Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Greatest Day Ever!

Sometimes we are asked, or just try to remember on our own, what the single greatest day of our lives was. It may be that day when we graduated, bought a first home, got married or experienced the birth of a first child. Or it may be something else like the beginning of a prized career or arriving at long-awaited retirement.

But for any true Christian these things, and anything else like them, should come far behind the moment the Bible describes in Colossians 1:13-14. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Nothing can, or ever will, compare to this greatest of all blessings and miracles!

But in order for this to be even possible, there had to first come the greatest event in all of human history. It came in the long ago when God’s Son willingly became the sacrifice for the sins of the world. (Ephesians 2:8) Christ paid the full penalty for the transgressions of an entire lost race when He cried out from the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) It would be an infinite understatement to say that this was a great and unparalleled moment for mankind -- and all at His expense.

But an even greater and connected moment soon followed. And interestingly, this had to occur in order to complete the transaction that would allow God’s forgiveness to be fully implemented. That equally great -- and perhaps even greater -- day and moment is described below:

“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead He is not here, but is risen!’” (Luke 24:1-6)

Why did the events of this amazing morning also have to take place to complete God's redemptive process? Why was this necessary if it was truly “finished” a few days earlier on the cross? Simply stated, this was also a part of God’s overall plan and a therefore a vital link and ingredient. The proof of how crucial Christ’s rising from the dead is can be seen in 1 Corinthians 15:17-18. Paul records there, “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.”

Somehow, in eternity past, the Creator intertwined the events of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday into the greatest single event on the timeline of planet Earth. It was His great solution for man’s greatest problem. These two events are inseparable and incomparable and alone provided the only hope for man’s salvation and eternal destiny.

But with that said, there also needs to be another great day to make them matter – to you. I had such a day at age 26. It was the day that I called out to God and trusted Christ to save me. It was on the basis of faith in the Savior who died in my place some 2,000 years ago. The writer of Hebrews asked in chapter two, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Had I neglected God’s free offer, I would not have escaped a future and final judgement and would have spent an inconceivable eternity separated from God. Instead, His great love allowed me to experience a great salvation complete with great blessings, peace, hope and rewards!

In your mind today, what is the greatest day that ever occurred in human history? And what is the greatest event that ever took place in your personal life? If the two things just mentioned above do not top the list, then they desperately need to! And it is past the time to personally apply the great and life-altering pattern spelled out clearly Romans 10:13. “For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” What an amazing Easter it would be by doing that right now! It would be, without question, your ‘greatest day ever.’

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Watch 'The Bible' This Easter

The Easter season is upon us again. This year the great day itself falls on the last day of March. Although this foundation of the Christian faith does not draw anywhere near the attention or fascination seen in the festivities of Christmas, it should. And if there are two verses that alone reveal the incomparable importance of the crucifixion and the subsequent resurrection, it would be these:

“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19:29-30)  The Savior declared here that the price of forgiveness and man’s redemption had been paid for – fully and forever! This second related verse shows how crucial His resurrection was for a lost and helpless human race.“For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:15-17)

But while this and much more can be found in the Bible, this year some of it can also be watched on the History Channel on five successive nights leading up to Resurrection Sunday. The mini-series is called simply “The Bible”. Thus far the ratings have been quite good. Reviews have been favorable overall as well. And as always, there are some outspoken critics. These are sometimes the typical spiritual skeptics who are offended at anything even suggesting the Bible is God’s truth on any level. Others may have found an artistic portrayal of some story in Scripture as not to their personal liking or preconceived notion. And of course, some will site their dissatisfaction on some issue of accuracy in one way or another.

Geoff Tunnicliffe, of The Christian Post, said: “This Time, Hollywood Got It Right.” He stated, “Burnett and his wife have produced a mini-series that is not only ‘not disappointing,’ but actually rises to the top of the ‘Wow’ scale. Attempting to take on the whole Bible in 10 hours is pretty much an impossible task for just about anyone, but apparently not for the Burnetts. They really have produced something of epic proportions. Over the last 3 1/2 years, Mark and Roma have been driven by the singular vision of producing a project that would honor the sacred text, yet bring it to life for a new generation. The end results something that has the feel of a $150 million big budget film.”

Obviously, it is indeed a very difficult job to try to convey God’s great revelation in just five short programs. But at least someone acted on the burden to share their faith with their world. And it is very easy for those who may do very little to share much of anything along these lines to just sit in their living rooms, with a bowl of popcorn, and enjoy their self-imposed roles as critics.

If you are among those who need some reason to view this rare project favorably, or cut it some slack at least, then perhaps consider a few things. First would be the rampant biblical illiteracy today in America and worldwide. It is an epidemic and will get only worse as time goes by. If you need another reason to err on the positive side, then think upon this one. Conservative estimates state that well over a billion people around the globe will pick a real Bible, maybe for the first time ever, just from seeing some portion of this series.

And then if those two reasons are not enough, maybe this one will be of some help just from the sheer contrast it brings. It was reported that the Sunday night cable ratings were ruled by ‘zombies’ according to the Nielsen ratings for March 3, 2013. This top spot was filled by AMC’s “The Walking Dead”.  But the premiere of  “The Bible” pulled in a second-best rating with 13.103 million viewers. That’s the highest number of total viewers on the night. So if you are a Christian, or just a decent and fairly moral individual, which program would you rather have your kids, family, friends and neighbors watch and consider? Would it be the hit show about “The Walking Dead” or the mini-series attempting to share “The Living Savior”?

Paul the Apostle referred to this concept of the “walking dead” twice in his letter to the Ephesian church. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:4-5) The other verse reads, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”(Ephesians 2:1)

According to God’s word, those who have not personally trusted the living Savior are “the walking dead” in the spiritual realm. They eat, breathe, walk and go through their daily routines. But their inner souls are dead and will remain lifeless until Christ gives them His new life through His Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 3:16, Romans 8:10-11, 2 Corinthians 5:16)

In Romans 10:17 the writer penned, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  That “hearing” may come through a verbal witness, the pages of the written Scriptures, the Internet, by way of radio or even through a cable TV mini-series. Any of these can begin to break through spiritual darkness and produce interest and even life-changing results when fueled by the Spirit of God.

There is one more thing worth mentioning concerning “The Bible” mini-series. It is not at all for the faint of heart and, at times, hard to view. Many scenes are quite violent, graphic and quite brutal. But so are many portions of biblical history. Often we have a “sanitized” view about the conduct of the human race – whether back then or today. The reality is that sin is brutal and graphically so. If that were not the case, there would not have been the dire need for Christ’s coming and for His horribly brutal sacrifice on the cross.

The events of Good Friday are a stark and vivid reminder of God’s amazing love for His lost race. It reveals the sobering price paid to achieve His miraculous plan of redemption. And Easter Sunday clearly declares the absolute deity of the Lord! It is the essential proof that He, as God, can alone forgive all sin and save any soul – all of which can be heard, read and even viewed today in “The Bible”. (Acts 4:12)

At this resurrection season, pray for all in need of the Savior and that faith will come by hearing, reading or even viewing of the word of God!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

'On This Day In History'

I have a book in my library that chronicles and lists many of the significant events that have happened on any given calendar day. There are also several websites now that offe similar information on that basic theme and that are likely more up to date and more comprehensive. Some enjoy looking particularly at their own birthday to see what occurred on that calendar date over time. But as I looked at this current day in history, March 6th, some of the following interesting or important happenings were listed there. And again, this is just a partial historical listing from that day. For what it's worth, my younger sister was born on this day although I'll leave out her birth year for the sake of family harmony and my own personal well-being.  Kidding of course. Well, sort of!

1806 - Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born in Durham, England. 1834 -The city of Toronto was incorporated. 1836 -The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, fell to Mexican forces after a 13-day siege. 1912- Oreo sandwich cookies were first introduced by the National Biscuit Co., which later became Nabisco. 1933  - A nationwide bank holiday declared by President Franklin D. Roosevelt went into effect. 1944 - Heavy bombers staged the first   American raid on Berlin during World War II.
1957 - The former British  African colonies of the Gold Coast and Togoland became the independent nation of Ghana. 1981 - Walter Cronkite signed off for the last time as anchorman of "The CBS Evening News." 1997 - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II launched the first official royal Web site. 2006 -Baseball Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett died at age 45.

Not all of the above events on this day were earthshaking or perhaps of any great interest to you personally. Maybe other days of the year contain things that are far more impacting on culture and the world. But every single human event that has ever happened, on every single day since the dawn of human history, can never compare to one  two-part event that took place some two millennia ago. It remains in a category by itself and always will. Its scope and significance reaches to every corner of the globe and its influence and duration will impact the entire material creation including what occurs throughout eternity.

Boiled down to just one word, this event can be summed up using just one name - Jesus! The crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the cross 20 centuries ago, and His subsequent resurrection from the dead, is without question the single greatest event of the ages. Its significance can't be over-stressed as it will fully and forever effect every soul ever born. The personal reaction to these two intertwined events - His death on the cross and His miraculous resurrection from the grave - literally divide all of humanity into two distinct spiritual camps. There is no middle ground.

On that most unique weekend in the long ago, the fortune of a doomed and fallen race was given the undeserved opportunity to choose between spiritual life and spiritual death. There was provided the choice between life forever in a Christ-less literal hell or a glorious eternal existence in Heaven forever with a loving Creator. It was through these two incomprehensible acts of divine love and sacrifice that  God  outwardly evidenced His great mercy toward those who had all rebelled against Him. (Romans 3:23). Despite man's universal and willing rejection of God, Romans chapter five declares something staggering and even illogical, humanly speaking. Verse 5 reads, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  It was on this most unique and crucial of all days in human history that the main problem of mankind was fully and finally  dealt with.  Some of His final words revealed the completion of God's great redemptive plan  when the Savior cried out from His cross, "It is Finished".  He had become literal sin for us that we might become the literal righteousness of God and fully justified through Him!  (1Corinthians 5:21)

Your life will contain many events on the many days that make it up. Some will be wonderful. Others may be neutral or some even terrible beyond words. That is simply life in a fallen world. But none of these days or events have any lasting consequence if they do not include, at some point in time, that one special day - the day where you called out in faith to the One who died in your place and for your sins - all of them!

The Bible declares a solitary promise concerning that special day - the moment when these words become your words, and your life becomes God's. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.¨  And it is, on 'this day in your history', that your heart, your soul, your priorities and your eternal destiny will change in a single moment but also for all of time and eternity.

Bill Breckenridge