spotlight and proceeds with his brief discourse using only the words of Luke chapter two.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were so afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'" (Luke 2:8-14)

He concludes his now famed Scriptural statement by uttering, ”That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown."

What is your Christmas really all about this year? If these words found in Luke's gospel are not the central focus, then it will be an incomplete celebration at best. If they are, then you are with those who alone can fully experience this so-called “Most wonderful time of the Year” You are among the blessed who realize that the child born in Bethlehem came primarily as the Savior destined for the cross!

Another gospel account further declares how both of these miraculous events work together as one.
“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21-24)

We trust that the second part of this great verse describes you this Christmas season and that you are a part of God's family of faith. If not, trust today the God-man and Savior - Jesus Christ. For you, He began His earthly life in that lowly manger so long ago. And for you, He voluntarily ended that earthly life on the cross to redeem you from the power and penalty of sin. In doing so you will be able to, for the very first time, fully know and totally enjoy ‘what Christmas is all about’.

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Greatest Christmas Carol

As the song-writer put it, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” And even for those who may disagree, or are unable to comprehend that, it is true nonetheless.

The season brings with it a vast variety of traditions and practices including, of course, the constant playing of the so-called ‘Christmas Carols’. These well-known songs often carry with them profound lyrics that are even played on secular outlets that normally adhere to the wrongly understood concept of ‘separation of church and state’. Millions sing or hear the words they have often known well since childhood. Sadly many of the same do not notice, or maybe care anything about, the staggering spiritual implications leaving their own lips or entering their ears.

 But it could be argued that the single most profound carol of the season is "Hark The Herald Angels Sing”. It first appeared in 1739 in the collection of hymns and sacred poems written by Charles Wesley. The popular version is the result of alterations by various hands, including George Whitefield, who was Wesley's co-worker. He changed the opening to the familiar one.

The hymn is a stunning statement of theological and biblical truth. Again, countless millions annually parrot its words without pausing to analyze the incredibly clear life-changing message it declares in every stanza. It does so to the degree of revealing the existence of human sin and the full plan of salvation to any who really focus on the eternally significant lyrics found therein.

 Hark! the herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!" Joyful, all ye nations rise; Join the triumph of the skies; With angelic host proclaim "Christ is born in Bethlehem!" Hark! the herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King!" 

Christ, by highest heaven adored; Christ the everlasting Lord; Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of the favored one. Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail! the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail! the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"

It is hard to imagine how any could not be drawn into some encounter with God through the words of this great hymn and others like it. Tragically many do not, and therefore repeatedly miss we call "The reason for the season.”

But for those who have a personal knowledge of this carol’s greatest phrase, “God and sinners reconciled!", this is indeed the most wonderful time of the year, And the meaning of Charles Wesley’s Christmas masterpiece has since been surprisingly reaffirmed in one of the newer songs whose title alone complements his great work. It is appropriately entitled, “Cradle In The Shadow Of a Cross.” And as Linus said to Charlie Brown in perhaps the most beloved TV special of the season, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!”

 “Born to raise the sons of earth, 
Born to give them second birth.”

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

 Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pearl Harbor = “Amazing Grace”?

On Sunday, December 7, 1941 America experienced what has come to be known as, “A day of infamy” - a term coined by the President at that time. It was a gruesome act of aggression that had no equal until the terrorist attacks of  9/11 and was followed by years of carnage on a level that few would have ever imagined possible.

At 06:05 on December 7, six Japanese carriers launched a first wave of 183 aircraft against the U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor. Overall, 9 ships of the U.S. fleet were sunk and 21 ships were severely damaged. The overall death toll reached 2,402 with 1,282 being wounded. Of the military personnel lost at Pearl Harbor, 1,177 were from the battleship Arizona alone.

The horrific war to follow the Japanese surprise attack was, of course, one of the greatest blights in the history of mankind. The brutality, destruction and death figures are unfathomable even some 67 years later. Death toll estimates reach as high as 52 million including military and civilians together. Those numbers are hard, if not impossible, to truly grasp. Lost in these massive figures is the sickening aspect of the individual human suffering involved in  its many terrible forms. Just the holocaust brutality from the infamous Nazi death camps alone staggers the imagination and sickens the soul.

But along side of the horror and suffering that took place in the great war, there were other lesser-known, but positive, stories hiding under the brutal surface. One such event includes the miraculous salvation, reunion and eventual ministry of two of the war's great combatants and most bitter of enemies. It is a story for the ages and became literally history altering. It is an amazing illustration of the incredible power and grace of God despite all the odds. That story, “The Amazing Grace of World War II.  can be found at our ministry website at this address:  

The article is beyond worth reading and sharing. It will encourage, inspire and renew your perspective on true forgiveness and the amazing grace and power of God, again, even in the midst of life's most terrible and paralyzing circumstances.

"If anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do." (Col. 3:13)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks – The Complete Package

In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left England carrying 102 passengers. Aboard was an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith. The treacherous and uncomfortable ocean crossing  lasted some 66 long days.

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn feast that is acknowledged today as the first Thanksgiving celebration in the colonies. But it wasn't until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

There are many verses that reveal the absolute importance and critical nature of praising God. But few do a finer job than do the words found in the book of Hebrews and chapter 13. Verses 15-16 read,  "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."

These verses remind and exhort all Christians to ‘continually’ offer thanks to God and to do so through what is termed there the 'fruit of our lips'. That obviously includes approaching God both verbally and outwardly and in public.  It is also declared there that this should al be done 'sacrificially' clearly revealing the level of thanks expected by the Creator from His redeemed and highly blessed people.

But even more striking is what is conveyed in verse 16. While still in the context of thanksgiving the author also adds,  "But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." These words provide a vivid, and maybe enlightening, reminder that part of giving adequate praise to one's Savior is to do good to others on His behalf. This too is to be accomplished sacrificially by actively caring and even sharing of our material things to meet the needs with those less fortunate.  Galatians 6:10 indicates that these actions be primarily directed to those who are “of the household of faith”. And again it is interesting that this that the writer says is 'well pleasing' to God.

A Christian’s praise to God in all of its forms should not be limited to a day, a season or just in the good times of life. It is rather to be a continual, sacrificial and comprehensive lifestyle both verbally and practically. It is to be the complete biblical package!

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so.” (Psalm 107:1-2)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Two Coinciding Storms

The end of October and the start of November brought two huge events that will impact our nation for years to come. One was the end to on ongoing political storm and the other a blast from nature that rocked nearly 25% of the nation’s citizens.

The first was Hurricane Sandy, called by many ‘The Perfect Storm’. Her fury was fueled through a rare merger with two other weather systems that drove the monster ashore with ground zero being New Jersey and New York City. Typically a coastal Hurricane will drift out to sea before striking the most densely populated part of the country. Not this time. Sandy, which was also dubbed by some experts as ‘Frankenstorm’, caused some eight million people to lose power and for long periods of time. There are actually some who are still without. The devastation was immense even farther inland, but especially along the coast where the damage figures could easily rival or exceed that of Katrina.

A week after the historic storm hit the U.S. coast, a long time political storm also finally came to an end when incumbent Barak Obama defeated Mitt Romney to gain another 4 years in office. The President won convincingly in the electoral vote. But the popular vote was evenly split revealing what most already knew to be true. America is, and has been for some time now, a divided nation in their views and dreams for the present solutions and for the future course of their country. But regardless of who won the White House, the challenge remains the same. The large and lingering economic, and other, national problems have taken a toll on multiple millions and caused many to lose hope and almost dread what lies ahead for them and their families.

Enter the holidays. Just as the death toll becomes finalized and the damage figures more clear, so do the plans by the President to fix a very broken, divided and somewhat depressed nation. For scores under his extended leadership daily life remains depressing and hope seems distant. And yet, for those who reside, not just in America, but who are also citizens of the heavenly realm via Jesus Christ, joy, victory, peace and hope all remain and are real. But there is a catch.

Christians are susceptible to problems and pressures just like those who know not God in a personal way. But where they part company is in their ability to face whatever life brings with a “peace that passes all understanding” according to the truth seen in Philippians 4:17. This great blessing and benefit is part of the salvation in addition to the forgiveness of sins and a certain future with God forever in heaven some day. Peace in good times or in the bad is something money cannot buy but is something all men desperately crave. It has been long known that many of the most depressed and lonely people alive are many times those possessing far more materials things than they can ever use.

Then too is the greater issue found in question form in Mark chapter 8 by very one who Himself bought and paid for redemption by His own sacrifice for all. In verse 36 Jesus posed the greatest inquiry that can be asked and answered. He asked, “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?”

Possessing and enjoying that special inner peace, hope and confidence promised by God comes with certain conditions. One primary one is closely related to the coming holiday. Paul, in Philippians 4:6 stated, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with ‘thanksgiving’, let your requests be made known to God.” Thankfulness is no small matter to God, and is something He desires for believers. The degree of importance of this mindset and action is seen in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18. We read there, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

If you find yourself today in a joyless or fearful state of mind with the cares of this world strangling the peace and hope of being united with Christ, take a careful inventory on the blessings and opportunities you have with and through Him. And make a serious attempt to follow the admonitions seen in Philippians 4:8-9 and the result of doing so. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

And then offer Him serious and continual praise. If this really is the “will of God concerning you” you will soon find the power and the peace to fully contend and even rise above the minor and mega-storms that will always come ashore in life in this fallen world.

“But THANKS be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57)

Bill Breckenridge

Monday, October 29, 2012

Eye of The Storm

This very hour, our ministry headquarters braces for what is predicted to be a storm of historical and epic proportions. It could impact the lives of nearly 25% of America’s citizens. The forecast by the experts is indeed dire. But even so, the so-called East Coast ”Frankenstorm” is no surprise to God. He is aware of the implications and the outcome. He is also aware that many of His people are in the massive area under assault and about the many more there that need His salvation far more than they need deliverance for any weather catastrophe.

We need to pray for wisdom, peace and protection. And as Christian we
need to know that, even in the eye of the storm we reside in the hands of our Lord! In Psalm 107 we read, “He calms the storm, So that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; So He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!"

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Oldest Auschwitz Survivor Dies

It is a vivid reminder of one of the most gruesome chapters mankind's history. Antoni Dobrowolski of Poland died Sunday in the town of Debno. He was the world's oldest survivor of Auschwitz at the age of 108.

In 1939 the Nazi invaders tried to hold the Polish people back by limiting their educational opportunities to just four years. It was an attempt to convert them into a slave race. An underground effort by Poles to continue to teach children arose but those who were caught were sent to concentration camps or prisons. Dobrowolski defied the orders of the brutal occupiers being himself a teacher and was among those arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz in 1942. He was liberated in the spring of 1945 at the war's end.

At least 1.1 million people were killed by the Germans at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Most of the victims were Jews, but many non-Jewish Poles, Roma and others were also killed there.

The Holocaust as a whole was but one gruesome and historical representation of the depths capable by unregenerate and sinful men. Despite the centuries of terrible consequences caused by human sin, its dark and dreadful marks on the entire race really began through just one specific act and at one point in time.

In Romans 5, the inspired author spoke of this terrible truth in verse 18. He wrote, “Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation." In verse 19 he added, "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners.”

But this painful truth is sandwiched between words that prove to be the glorious undoing of this most wretched of all realities. The same two verses include the opposite side of the spiritual coin. Speaking of the Savior we also find in verse 18, “Even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” And then verses 19-21 confirm and expand on the theme by declaring, “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Human brutality seen in a place called Auschwitz is overwhelming evidence of the existence of evil – wickedness that sometimes seems to be nearly limitless. It is simply hard to even fathom such intentional horror without a foundational belief in the reality of pure good and ultimate evil. It makes no logical sense apart from the literal existence of a real and holy Creator God and a real and fully evil Satanic being. But as horrific as life’s darkest moments may be, even the greatest agony experienced on earth cannot be compared to what may be experienced in eternity when life comes to a close. It is impossible to even comprehend what lies in store, according to Scripture, if one’s soul remains captive and is never rescued from the guilt and penalty of sin.

All sin, and not just evil on the level of an Auschwitz, must be judged by a just and holy God. For many, that is not very good news. But the great news is that sin has already been judged. This occurred in the long ago on an old rugged cross. It was there that God allowed His precious Son to sacrifice Himself. It was there that justification in God’s eyes became a possibility for every prisoner of sin who would personally trust the Savior.

This freeing of every willing captive is wonderfully laid out in 2 Corinthians 5:21. There the apostle writes, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This is beyond human understanding but does not diminish the blessing of the truth it proclaims!

Tragically, things as heinous as an Auschwitz still exist today. They will continue on in a fallen world until Christ someday crushes all evil forever. But until then, spiritual liberation readily awaits any and all no matter how difficult their lot in life may be when they gain the freedom that counts the most and never ends through faith.

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

 Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Body Breaks The Sound Barrier

Just a few days ago, Felix Baumgarter of Austria was a pilot. But now he is a pilot with a world record and with a great and new distinction.

On October 14, Baumgarter jumped from a manned flight in Roswell, New Mexico. The 43-year-old Austrian said his pressurized space suit prevented him from experiencing the supersonic boom as he broke the sound barrier and accelerated through the sky at an amazing speed of 833.9 mph. He was an incredible 128,000 feet above Earth. That’s roughly 24.2 miles above sea level. The full journey, including the times using his parachute for the second half of the fall, lasted just over nine minutes.

"It is hard to describe, because I didn't feel it," Baumgartner told reporters after the jump. "When you're in a dead pressure suit you don't feel anything." But his feat made him the only man to achieve supersonic speed without a jet or space shuttle.

Coincidentally, 89-year-old Chuck Yeager also made his own repeat supersonic flight on Sunday. This time he rode in the back seat of an F-15 Eagle as it soared through the skies above the California Mojave Desert – the location he first achieved the feat of breaking the sound barrier back some 60 years ago.

It can hardly be imagined what it must feel like to be traveling nearly a thousand miles an hour using little more than one’s fragile and flawed human frame. Obviously, for some this would a nightmare come true as they might have major issues with even a small slow merry-go-round at the local county fair. But for others, like Baumgartner or Chuck Yeager, this type of thing must be the ultimate thrill and a feeling of sheer and unmatched excitement.

It is also probable that few, if any, will ever achieve such a feat and sensation as did this daring skydiving pilot. But interestingly, there are millions who will make a great trip some day but one at a far greater consequence and also by traveling the opposite direction – uphill!

This future travel event will not only infinitely surpass the recent daredevil stunt by this one man in terms of speed, but will be taken by a large group of individuals al at the same time. They will not even have the benefit during their sudden and spectacular trip of any external protective suit as the One in full control of their supernatural journey will have all things under His divine control.

1 Corinthians chapter fifteen lays out this coming flight plan. It is one where all legitimate reservations will be held only by those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior - the Captain of their soul and eternal destiny. Beginning in verse 51, the apostle records, “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. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

The word translated ‘moment’ above is from the Greek word ‘atomos’. Its root word means literally to be ‘uncut’, with the implication suggesting an indivisible amount of time or an ‘atom’ of time. In other words, this trip upwards will take place at a speed that will make Mr. Baumgartner’s fall look like a stroll in the park in comparison.

This same thing is seen in 1 Thessalonians 4. Paul writes, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

Those now in possession of the sacred reservation for that soon coming supersonic journey to heaven can proceed through this life with a blessed hope. They alone can face the trials of life knowing that any and all hardships are but temporary, that have the help of the Holy Spirit, and that the Captain of their soul will safely complete their glorious journey to a place of eternal bliss, where they will praise Him and enjoy His presence forever.

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tebow Time Is All The Time

Tim Tebow is a household word. It is not because he won college football championships. It is not mainly because of winning the coveted Heisman Trophy. It is not even because of taking over at quarterback for a badly struggling Denver Bronco team, as a rookie, and miraculously leading them to the playoffs. And it certainly is not for being traded to the New York Jets and thereby being instantly thrown into a media circus quarterback controversy all while under the microscope of the entire sporting world.

No, Tim Tebow is known for far more important things - eternal and spiritual things. He is perhaps best represented by what is known universally now as ‘Tebowing’. This is his famous kneeling position that looks to even a casual observer as an act of prayer with one's head resting on one's fist. And it is just that. Tim Tebow is not a football player first. His priority is as an outspoken, fearless and committed follower of Jesus Christ. This has in turn made him a point of contention and a spectacle by those who adore him and by those who detest him – and again not for his quarterback skills or lack thereof.

Tebow was born in the Philippines to American parents who were serving as Baptist missionaries at the time. His mother, Pamela Elaine, while pregnant, suffered a life-threatening infection. Because of the drugs used to treat her dysentery, doctors expected a stillbirth and recommended she have an abortion. But she refused and today Tim is the youngest of five children. He and his siblings were all home schooled by their mother, who worked to instill the family's Christian beliefs along the way.

A nationwide controversy surrounded Tebow's decision to appear in an ad funded by Focus on the Family that was broadcast February 7, 2010, during Super Bowl XLIV on CBS. It included Tebow's personal story as part of an overall pro-life stance. In the Philippines, Tim Tebow preached the Christian Gospel in front of schoolchildren and entire villages and assisted in medical care. He supports more than 40 national evangelists working in that nation. In the States, he has shared his Christian faith in prisons and schools, to church and youth groups, and at meetings and conferences. And of course he does so in the locker room and in front of the TV camera without hesitation.

But Tim Tebow’s current ‘professional’ life is not perfect. Far from it actually. And many feel it is due to his faith. Basically, he is warming the bench for the New Jets despite less than impressive play from the starter there – Mark Sanchez. Tebow has a calf-skinned carrot dangled in front of him weekly when he is put in for a few odd plays. He is almost never allowed to throw the ball or do anything more than run up the middle into a slew of 350-pound linemen. It enrages his fans, confuses many spectators and professional analysts, and does not help the team much because of its now sheer predictability to any defense.

But what is this all doing to him after so much success before coming to New York? The rare and unlikely answer is this. It is likely making him stronger and closer to his Lord while offering him greater opportunities on a larger stage to show the world that he is the real Christian deal!

That was seen yet again in a recent Tebow tweet. It not only summed up the view of his relationship with God in the good times and bad, but something we can and should all  incorporate into our own lives and witness:

He tweeted, "Happy moments, praise God. Difficult moments, seek God. Quiet moments, worship God. Painful moments, trust God. Every moment, THANK GOD." Tim Tebow may not now be playing. His team may not be playing well or winning. But he is a winner in the truest and most important sense of the word!

I have no idea what Tim Tebow's life verse might be. Many could be a good match. But perhaps none better than the one seen in the words of Peter's first epistle. "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" (1 Peter 3:15)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The IRS Or The Will Of God?

The 2012 Presidential election is nearly upon us and voters are honing in on the candidates and considering each one’s stand on the various issues they care about most.

But as some may not be aware of, there has been for several decades a serious restriction in one crucial area of politics that is unfair and likely even unconstitutional. It has to do with the ability of churches and pastors being pressured and forced into keeping silent concerning the moral views and stances espoused by the candidates and their party’s platforms.

Back in 1954 the so-called Johnson Amendment was devised and passed by Congress as an amendment to the 501(c)(3) federal tax code. It basically stated that all entities that are exempt from federal income tax could not openly endorse or tear down candidates based upon the most crucial issues to Christians and houses of worship across the nation. Doing so would supposedly allow the IRS to levy fines and even go as far as removing the tax exempt status of any who dared violate the new rule. This practice had never been the law of the land in America until this was authored by Lynden Johnson because of the intense scrutiny and criticism he was receiving from non-profit conservatives and Christian-based organizations at the time.

For decades most pastors felt handcuffed and avoided entering the political realm and especially endorsing any candidates out of fear of losing their much treasured and advantageous tax status. But that is finally beginning to change. A new organization has come into existence in recent years whose sole purpose is to buck this long-time restrictive IRS requirement. They claim that what is now in place is not constitutional and they are therefore encouraging churches and pastors to put their careers, including possible jail time, and the tax status of their churches on the time on the line for their biblical convictions.

The 'Alliance Defending Freedom' is actively seeking to represent any churches or pastors who are under investigation by the IRS for violating the Johnson Amendment. The group represents all of its clients free of charge for speaking out on what they call "Pulpit Freedom Sunday." This year the event will occur on October 7th. In 2008, 33 pastors from 22 different states participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. This year the number is pushing nearly 600 or more. Involved pastors plan on bringing sermons that compare the positions held by candidates with what Scripture says about those issues. They then will make specific recommendations to voters in their congregations. Also, in an even bolder move, some pastors will bring their targeted sermons to the attention of the IRS in the hopes that an audit of their churches would spark lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Johnson Amendment.

As of this date, none of the participating churches have had their tax exemption revoked – nor have any received penalties from the IRS for what was said during their politically themed sermons. For information you can check out the “ADF” web site at

The Bible is quite clear on the moral issues and on what God expects of those who are citizens of His heaven as well as of America. He has made His will known in numerous passages like those seen in Ephesians 5:9-11. There the Apostle Paul declares to all believers, “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”

Then, too, Peter set the biblical pattern for those times in life when hard decisions require hard choices, when society collides with Scripture. When demanded to keep silent concerning his views and beliefs about his Savior, he stood his ground as Acts 5:29 reveals, and he was fully willing to face any dire consequences that might arise. His short but profound words were right, brave and inspiring for his day just as they are for ours!

“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men."

 Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Monster Mess In The Middle-East

The current and ever-growing Islamic uprisings are in some ways very complicated to grasp and explain. But on the other hand they are quite simple at their core.

The serious Middle-East protests are not just about a rogue film that disgraced a world religion's primary prophet. That is only a symptom. For those working behind the scenes, that is little more than a very convenient excuse in order to stir up trouble and further their own twisted agenda.

 Iranian officials said they would hunt down those responsible for making the video that was seen widely on Youtube. The low-budget film entitled 'The Innocence of Muslims' depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester, among other insulting claims. The man allegedly behind the obscure film has now been questioned by U.S. authorities in California.

At the same time, Christianity's primary figure, Jesus Christ, is maligned and disgraced everywhere, every day and in every way. And yet His most loyal followers don’t typically take to the streets to insight violence, destruction and even death.

The head of Christianity and Savior of mankind taught against senseless violence in no uncertain terms and for any cause. That is seen nowhere more clearly than through His own pointed words in Matthew 5:44. He stated, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." The terms He uttered there are certainly a far cry from what is being pushed and proclaimed through those fueling the dangerous terrorism and deceit that now circulates the globe.

But with that all being fairly obvious, there is something of absolute importance that may not be. The solution to this most difficult issue is not military force, verbal threats or diplomacy. The solution or this long-standing problem requires the internal changing of human hearts one by one. Simply stated, the ‘cure’ for the problem, at the ‘core’ of the problem, is opening the only ‘door’ that can solve the problem. That door is Jesus Christ. He alone can unlock and open up the spiritual blinders of any and every man and woman regardless of their current religious convictions or where they reside on planet earth.

The Apostle Paul related of this greatest of all potential truths in 2 Corinthians chapter five. In verse 17 he penned, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." A new internal heart can fully transform all inner ideas and ideals along with impacting all external actions – forever. A heat totally redesigned by the very One who made it, Jesus Christ, can alone deal with the cause and consequences of human sin. That includes all sin, whether it be as major as intentional violence, destruction and murder - or as seemingly minor as cheating on one's tax return.

It is through Christ that the real and lasting solution to the centuries-old problem in the middle-east, and anywhere else for that matter, is found. The Bible also instructs exactly how this spiritual and eternal fix can be applied and specifically by whom. Verses 18-20 continue on and declare, "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ."

While the world watches and wonders where the Middle-East chaos will take the inhabitants of earth, Christians have a distinct edge. For they alone have both the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16) and the word of God. (Psalm 119:105) Not only are they forgiven of sin, they and comforted even in times of trouble, and also possess the one all-encompassing solution to the ills of an entire lost race in need of their Lord and Savior! The apostle described it well in 1 John 2:2. “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” 

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Convention Highlights and Lowlights

Over the last few weeks the nation's Presidential candidates were offered up and scrutinized by the American voters at two party's national conventions. The first gathering occurred in the middle of hurricane Isaac which amazingly struck on the 7th anniversary of infamous Katrina. But Mitt Romney is now the official Republican candidate and will no doubt continue to run on his record as a super successful businessman at a time when the sagging economy could well make him very appealing

The convention proceeded as expected, with the possible exception of a brief and somewhat bizarre appearance of actor Clint Eastwood who spoke to an imaginary President Obama using an empty chair. The bit was quite clever and effective, however the famous actor used some rather crude and inappropriate comments during his few minutes on the GOP stage. Romney's closing speech again keyed on his plans to motivate and rescue the economy and assured voters of his conservative stance on the current hot moral issues.

Following the Republican gathering, it was the turn of the DNC. Mr. Obama, along with others in his party, tried to convince the nation that he is still the best alternative, despite a very difficult economy that shows no major signs of turning the corner. This may well be his biggest hurdle as revealed in the now famous and somewhat accurate statement, "It's the economy, stupid."

But there was something that occurred of rather large significance although perhaps still unknown to many who even watched one or both conventions. Apparently there was a prior decision by some of the DNC brass to do something that may not have been really well thought out. Or maybe it was? The party decided to remove any references to God in their official 2012 platform. When brought to the attention of the delegates a firestorm soon soon erupted. In stark contrast, the 2012 GOP platform mentions God 12 times.

But again, upon revealing what amounted to a god-less DNC document, there was a significant protest by some of their own - even in the party that has been far more liberal concerning the major moral and biblical issues in recent times. The objection to removing God resulted in multiple verbal votes in attempts by pro-God democrats to return the Creator - at least on some level. At first, a clear-cut decision could not be reached. Then eventually, after additional efforts, God was allowed back into party print. When the decision was announced it was literally booed on the floor by those who were still adamant about of wanting to leave God as a mere political memory. Either way, He was forced back into the platform after being invited to leave the nation's affairs alone.

Regardless of what any politician or party enacts, God is very outspoken about His mandatory involvement in this sphere. There is no question about His desire and ability to influence the lives and fate of any people. There are three verses in particular that reveal just how crucial He really is to the success of a nation and also his ability to rescue any people even after they have rejected Him and fallen on hard times.

Proverbs 14 clearly reveals what leads to true and lasting national prosperity. Verse 34 states, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." And as just mentioned, even when that biblical admonition has been bypassed, Scripture still offers hope when God is again given His rightful place of prominence. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 declares the primary condition for this aspect of healing, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." Finally, when any nation invites God back into their personal lives and national leadership, then the promise found in Psalm 144:15 becomes the inevitable result. "Happy are the people whose God is the LORD."

If the leadership in America excludes God, either in print or in practice, then no real healing or former greatness will likely be in her future. But if the nation's leaders, and those who pull the levers in November, can somehow see that all lasting solutions begin with a serious spiritual revival, then true hope and healing will remain. Only when that ensues will this "nation under God" again become a beacon of hope, prosper as before, and shine as a light for the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ.

God still can again bless America, but not until American begins to again bless God!

Pray "fervently" (James 5:16) for America and for her potential leadership. And pray "without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17) for the electorate to fully recognize that it is, first and foremost, godliness and biblical righteousness exalts a nation!

Bill Breckenridge

Friday, August 24, 2012

What You Don't Know About the Man Who Shot John Lennon

Mark David Chapman has been denied parole yet again. Most only know Mark Chapman as the man who shot John Lennon. But his life has changed dramatically during his years in prison, and his story is one that shows the transforming power of Christ. 

Some years ago, we received a letter from Mark Chapman in response to our broadcast, “The Word And The World”, which aired at the time over WWOG in Rochester, NY. We answered Chapman’s letter, and a correspondence friendship developed that resulted in several visits to Attica by Dave and Bill Breckenridge, who is our ministry’s Media Manager and who also contributes to this blog.

Three years ago, Dave Virkler visited Mark Chapman at Attica Correctional Facility. Following is a portion of a blog entry Dave wrote about his last visit with Mark: 

Entrance was a little easier this time than other visits. I had only one form to fill out because I was already on Chapman’s visitation list. After a lengthy security process, I was locked into a small oblong room that had a black floor-to-ceiling cage about 4’ x 4’ at the far end. A long table just wide enough to reach across and join hands went from the doorway to the wall in front of the cage.
Looking around, I noticed a camera near the ceiling and also a note on the wall about a microphone, so I assumed everything was being carefully monitored. I wasn’t allowed to bring a Bible or anything else except for a plastic pen and some paper, and I scribbled some questions while I waited for Mark.

Few people come to see Mark, and he is not giving interviews to any media people as this is his current leading from the Lord. He can have a radio but no Internet access. At length, Mark came through the rear door, and we warmly greeted each other. He is doing well and rejoicing in the Lord. Our conversation ranged far and wide.

We talked about many things that Mark requested I not share on our radio broadcast or here. When I asked him what I should tell my audiences from him, he simply said, “Know Jesus.”

Additionally, he would like people to know that he and his wife Gloria, who resides in Hawaii, are hoping for funding to get his printed testimony, “The Man Who Shot John Lennon,” shipped to many prison ministries for distribution around the world.

Mark is deeply spiritual, deeply repentant for his actions, concerned about evangelism, willing to stay in prison for the rest of his life and willing to be whatever God wants him to be. He and I prayed together several times, joining hands across the table. He prayed for me, my family and ministry. I prayed for him, his spiritual life, his wife and his literature outreach.

Before being led back out though all those gates at 2:30 PM, I asked Mark to review an interview he did with Larry King back on Sept. 30, 2000. I asked Mark to share the story with me once more, and he did.

Through King’s friendship with then-NY governor Mario Cuomo, he was able to get a live interview with Chapman and sent his crew into Attica. Mark sat in a darkened room with nothing but the camera lens pointed at his face. King could see Mark, but Mark could not see King.

In the interview, Chapman told Larry King, “I became a Christian when I was 16, Larry, and that lasted about a year of genuine walking with Him. Through my life, off and on, I have struggled with different things, as we all do, and at those times I would turn to the Lord. The night of the death of John Lennon I was far from Him. I wasn’t listening to Him. I wasn’t reading the Bible anymore.

“Today I’m different. I read the Bible. I pray, and I walk with Him. He forgives me. He doesn’t condone what I did—and that’s a very important thing—He didn’t like what I did 12 years ago. He didn’t like all the pain I caused everybody, especially John’s widow. But He forgives me and He hears me and He listens to me, and He is the one, all these years, that has brought me out of the abyss, not medications or counseling. I, basically, had to counsel myself through these years, not that it’s not available here, but I’ve been very private about this. This is not anything that’s easy to live with.”

As I had listened to that interview back in 2000, I was stunned by King’s next question. The instant retort by Chapman surprised me, and I thought it might have been rehearsed. Larry King asked Mark how he knew it wasn’t a crutch, and his response was:

“Well, in a way, it’s got to be a crutch, because we all need a crutch. Life is not easy and life, for me, isn’t easy. And, therefore, I think the Lord has a tender spot in His heart for prisoners. He said so. The rest of the Bible says so in many different places. And I’ve leaned on Him—if it’s a crutch, I've been leaning on a crutch, but it’s a crutch made out of the cross, because without that I probably wouldn’t be alive today because I was very suicidal and I certainly wouldn’t be in a well state of mind, not without Him.”

Mark told me that seconds before Larry King asked that awkward question, his gaze was diverted momentarily. Out of the corner of his eye in the darkness, he saw a fleeting vision of a crippled man walking down a lonely road with a cross under his armpit in the form of a crutch. He looked back into the camera and answered Larry’s question.

Our wonderful crutch of salvation is indeed formed by the cross. “The old rugged cross, so despised by the world has a wondrous attraction for me…” It’s the message I preached last week 14 times in six days in two Bible conferences. “In the cross of Christ I glory, towering o’er the wrecks of time….” “At the cross, at the cross where I first say the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away….”

Driving away from Attica is a sobering experience. When I left, I said to myself, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Salvation is just as needed inside the prison or outside the prison, for Mark David Chapman and for David Mark Virkler.

Dave Virkler

If you would like a print copy of Mark’s testimony or information about his ministry, please contact us.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thrill of Victory & The Agony of Sin

The Penn State fiasco certainly placed a major black mark on the sporting world over the last year or so. But it seems that now that even the most glorious sports event of all, the Olympic games, have witnessed a public scandal as well.

The website stated, "Olympic team leader says eight female badminton doubles players have been disqualified from the London Games after trying to lose matches to receive a more favorable place in the field. The Badminton World Federation investigated two teams from South Korea and one each from China and Indonesia. It accused them of 'not using one's best efforts to win a match' and ‘conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport’ in matches on Tuesday night." Of course, and as expected, the Indonesian team will appeal the accusation.

Meanwhile swimmer Michael Phelps made history when he earned his 19th Olympic medal - more than any other single athlete ever in the games and then added a few more for good measure. After struggling initially, many wondered if the great swimmer was about out of gas while in the water. But it seems that his great talent mixed with his exceptional determination to succeed drove him to two additional victories and to a place that no other in the games has ever reached.

The Bible sometimes uses athletic terminology to make spiritual applications. One such place is Paul’s words to a young pastor and his own son in the faith. In 2 Timothy 2:3-5 he wrote, “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”

Then in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he again uses phrases associated with sports to speak of the level of commitment often needed to win a highly demanding and elusive reward. Beginning in verse 24 he opens his thoughts in question form, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

It is likely that the disgraced badminton team members at the 2012 will be removed from the competition. If deemed guilty, they will lose their dream of an Olympic medal and the temporary glory that all brings. But Paul’s concern of being disqualified was not about being removed from competition for material gain. Nor was he worried over being banned from God’s eternal team. His fear was only about the unimaginable potential of losing his opportunity of being fully used to serve His Lord, using each and every remaining breath in this life that he would draw.

As one who considered himself the fully forgiven and justified ‘chief of sinners,' this man possessed but one all-consuming goal. His eyes were firmly fixed on God’s finish line – and never on his own. This was a priority that he would not jeopardize in any way or for any reason. And, unlike so many fragile human role models today, this man was a great sinner who had received a greater salvation – a reality outwardly evidenced in a consistent spiritual focus and drive that we can all learn from and strive to duplicate.

“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

 Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Theatre Thunder Rocks The Nation

The nation was shocked this past week when a lone man walked into a theatre in Aurora, Colorado, during the premiere of the newest Batman movie and proceeded to open fire on an innocent and unsuspecting crowd. Some have suggested that his name does not even deserve mention, but this former neuroscience student is accused of carrying out one of the worst mass murders in recent U.S. history. According to eyewitnesses, he killed 12 and left nearly 60 people injured at a suburban Denver theater.

For whatever reason, the shooter dressed in black, entered the building, set off a few canisters of tear gas, and began killing and wounding the startled viewers. Some there thought it was just a part of the act until the grim and bloody reality of the moment set in.

Few expect or will likely ever find themselves in such a horrific and life-threatening experience like the one in the Colorado theatre. Admittedly, this type of event is somewhat rare in America when compared to brutal and frightening conditions millions live in daily in other parts of the world – places such as the Middle-East. Even so, living a long and safe life from threats of severe physical harm and attack are still not guaranteed even while living in the most secure nation on earth.

This is a reality that is addressed in Scripture in numerous passages. The writer of Hebrews 9:27 records, "And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this comes the judgment".

It has been said, typically in a humorous way, that life has but two certainties - death and taxes. One of these is obviously correct. But the reality of a literal eternal judgement to follow is a fact ignored or flat out rejected by so very many. For these, there seems to be little notice of the words and warning provided by the writer of Psalm 14:1. “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.”

The Bible is explicit about the reality of sin and its serious short and long-term consequences. No one can ever blame God for inadequate warnings on the subject. A loving creator also made abundantly clear the single cure to remedy the crisis in this most critical area of life and death. Passages like John 3:16 abound and make known the solution to sin - namely a personal saving faith found only in God’s Son.

The Bible contains what is commonly known as wisdom books - one in the Old Testament and one in the New. It is significant that both the books of Proverbs and James both send out a super strong caution about being spiritually prepared for even an event like in Colorado. That is because such things are possible, and can happen without warning, and on any given day.

The super wise writer of Proverbs revealed in chapter twenty-seven and verse one, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” But James goes into more detail while addressing the same basic idea. In chapter four where he writes, "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. Instead you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that. But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”

Life’s gravest and most costly error is miscalculating concerning God's will and demands. Such a mindset is highly flawed and eternally devastating. The true is that there is a coming judgement and all will someday face their Creator - the fully righteous and fair Judge. This sobering fact can be seen early on in Scripture by the question asked by Abraham as he pleaded for the sake of the few just citizens in the wicked city of Sodom back in Genesis chapter eighteen. In verse 25 he asks a question, knowing full well the affirmative answer. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

God will someday judge mankind and his standard will be based primarily on each one's personal relationship, or lack thereof, with Christ. The writer John offered proof of this in 1 John 2:1-2. He 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.”

There is no guarantee that any of us will have another tomorrow. And there is no excuse for not being ready to enter eternity with Christ if that one-time event should occur. Spiritual preparation through Christ can be gained in an instant with the resulting redemption then lasting forever! As the writer of Acts 16:31 said simply, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”

Continue to pray fervently for those in Colorado. Pray that those who know the Savior will be His witnesses, and for those who don’t to somehow find comfort and salvation for their souls through this terrible act – including the shooter himself.

 Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Saved from Niagara Falls and Sin

July 9 was an interesting anniversary, but most probably don’t know what it is.

It is the anniversary of an astonishing event at Niagara Falls, NY. It has been 52 years since Roger Woodward’s unprotected plunge over the famous falls, the first person ever to survive the 162-foot drop into the raging waters below and live to tell about it. Both he and his sister, who was part of the drama, kept a dual silence until two years ago on the 50th anniversary.  Following is a re-post from July 2010.

Roger and his family lived near the surging Niagara River, which is fairly placid a distance above the Falls but angry and deadly as the swift water moves closer to the site that attracts tourists from the entire world. Seven-year old Roger was bored that July day in 1960 until Jim Honneycutt, a friend of the family, offered to take Roger and his sister, 17-year old Deanne, for a ride in his 12-foot aluminum boat, which was powered by a small but trusty 7.5 horsepower motor. Roger’s mother insisted the kids have life jackets and that Roger be wearing his from the start.

Off they went from a trailer park dock in Wheatfield, NY. Honeycutt drove the boat downstream, eventually saying that he would show them a very special view of Niagara Falls as the mist would be seen rising in the distance. Unwittingly, he guided the boat too far downstream for his small motor to pull against the accelerating current. The rapids increased, and Honeycutt made sure Deanne had the only other life jacket on and Roger’s was tight.

Suddenly the boat ground across the rocks, and the motor sheared its drive pin placing the trio at the complete mercy of the surging Niagara River. Worse, the boat was flipped by the mounting waves, and all three found themselves helplessly swept toward the brink.

Jim Honeycutt went over, and, as is typical, his body was imprisoned under the Falls for three days before it appeared at the Maid of the Mist boat dock.

Associated Press writer Carolyn Thomson’s July 16 story about Roger quotes him saying, “To this day, every time I hear the story I can smell the water.”

Thomson wrote, “For Woodward, the worst part was the brutal ride through suffocating whitewater where he was tossed from Honeycutt’s boat after it struck something, became disabled and was pulled into the powerful rapids.‘This water looks like it’s as big as a house with the waves and the rocks,’ he says. ‘One minute you’re pulled underwater, you can’t breathe, you wonder if you’re ever going to breathe again. The next second you’re thrown up into the air and you come down and you’re glancing off of rocks as you’re going through the rapids.’

“He says there was a peaceful moment, though — while he was going over the brink of the Falls.“‘I was floating in a cloud,’ he says. ‘I had no sensation of up or down. I didn’t have any sensation in my stomach like you might have on a roller coaster ... that moment when your stomach is in your throat.’”

Because young Roger was so light, he was thrown out over the edge and landed away from the churning water at the base of the Falls. Capt. Clifford Keech was just steering his boat away from the spot in the lower river where the Maid of the Mist passengers view the Falls from below. Someone shouted that there was a bright orange life jacket in the river with a boy in it and that he was alive! Keech knew instantly that no one had fallen off his boat and the boy had to have come over the falls. With Keech’s masterful maneuvering, Roger was able to grab the lifeline on the third toss and was pulled to safety, shouting, “My sister’s still in the water! You gotta help her!”

The boat crew couldn’t help her, but God, in His mercy, did through two brave men among the onlookers on shore above the falls. Deanne Woodward had been miraculously swept toward the shore on the American side of the river. A crowd had gathered beside the raging current, watching the girl as she swept toward the brink. Years ago, I spoke with a man who was there that day. He said, “Women were screaming, some were praying, and some were fainting.”

Don Glynn of the Tonawanda News told it this way: “John Hayes, 44, of Vauxhall, N.J., a bus driver and auxiliary police officer, spotted [Deanne] shortly after he witnessed her brother pass by. ‘Girl, come to me!’ Hayes shouted, again and again. Deanne said later, ‘It was the power of that man’s voice that kept me from giving up.’ As she got closer to the railing, Hayes tried to snag her arm. He missed but dashed along the shoreline, realizing he was running out of ground. John Quattrochi of Penns Grove, N.J., rushed to the railing, too, and helped Hayes pull Deanne from the river and onto the pavement.”

They were 20 feet from the brink. Deanne, safe on the shore, screamed, “Pray for my brother! He’s going over the Falls.”

And prayer was answered. Forty-eight hours later, Roger was released from the hospital with only a bruise on his head. Deanne suffered a cut hand. Fifty years passed, and the two finally spoke freely about their divine deliverance.

Roger puts it more personally. In Thomson’s 2010 article he said, “But it wasn't until 20 years later that the boy who had not regularly attended church was encouraged by a friend to go after finding himself troubled by nagging ‘Why am I here?’ questions. From that day forward I was able to answer that one huge question, and the answer to the question was this: God saved me that day, July 9, 1960, because he knew at age 27 that I would come to know him as my savior.”

Years ago, Roger said “I guess the Lord saved me the first time so he could save me the second time.”

Roger described God’s purpose in his twin deliverances, not only for himself but for everyone. His Niagara Falls deliverance gave him another 20 years of God’s patient grace. Our purpose for being born once is to be born twice—being “born again,” as Christ Himself said. “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. … unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. … Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:3, 5 & 7) God keeps us alive so we can hear the Gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection, believe it and be saved.

The old hymn “Come to the Saviour, Make No Delay” by George Root outlines the urgent need for ultimate deliverance from the spiritual Niagara of an unsaved death:

Come to the Saviour, make no delay:
Here in his Word he’s shown us the way;
Here in our midst he’s standing today,
Tenderly saying, “Come!”

Suffer the children! O hear his voice!
Let ev’ry heart leap forth and rejoice;
And let us freely make him our choice:
Do not delay, but come.

Think once again, he’s with us today;
Heed now his blest command, and obey;
Hear now his accents tenderly say,
“Will you, my children, come?”

Joyful, joyful, will the meeting be,
When from sin our hearts are pure and free;
And we shall gather, Saviour, with thee,
In our eternal home.

Dave Virkler

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wildfires in Colorado and Fires in Life

While political storms are brewing in Washington, DC, a massive wildfire is raging in Colorado Springs, CO. Fire Chief Richard Brown called it a “firestorm of epic proportions.”

Record-setting temperatures and dry, windy conditions caused the fire to double in size overnight and hampered efforts to contain it. Thirty-two thousand residents in Colorado' second largest city were forced to evacuate, and the blaze is threatening the U.S. Air Force Academy campus. Meanwhile, a lightning-sparked fire was raging in Boulder. Six others are burning in the state. Governor John Hickenlooper said it is “the worst fire season in the history of Colorado.”

Intense fires often bring out biblical terminology. The Colorado Springs wildfire has been described as “apocalyptic” and “hellish.” But what’s being experienced there doesn’t even come close to the biblical description of Hell. Christ called it a place where “the fire…shall never be quenched” (Mark 9:45). In Revelation 20:10, it’s called the “lake of fire” and is described as a place of eternal torment. In Jesus’ story of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16, He described the rich man in Hades (another name for Hell) as “being in torments.” The rich man cried, “…send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’”

While some can evacuate and escape earthly wildfires, Hell and its eternal fury is unavoidable for anyone who has not put his or her personal trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. Having seen what a raging wildfire can do should be enough to make anyone think about what can be done to escape the eternal torment of Hell. The solution is a simple one: “[W]hoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

In this life, fire doesn’t serve an exclusively negative purpose. Those who are forced to quickly evacuate from threatened homes find that it takes a fire to reveal what is most important to them. Many times only what can be grabbed in a few minutes is preserved. Our focus shouldn’t be solely on earthly possessions but on the things that, as the old adage says, you can’t take with you. The Gaithers summed it up in one of their songs. “…the things that matter the most in this world, they can never be held in our hands. I believe in a hill called Mount Calvary…”

Fire is sometimes needed for growth to take place. It is a natural and necessary part of a forest’s regeneration system. Some trees’ seeds are only released in the heat of intense flames. Suppressing forest fires too long can actually be detrimental to forests and results in greater loss when a fire eventually does break out.

There are times when loss serves to strengthen one’s character, determination and faith in God. A refiner’s fire purifies precious metals, such as gold and sliver, and separates them from impure elements. Job is often viewed as the person who suffered the most devastating personal losses, but he spoke confidently of the result of such tragedy.When He (God) has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10

Not everyone experiences a physical fire, but times of pain, suffering or loss are almost universally inevitable. God gave a promise to Israel that should comfort and encourage anyone who is His child: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” Isaiah 43:1, 2)

God walks with His children through the “fires” of this life, and through salvation in His Son, we are spared from the fires of eternity.

Gayle Virkler

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Webb Simpson's Winning Attitude

This year’s U.S. Open golf tournament was a nail-biter that came down to one putt at the 18th hole. In the end, relative newcomer Webb Simpson was the unexpected winner. Simpson came from four shots behind at the beginning of the fourth round to win his first major golf tournament beating a number of well-known players including Jim Furyk, who had held the lead since the second round, Graeme McDowell, who had a chance at 18 to tie Simpson and force a playoff, and three-time U.S. Open winner Tiger Woods, who dropped back dismally in the last round.

While more seasoned players lost their concentration and confidence, 26-year old Simpson “had peace all day,” he said in the post-game TV interview. “I had to go out and do as well as I could. I probably prayed more the last three holes than I’ve ever done in my life. It helped me stay calm….”

After a surprise win like this, some might expect him to credit his own ability, but Simpson’s mention of peace and prayer indicated a different attitude. He told CBN, “I’d be stupid not to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, because it was tough out there and I was nervous, and I felt his presence all day.”

Simpson is a devout Christian who isn’t afraid to talk about his faith. It’s mentioned several times in his PGA Tour profile video. On his Twitter bio, he describes himself as a “*sinner* loved by a Savior”, and many of his “tweets” mention prayer, faith, and Scripture. He’s the host of the YFC Golf Challenge, a ministry “devoted to sharing the gospel through the means of Junior golf and equipping young men to share their love of God through actions and speech.” In an interview he did with the website Beliefnet, he said his faith has helped him play with integrity; he’s assessed himself penalty shots even when it costs him a win.

Simpson also understands that he needs to keep his focus on the ultimate goal of eternity. Paul Tesori is Simpson’s caddie and a fellow believer in salvation through Jesus Christ. Tesori told ESPN that Simpson said to him on the 17th fairway, “It doesn’t matter if we win 15 tournaments and 15 money lists. In 30 years, it’s not going to matter because we’re going to heaven anyway.” That perspective is a clear reflection of Christ’s exhortation, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

In the PGA Tour profile video, Simpson speaks about the importance of his family and those around him who share his faith. He said it gives him a good perspective. “If all goes bad and I can’t play anymore, then life is still good.” Simpson’s attitude indicates a desire to follow the biblical directive to “seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

Simpson is one of a number of high profile athletes who aren’t afraid to talk about their faith in Jesus Christ, among them fellow golfer and 2012 Masters winner Bubba Watson, Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, and Knicks basketball player Jeremy Lin. In a time when many sports stars’ images are tarnished by sex scandals, drug use, and gambling, it’s refreshing to see those who live out their faith both on and off the sports stage and, like the Apostle Paul, are “not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes….” (Romans 1:16)

Born-again athletes know that accolades, trophies and winners’ checks can’t bring true happiness or peace. The greatest victory in life isn’t based on winning a golf tournament or on any other achievement. It was won on the cross of Calvary and is available for all regardless of accomplishment, financial earnings or popularity.

Gayle Virkler

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Devils Lose At Winning The Cup

What at first seemed like a very quick ending and anti-climatic Stanley Cup final series was suddenly one headed for the record books through the effort of a determined and somewhat outmatched New Jersey Devils team. It has been 70 years since any NHL team has come back to win the famed trophy after being down three games to none in the final seven-game series. But the surprising Devils fought back tooth and nail to win games 4 and 5 and began to believe that they could accomplish the nearly impossible. They wore new T-shirts in the locker room saying, “Why not us?”

But that all abruptly ended in game six. It was primarily due to a somewhat stupid penalty early on in period one sending the offending Devils forward to hockey’s so-called ‘sin bin’. The major infraction left his team short-handed for five long minutes against a team they were struggling to match up with at even strength alone. The seemingly eternal power play turned the now nervous L. A. Kings into sharks smelling blood. When completed, it allowed them to score three times thereby putting the dream of a fourth New Jersey Cup on the back burner.

Lord Stanley’s prize is given to the winner of the hockey playoffs each season and is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America. It was given for the first time in 1893 to a Montreal franchise In 1915, After a series of league mergers and folds, the Cup became the de facto championship trophy of the NHL in 1926. The Cup became the NHL championship prize in 1947. Since the 1914–15 season the Cup has been won a combined 94 times by 17 active NHL teams and five defunct teams. The New York Yankees of hockey, the Montreal Canadians, have won the Cup a record 24 times.

The Cup has an amazing and storied past. It may be the most coveted, and the most unique, of all sporting awards. The major reason for this distinction is something that is done at the end of the annual playoff run. It is like no other. Once the brutally hard and marathon-like victory on the ice is achieved, every member of the winning team has his name inscribed on the precious hardware. Almost every kid who loves the game dreams of the amazing honor of seeing their name placed there. And this special practice does seem a way to gain real life hockey immortality and helps explain the unparalleled passion and sacrifice given by those who play the world’s fastest and most physically demanding, sport.

The Bible speaks of something similar to the Cup and its special practice of having individual names placed on the sport’s ‘Holy Grail’. Revelation 21:27 refers those who are “written in the Lamb's Book of Life.” These are the souls who have trusted the ‘Lamb’, Jesus Christ, as their personal Savior at some point in the earthly contest. They alone are allowed to spend eternity with Him in their Heavenly home. (John 14:2-3) These who are by faith a part God’s redeemed team, the church, possess the truest form of immortality. It is a future of blessings and rewards far beyond any human comprehension as recorded in numerous passages like Revelation 22:3-5.

“And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”

The New Jersey Devils were defeated this time around. But in October of 2013 they will begin a fresh season and a new quest with high hopes of having their names become part of the elusive Cup. But all whose names appear forever on the pages of Lambs special are done – forever! Their victory is sure, permanent and complete. Their adversary, the Devil, was like the hockey Devils defeated  - but for eternity when Christ cried from the cross with just three profound words revealing His total victory over sin.

“It is Finished” (John 19:30)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Last Days Of A Flying Legend?

Her name is synonymous with flying and also missing! And since her disappearance, the famous navigator has always been the subject of interest and great curiosity. She is none other than Amelia Earhart. She was lost over the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago, sparking a major but unfruitful rescue effort that left millions to speculate over her whereabouts and survival.

Earhart’s quest to circle the globe along a 29,000-mile equatorial route was a bold endeavor for a woman back then. It was a task for anyone for that matter. But she would have been the first ever had she succeeded. Of course she did not, but instead was lost along with her navigator Fred Noonan in July of 1937.

But now The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, a non-profit foundation promoting aviation archaeology and historic aircraft preservation, have reported new details leading researchers to this conclusion. According to ‘TIGHAR’, Earhart’s plane came down and they likely survived as castaways on a remote island by catching rainwater and eating fish, shellfish, and turtles in order to survive for some uncertain period of time. Using what fuel remained to turn up the engines to recharge the batteries, they continued to radio distress signals for several days, until Earhart’s twin-engine Lockheed Electra aircraft was swept off the reef by rising tides off Nikumaroro Island.

Richard Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR stated, “Radio distress calls believed to have been sent from the missing plane dominated the headlines and drove much of the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy search. When the search failed, all of the reported post-loss radio signals were categorically dismissed as bogus and have been largely ignored ever since. But the results of the study, he said, “suggest that the aircraft was on land and on its wheels for several days following the disappearance.” In addition, several artifacts found years ago – some of it discovered by Pacific islanders who later inhabited the island – seem to confirm TIGHAR’s conclusion.

To many, Amelia Earhart was a hero despite never having accomplished her mission and goal. Even with her great vision and bravery she was lost and never found. Her intentions were simply staggering, but she missed the incredibly high mark that she will always be revered and remembered for. And perhaps these latest findings will give those who care some small measure of closure on her amazing life and death.

There is a spiritual parallel to the life and loss of Amelia Earhart. Scores of well meaning people set high goals, make impressive plans and work hard to achieve their priorities. Sometimes there comes a degree of success and at other times there is not. But typically and tragically, a great many tend to overlook spiritual things along the journey. They fully and mistakenly exclude any thoughts of the reality of the life to come.

Like Amelia Earhart, who was physically lost and never again found, multiple millions go through life and eventually perish in a spiritually lost condition. This occurs even though they know within their hearts that God exists and is due their attention and worship. Instead they ignore what is real and what is soundly taught in Romans chapter one and throughout God’s manual for life – the Bible.

Romans 1:19-21 clearly reveals this tragic condition. “.....because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Amelia Earhart possessed the best instructions, directions and equipment available in her field for her day. The same holds true for those who find the great blessing of the unique directions offered in God’s Word. Earhart had what she needed for success, but sadly still failed in the end. But the success rate for those who follow God’s flight plan for their soul’s destiny in Christ is 100 percent, as seen and guaranteed in Scripture.

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

 Bill Breckenridge