Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A True Survivor of Survivors

He is not from some bizarre reality TV show, but is the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor. His first name is Israel, indeed interesting considering what the target was for one of the most brutally memorable events in all of human history. At his recent birthday he turned an amazing 111 years old. That is a long time to live and to witness so very much – even though some of what he saw and experienced firsthand was beyond horrific!

Israel Krysztal was born in Poland, was an orphan, and was eventually sent to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. Although he would survive the horrors there, his wife, who was also with him, did not.

With the arrival of this latest birthday, the Maccabi Tel Aviv Football Club organized a birthday party because they were very moved by Israel’s life story. The team has apparently been honoring other Jews who likewise suffered in the Holocaust. At the celebration, the team presented him with a jersey bearing the number 111. No doubt he will have his number upgraded for every additional year he lives.

The actions of the Holocaust represent mankind at its very worst. Few things in recent history are its evil equivalent. It was sin personified and one of Satan’s greatest victories against humanity and God. It was so inconceivable that some today still deny its reality and levels of brutality. These believe that men could in no way do such unspeakable things to others. But, with Satan in control and calling the shots, anything is possible. Such things are a vivid proof of man’s terrible fall back in the Garden of Eden and into uncontrollable sin.

But that is not the end of the story. There was someone else who came to deal with sin – all sin. That includes the extent at Auschwitz and also those small sins that seem almost silly in comparison. But they are not silly at all in the eyes of a holy God whose Son was sacrificed for even these lesser acts. Without Christ’s victory, the human race would have nothing but misery and death. What He did as God and Savior is summed up well in Romans 5:21. "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.”

Jesus Christ did not come to just do good and set an example – although He did obviously that. But He came primarily for what is written in 1 John 3:8. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” And yet some will always think, "Then why did the Holocaust occur? Why the killing fields of Cambodia? Why the carnage of modern day radical Islam? And even why all the smaller examples of evil that regularly dominate the average news show?" These are understandable questions based on this verse alone.

But Christ has indeed destroyed the works of the Devil, but not totally for now on everyday terms. He did so by defeating Satan’s grip of sin and its deadly consequences on the entire race. "He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15) Christ defeated Satan because mankind could be saved, freed and able to withstand the so-called "wiles" of the adversary. (Acts 2:21, Ephesians 6)

And the Devil is eternally defeated in the long run. “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10) Satan may trouble the world for a while, but His ultimate power has been officially broken and his future officially certain and sealed.

Not many will physically live to see age 111 or even close. But everyone’s soul will live on forever. The only relevant question is whether we will reside in the darkness of hell with the one who deceives or in the light and glory of heaven with the One who delivers? (1 Corinthians 6:20) The final outcome depends solely on how we respond to Christ’s victory over sin and His defeat over Satan through the cross. There are only two available options, and each of us, at life's end, will have chosen either carefully or very foolishly!

“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.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Today's Non-Christian Worldview

Recently I read an article from The title was what first grabbed my attention. It read, "A Peek Inside the Non-Christian Worldview". When I "peeked" through the 2-page piece, I was not disappointed, and I was thankful for the fine summary on a frustrating subject.

It basically provided a concise summary of how America’s original Christian foundations have given way over time to an ever-growing  anti-God philosophy. The author, who originally published her work in Home Educating Family Magazine, stated how those now promoting this non-biblical way of life were formerly in the minority and thus had far less influence on culture. But that has all changed, and their destructive attitudes are now coming from all spheres of society including from our most powerful and trusted institutions.

The author states about this wretched reality, “Acts that were until very recently too shameful to even speak of, are defended, promoted, and celebrated as virtuous.” How very true, and how utterly tragic that is!

She also admits how difficult it is to fight against this tide of godlessness that has now become a literal tidal wave of wickedness. And yet she admonished Christians to fight on despite where the attacks come from or how large they may be. That logic is certainly substantiated by Scripture in verses like Ephesians 5:11. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” The believer is not only to avoid all evil, but also to campaign against it. Both sides of the coin are equally God’s will.

At the conclusion of the article, a solution is offered – the Biblical one. In a word, it is simply "truth". It is the absolute light of God’s living and powerful Word that can shine through the darkness now chipping away at this nation’s former spiritual roots. The author concludes, “There is a power in the truth that is greater than the power of the media or the courts or the schools or Washington.” Again, how true, only this time how encouraging and comforting!

Hopefully, as part of God’s spiritual army, we can understand the battle we all face and gain the inspiration and boldness to join in His war against evil and to liberate the precious and priceless souls of men.

"If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Did 9/11 Change the World?

Another anniversary of 9/11 has rolled around, and it is hard to believe how much time has passed since the event that literally "changed the world". Anyone who has used an airport recently, or even had to deal with some agency that requires ID, can verify that. Some, even today, have flashbacks every time they look into a beautiful blue fall sky and see a lone aircraft slowly passing overhead. Yes, it was another day that will live on in infamy, and it did indeed change our world – but not totally.

Just after those horrific moments, America kicked into high gear on the so-called War on Terror. Most know what efforts were made, how much was spent, and how many precious lives were lost. And most know that the great effort to stem the tide of death, destruction and dominance was not completed and has even lost ground recently. That must be absolutely heartbreaking to those who fought in this worthy battle and for those that lost loved ones along the way.

That day back in 2001 changed our world in some ways, and, in other ways, much remains the same as the battle rages on with a new intensity. The brutality and determination of ISIS makes what we faced before look mild in comparison.

In reality, the only thing that will ever solve this entire mess is when hearts are changed by the events of another epic day. That day was long ago when Jesus Christ hung on a Roman cross and at His death there cried out, ”It is finished.” His completed sacrifice meant that the sins of the world were fully paid for and all had access to a new, clean and loving heart through faith in Him.

All men are born as lost sinners. And for that to change, they must also change, but on the inside. They must have a change of heart, something not really possible apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit. The God of the Bible commands that, after being saved, we then win the lost through love, and that applies for even those who attack or oppress us. We never demand conversion and acceptance through violence or force of any kind.

In Roman 12:19-21, we read what is the exact opposite philosophy of those now troubling the world and preying on countless innocent victims, many of whom are Christians.

"'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.”

This attitude only makes sense in the context of true Christianity. It surely finds no place in the ideology of the radical terrorists now causing so much fear, carnage and suffering. The contrasts could not be more clear. One is based in love as evidenced by the cross, and the other is founded and focused on hate. One saw a Savior take His own life for others, and one takes others lives for its own means. One changes the world for good and peace, and the other for evil and terror. And one occurred precisely because of what being done through the sinful and selfish acts of the other.

Jesus Christ came to change the world, to change the impact of sin, and to change the consequences of evil. He came to change lost sinners to righteous saints and to change a frightening future to a blessed eternity. He came to change the hearts of all men through His grace. That includes you, me and even those who are ISIS.

“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)

Bill Breckenridge