Thursday, October 23, 2014

Good News

Headlines these days are filled with news of disease, terrorism, war, politics, shootings, scandals, and persecution. Many people wonder, “Is anything going right these days?” Yes, something is going very right. It might not make headlines or the cable news shows, but God is at work, and the Gospel continues to change lives. Consider these encouraging reports we recently received from several organizations:

Interlocking Ministries partners with pastors and churches in Kenya to help reach men, women and children for Christ. They support and minister through children’s camping programs, discipleship training, school chapel programs, True Love Waits clubs, orphan and widow projects, and pastor’s and marriage conferences. During two weeks in September, Bobby Johnson and local pastors shared the Gospel message at six primary schools and six beach/market areas. The response was overwhelming with a total of about 2,000 children and adults indicating decisions for salvation. Interlocking Ministries is working with the local pastors to help in the discipleship of these precious new believers.

On Eagles’ Wings is a ministry of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries and has been reaching Native American young people with the Gospel for over 20 years. Each summer, teams made up of Native youth who have found hope in Jesus Christ travel to reservations where addiction, abuse, suicide, gangs and poverty are a way of life. This summer, 55 On Eagles’ Wings team members from 33 tribes shared their personal testimonies at outreach events on nine reservations. A total of 778 Native Americans responded to the Gospel message. Local pastors, missionaries and Native believers will be following up on each decision.

On Eagles’ Wings also hosts an annual Warrior Leadership Summit discipleship conference. WLS was created to encourage and equip Native young people who want to grow in their faith and make a difference for Jesus Christ. At this year’s conference, hundreds of Native youth from across the country attended, and many gave their hearts to Christ.

All About Jesus Ministries is the prison outreach ministry of Mark and Gloria Chapman (yes, that Mark Chapman – the man who shot John Lennon). Though separated by thousands of miles, Mark and his wife have been faithfully serving the Lord through the ministry they founded 10 years ago. Many may not know that Mark recommitted his life to Christ in prison and is a vibrant believer. AAJM partners with prison chaplains to share the Gospel through the free distribution of literature that includes Mark’s personal testimony (in English and Spanish).

Earlier this year, they received word that 15,000 brochures were distributed in prisons in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 25 prisoners gave their lives to Christ as a result of reading Mark's testimony. Prison ministries in other African countries report similar results and are requesting thousands more brochures.

Every two years, Mark comes up for parole. At every hearing, he gives his personal testimony, which becomes part of the official transcript available for anyone to read. Mark did that again in August. Even though parole is always denied, Mark rejoices in the opportunities God has given him to share the Gospel with other prisoners.

These spiritual victories are just the tip of the evangelism iceberg. Countless servants of God are faithfully sharing the Gospel and making disciples in nearly every corner of the world. Whether it’s one, a dozen, hundreds, or thousands, every decision to trust Christ for salvation is good news that’s worth reporting and worth rejoicing over (Luke 15:7)!

Gayle Virkler

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pastor Appreciation Month

The month of October is a strikingly beautiful one in certain parts of the country. It is certainly that here in North Jersey in particular. It is the time we say farewell, for a while, to a stretch of beauty only equaled perhaps in Spring when the earth again awakens to the colors of creation and once more and the reminder of the power and imagination of the Creator.

There are of course other aspects of this month that occur each year like various holidays and assorted other observances along the way. But one such event does not receive nearly enough attention – even in the very places that should honor it the most.

What is being referred to is known as Pastor/Clergy Appreciation Month. It started in 1994 when a Christian organization wanted to celebrate their pastors, families and the pastoral staff in tangible ways. They agreed that pastors should be celebrated all year but set aside a month to focus more on just them. There is a biblical basis for doing so as seen in 1 Timothy 5:17. "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." This has been acted upon by one of the more well known organizations in all of Christendom as stated on their website:

“Focus on the Family believes in the significant role that pastors and their families play in the local church and community; therefore, we gladly celebrate and promote Clergy Appreciation Month. Clergy appreciation is emphasized in October, but we want to encourage you to celebrate, honor and affirm your pastor all year long. Often pastors and their families feel isolated and burnt out—often wondering if what they do makes a difference. As a ministry, we want to come alongside them and be their 'Aaron' in this generation. We want to encourage and support them, help shoulder their burdens, strengthen their families, ignite their faith and applaud their efforts.”

Also, Lifeway ministry share on their website some practical ideas on how to be involved in a worthy form of ministry by laymen ( They share 10 unique ways to get involved along theses lines.

The Bible reveals, in no uncertain terms, what the primary role of any pastor to be. In 2 Timothy 4:2-3, we find the command, “Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.”

That is the main task of the shepherd of a local flock of believers. Other things, although important, are secondary to this eternally crucial matter. But what then is the duty of those who sit under a pastor’s teaching and ministry? That is spelled out in Hebrews 13:17. “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Think about that! How many will ever give account for the spiritual development of others except those called to pastoral ministry? It’s a weighty responsibility to say the least!

God knew full well the impact that could be made by faithful preachers of His word in a local body. And He knew also how difficult that task can be and how these same servants would need an occasional pat on the back to carry out their eternally valuable task. So if possible do something, anything, this month to be the embodiment of making the role of your pastor be one of joy and success as Hebrews 13:7 exhorts!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Drive Through What?

Just went you think you have heard of almost everything, something somehow arises to change that. And this time, I’m not sure whether it is good, bad, or both? At first, I thought it was a prank. Then, upon finding it was real, I though it was terrible. But lastly, there may actually be some value – limited though it might be.

The article described a so-called "convenience" that has been in use in Saginaw, Michigan and, I believe, a few other locations as well. It was constructed at a funeral home there and is being used by those who visit the establishment. There is no other way to describe it other than to say what it really is - a literal drive-thru viewing window for the mourners of some deceased friend or relative.

Here is what was said in the online article: “Paradise Funeral Chapel has installed a window that displays a body set up in a special area inside the building with a raised and tilted platform for  the casket. Curtains over the window automatically open when a car pulls up, and mourners get three  minutes to view a body as music plays overhead. There also a deposit opening for leaving donations, cards or memory items. And behind a door is a retractable guest book that the traveling mourners can sign.”

Deceased drive-thru giving? Now maybe you have also heard of almost everything too. Even now I’m not sure what I really think.

To start with, there is some potential good. This can probably be helpful to a few who are too elderly to attend a viewing. But with that said, I cannot help but wonder how such a "convenience" will not be taken advantage of and abused by those looking for an easy way out and wanting to avoid personal contact at an awkward and difficult time. This option is so very easy to use even when not needed.

There are just some things in life that just should not have short cuts available or made so easy as to not require any energy or sacrifice at all. As is often true, those things that require the most effort and dedication are the same things that are valued most and often most worth while.

This is likewise true in the spiritual realm. The Bible tells us that Jesus, the Creator God, humbled Himself to the point of death and even a form of death that was the most humiliating and painful there could possibly be – and that was just the physical aspect of it!

Just before his crucifixion, although in great agony, He refused the easy way out. "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." (Luke 22:42) And during the execution, He again revealed His total commitment to the task by refusing to do what those around Him tempted Him to. “Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.” (Matthew 27:42)

Had the Lord taken an easier path and not fully experienced death for us all, we would have no way to be forgiven. The Bible is clear that there is one way – and one way only – to be saved. There is no short cutting of that fact!

Lastly, for those who are in God’s family, there is no easy road to instant spiritual maturity. The New Testament repeatedly commands believers to grow in the faith and to become loyal disciples of their Savior. This requires effort and discipline even though salvation comes from God’s grace and is a free gift. Those who avoid paying the required price to grow will not honor the Lord or become like Him as Scripture commands. Alternatives and quick fixes are always inappropriate and fairly useless.

All who are "presented" in their caskets at this drive-thru establishment are now in eternity. Their fate is sealed one way or another. But any who opt to drive by to pay their respects still have one of two spiritual routes to travel on before their own death arrives. What matters then is not what kind of box we are in, how or where it is viewed, or even if there is no box at all. What means everything is how God views the soul and how each soul views Christ. What matters ultimately is whether or not God’s gaze upon us at life's end is forever filtered through the saving blood of His Son’s cross.

How does He view you right now? Are you today attempting endless and meaningless short cuts? Or are you traveling God's prescribed pathway to a guaranteed heavenly home later and to a spiritually mature Christian experience now? Amazingly, the Bible reveals that we can – and should – know how God views our hearts today and forever. (Hebrews 4:13)

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:12-13)

Bill Breckenridge