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