Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Are We Really Ready?

“Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.” (Proverbs 27:1)

These are solid words of wisdom for anyone at anytime. But the sudden disaster in Oklahoma certainly brought this great truth to the surface in the most dramatic manner. The final toll, human and otherwise, is yet to be assessed and won’t be for some time. But one thing is certain. There were those who lost their lives and who never dreamed they would be in eternity when they awakened on that fateful morning.

In the light of that stark reality those who are in Jesus Christ, and therefore spiritually ready to face such an event, should reassess their true efforts to share their saving faith with those who are not. The same loving God who offered His own Son for the salvation of all, is also the judge of all who never turn to Him for redemption and forgiveness.. The writer of Hebrews summed it up quite candidly in chapter ten and verse 31. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

The destiny of those who lost their lives in the storm is now eternally set. But those who survived have been given a sacred second chance. They still have the priceless opportunity to act on God’s free offer of forgiveness and the security found only in Jesus Christ. But more often than not, that requires Christians to be involved in the process. Romans 10:17 states the expected and effective method. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Pray for those who are part of God’s family of faith in Oklahoma. Pray for their own spirits to be lifted and comforted by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit. And pray that, in the midst of unimaginable chaos, they can muster the spiritual strength and motivation to boldly share His supernatural peace and miraculous saving power!

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Presidential Legacy and Biblical Principles

Last week’s dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas, Texas was a stirring and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime event. Bush and the current U.S. president, three former presidents along with their wives were all together on one stage.

Politics was set aside as each man spoke about the 43rd President of the United States. A theme for the occasion seemed to be Bush’s character and convictions.

President Barack Obama summed it up when he stated, “…what President Clinton said is absolutely true. To know the man is to like the man, because he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn’t put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good man.”

When George W. Bush spoke, he continued the theme. “But in the end, leaders are defined by the convictions they hold. … As President, I tried to act on these principles everyday. It wasn’t always easy and it certainly wasn’t always popular.”

In an interview with Bush, his former press secretary Dana Perino also touched on character and principles. “You said something [on your last day in office] I thought maybe I could repeat. Coming into the office on the first day wanting to make sure that when you left you could look yourself in the mirror and say I stuck to my principles.” Bush followed up, “I think that’s important in life. And it’s definitely important for the president to have a set of principles that one is willing to defend. …the principles are still an important part of my life.”

Bush told Perino, “That’s important when you are running an organization so that the people who work with you know what you believe in and know those beliefs won’t change.” Perino replied, “It made it easier to be your press secretary.”

Most everyone knows who George W. Bush is and what he stands for. While not all agree with how he governed in the Oval Office, even those who differ with him politically readily acknowledge that he is consistent and his policies reflected his convictions and principles.

The comments and insights about America’s 43rd president highlight some biblical principles.

What we believe is evident in what we say. Christ said, “For out of the abundance of the heart [a man’s] mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45b) When there is faith in Jesus Christ and hearts and minds are controlled by the Holy Spirit, what we say reflects what’s inside.

Christ also said, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No, ‘No.’” (Matthew 5:37) If one is known as person of integrity, his word is good enough, and an oath is unnecessary.

When one’s faith in Christ is alive and well, it will also naturally evidence itself in actions, not just words. James wrote, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? … I will show you my faith by my works. … For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James  2:14, 18b, 26)

All of this doesn’t necessarily come easily; it requires our careful attention. Wise King Solomon wrote, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) The Hebrew word translated as “keep” means to preserve or guard with faithfulness. “Heart” is the inner man, the mind, will, conscience, or moral character.

Bush claims to know Christ as his personal Savior, and he knows the importance of reading the Bible. Several have reported that he has read it cover to cover and reads a portion daily. That may account for his unwavering commitment to being a man of integrity.

The guide from which our principles and convictions should arise is the Word of God. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) God’s Word is a sure foundation for consistent belief and actions.

Bush knew his presidential policies weren’t always popular with his political opponents, but he told Perino that at the end of his presidency he could say, “I didn’t sell my soul.” After leaving the White House, he told a crowd back in Midland, Texas, “Through it all, I stayed true to those convictions. I’m coming home with my head held high….”

Words and actions that stem from biblical principles won’t always be popular either, but that shouldn’t deter believers. When we hold to what we believe and people know what we believe because it is evident in our lives, “...we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably.” (Hebrews 13:19) In the end we can say, “I stayed true to those convictions,” or, as the Apostle Paul put it, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:9)

Gayle Virkler