Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What's It All About?

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:8-11)

For many in America, these words are at least somewhat familiar. But for a growing segment, this knowledge does not come from the original source of New Testament Scripture. Instead, it originates from, of all places, a musical cartoon special based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. A Charlie Brown Christmas made its debut in 1965 and has been a seasonal favorite for almost a half century with young and old alike.

But near the program's conclusion, little Linus slowly makes his way to center stage, calls for a spot light, and quotes the above passage verbatim. He then concludes by turning to his distraught friend and uttering his now famous line, "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." And indeed it is!

With all of the wonderful Christmas movies and specials each year, this short cartoon was pure genius in its simplicity and has reminded viewers about the supreme reason for the season: Christ came to die for sinners. It helped share what one seasonal song spoke of in its perceptive title, A Cradle in the Shadow of a Cross.

Linus' flawless recital of the true meaning of Christmas concluded with Luke 2:14. "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

We trust you are today glorifying God and fully at peace with the One who came via that lowly manger en route to that rugged cross in order to offer Himself as the supreme sacrifice for you and for me!

Have a merry and very blessed Christmas!

Bill Breckenridge

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Pearl Harbor and Reconciliation

December 7 marks the 73rd anniversary of the brutal Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a day which would “live in infamy” as President Franklin Roosevelt called it while urging Congress for a declaration of war. American casualties were unequaled until the savage attacks of 9/11. Sadly, many will spend the day without any thought of the significance of the day.

Lost in the obscurity of the years are two key figures whose lives would later intersect miraculously in the will of God. We share their story as we have in previous years because it serves as an amazing illustration of God's wonderful saving grace.

Captain Mitsuo Fuchida led the attack on Pearl Harbor, exulting in the deadly carnage done for his emperor-god. He was the only Japanese officer to survive World War II despite breaking both legs in a sea accident and exposure to the radiation-contaminated ashes of Hiroshima. His post-war days were spent farming, but his soul was empty.

Staff Sgt. Jacob DeShazer dropped bombs on Osaka in the surprise U.S. retaliation attack on Japanese cities led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle in April 1942. As one of "Doolittle's Raiders", Jake was the bombardier on plane #16, the last one off the carrier USS Hornet. He was captured after parachuting into Japanese-held territory in China and was imprisoned by Japan for 40 months. Hatred for his torturing captors turned to love when he read in the Bible of Christ’s forgiveness through the Cross, and he pledged that if he survived the war he would return to Japan as a missionary. Jake kept his vow, and returned to Japan, where he spent 30 years preaching the Christ he once ignored.

After reading a tract telling DeShazer’s story given to him by other American missionaries, Mitsuo Fuchida bought a Bible, read of Christ’s death for him, and accepted Christ as his Savior. He went to meet Jake DeShazer to publicly profess Christ. The two former bitter enemies in war became brothers in Christ and lifelong friends. As a team, they evangelized Japan and saw thousands come to Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:15-17

David Virkler has written an article entitled "The Amazing Grace of World War II" that recounts the full story of Mitsuo Fuchida, Jacob DeShazer and Jimmy Doolittle. Read this stirring account on our website.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

7 Reasons For Chronic Unhappiness

Tamara Star is the creator of the 40-day personal reboot for women. She is a life coach, speaker, and writer. And she recently authored an interesting article on her blog, Daily Transformations, having a title that seems self-explanatory and quite intriguing. She called the piece, ‘7 Habits of Chronically Unhappy People’.

In her article Star writes, “There are billions of people on our planet and clearly some are truly happy. The rest of us bounce back and forth between happiness and unhappiness depending on the day. We all have bad days, even weeks, when we fall down in all seven areas. The difference between a happy and unhappy life is how often and how long we stay there.”

She then goes on to list, and comment upon, the 7 habits or traits she feels are why some people are unhappy most all of the time. Here are just the titles alone:

1. Your default belief is that life is hard.
2. You believe most people can't be trusted.
3. You concentrate on what's wrong versus what's right.
4. You compare yourself to others and harbor jealousy.
5. You strive to control your life.
6. You consider your future with worry and fear.
7. You fill your conversations with gossip and complaints.

Even without much serious consideration, it appears that this author has put her finger on the main issues that explain why so many have a negative attitude about life in general. She has covered ‘nearly’ every base quite well and each reason seems logical. And it would even seem that the majority of the above reasons might be found together in most unhappy people to one degree or another. But with that said, there are just one or two things that should be added to this sad set of depressing attitudes.

First, there is absolutely no mention of God or anything spiritual in the group. Those who have God in their lives, via Jesus Christ, have been given a new heart and a whole new set of coping skills to deal with life when it is hard. Christians are promised what the Bible calls the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ in Galatians 5:22. These icluded love, joy, peace and patience among other things. And they are told in Philippians chapter four to think on those things that are noble, just, pure, lovely, and positive! Mediating on these kinds of things, versus all the possible negatives, is an antidote to the list mentioned above.

Then too, there is one other item that should be number 9 on the list but was obviously absent. There is no mention at all of any thankfulness for anything or for any reason. In Hebrews 13:15-16 we read, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” And Paul records in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Life is hard and sometimes extremely hard. Everyone goes through difficulties, suffering and disappointment. And it is easy to become ‘chronically unhappy’ and stay parked there. But Christians should not and must not do so. They can do far better. They alone possess a new heart in Christ and the opportunity to be thankful to God for His salvation, blessings and the motivation to do good to others in His name. For believers, the many good things from God should outweigh the bad things from this life.

Basically, it becomes somewhat difficult to remain unhappy when one is in Christ, walking with Christ, thanking Christ and serving Christ. So numbers 1-7 on the misery list are interesting and again even understandable on some levels.  But these two new numbers just added offer something more - something superior! They offer God’s alternative pathway to joy, hope, peace and a brighter outlook even in an increasingly darkening world.

According to God's word chronic unhappiness is not God's choosing, but rather our choice!

Bill Breckenridge