Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Happy New Year! Really?

2013 is gone and is now relegated to a vast collection of fast-fading memories – some good and some not. But an entire new calendar year lies before us, complete with its ups and downs and a brand new set of challenges and opportunities.

For some in our world, each new year really does present great opportunities for victory, success and excitement. They have the means, and perhaps the proper skills, to allow this to be so. Most in this group reside in America or a nation similar to her. For them, 2014 is something to look forward to with great anticipation and expectation. They are typically known as the so-called “haves”.

But what about the others? How about the many who have little or nothing? What about those with an endless past that is simply bleak and a future that does not appear any better? What about those for whom a new year means just more misery and defeat? Can these others say, and really mean, “Happy New Year”?

The Bible speaks about some very distinct “others” in Hebrews chapter eleven. After recording a specific list of those who achieved great spiritual victories and earthly accomplishments, the author then turns the focus upon these so-called “others”. Verses 35-38 share a bit about their seriously difficult life experiences.

“Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.”

Although this sounds like just another Bible story from the distant past, these were real people with real problems and real feelings. They knew pain, frustration and fear as we all do. And today there are still scores of others in our word still facing similar fates in this coming new year. But these others in Hebrews had something unique and something  powerful. They had a true godly faith, one that drove them and supported them when times became unbearable – or remained unbearable. They were God’s special “others” making them as precious and worthy as those listed just before them in this enlightening Scriptural account.

2014 will bring great triumph, success and joy to many, externally speaking. For still others, likely not. But the goal for all of God’s people in the new year should be a desire and willingness to be the embodiment of Philippians 4:11-13. The Apostle Paul, who himself had often been one of the “others” wrote, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

If you are a Christian in this brand new calendar year, do realize who owns you and all you own  in Christ! Realize that He is the loving author of your good times and is your living comforter in the hard times. He alone can secure a level of being inward contentedness that the world cannot ever grasp. His is your Savior and your Lord always – whether in times of great blessing or when sharing hard times with the “others”. And do faithfully pray for those in this latter category knowing full well that a day may well come this year when you covet their intervention! As the songwriter wisely put it, “We are only a phone call away from being brought to our knees.”

Have a blessed and contented 2014!

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas: Still Way "Too Few"?

Too few, even those with little or no religious interest, would deny that Christmas in America is primarily today a material-based celebration. Many now turn most of their attention on gifts, decorations, parties and other similar issues connected to the year's biggest day.

Too few today can any longer well explain what the Incarnation is, what it means, and why it is so infinitely crucial to every last soul on earth.

Too few equate Christmas to be much beyond a jolly, toy-toting old man with a flowing while beard and wearing very large red suit. His odd little helpers, with large pointed ears, are also typically front and center.

Too few boast serious outdoor manger scenes in favor of those adorning Saint Nick, a slew of fictitious flying
deer and perhaps surrounded by snowmen in one form or another. There are often random angels in the mix, but with a seeming disconnect or ignorance to their vital importance to the event. Sometimes a manger scene will be included but  highly overshadowed by an array of wintery figures from a variety of random sources. And of course, manger scenes have even been prohibited in recent times so as to not offend anyone -- despite the fact that many will then celebrate the holiday where Christ's name makes up the bulk of the term.

Too few ever really pause and analyze the theologically profound words of the classic seasonal hymns even though they know almost every word by heart from their childhoods.

Too few, while watching the seasonal favorite show, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, ever ponder the author’s intended point. That shining moment comes when little Linus takes the cartoon stage and begins his precious biblical discourse. He begins first, “I’ll tell you what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.” He then quotes, from memory, the story of the Savior’s miraculous birth as found in Luke chapter two.

And a most serious too few will ever place the babe of Bethlehem later on the cross of Calvary even when the manger scene does briefly occupy minds usually bogged down more with “visions of sugarplums” dancing in their heads.

Yes, Christmas has become far “too few” while becoming far too complicated, far too materialized and far too secularized. But despite what far too many miss, its true meaning and value can be quickly summed up in a short semi-familiar poem sometimes seen at this sacred time of the year.

Jesus Is The Reason For The Season

 In Bethlehem, God gave to us
The source of Christmas joy;
A star shown on a miracle:
The virgin birth of a boy.

He was born both God and man,
A Savior for us all,
The way to get to our heavenly home,
If we just heed His call.

So as we shop and spend and wrap
And enjoy the Christmas season,
Let’s keep in mind the sacred truth:
Jesus is the reason.

Again, far too few today grasp or appreciate this simple sacred truth. But those who do, and who know by faith “the reason for the season”, are blessed both uniquely and eternally. Their understanding allows them to experience a truly Merry Christmas because they alone know that Bethlehem was just a miraculous starting point and one that led only to Calvary. The Incarnation was always connected to the crucifixion. That was the final destination of the journey. That was the cradle in the shadow of a cross. That was the intended goal. And that brought the gift of all gifts offering forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ to a lost race!

We pray this Christmas that you are one of the redeemed few. But we also trust that the few might soon became the many and be counted among those who have fully trusted in “the reason for the season” -- the Savior of the soul!

"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)

 Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

America’s Newest Fear Factor?

The “land of the free and home of the brave” has developed an attitude that is both tragic and  has serious repercussions as well. The nation whose motto has been “In God We Trust” has added a new one – “In Others We Don’t”.
The Associated Press out of Washington recently reported the following. “You can take our word for it. Americans don't trust each other anymore. We're not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy - trust in the other fellow - has been quietly draining away. These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question. Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say you can’t be too careful’ in dealing with people.” That is sad – and dangerous!

The above statement clearly reveals a dwindling trust factor of the nation’s citizens for each other. And yet it seems rather obvious that trust levels for the major institutions are not exactly flourishing either. The inappropriate activities by many top financial organizations have been beyond troubling. Faith in a seriously divided Congress has been waning for a long time and certainly not being helped by the ongoing health care fiasco! Also, ongoing scandals concerning some major church denominations have tarnished the church’s overall ability to be seen as trustworthy.

Forging trust in any given sphere is something that must be earned. The institutions just spoken of have never been perfect nor ever will be. But interestingly, one of them does represent the only perfect truth that exists and always has. It is the church of the living God. Its eternal leader is God in the flesh – Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:23, speaking of Him, says, “Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.” This is highly relevant to the subject because of the biblical description of Christ as the embodiment of all truth seen here. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) This makes Him alone always safe to trust.

The term “trust” is common in God’s word. It sometimes reveals what not to trust. A fine example would be Psalm 146:3. “Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.” But there remains one key positive-based area of trust that far outweighs all others because of its eternal implications. It is summed up in 1 Timothy 4:10. “Because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” This speaks to a miraculous forgiveness and saving faith in Christ – something that occurs when He is trusted fully  for redemption and a heavenly future.

But after trusting Him for that great inner change of  heart, He must then also be trusted about life’s priorities and circumstances. Proverbs 3:5-6 explains it like this. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” This profound passage explains both what to do and the great benefits of doing so.

The trust factor may well be more of a growing fear factor in modern-day America. If so, it is primarily because so many no longer know, and live fully, for the author and champion of ultimate truth. But if there are those who can and should still be taken at their word, it would be those who live in and through the living truth – Jesus Christ. These should always be the most reliable having fully embraced the sacred truths seen in John 8:32 and Ephesians 4:25:

 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

“Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor.’”

Ultimate trust and truth are found in God alone. They are priceless and essential ingredients. Without them, culture degenerates into chaos and confusion, and salvation becomes little more than conjecture. With them, this life goes far smoother, and the next life becomes a blessed hope and confident reality!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"In everything give thanks." Seriously?

It is sometimes called “The Thanksgiving Psalm”. And even a casual reading reveals exactly why. It begins by using the repeated phrase, ‘Bless the Lord’.  And it ends with those same words while declaring in between the numerous reasons for why this deserved to be done. It is Psalm 103.

It lists the Lord’s benefits of healing power, loving kindness, tender mercies, graciousness, strength, justice and forgiveness. It ends by again re-emphasizing that those who benefit from God personally, and know Him intimately, are to  “Bless the Lord”. That means to properly worship Him and to speak well of Him often concerning His great person, power, protection, promises! No doubt exists about what God expects of His people and why.

But in the New Testament  there is one passage in particular that confirms this spiritual duty both quickly and directly. The Apostle Paul shared it in his first letter to the Thessalonian church and in verse 18. “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

In this one brief sentence the whole concept of being thankful is narrowed down by just a few key words. He relates that we are to be thankful in ‘everything’. That aspect is fairly clear. And even more clear is exactly why this is to be done. It is simply 'God’s will' for His people – all of them! It really could not get much easier to grasp than that!

But sometimes God's people have questions about this verse and the idea of being thankful about ‘everything’, Would this then include even the most terrible and difficult of circumstances? Would it include sin? That seems very hard. That seems very unreasonable. And that seems almost impossible by most any standard.  And the answer to these legitimate concerns is summarized by one other key word at the outset of verse 18. It is the small word ‘in’. The passage does not say to be thankful ‘for’ terrible, unfair or evil things that enter your life or your world. That would be unnatural. But it does say to find things to be thankful for  ‘in’ the midst of negative and painful experiences. That is what is possible and expected according to author of Scripture.

For the Christian, there are always things to be greatly thankful for. Nothing that happens in this life can remove, negate or alter having a forgiving Savior, a loving heavenly Father, an earthly spiritual family, a heavenly destiny and the indwelling Holy Spirit. A person who is missing these blessings, although having a near problem-free life otherwise, has little to be really and ultimately thankful for.

In an article in ‘Time 100’ Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church in California, summed it up as well as can be done. I highly urge you to read his full remarks here.  He gave the following foundational reasons as to why he was thankful this year even after losing his youngest son to a tragic suicide. He wrote, “No matter how good things are in my life, there are always problems I must deal with, and no matter how bad things are in my life, there are always blessings I can be grateful for.”

He listed the follow areas for which he remains greatly thankful even when times become tough:

- I’m thankful that although life is not always good, God is always good. I know without a doubt that God sees all I go through, he cares, he grieves with me, he is close and his strength is available at all times.”

- I’m thankful that, even though I don’t have all the answers, God does. In tragedy we seek explanations, but explanations never comfort. It is God’s presence that eases our pain.

- I’m thankful that this life is not all there is. It’s not the end of the story. One day God will right all wrongs, even the odds and settle all accounts. Justice will be served. Evil will not win.

- I’m thankful for the hope of heaven. I won’t have to live with pain forever. In heaven, there are no broken relationships, broken minds, broken bodies, broken dreams or broken promises. The Bible tells us, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.”

- I’m thankful that God can bring good even out of the bad in my life, when I give him the pieces. It’s his specialty. God never wastes a hurt if we give it to him.

These are the words from one who owns true perspective on thanksgiving. These are the thoughts of a godly believer. And these are proofs of spiritual maturity. Not only so, these are evidence of someone who recognizes that thanksgiving 'in' all things is always ‘the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’

Have a blessed and very ‘thankful’ Thanksgiving!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan - Untold Suffering

The numbers are still being tallied in what is perhaps the most powerful storm on record and the most powerful tropical cyclone to ever make landfall. The official name was Typhoon Haiyan, and the bulk of the devastation was centered in the Philippines. And while aid continues to pour into the battered area, getting that relief to scores of desperate victims has been extremely difficult and has worsened an already horrific and dreadful situation.

Some wonder what a typhoon is and how it compares to a hurricane. Hurricane and typhoon are different names for the same type of storm. A tropical cyclone is called a hurricane in the north Atlantic Ocean, south Pacific Ocean, or the northeast Pacific Ocean on the eastern side of the dateline. A typhoon occurs in the northwest Pacific Ocean west of the dateline. In other parts of the world, these storms are called severe tropical cyclones. In essence, these storms are basically the same although typhoons are usually more dangerous than a hurricane because they generate closer to the equator.

Some feel the true facts regarding Typhoon Haiyan will never be really known due to a variety of factors. But most of what is known so far has come from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. And although the statistics are hard to verify, and may even include some contradictions, the followings numbers are being presented – at least for the moment:

- The width of Typhoon Haiyan was 370 miles.
- The sustained winds were 195 mph with gusts of 235.
- The height of the storm surge in Tacloban was 17 feet.
- The most rainfall recorded by NASA was some 27 inches.
- The number of people affected overall was 13 million.
- The number of children impacted was 4.9 million.
- The number of dead according to the U.N. is  4,200.
- The number the missing is around 1,186.
- The number of people displaced is about 3 million.
- The number in need of food assistance is 2.5 million.
- The number of homes damaged or destroyed is 494,611.
- The number of schools damaged is 628.
- The number of relief dollars given so far is $81 million.

As grim as these numbers are,  most are likely very low – especially concerning the total damage and the rising death toll!

It is extremely hard, if not impossible, to really understand the level of pain and suffering that is now a part of daily life in the Philippines. And many in other places around the world have faced similar fates or will. The Bible says of the human experience, “Yet man is born to trouble, As the sparks fly upward.” This accurate reality was penned by a man who knew suffering first-hand and on a catastrophic scale.

Job was a man who loved God and avoided all evil. He was the model of a godly father and husband. And yet his entire world was rocked when he suddenly lost literally everything but his life. Even his own wife pressed him to turn his back on God and simply die. (Job 2:8) His response to her showed his faith and character. “But he said to her, 'Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” After some struggles over his seemingly unfair plight, Job came to this conclusion that His God was indeed sovereign, just and worthy of all his total trust – no matter what!

It is often hard to deal with the negative events of a fallen world. What has occurred since man’s demise in the Garden so long ago was never God’s intent. He wanted far better for man. He wanted the very best! But God remains sovereign and just. He works through even those gruesome events that plague His creation and beloved creatures. This divine ability is seen in Ephesians 1:11 where the writer speaks of God as, “Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”

Countless souls are facing untold suffering in the Philippines. The destruction and horror there is epic! But God’s concern and great love for every individual there knows no limits. (Romans 5:8) His Son’s unspeakable suffering on the cross made possible, for all, an escape route from eternal suffering. The overriding need to be forgiven of sin, and prepared to face eternity, is far greater than any pressing need for daily material provisions.

Pray for relief efforts and for the dear people now dealing with unimaginable pain and loss. Financially support the organizations working to help. (One is Samaritan’s Purse: www.samaritanspurse.org) And pray also for the many hurting believers, who, while suffering themselves, have the unique ability to share God’s supernatural relief effort for a suffering world in dire need of His spiritual food and life!

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Gettysburg Address

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. What is perhaps the most famous speech in U.S. history was given by President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery four months after the Battle of Gettysburg. Todays post, contrasting Lincoln’s timeless eloquence with the empty words of another president, is the chapter entitled “Talk” from the book Presidential Profiles by David M. Virkler.*

William Henry Harrison established several “firsts” in the presidency and should be well remembered. But it is not so. He came to office at the age of 68, the oldest Chief Executive until Ronald Reagan. Previously, our presidents had walked into the White House on the strong political planks of a solid platform. But Harrison was borne in on the wings of song and catchy slogans. His supporters sang, “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too” and coined the phrase “Keep the Ball Rolling,” an expression still used today to describe steady advance.

But perhaps he is most unremembered because of another inglorious “first”—he was the first president to say so much and do so little. His tenure lasted only one month, but no one could have predicted it listening to the torrent of golden oratory that fell from his lips during his inaugural address spoken from the Capitol steps on March 4, 1841.

Although he was old and tired, his many years and great plans expressed themselves for one hour and forty minutes. Thousands of words, cut and fit by the great Daniel Webster, deluged the people. The weather was cold and raw, blown in by a vicious northwest wind, but the President refused coat or hat. At the conclusion of this inaugural masterpiece and vocal marathon, Harrison chose to lead the Inaugural Parade to the White House in the biting wintry blast, still overbilled and underclothed.

Some historians believe he caught cold. Regardless, only one month later he lay dead of pneumonia. Even his wife was thoroughly shocked; she heard of his death on her way to residency in the White House.

Harrison gained significance through insignificance—he said the most and did the least. While his address flounders in obscurity, another speech of only ten sentences and two paragraphs is timeless.

Some predicted that the presence of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg would prove a national embarrassment. What could the lanky, awkward Chief Executive add after the brilliant two-hour oratory of famed speech-maker Edward Everett?

Lincoln finished his few sentences before most listeners were aware that he had begun. Yet, the incisive address scratched on rough paper during a bumpy train ride had focused a thousand loose thoughts into a single conciliatory document. Incredibly, it would be immortalized at Gettysburg and in Washington, D.C.

Words without deeds are hollow and impotent. That is why no school child has ever memorized a single word of the president who said the most and did the least. But, almost without exception, Americans respond to the cadence of “Fourscore and seven years ago….”

The Lord Jesus Christ declared that words are cheap, but deeds will keep. “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Today, the choice is often between Harrison and Lincoln, between promise and performance. Do we wish to say the most and do the least, or do we choose to say the least and do the most? Remember, history is an accurate and cruel judge.

* Presidential Profiles shares intriguing stories and facts about many U.S. presidents to illustrate important truths from God’s Word. It is available as a 2-CD audio book. Twenty-three chapters feature a number of U.S. presidents including Washington, Lincoln, Coolidge, Eisenhower, Nixon, Clinton, and George W. Bush. Also included is God & Faith in Presidential Inaugurals, a print compilation of all references to God, faith, prayer and Scripture in presidential inaugural addresses. Presidential Profiles is available for a suggested tax-deductible contribution of $15. Send a check or money order to: Dedication Evangelism, PO Box 10, Towaco, NJ 07082.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nice, Nasty or Neutral?

It comes each October and has steadily gained popularity in recent years. And it is by far the strangest of all days in the calendar year. Of course, it is none other than Halloween.

It always has been a favorite day, especially with kids, who try to stock up on candy and other teeth-rotting goodies to hopefully last them until Christmas. The bizarre fall event has seen related revenue climb to almost obscene levels over the last few decades becoming more of a month-long seasonal celebration than just a one-day deal. Then, too, overall participation has also increased dramatically among adults who now dress up and party in growing numbers each year

As most everyone knows, the main theme of this now rather lengthy celebration is the occult and the supernatural. Assorted ghosts, witches, vampires and demons seem almost omnipresent. This is indeed interesting considering that the word Halloween means “hallowed evening” or “holy evening” and that October 31 is the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows or All Saints Day. That certainly seems ironic and about as far away from the current concept as possible.

The typical Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, costume parties, carving jack-o-lanterns, lighting bonfires, visiting haunted attractions, playing pranks, telling scary stories, and watching graphic horror films. To many this is just harmless fun for the kids and yet another reason to attend a party. Few seem to really care much about its origins or any negative aspects that may accompany it. Maybe this is because those who see no problems don’t place much stock in the reality of supernatural evil in the world.

But for those who believe in the teachings of Scripture, a passage like Ephesians 6:11-13 comes into play and may shape their views on the subject. The Bible says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God.” The Bible also records repeated encounters of Christ who had regular dealings with literal demons like the one recorded in Matthew 17:14-21.

The bottom line is that everyone must consider what to think and do about Halloween. Each must decide for themselves whether it is good, bad, or neutral and to what level they will participate in it. Some will view it as a happy, harmless and fun event. Others perhaps feel it to be a twisted or dangerous one. And there are still those who just don’t care one way or another. But there is no getting around certain basic facts regarding this huge yearly event. It does glorify and promote the occult, evil, violence and horror. And it does, in recent years, increasingly promote sexual themes in graphic ways.

But most importantly, there is a real and undeniable link to a literal existence and influence of supernatural darkness and the literal living enemy of God. It has been said that one of the devil’s greatest tricks is convincing people that he is only a make-believe religious myth and, therefore, not really working to destroy a vulnerable human race. This is why God has provided numerous warnings concerning his existence and his tactics in passages like 1 Peter 5:8. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Because this is tragically true and real, God has countered him through the life and death of His Son who came to deal with Satan’s destructive treachery. 1 John 3:8 sums it up simply like this. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

Halloween is often viewed as just a fun harmless celebration – give or take the ensuing dentist bills down the road. And yet it must be remembered that evil is every bit as real as a cavity, and so is the one who helped cause mankind’s fall in the garden so long ago.

But with man’s great fall into sin came God’s greater forgiveness found in His Son! The Apostle Paul wrote, “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.” (Romans 5:20-21)

The supernatural realm is real on both sides of the fence. And likewise real is the One who bravely “destroyed the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8) through His sacrifice on the cross and His literal resurrection from the dead. He purchased redemption and a heavenly home someday for all who would believe and trust Him as the real Son of God and the literal Savior of men!

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Killing Jesus" - Missing the Big Picture?

The title is beyond intriguing and the contents compelling. It is destined for success and the best-seller list because the author is already famous. But is it all it could be, or more importantly, what it should have been?

It is the new book by Billy O’Reilly - long-time TV commentator on the Fox News network and author of other recent literary works as well. But this new book, even though using a similar title to his last two, is somehow unique. It is entitled ‘Killing Jesus’ – a phrase that will draw the attention of some who did not have any interest in Mr. O’Reilly’s last to titles, ‘Killing Lincoln’ and ‘Killing Kennedy’.

The author appeared on ‘60 Minutes’ recently to discuss the reason and purpose behind his latest piece of literature. He shared how he, and his co-author, offered the historical side of what happened to Christ and how everything surrounding His death really occurred back in that day. He used various external sources along with the Bible accounts. And it appears that what he did cover in that realm was quite well done.

Despite many good reviewers regarding the stated purpose of  “Killing Jesus, problems linger in two other key areas. First, the subject of this new book is not like writing about anyone else who ever lived. Presenting Christ in only a historical light only, no matter how well done, is incomplete at best. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh (Colossians 2:9) and His cross was the instrument that allowed the price of sin to be paid and for lost sinners to be saved! So to not talk about Jesus’ ministry, purpose and accomplishments, while referring in detail to His death, is a major omission - whether intentional or not.

But the other issue has to do with something equally serious. Mr. O’Reilly has said something staggering and for some quite troubling. He states that Jesus never actually cried out from the cross some of the words that Scripture records. In particular he says that the well-know phrase, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”, was not literally uttered by a dying Savior. When asked the reason O’Reilly said, “We don’t put in things we think did not happen”. He believes that no one could have spoken out at all due to the special physical complications of suffocation during crucifixion. When further questioned about the biblical account he said, “You can believe what you want. If you want to take the Bible literally that is your right. We believe that the oral history in the Bible is largely accurate but we are not taking it literally.”

So a very influential Catholic, who stated that the Holy Spirit ‘directed’ him to write this book, concludes the same Holy Spirit is in error and that the Bible writers did not really hear what they recorded in the Scriptures. Further, he believes that the people were not allowed close enough to the cross to hear even if anyone could speak under those gruesome circumstances. And yet one would think that this would have been picked up on and questioned by the many who were alive in those days from day one. But they did not seem to question the written Gospel records. But it is also interesting that, in addition to Mark’s account, that Matthew, Luke and John all recorded phrases that Jesus said from the cross. All three state that, “He cried out with a LOUD VOICE”. And all three recorded words that were spoken at the end, or near the end, of Christ’s physical death when he would have been the very weakest.

But is this really any big deal? And if it is, then why? Who really cares as long as the majority of what is in the biblical text is true and and accurate?

If you are in this camp, consider this. It is a very big deal because the biblical writers were inspired of the Holy Spirit as they penned every word of the Old and New Testaments. 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God. Other passages like 2 Peter 1:21 declare likewise. So the issue at hand is all about the authority, reliability and accuracy of  God’s word – all of it. In Theological terms it is called “verbal plenary inspiration”. This means that the precise words of the original manuscripts were directly inspired by God, although He did not change the author's intelligence or understanding while doing so. This means that God choose, inspired and sovereignty guided the biblical authors who were equipped by Him to write the very words of scripture - each and every one. This is the foundation of the evangelical view of the inerrancy of scripture.

Again, some may argue that a few verses being recorded in error, or even missing in the overall Biblical record,  is no big deal as long as the bulk of the writings are there. That concept seems to be acceptable on the surface – but for one major and critical  exception.

When it is suggested in John’s gospel should not include the above phrase uttered by Jesus from the cross, then what is to prevent this same view applying to other words in the Bible narratives? And what if the words under scrutiny this time happen to be a passage the caliber of a John 3:16?  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Or what about the veracity of foundational passage like that of the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:9? “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” When there is a skeptical approach to Scriptural truth itself, then the question arises as to whether or not the Bible is reliable enough to base one’s eternal destiny upon.

Simply stated, there is far more at stake here than meets the average reader’s eye. Many have complimented this new title as being fine historical research including Christians. And on that level, Mr. O’Reilly and his partner did their job just as they sought to. An it is the author’s prerogative to, as he stated, to not take everything literally on the pages of  Scripture. But the real harm is to hose who may be on the fence about the Bible being fully trustworthy. Some will wonder what parts really are of the Holy Spirit, which Holy Spirit or even if there is a Holy Spirit if the entire book is not 100% true? This can then easily  impact whether or not readers see biblical claims as reliable enough to act upon for their salvation.

“Killing Jesus” is a well done, historical and enjoyable book – but one that is an incomplete one. Even when the stated purpose has been met, Christ’s life and his death on the cross can’t be logically or practically separated from why he came and what He accomplished.  Only God could pay the price for sin and cry out loudly from the cross the three most important words ever stated - “It is finished”.  Was this too perhaps never uttered or heard?  Irregardless of what anyone says or believes, the Jesus who walked on water, healed the sick and rose from the dead could easily have mustered the power to ‘shout out’ from the cross the victory over sin and death forever?   I choose to take that ‘literally’ and the salvation it provides for miraculously!

To hear the full Word and The World broadcast from 10/13/13 on this story click here.

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Attack Attributed to Islamic Cleansing

If the so-called shoe was on the other foot, you would likely not be hearing about this tragic story here first. In fact, you have likely not heard about it anywhere for that matter. This, too, is tragic in its own way. Meanwhile, the media is reporting stories like the 13-year old boy and some of his friends who were suspended for playing with air soft guns in his front yard while waiting for the school bus to arrive.

But on this past Sunday, a real-life act of incredible violence came upon a Christian church as some 600 members were exiting their service. All Saints Church in Pakistan had just concluded when two Islamic suicide bombers set off their sinister and deadly hardware. The blast killed approximately 100, many of whom were women and young children. Another 150 were badly wounded and will carry with them the emotional and physical scares for a life-time. It is reported that some entire families were together wiped out. The victims of the slaughter were buried in three mass graves on Sunday night. The attack was the single deadliest on Christians in the history of the country according to the U.S.-based organization International Christian Concern.

It would be rather hard to dispute that had this been a Christian upon Muslim act the entire world would know along with half of the Middle-East rising up in protest. But when it comes to Christianity versus any other world religion, no level playing ground seems to exist in any form! Some will argue that this latest attack was done by just a fringe group and therefore not representative of the whole. But imagine the reaction to that defense being offered up, again, if the shoe was upon the other foot? 

Why is this so considering that Christianity's head never remotely suggested, hinted or sanctioned that any be persecuted or killed in His name? And why would His love and sacrifice be a cause for anger, mocking or even extreme violence? What is it that separates the Christian faith from all others and makes it the acceptable target it obviously is?

The answer to that question begins and ends with two connected words, both of which start with the letter C.  It is all about Christ, and it is all about His cross. In Philippians 2:7-11 the writer records, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus  every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This should be good news, should it not? It was Christ and His cross that made salvation and heaven a reality and a possibility for all. But that same news is also highly “exclusive” and therefore makes it highly explosive! When Scripture confirms that Christ is a name above all others, and that all will someday admit who He is and what He did, a match is quickly struck and directly tossed into the religious kerosene.

The Bible contends that the symbol of the cross itself is seriously offensive in Galatians 5:11. That is because it clearly convicts man of his sin and of God’s exclusive demand that he deal with it and how. While the cross is the ultimate act of a loving God, it again tends to irritate or anger those who chose to reject it for the reason best spelled out in 1 Corinthians 1:18. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” And it is when people are told they must respond positively to something they view as utter foolishness, the reaction will typically be negative – sometimes to the level just witnessed in Pakistan.

We cannot look into the hearts and motives of those who brutally murdered and assaulted scores of Christian brothers and sisters in the Lord. But we can look directly into the heart of our Lord and see exactly how He lived and what He taught in His word.

“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. Therefore 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:18-21)

Pray for God’s grace for the survivors of the Pakistan attack and other assaults that will inevitably follow. And pray, as difficult as it may be, for those whose response to the Christ’s offer of forgiveness through His cross is hatred and violence - some of the many wrong things He came to make right!  

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Syria and The End Times

Syria is in the news and has piqued the interest of the entire world. While it is no real surprise to have the Middle East grabbing such negative attention, it is somewhat unique for it to be this particular nation. A recent poll reveals that almost one in three Americans feel that an escalated conflict with Syria could literally bring global conflict and the end of the world as we know it. Some believe it could even the usher in Armageddon itself. That is a stunning statistic considering all that has happened, and continues to happen, in that troubled part of the world.

In addition to the current gruesome slaughter taking place in the civil war there, Christians have been specifically targeted and are in need of fervent prayer from their brothers and sisters in Christ worldwide.

But with all of that said, very few know much at all about Syria itself and especially its biblical and prophetic significance.  For instance, how many would know that it has been called the literal "Cradle of Christianity"? So in order to fill in the blanks, two programs of "The Word and The World" are taken from a recent message on the subject.We trust this will help broaden your understanding and also heighten your awareness of a current event that may be serving to signal the soon return of Christ for His church. To hear both broadcasts, simply click here.

 Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Today is the twelfth anniversary of the day that literally changed the modern world. It seems like just yesterday that the bluest September sky morning ever turned to bright red fire and dark thick smoke when the mighty Twin Towers in Lower Manhattan came crashing down. To this very day,  watching the grisly scene is nearly as horrifying as ever and congers up vivid the reminder of the depths that human sin can lead to.

An addition to the yearly events held to remember the victims killed at all three sites on that horrible day, a special memorial is set to open in the Spring. It will provide an official spot where those who recall, and those who may not, can reflect and try grasp the enormity of the devastating and historic day.

But when looking at this indescribable moment in spiritual terms, there was another day that changed the world far more  - only on the opposite end of the spectrum. It really occurred over a period of three days. It began with the vilest and most unjust action ever perpetrated, but ended as the greatest single event in all of history and eternity!

This of course was the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection from the dead of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. His sacrifice provided the forgiveness of sin, no matter how horrific it may be or what form it make take. And He rose to provide eternal life for all that would believe and trust him by faith. This amazing promise is recorded in perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible - and rightly so. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

The bottom line is that the events of 911 serve to reveal just why Christ had to come and die and what man needs to do to be forgiven of sin and reunited with God. The two pictures here actually sum up well both the  level of man's great hate and the depths of God's greater love!

Despite having fresh memories of that awful day even now, it is sometimes good to relive those moments through the perspective others who perhaps had a more personal connection.  In order to do that, and should you be interested, please go to our radio broadcast found here. You may listen there to the words of those who have a special recollection of the day that changed the world through evil, but who also have a spiritual connection to the One that changed the world for eternal good!

Bill Breckenridge

Friday, August 23, 2013

Spying, Scandal and Secrets

The scandal over National Security Agency snooping continues to evolve. A recent report showed that the NSA had violated privacy rules and overstepped its authority thousands of times while gathering foreign intelligence. It is attributed to violations of standard operating procedure and significant compliance problems. The issues may affect international relations, especially with Germany. And even more tracking has been revealed. Another report indicates that the NSA can track 75% of Internet traffic including phone calls made on the Internet.

The scandal has many people a bit nervous about government intrusion, especially when the NSA has been called the most powerful institution in the world. Many are wondering just what personal information might be seen and heard by strangers. But there’s another, more powerful, entity who sees all our secrets, and that should make some people really squirm.

The Bible says, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) “He knows the secrets of the heart,” according to Psalm 44:21. “O God, You know my foolishness,” wrote the Psalmist, “And my sins are not hidden from You.” (Psalm 69:5)

One can perhaps elude NSA surveillance by never using cell phones or the Internet, but there’s no place to escape an omniscient God. As the saying goes, You can run, but you can’t hide! “‘Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?’ says the Lord; ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’” (Jeremiah 23:24)

The NSA may never use much of the information it gathers, but the actions and thoughts seen by God will have repercussions. “
For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 9:14)  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:13

The Good News is that there is a way to avoid the consequences. “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5)

But this Man (Jesus Christ), after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God… For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,’ says the Lord: ‘I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’” (Hebrews 10:12, 14-17) God sees all our sins, but once we put our trust in Christ, the evidence is destroyed and He forgets they ever existed!

There’s an upside to our deepest secrets being revealed: God doesn’t’ just see the bad, He sees the good things, too.

He saw us before we were even born, and knows us more intimately than anyone else. “
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” (Psalm 139:5)

God knows our secret desires and the pain we can’t share with anyone else. He hears our heart’s cry. “Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart pants, and my strength fails me … My loved ones and my friends stand aloof … For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God.” (Psalm 38:9-11, 15)

God rewards what may not have public recognition and promises to answer our prayers. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6: 3, 4 & 6)

Government spying on unsuspecting citizens might not always seem like a good idea, but God’s knowledge of all our secrets is always to our benefit. It points us to the need for salvation through Christ and the promise of His love, care and blessings.

Gayle Virkler

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rescue In The Wilderness

The ordeal for a teenage girl who was kidnapped and dragged far into the wilderness by her own father’s best friend is over. Hannah Anderson is alive and safe. Sadly, her mom and brother are not. Both died in a house fire and likely at the hands of the villain who took the teen and who later died in a shootout with the FBI. The rescue occurred after her captor, James Lee DiMaggio, was spotted by two couples on a camping trip in a wooded area. They sensed something was not right and reported the location to authorities after returning home and learning about the crime still in progress. When asked about whether it would have been better for DiMaggio to have received life in prison for his act or be killed as he was by federal agents, Anderson reportedly stated, “He got exactly what he deserved.”

Human sin takes many forms and some are far more gruesome than are others. This time, the victim was fortunate and may well live a long and full life - God willing. Others in similar situations have not done so well and  left memories and scares on loved ones that may never fully heal. But when it comes to perpetrators of such vile acts as this one, most hope that these do get exactly what they deserve. And as easily understood as that outlook may be, the Bible indicates that same grim outcome to be true for everyone – even most who would never conceive of a crime of this magnitude.

Scripture maintains that all have sinned and all have of fallen short of attaining God’s holy standard! The Old Testament confirms this harsh  reality in Psalm 53:3. The passage was written by a great man of God and one all too familiar with sin – serious sin! King David says there of the entire race, “Every one of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.”  Then again in Romans 5, Paul reminds the reader how the amazing love of God  has been mightily shown to every desperately flawed, and fully undeserving, man or woman.  In verse 8 he records, “In that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

Because of those 11 short words, not all will get “exactly what they deserve.” Instead, the opposite will be the case for some. The reason is provided in that fifth chapter. Right on the heels of the above verse, verse 9 reads, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” This clearly confirms the ultimate promise of not getting what we all deserve. It declares that some will not face eternal judgement for their willing and dreadful disobedience against their great Creator. But why is this true for some but tragically not others?

Hopefully Hannah Anderson has, or will realize in the healing days to come, that even as the innocent victim of this terrible offense, she and all of us with her can escape getting exactly what we, too, deserve. That can be true only by recognizing our deadly faults and then trusting in the One who got exactly what He did not deserve in order to save us! The Son of God sacrificed Himself willingly to pay the price of sin – all sin and every level of sin! Despite our initial lost spiritual state, He has given each of us the glorious opportunity to avoid the fully deserved penalty of eternal suffering and separation from Himself forever. It is through saving faith in Christ that we can all be spiritually rescued from a wilderness of sin and given in its place a new heart, a new life and a new eternal destiny!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A More Powerful "Not Guilty" Verdict

One can only imagine how George Zimmerman must have felt when he heard the verdict “Not guilty” in a Florida court room last week. After a 14-day trial and 16 hours of jury deliberation, he was acquitted of murder on the grounds of self-defense and walked out a free man.

But even though Zimmerman will not receive a penalty for killing Trayvon Martin, he still has to live with the consequences. No court of law can change the outcome of the tragic night of February 6, 2012. The fact remains that Zimmerman did indeed take a life, and he has to live with that. Although he is free, there have been death threats against him and his family, and he may spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder.

Spiritually-speaking, every person is guilty of sin and deserving of full punishment under God’s law. The Bible says, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) No amount of spiritual legal wrangling or defense can remove the sin each of us is born with and which separates us from God. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23)

But there is a way to obtain a “Not guilty” verdict that does far more than the one George Zimmerman received – one that doesn’t just remove the penalty; it removes the crime itself.

That verdict is granted through the blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection power. Because Christ took the penalty in our place, when we put our faith and trust in Him we are justified – legally proclaimed righteous. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1) One explanation of justified is “Just as if I’d never sinned.”

Because of this, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son….” (Rom. 8:1-3) In the Greek, “no condemnation” is also a legal word meaning, literally, “no adverse sentence.”

God promises, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17) David described it in Psalm 103:12. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Charles Wesley put it this way in the hymn And Can It Be?: “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; Alive in Him, my living Head, And clothed in righteousness divine…”.

The concept is also found in the chorus of the old hymn One Day!, which has enjoyed renewed popularity with a different tune: “Living—He loved me, Dying—He saved me, Buried—He carried my sins far away; Rising—He justified freely, forever….”

If you are burdened with the guilt of sin, trust in Christ as your Savior. Admit that you are a sinner before a holy God and that a penalty must be paid, acknowledge that Jesus Christ, through His death, burial and resurrection became your substitute having paid that penalty on your behalf, and receive Christ into your heart through faith in prayer. You will be free from the penalty of sin, declared “Not guilty!” and certain of eternity in Heaven.

Gayle Virkler

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Egypt's Biblical Significance

NOTE: This post contains excerpts from David Virkler’s commentary “Egypt from Pharaohs to Prophecy”, which covers Egypt’s history and religion, its relationship with Israel, and the many references to Egypt in the Bible both historically and prophetically. A copy of the full 12-page commentary is available for a suggested donation of $3.00. Click here for an order form.

Egypt is once again headline news in another round of unrest and violence. President Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who has been in office just a year, has been deposed and a new government is being formed by the military. The Muslim Brotherhood is vowing to continue protests.

Most people know that Egypt is an ancient country. Many may not know is that Egypt is also a much-mentioned Bible country. From Genesis to Jude, Egypt is mentioned in 32 books of the Bible (27 in the Old Testament and five in the New Testament), and it has a prominent role in prophecy. One author says that 250 verses throughout the Old Testament are prophecies of events in Egypt.

Biblical Egypt is first mentioned when Abraham, then called Abram, went there in time of famine (Gen. 12:10). Abraham must have been quite far south at the time since the capitol of Egypt was then in Memphis, which is a bit south of modern Cairo and likely west of the Nile River.

The land covenant God made with Abraham went from the northern border of Egypt, known as the River of Egypt, in the present Rapha area up to the Euphrates River (Gen. 12:18). Abraham fathered Ishmael by Hagar, who was an Egyptian. She took a wife for Ishmael out of Egypt (Gen. 21:21).

In Genesis 38-50, we find the story of Joseph and the children of Israel in Egypt. Joseph was the favored son of his father, Jacob. His jealous brothers sold him to some Ishmaelites (Gen. 37:28), who sold him to an Egyptian officer, Potiphar, who made Joseph manager of his entire household. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph and then falsely accused him of seducing her when Joseph refused her advances.

Joseph was sent to prison where it was eventually discovered that he could interpret dreams. His jail term ended when he interpreted the dream of Pharaoh that indicated seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine. Joseph proposed a plan to prepare for the famine, and Pharaoh was so impressed that he appointed Joseph as second in command over all the land.

During the famine, Jacob sent his remaining sons down to Egypt, and Joseph provided the family with food. After forgiveness and a family reunion, Jacob’s entire family moved down to Egypt at Pharaoh’s invitation, and thus began the story of the Israelites in Egypt.

The Israelites’ exodus from Egypt is covered in Exodus 1-14. Eventually, a new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph became ruler, and the Israelites numbered so many that Pharaoh feared an uprising. He made them slaves in terrible bondage, but their numbers still increased, and Pharaoh instructed midwives to kill newborn boys. To prevent the death of her son, Moses’ mother hid him in a basket on the riverbank, but he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and adopted into the royal household.

The 10 horrendous plagues sent by God to show His power to Pharaoh ended with the slaying of all firstborn children in Egypt. The Israelites were spared by shedding a perfect lamb’s blood and applying it on the doorway and eating its flesh. This was the Passover when God’s destroying angel passed over them. The Israelites left Egypt in the miraculous Exodus.

The Jews were not gone from Egypt forever, though. Jeroboam fled from Solomon to Egypt (I Kings 11:40). Despite God’s specific warning not to, some Jews at the time of the Babylonian captivity took refuge in Egypt with tragic consequences (Jeremiah 42-46). History records that Jews taken captive when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70 were sold back into Egypt.

There is a positive side to the Jews in Egypt. It was there that Joseph and Mary fled from Bethlehem with the young child Jesus to avoid King Herod’s wrath (Matt. 2:13–19). They lived in Egypt for about two years and returned to Nazareth after Herod’s death. Matthew states that this was in fulfillment of Hosea 11:1, “... and out of Egypt I called My son.”

I believe God has a remarkable plan for Egypt in the end times because it gave refuge to Jacob’s family and the young Christ child and also because it was the first Arab nation to recognize the state of Israel. However, that blessing will eventually come only after horrendous judgments. Two significant sections in the Bible outline future troubles for Egypt in the end times.

In Isaiah 19:2, the Lord says, “I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians, city against city and kingdom against kingdom.” I can’t say that the commotion in Egypt is direct fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, but it surely comes close. 

Verse 4 says, “And the Egyptians I will give into the hand of a cruel master, and a fierce king will rule over them.” In verse 11, we read that the rulers’ advice is totally erroneous or, literally, stupid. Verses 5–9 speak of horrendous judgments upon the Nile River. The Nile dries up, the vegetation along the banks is badly damaged, fishermen are terribly upset, and the textile industry is tragically damaged.

There are some other incredible chapters that refer to Egypt in the end times. Ezekiel 29-32 is an astounding prophecy of God’s judgment on Egypt including marine creatures in the Nile being thrown into open fields to decompose, the land becoming utterly waste and desolate, and Egyptians scattered to finally return after 40 years.

Is there anything in our day that would correspond to the fulfillment of these prophecies? In a word, yes! It has to do with the Aswan Dam and huge Lake Nasser that was created behind it. Unfortunately, the Aswan Dam has all but wrecked Egypt. Space does not allow a full description, but present conditions of the dam and lake are such that they could cause the scenario of decimated agriculture. Ezekiel 30:8 says that the Lord will set “a fire in Egypt”. If that fire is a nuclear attack on the Aswan Dam, a flood of radioactive waters would surge through the Nile Valley and surrounding countries making the land uninhabitable, perhaps for 40 years.

There is good news for Egypt, however. Following the dire prophecies in the first part of Isaiah 19 are verses that outline a sweeping and glorious national revival to come. Verses 16–25 forecast something never yet seen—Israel, Egypt and Assyria (modern Syria and parts of Turkey and Iraq) will worship together and be a blessing!

“…for they will cry to the Lord because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Mighty one, and He will deliver them. Then the Lord will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day, and will make sacrifice and offering; yes they will make a vow to the Lord and perform it … In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of hosts shall bless saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance’” (Isaiah 19:20b-21, 24, 26).

Arabs and Jews will worship Jehovah together, and the worship will be centered in Israel. It sounds like the Millennium when Christ reigns in Jerusalem.

If developments in Egypt over the last couple of years are even a small part of the end-time forecasts of Isaiah and Ezekiel, then we are truly rushing closer to the return of Jesus Christ for His redeemed Church since the most dramatic prophecies are likely to be fulfilled in the subsequent Tribulation and beyond.

If you do not know Christ as Savior and are unprepared for His return pray the sinner’s prayer, “God be merciful to me the sinner” (Luke 18:13). Invite Jesus Christ into your heart in simple faith. Romans 10:13 promises that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” It is high time to seek the Lord Jesus Christ and, having found Him, to serve Him.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Public Graduations and Public Prayer?

The month of June brings the warmth of the summer and will see the very longest day of the calendar year. Many so look forward to some much-needed time away from their jobs and spending precious time with their families in some special or unique place.

June also brings with it special moments in the lives of many younger people as they end a lengthy educational chapter in their lives. It is the culmination of years of patience, hard work and sometimes a great deal of money spent, especially on the upper end of the educational sphere.

But it seems that every year brings some major controversy when certain top-notch students are chosen to represent their fellow graduates at a planned school ceremony. These are given the title of class valedictorian.

This year there was a fuss at the Riverside School district in Lake City, Arkansas where the administration actually opted to not go through with a sixth grade graduation after a lone parent protested against prayer during the ceremony.  In another setting, the president of the 2013 graduating class of Lincoln County High School in Kentucky boldly continued a longstanding tradition of student-led prayer at the school's graduation ceremony despite efforts from at least six students to shut it down. One schoolmate has stated that he may consider legal action.

But one of the more famous controversies this season came when valedictorian Roy Costner IV in South Carolina ripped up his graduation speech and prayed the Lord's Prayer. Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly said that America's Christians have a new hero who symbolically got right into the faces of the secularists who want to keep Jesus out of public schools.  Kelly said, "It says something about the country that we live in now that it takes courage for you to recite the Lord's Prayer at a seminal moment in your life."

Any look at early American history shows that the nation itself was born in a prayer meeting. And we all know how prayer is no problem at all, and even encouraged, when any major disaster strikes like the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma. At these moments, even those unfamiliar with any form of prayer seem to try and even covet prayer from those who practice it as a lifestyle. And then of course there is the installation of the nation’s leader in January. It is a national political spectacle that includes prayer and then is followed the next day by an official and massive public prayer meeting in the nation’s capitol. But a simple quoting of the Lord’s prayer at a graduation is unacceptable, distasteful and somehow even dangerous? How utterly silly and beyond hypocritical.

So just what does the Bible suggest concerning prayer as part of the Christian faith? It must be remembered always that prayer cannot be separated from the life of a true child of God. In Philippians 4, we read, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Then too, 1 Thessalonians 5 states, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

We also need to note just two clear biblical examples on the subject. In the Old Testament, Daniel was forbidden to pray publicly or privately to God. He boldly ignored the official ruling and was slated for execution for doing so. Most know the end of the story. The God he served and obeyed miraculously delivered him from certain death and thereby made a huge public statement to the people and anti-prayer rulers of that day.

Then in the New Testament we see the story the apostles in Acts 5. They, too, were in hot water for preaching the name of Jesus in public. The passage gives the details. “And the high priest asked them, saying, 'Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!' But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: 'We ought to obey God rather than men.'" Man's law was not to supercede God's no matter what the consequences might bring!

Those who oppose prayer may want to consider some of its obvious benefits. An example would be seen in 1 Timothy chapter 2. "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." Prayer tends to support and encourage leaders for good while promoting peace – for all! And if there is a verse to close the issue with it would have to be the one found in James 5:16. "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."

Perhaps those who protest prayer at America's graduations, or in any other public forums, should reconsider what the fervent prayer of God's righteous people has done for their nation and thus for they themselves! It has helped provide them a lifestyle that is still the envy of the world. It has given them amazing security and nearly unlimited blessings. And it has even provided the rare freedom to protest the results of the Christian-based prayer that has benefited them more than they may ever know.

Maybe they need to go back to school for a time and use the Bible as their text. Maybe they would even discover the purpose, power, promises and prosperity associated with the act of fervent prayer directed to the God upon which their great nation was founded! What a blessed national graduation that would be!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

“Truth, Justice and The IRS Way” ?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury and is responsible for collecting taxes and the enforcement of the Internal Revenue Code. The first income tax was assessed back in 1862 to raise funds for the American Civil War with a rate of 3%. Today the IRS collects over $2.4 trillion each tax year from around 234 million tax returns.

But just recently, the United States Internal Revenue Service was found to have targeted certain conservative or religious groups who had applied for tax-exempt status based on their names or political beliefs. The ‘flagged’ organizations were required to provide extra documentation which was nearly impossible to comply with and beyond what is required. Some were actually asked what books their members were reading and what they had posted on social networking websites. Some organizations were informed that if they did not provide the information sought, they would not be certified for tax-exempt status.

Incredibly, The Coalition for Life of Iowa was asked to explain how all of their activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, were considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3). They were asked to explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings and to provide the percentage of time the group spends on prayer as compared with other activities of the organization.

Then too, certain conservative and religious-based organizations have been audited at a far greater percentage because of their political positions. To say these practices are beyond the line and responsibility of the IRS is a gross understatement! For many Americans this has further tarnished the reputation of an aggressive agency that already struggled with major trust issues. Some feel as though they are now living in a communist nation with a secret governmental police force doing whatever they are directed to – right or wrong.

In a nation with so many major problems, one would think that any organizations involved in prayer would be valued and not feared. But in modern-day America it has become those having morals and standards as based on biblical truth who are now feared and limited if at all possible. Everyone has their own set of standards and places where they personally draw the line so to speak.  The problem is that any personal line is just that. It is personal and therefore is limited to flawed views of sinful and imperfect men and women.

There needs to be consistent and correct lines drawn in a society’s sand at the highest level. That standard is God’s alone and the one clearly laid out in His word. Unfortunately, a secularized society no longer desires or accepts that.  But much of the nation has come to the place where Israel of old did back in Judges 17:6. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” That led to cultural chaos then and still does today.

The unwarranted and illegal intrusion of the IRS into to personal beliefs and practices may also remind some Bible students of a time when all hearts and lives will be fully explored. But in that case it will be for the right reasons, with the right authority and by the One who has the only right to do so. Hebrews 4:13 records that reality. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

For some, the thought of giving God a detailed account of their lives is scary news – far more than being audited by the IRS. But for others, their spiritual audit will be good news with the reason being recorded by the writer John. “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)

Hopefully, the IRS will experience a good and serious house cleaning. But of far great importance for everyone, taxpayer or not, is a thorough ‘heart cleaning’ through Jesus Christ who is both our spiritual auditor and our eternal Advocate!

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:-9)

Bill Breckenridge