Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Death In Santa’s Arms

Fox news just shared a heartbreaking Christmas-related story.  His name is Eric Schmitt-Matzen who now resides in Tennessee. He plays a part-time Santa and recently told  local news outlets there about an amazing, but heartbreaking, experience he had gone through.

Apparently Matzen was called to the hospital bedside of a terminally ill little boy. He arrived just 15 minutes later. There he found a dying 5-year old child who was concerned about missing Christmas and wanted badly to see St. Nick. The stand-in Santa was given a present from the mom when he arrived that was then presented to the boy as he entered the room in full costume.

Matzen stated that the gift put a big grin on the child’s face. He then said to the boy, "When you get up those pearly gates, you just tell them you're Santa's number one elf." The child responded by asking, "I am?" The Santa responded, "You sure are and I'm sure they'll let you right in,"   To that the boy gave him a hug and asked Matzen, "Santa, can you help me?" It was at that pointed that the child passed away in the crying man’s arms.

It is hard to even fathom the emotion that must have swept over both the parents and the man who helped grant this precious child his dying wish at Christmas. Matzen stated that he was crying so hard afterwards that he was almost unable to see well enough to drive home. I’m sure he slept very little that night either.

This is a heart warming and heartbreaking story all in one. The only aspect that is off-base is the reason that the part-time Santa gave a young child for why he would be accepted into Heaven when he died. Obviously we pray that the boy is there today and for the right Biblical reasons. But if he is there, he will not have passed through  the ‘pearly gates” because he was Santa’s number one special elf.

Being admitted to heaven requires something quite specific according to the Scriptures. It has nothing to do with how one lives life or whether the good outweighs the bad. It has nothing to do with a great personality, great accomplishments or a giving and unselfish nature. It has only to do with a personal relationship with the Savior who was born in the manger and later died on the cross to pay the price of sin though His sacrifice.

Santa is a wonderful and fun addition to Christmas. He was enjoyed by many of us in our youth and by millions of children world-wide. But he is simply not real. And he should never interfere, or be confused, with the Christ of Christmas. Only God's Son can give the ultimate gift of all gifts and the one we all equally need. Only he can provide the gift of eternal salvation and the opening of the so-called pearly gates to those who trust in Him through faith.
Christ is what Christmas is all about!  That should be obvious. And after all is said and done, it is not primarily about happy holidays, seasons greetings or happy Solstice. It is simply about ‘Merry CHRISTmas’.

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Not Tolerating Charlie Brown?

A recent article from revealed a story that has become all too common at Christmas time. It occurred in a nation that supposedly craves tolerance for everyone’s views on almost everything, that is, give or take Christianity. It is still hard to fathom how a holiday that bears Christ’s name can be attacked and pushed out of the public arena even by those who participate in it and gladly take the free day off of work it provides them.

This time the nonsense revolved around one of the oldest and most beloved Christmas TV shows of all time. And is not the first time that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has caused holiday controversy. This year it was the Independent School District in Killeen, Texas that helped portray the ugly and ridiculous part of the infamous Grinch.

Dedra Shannon, a staffer at Patterson Middle School, decided to use the program’s images of Linus, the scrawny Christmas tree and the classic Bible passage to decorate the door to the school’s nurse office.  The decorations were installed on December 5th.  But two days later she was confronted by the school's principal and told that the decorations had to be removed. The stated reason was exactly the same as always. The Bible passage might offend those of another religion or those having none at all. And as expected, it was said that the display was a violation of the Constitution’s so-called separation of church and state. That’s amazing since that is a faulty assumption and no such thing really exists.

Ms. Shannon was told, however, that she could keep Linus and the tree on the door but the Bible passage had to be removed. Given that option, she took the entire poster down and stated, "I wasn't going to leave Linus and the Christmas tree without having the dialogue. That's the whole point of why it was put up." Ms. Shannon's pastor father said of the incident, "People want us to be tolerant for everything – but they don't tolerate Christianity, They bow down to everything else – except when it comes to Christianity." How tragic but how very right he was!

Efforts to curtail the real meaning of Christmas, and everything Christian for that matter, are nothing new. The attacks have intensified and the opposition may even seem to have gained ground over time in an increasingly secularized society. But none of that can change the deep meaning and power of the Biblical truth echoed by little Linus on air some 51 years ago.

“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 good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:9-14

Christmas will always be an offense to those who don’t, or won’t, accept it for what it really is. Why is that?  It is because the coming of Christ to that messy manger in the long ago pointed to something in His future that would be infinitely more messy! His arrival in human flesh pointed to His destiny of dying upon the cross. He came to deal with the sins of humanity and that is offensive to those who feel no need for a Savior or the forgiveness He alone can provide.  Luke 19:10 states it like this.“The Son of man has come to seek and save that which was lost.” 

The reality is, like it or not and believe it or not, that The Prince of Peace came to earth the first time to save sinners. And He is coming a second time to gather up all who have trusted Him and to be will Him forever in heaven. That is going to happen and perhaps very soon. And no amount of rejecting or ignoring that fact will ever change it. Trying to remove or hinder God’s word at Christmas, or at any time, is a senseless and futile endeavor as clearly confirmed in 1 Peter 1:24-25.

"All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the LORD endures forever”

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Post-election Thanksgiving?

It has been a rough few weeks for a many in America if their candidate was not elected to the Presidency back on November 8th. The outcome of that historic event again revealed just how divided the nation really is when it comes to politics and the direction that the county and culture should take. Some are simply so distraught, even still, that that they are unable to move forward after seeing their choice for the White House lose.

I heard on a TV news show how, in some in colleges, students who seem unable accept the election result are receiving special attention. Some have gotten time off from classes and counseling if they need it. Others have been given coloring books, told to get therapy pets and even told to use play dough to relieve their tension over facing a Trump Presidency.  A panel on a talk show I watched discussed the strategy of how to get through Thanksgiving and avoid politics if there is a serious rift within a family. Add to this the countless individuals in neighborhoods and work places where people can’t even be civil to each other because of the friction over the way the election turned out. Then there are others who are actively opposing the new administration and even looking for legal loopholes to somehow overturn it. Such is the political and cultural climate in current day America. And maybe it is just me, but that seems just a little over the top - all things considered and when still living in America.

But some sixteen days after the nation was again painfully reminded of their divided political and cultural loyalties, we find ourselves at another Thanksgiving holiday. We find ourselves all still living in the greatest nation on earth no matter who happens to reside in the Oval Office. We all find ourselves to be the beneficiaries of freedoms, blessings and opportunities that most around the world can only marvel at and envy. And for these things, and more, we should be the most grateful people on the planet instead of hiding under the covers in our pajamas and molding play dough for the next 4 years!

The Bible specifically commands believers to be thankful on a consistent basis. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 we read Paul’s words on the subject. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” The word ‘you’ at the end of the verse is directed at all believers regardless of their political affiliation. And when times of stress and worry do arise, constant prayer coupled with thanksgiving is the preferred solution as Philippians chapter four reveals. Verse 6 begins, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

As this Thanksgiving holiday comes, and quickly goes, we trust that those of us who enjoy the blessings of living where we do will pause and acknowledge our great and loving Creator.  To not do so, especially for those who have been forgiven and redeemed through His Son, is unthinkable as well as unbiblical. Take time this year to make thanksgiving to God a daily attitude and lifestyle - and not just something casually done on a single November afternoon of family, food and football!

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Ps 118:2

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A New President. Now What?

The 2016 Presidential election was amazing on many levels. First, there was the potential of the first woman President in U.S. history. And there was also the reality of a fully political Washington outsider, Donald Trump, becoming the 45th President of the United States. And as we know, that is exactly what occurred. Although the results are final, many issues and questions yet remain. And perhaps the foremost of these is the one everyone is still asking - and will for some time to come: What in the world happened to the polls that all had Hillary Clinton winning the office?

Some have declared that many of Trump's unexpected votes came from higher numbers of the minority vote than in the past few elections. It appears at this point that he fared better than expected in this sphere while his opponent did not do quite as well as did the current President did. But what many have seen as highly significant was the support Mr. Trump received from a group that was originally thought to be a potential problem for his candidacy. This was spelled out in the Christian Post article as follows:

Prominent evangelical author Johnnie Moore says conservative Christians concerned about the future of religious liberty and the protection of the unborn were the driving force behind President-elect Donald Trump's surprisingly successful 2016 campaign. Moore, a former senior vice president at Liberty University and a well-respected evangelical humanitarian, spoke with the The Christian Post on Wednesday to offer his thoughts on the impact that the nonprofit organization My Faith Votes had on encouraging the nearly 25 million evangelical voters who stayed home in the last two elections to come out and cast their ballots this time around.

My Faith Votes, a nonpartisan organization whose honorary national chairman is Dr. Ben Carson, was highly active over the last eight months producing television and radio public service announcements that ran in over 110 million households across the United States and urged Christians to follow through on their civic duty to vote. As exit polling numbers show, a greater percentage of white evangelicals voted for Trump than they did for the two previous Republican nominees and President George W. Bush in 2004, According to exit polls, 81 percent of self-identified white evangelical or white born-again Christian voters said they voted for Trump and just 16 percent of those voters said they voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. 

The biggest factors that led more evangelicals to vote for Trump, Moore said, were their concern for religious liberty and Clinton's radical stance on partial-birth and late-term abortions. The spokesperson for the organization told Christian Post that there is no question that My Faith Votes played an "indispensable role" in the 2016 election.

If what Mr. Moore, and others, claim is a large reason for why Trump prevailed on November 8th, then perhaps the reality of the well-known verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14 has come into play. Maybe God’s people humbled themselves, prayed and sought His face when it came to going to the polls and then casting their vote as they felt led. Some may bristle at that notion, but that will not change what may have happened.

But now part two of the election equation is set before these particular voters. And it even applies to the 16% of self-proclaimed white evangelicals who may not have voted for Donald Trump. It is found in the New Testament book of 1Timothy chapter 2. In verses 1-4, the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

This verse means more than it might seem to on the surface especially when considering the context. When Paul instructed Christians back then to pray fervently for kings and all in authority, his words came at a terrible time in church history. Few today give much thought to the kind of leaders and government that believers were living under back then. They were firmly under the heel of the harsh Roman Empire. This is something that those of us living in a free modern day America cannot even conceive of. At times, it was brutal beyond description. And yet, even in that kind of atmosphere, the command came from God to pray for all, live in peace and even to give thanks!

And then, too, Paul added yet another command that must have been beyond difficult for those living when the New Testament was penned. I wonder what my response would have been to this one as well had I lived at that time and under those conditions?  Romans chapter 13 begins, "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Again, imagine reading these words when they were first written while living in the Roman Empire? And yet God was concerned about the attitude and conduct of His people even when those who ruled over them were far from good and just.

When thinking of this scenario in the early church, it is hard to grasp the attitude and actions by some in America today to the election. As far as I know, none of them will be thrown to the lions or into a primitive dungeon by the new administration. So perhaps there needs to be some balance and reconsideration of the blessings of living where they do and under a governing body that was freely elected.

A new administration will soon begin in Washington including a new cabinet and scores of appointments. And the command for those who make up the church in America is to support them through prayer while living God-honoring lives. And why is that so very crucial? First, it is because God has told us to. Also, it is because of what He stated in the above passage. It is to allow us to live a quiet and peaceable life while maintaining an atmosphere that provides the opportunity for others "to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” This is what Paul described as “good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”

As the election confirmed, America remains a deeply divided nation on almost every imaginable front. But the best way to change and temper that is to achieve a supernatural harmony – something that is possible only when people are united under the banner of Christ and live by the principles clearly outlined in the word of God.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Is Trump Good For America?

Recently someone sent me an article asking the question, "Is Trump Good For America?" The piece was supposedly authored by Dr. James Dobson, but I could not find any evidence to back up that claim. So perhaps his name was added to simply give the article some gravitas. But I did see it almost word for word on a Facebook page. Whether or not this represented the one who originally authored it, I have no idea. But despite who penned it, what I read was interesting and did offer some ideas on the election before us.

The basic premise had to do with the suitability of Donald Trump to be the next President should he preside over Mrs. Clinton come Election Day. It spoke about the Republican nominee’s shortcomings such as his demeanor, questionable moral character and his overall views, some of which have not exactly matched up well with many voting evangelicals.

But the author pointed out that, as imperfect as this man may well be, there are times when that can be seen as secondary. He stated that God has often used very imperfect leaders to meet the most critical needs of the hour. His great illustration was England’s Winston Churchill during World War 2. This legendary figure was not exactly the gentle, sweet and moral type. He was often crude and overbearing. And yet it was Churchill who was brought into power when the scourge of Hitler arose. He was one of the key figures who became essential in stemming the tide of evil that was threatening to enslave the entire world.

The author of the blog post put it this way about Churchill.
He had exactly what was needed to stop Hitler at the Channel, to rouse a nation to never give up and to partner with America to find final victory in Europe. You probably wouldn't want him as your pastor, maybe not even your father, but he was the right leader for that moment in England's history.” That illustration could be a positive side when considering a vote for Donald Trump, or anyone for that matter, even if they be far from one’s liking for the office.

But this same question about Trump then came up again just a few days ago through a short online video sent to me by a good Christian friend. When I watched the brief piece, the speaker offered the total opposite take than the one used in the Churchill illustration. In a nutshell, he cited how Christians should never accept any lesser of two evils at the ballot box! He was quite strong in declaring that there is no valid reason to select anyone who does not tow the line as far as Biblical principles are concerned – no matter what is at stake. Maybe he had a passage like Ephesians 5:11 in mind? “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”  And with that conviction in mind, he challenged anyone to cast their vote for anyone who does not outwardly adhere to what God stresses in His word - period!

As I read these two contrasting views, I admit finding some merit in both. There is no doubt that without Churchill’s rising to power when he did the Nazis may well have succeeded in Europe and then ultimately subdued the entire world. And had they done so, we might not even be holding a free election next week. Who knows what would have become of America had Hitler prospered? And think of the impact that would have made on Christian evangelism worldwide. I was reminded of the incident in the book of Daniel and a striking statement found in chapter 4. There the prophet declares, “The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses." God allowed the gifts of an imperfect Churchill to help bring a Hitler down.

God giving kingdoms to those He sometimes does can be extremely hard to understand when looking at the many corrupt and destructive leaders who have caused untold suffering and destruction down through the centuries. But the fact remains that He is sovereign. He does not make mistakes! And He sometimes uses people that we may not like or agree with in order to achieve His precise purposes even in a fallen world. Any doubt about this great truth can be seen in a passage like Ephesians 1:11. Paul writes, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”

The choices available on this Election Day may be far from what we might prefer. They certainly are for me this time around. There were some candidates, early on in the process, who lined up with my views and beliefs far more than what is now being offered. But that is now political water under the bridge. At this juncture, we all have to decide what we will do or not do on the 8th. And do remember that we are voting for a party platform and not only an individual.

Whatever that decision may be, it must be made with full conviction. It must be made with a clear conscience. And it must be one bathed in fervent prayer and with the unwavering confidence that, however it all turns out, God is still sovereign on November 8, 2016 and that "He rules in the affairs of men." 

And, if by chance, the outcome of the election this coming week is not to your liking, or even worse, downright frightening in your mind, then take the blessed advice offered by the sovereign God of all peace found in Philippians 4:8-9.

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you."

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Matthew: More Horror In Haiti

The storm itself is long gone and was one for the record books. And according to CoreLogic, a research and consulting firm, the cost of the storm economically will come in at about $6 billion for insured losses for both residential and commercial properties. Then there are uninsured damages to consider as well. And that does not even count losses related to additional continued flooding and business interruptions. So the total economic damage at this point is still undetermined as the cleanup continues.
But what has been shockingly absent in the discussion of this monster storm is what happened before Hurricane Matthew reached the U.S. Without question the destruction, especially in the Carolinas, was significant.  And that could have been far worse had the storm gone farther inland and not slowed from its previous Category 4 strength. That was anything but the case when Mathew tore through Haiti first – the poorest nation in the entire hemisphere. The damage there was simply staggering. Satellite photos were reminiscent of Katrina or even some shots of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped there in World War II. A huge number of the structures in this struggling country are literal shacks and the kind of fragile buildings that would be hard to even find in America.

Just a few years back, an earthquake struck the country causing unfathomable damage and loss of life. An estimated three million people were affected by the quake and death toll estimates ranged from 100,000 to 160,000 or more! An estimated 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed or were severely damaged. And I heard on the news that, as Matthew approached, that some 40,000 were still living in tents from the killer quake. That is simply hard to wrap your mind around when living in a place like America.

But now this battered nation is again in even more trouble than it already was. This new devastation has been called "apocalyptic" by some. And it was what would be expected with a storm like this in a place like that. The death toll is well over 1,000 and climbing. At least 1.4 million people need serious and live-saving assistance at this time. Some towns and villages have been wiped off the map. Crops and food reserves have been destroyed. Some 300 schools have been damaged, and the fears of a deadly cholera outbreak, similar to what occurred after the 2010 earthquake, are growing.

But what compounds an already tragic situation is what occurred as that the storm stuck full force in an area known as the "bread basket" of Haiti. Now keep that in perspective when considering that Haiti is one of the poorest nations on the planet, and then factor in that some are projecting that 80-90% of the crops in this critical region were damaged or totally wiped out. It is simply hard to fathom this happening to a people who struggled to put food on their tables even before the storm. But what can we do about the carnage and suffering right now?

Perhaps the first answer to that question is simply care – really care (Romans 12:15). That may take some effort since we live where we do and have all that we have. Secondly, we should at least pray. Pray for the people so badly brutalized yet again. Pray for those who are Christians there that they can share their faith with those who have no hope even while they themselves face an indescribable crisis. And lastly, pray. Pray that the world steps up to the plate and gives of their excess to help fund relief organizations like Samaritans Purse to meet both material and spiritual needs in the ravaged nation in the name of Christ. (Galatians 6:10)

"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'  And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'” (Matt.  25:37-40)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New York City’s Oldest Church

Manhattan's oldest church is getting ready to celebrate its 250-year history, which includes worshippers ranging from George Washington to those who searched for victims following the attacks back on 9/11.
Today, St. Paul's Chapel in Lower Manhattan is best known today as the "Little Church that Stood". This title arose after the structure survived unscathed as the World Trade Center towers crumbled across the street back on 9/11. The church was built in 1766 and has been recently renovated. The unveiling will come on its anniversary date, which falls on October 30th. The Chapel is Manhattan's last remaining colonial structure and also houses the oldest monument in New York – one dedicated to American revolutionary war hero, Gen. Richard Montgomery.

When I saw this story, and the age of this historic structure, my interest was immediately piqued for many reasons. First of all, I recall standing in front of this church exactly one year after 9/11 and participating in a special ministry outreach there. Our team literally stood on street corners offering to pray with anyone who was willing and especially with those still struggling with the events that had occurred there one year prior.

But my interest was also because of something occurring very recently. My present church just began holding services in a brand new location, but this is happening in a very old placevery old indeed. The original congregation began way back in 1720. That means that there are just a few years shy of being in existence for 300 years!  I did say old, did I not? The current building, located just a half a mile away form the original, was erected in 1804. It is always intriguing to walk into a sanctuary of that vintage and ponder how many lives have been impacted for Christ in a place that has been in existence since before the nation was even officially born.

But there are scores of beautiful and historic churches located across the country. When driving most anywhere, steeples can be seen rising into the sky from small quiet country communities to busy large cities everywhere. They serve as a reminder of America’s great spiritual foundation and the faith that has been such a deep part of her inner fiber.

And yet, despite what most people think of when they hear the word "church", the Bible primarily refers to something other than these familiar physical structures. Scripture speaks to the church in two primary ways. First it speaks to the universal church in passages like Ephesians 1:22-23. Paul writes, "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." This aspect of the church refers to all who are in the family of God through personal faith in Christ regardless of where they reside.

Then there are the local churches referred to throughout the New Testament. Some of these have epistles named after them. These were literal local congregations who met together at specific places and times when the New Testament was being penned. An example would be seen in 1 Corinthians 1:2. "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus." Again, these were group of true believers who gathered together to worship, fellowship and serve their Lord and Savior.

So the term "church" is used commonly in three distinct ways. There are the physical buildings, such as the historic ones just referred to. There are the local congregations comprised of individual believers who meet at a specific place, even if they have no formal structure at their disposal. And then there is the universal church made up of all true born-again Christians everywhere on earth. So which of the these matters most?

The bottom line is that physical church buildings come and go. How many from the 1700s still exist today like the ones we spoke of at the outset? Local congregations also do not last forever despite how vibrant, valuable and effective they may have been. Most all of the local church bodies addressed in the New Testament no longer exist today.

What matters first and foremost is not what building we meet in and whether it is historic or brand spanking new. The reason that is true is because we may be an active part of a local congregation, meeting in a wonderful structure, and yet have that be fully meaningless in the final analysis. All that really matters is that we have, at some point, trusted Christ as our own Savior. He is the head of the universal churchthe one made up of all who are spiritually born into His family through faith alone. And being a "church member" in this realm is what justifies the lost sinner and opens the door to heaven at life’s end.

Beautiful church buildings, old and new, are indeed a blessing. And belonging to a Bible-believing congregation is a great privilege and responsibility. But if you have never joined the church that is Christ’s universal body, you need to do that now! Simply trust in His ability to forgive sin and accept you into His eternal family. Do just as did the thief that died beside the Lord on the cross. In the very moment this lost soul recognized Christ as deity and trusted Him for salvation, he was granted forgiveness and his place in heaven forever. (Luke 23:43-44) That alone is what it is all about and alone brings the kind of blessing and church membership that lasts for all eternity!

"And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence." (Col 1:18)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

In Which Beginning?

The Nation Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) announced last week that the National Science Foundation approved $9.5 million in funding to expand HERA – the Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array. It is sometimes called the “Cosmic Dawn” telescope.

The project will use radio waves to study the hydrogen atoms that filled the universe around the time that the first stars began to form and discover what the universe looked like as the very first galaxies blazed into existence. The additional $9.5 million in funding will increase the number of radio antennas by more than 10 times what is currently planned, from 19 to 240, by 2018

According to HERA scientists, about a half a million years after the universe exploded into existence with the Big Bang, the cosmos was filled with a thick fog of neutral hydrogen atoms When the first stars were born, an event sometimes called the "cosmic dawn", much of the light they emitted was blocked by the hydrogen fog. Over time, the radiation from those stars and galaxies effectively began to clear away the fog freeing electrons from those neutral hydrogen atoms. The newly formed stars eventually made the universe transparent. This process lasted nearly a billion years and is known as cosmic reionization.

NRAO also stated, “Rather than looking for light from those early stars and galaxies, HERA will study the neutral hydrogen that lies between those early cosmic candles. The telescope's radio antennae's will focus on a specific wavelength that corresponds to light emitted by the slowly vanishing sea of neutral hydrogen that filled the space between the galaxies,"

Did you catch all of that? I’m not sure I did. It is indeed an interesting theory and a bold and expensive scientific endeavor. Is their method correct? Again, I’m not sure partly because I have no idea what they are really doing and how. And also partly because I was not there for the so-called Big Bang or the billion year process they are figuring into their work. And for that matter, neither were they. It always intrigues me when any scientific conclusion begins with presuppositions and not on fully provable facts. And while I marvel at their intellect and zeal for research, there seems to be a far better place to start on this one – but a place that sometimes does not always perfectly line up.

The Bible makes sit clear from its very first words about how everything started. Gen 1:1 states, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." And in verses 14-16 we read, "Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth'; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also." Those of us who believe in the literal 24-hour day periods of biblical creation would feel that the stars could be seen from earth by man, who came into existence on day six according to verses 26-27. This might raise some serious issues with what HERA and others who are presenting that the light from the stars were blocked for extremely lengthy periods of time.

Scripture makes many references to the stars. Most give God the credit for creating them and even paying very special attention to each and every one. Psalm 8:3 again speaks of God’s creative hand. "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained." And Psalm 147:4 goes even beyond that declaring, "He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name." That is a staggering thought!

Again, modern science has made incredible advances in many spheres including astronomy. And most of what they have accomplished has helped mankind in general making life on the planet far better than it would have been otherwise. I am as grateful as anyone for so many of the blessings that have come through the efforts of so many dedicated and gifted minds.

But the problem arises when God is not part of the equation and, even worse, completely bypassed despite the rather obvious evidence of His existence and creative power. The problem comes when some discovery of how some complex part of the universe works receives more glory than does the One who designed, made and maintains it all.

So just why is giving God the credit He deserves first so crucial? The answer is seen in Romans 1:20-23. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools" Then verse 28 adds, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting." The word "debased" means worthless or unable to judge simple right from wrong or truth from error.

The bottom-line for why humanity is in the overall mess it now is, begins with not properly glorifying God. It arises from going about as though man knows best how to live and has no need of any relationship with his Creator. This is severely compounds the problem when there is then no sense of personal sin and thus no need for a personal Savior to save anyone from it. These have become the tragic embodiment of Psalm 53:1. “The fool has said in his heart, There is no God." And that view has certain devastating eternal consequences!

The vast creation of almighty God is a miraculous and mysterious thing indeed. Only the infinite God could have made what is there. (Col.1:16) And the only thing that can match, and even exceed it, is the spiritual creation of a fully forgiven soul through faith in God’s Son as described in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Protesting The National Anthem

The San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, recently set off a national firestorm when he publicly protested during the playing of the National Anthem before an NFL game. He then did the same again by kneeling during the anthemthis time during the team's season opener on Monday Night Football and just one day after the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

Kaepernick says it is a protest is against the treatment of  "black people and people of color" in the U.S. and that when he feels that the flag represents what it's supposed to represent in this country, then he will again stand during the song. Obviously controversy has arisen within the NFL and around the entire nation with some taking his side and others finding his actions out of place and deplorable.

The NFL quarterback, and those who support him, declare that his public protest is within his constitutional rights. And like it or not, that is the reality of the matter. But I find it interesting that the very first thing used to defend his freedom to protest the anthem is the same document that gives him the right to follow his present course of actions. It is this document that enables him to freely live out the American dream on the massive scale he today enjoys. I wonder how his public and political words and actions would be met had he been offering them up in Iran, Iraq or North Korea?

Is America perfect when it comes to racial equality and total harmony of all who reside within her borders? Of course not. But America has come a long way and was at least founded on a vision and  principles that pretty much were. First there was the Declaration of Independence. The beginning of this great document set the tone for what would hopefully follow. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It began stating that "all were created equal" and therefore were deserving of fair and equal treatment and opportunity. That was the goal and foundation even if those things were badly lacking at the time and an obvious work in progress for many years to come.

Then came the Constitutionanother historical masterpiece and one devised to protect a way of life that has been the envy of the entire world since its inception. The preamble reads, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." This companion document contains the Bill of Rights. These are the first 10 amendments therein and  protect "we the people" in nearly every imaginable area of life and from almost every area of domestic tyranny.

Again, is America perfect? No. But she is certainly far ahead of whoever is in second place. Even the constitution recognizes that when it opens with, "in Order to form a more perfect Union." That’s a "more perfect union" meaning that flaws would exist and needed to be addressed. The authors recognized that national perfection would never be a total reality because most of them knew we live in a fallen and sinful world. But the intention was at least there and the vehicles put in place to pursue that lofty goal over time.

Colin Kaepernick has the right to protest what he feels is an to be an injustice. And again, it would be wrong to say that no such thing exists todayin many differing areas of life. For example, increasing and unchecked persecution of Christians and Christianity would be firmly in the mix. So perhaps he might consider balancing out some of his criticism with what American has afforded so many along with him in his young life.

Maybe Mr. Kaepernick could try taking his special skills to a more fair-minded and just place elsewhere in the world and try to make the insane amounts of money playing a game here? Maybe he should consider buying his own small nation with the vast sums of money that a life in an imperfect culture has provided him? Or maybe he should just simply trade places with 99% of the world’s people who would give anything, including risking their lives to get into a nation where things are not quite "perfect" enough for his liking? And maybe he would rather reside somewhere with absolutely no rights at all or the ability to vote to enable the changes in the society he feels need to be made?

Or maybe, just maybe, this highly blessed man could pause and thank God for being able to live, thrive and even speak his mind in the most perfect, while imperfect, nation on the face of the earth? Just saying!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

9/11 And The Ultimate Remembrance

This Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of the day that changed the modern world. And of course that would be non other than 9/11. It was a day like no other and will never be forgotten by those old enough to remember the mind-boggling horror that occurred in just a few short hours on a crisp beautiful September morning. While many went through their typical routines around the country, thousands of unsuspecting souls were brutally and abruptly thrust into eternity. The surreal scene of the mighty World Trade Center in New York crumbling seems as frightfully fresh in our minds today as when we watched it a decade and a half ago.

And yet enough time has passed now that something seemingly unique and sad is occurring. With 15 years having passed since this event, there are growing numbers of younger Americans who have no real recollection of the day that will forever impact their lives. All of those born since September 11, 2001, and many who were very young at the time, do not have a first hand remembrance of it all. If they know anythingand some know very little, it may be from a casual history lesson in school or some other brief encounter with the facts that likely don’t do justice to the enormity of the event.

Remembering certain key things in life is crucial. It has been said, and is fairly accurate, that those who forget all about history are often doomed to repeats its mistakes. And the reality of that can be seen through many troubling examples down through the years. What happened in World War II would be a sobering illustration.

But there is another form of remembrance that is even more important than the historical or any other. It is essential because it resides in the realm of the spiritual. This special and most critical kind of remembering occurred in the account of the crucifixion of Christ in Luke 23. The Savior had been placed between two condemned criminals who were being executed with him. While suffering and dying, one of the two men began taunting Him. The account begins in verse 39. “Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, 'If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.' But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.' Then he said to Jesus, 'Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.'"

Somehow this one thief recognized, while dying along side of Jesus, that he himself was a sinner. He somehow understood that the man next to him was indeed God in the flesh and was therefore capable of saving and justifying him. In essence he said, "Lord remember that I’m spiritually lost. And Lord please remember to save me and take me with you to your heavenly kingdom when I shortly breathe my last." The Lord’s instant response comes in verse 43. “And Jesus said to him, 'Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.'" In other words, the Savior confirmed that He would remember this man’s dying confession of saving faith and, based on that alone, guaranteed him forgiveness and a place in heaven forever.

This weekend is the anniversary of 9/11 and many will be remembering the day that changed the world – and with good reason. But what occurred on that day was not about crashing planes, burning buildings, rescue efforts or a revitalized war on terror. It is again about the precious lives that were lost that day. These can never be rebuilt or replaced.

On that fateful day, all who perished entered eternity in one of two conditions. They were either saved or they were forever lost. They either had Christ as Savior or did not according to 1 John 5:11-12. And those who were redeemed will have said to Christ at some point in life, "Lord remember me. Lord I cannot save myself. Lord I  trust You alone to forgive and make me right before God." And all who had done that prior to departing this life on 9/11 gained paradise just like the poor soul who died along side of the One who died in his place on the cross.

Being ready at a moment's notice to face God, whether in a burning building, a falling plane or through natural causes, is as simple as asking Christ to remember you as a sinner – but one who trusts Him fully as your Savior. He is the One who died for us all and who waits for all to call upon Him in for redemption. There are many valuable things in life worth remembering, but never forget to remember the one thing that matters most in life and especially in death!

"Remember , O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your loving kindnesses, For they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness' sake, O LORD.”  (Psalm 25:6-7)

Bill Breckenridge

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Can Terrorism Really Be Defeated??

It is one of the primary issues of the hour. And the impact and effects of terrorism are reaching to nearly every part of the globe today. It is a term familiar to most all of us, but exactly how is it officially defined and can it really be stopped?

The simple definition in the Merriam Webster is as follows: "The unlawful use or threat of violence especially against the state or the public as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion." The United States Department of Defense defines terrorism as "The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological."

Of course the idea of terrorizing is not limited to the large scale kinds of things we are witnessing today. This activity can occur in the home, the back yard,  the school yard and on the job. But presently we are dealing world-wide primarily with the likes of ISIS and others like them. And the source, as we all know, is, for the most part, a form of radical Islam that has reared its evil head yet once again in human history.

The word “terrorism” comes from the French Revolution. The so-called “Reign of Terror” was once used as an instrument of state policy. But the history of terrorism in general is as old as man’s willingness to use threats and violence to pressure others and bend their will or behavior.

But, today, because international terrorism has grown so fierce, sophisticated and pervasive, it has the entire globe on edge and trying to somehow solve the rising menace. It allows small groups, or even an individual, to exert an influence disproportionate to their size. And groups are hard to even find because they do not exist in any one place, at one time or under one government.

Recently, I did a quick search online that revealed hundreds of articles on how to defeat global terrorism. The ideas covered the entire spectrum. But there was but one idea that stuck out as unique. The title read as follows: "The only way to defeat terrorism is the cross". Amazing!

I could hardly believe that someone actually wrote that. I can only assume that, because terrorism is at its root sin, the author believed best way to cure it is to deal directly with sin. It is quite something indeed in today's climate to suggest that what Jesus Christ did on the cross is sufficient to deal with this brutal ideology and practice. And just why would anyone offer such a cure? It is because those who accept Christ are not only forgiven of sin, but, the Bible says, they receive a new heart and can be released from sin's power. They become an all new creation according to according to 2 Corinthians 5:17. This is a ministry of God's Holy Spirit and is known in theological terms as "regeneration".

Political and military solutions are interesting, difficult, costly and just semi-effective at best. But to eradicate terrorism the real way requires that man's inner hatred be replaced by God’s supernatural love and a respect for life - all life. That may sound oversimplified, but it is the truth!

Also, for those today who live in fear of some form of terror attack befalling them, there is a far greater danger according to God’s word. The Apostle Paul wrote these chilling words in 2 Corinthians 5:10-11: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.’" In Matthew 10:28, Jesus Christ shared what life's main concern or terror truly is. "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."  And Hebrews 10:31 adds, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

Facing God someday without Christ as Savior is, and should be, the most terrifying and fearful thing anyone can possibly imagine. Actually, it is down right unimaginable!
Terrorism is very complicated in some ways and very simple in others. For those who are the aggressors and perpetrators, and for all of their victims, the solution is the exactly the same – the cross of Jesus Christ! The power and impact of salvation in Christ can defeat the mentality that fuels this wretched scourge while spiritually preparing any caught in its cruel path to face it. Those in Christ have the peace and security that they are justified with God and therefore able to confidently face Him even in a moments notice. Again, both doing terrorism and dealing with terrorism find their ultimate solution in Christ!
"Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Single Life of Faithful Service

Author, pastor and prophet Tim LaHaye died of a stroke on Monday, July 15th. He was 90. LaHaye was perhaps best known for his "Left Behind" end-times series with co-author Jerry B. Jenkins. LaHaye spent over 60 years in the pulpit and wrote more than 60 books, many of which revolved around prophetic issues and subjects.

During his ministry he led multiple churches, including Shadow Mountain, which is now pastored by David Jeremiah. LaHaye also co-authored the 16-book "Left Behind" series, which sold more than 80 million copies. The series topped the best-selling lists of The New York Times, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal.

For most of his ministry he was married to Beverly Ratcliffe. The couple wed in 1947. Mrs. LaHaye was likewise a giant in the Christian community and founded Concerned Women for America in 1979. It was the nation's largest public policy organization for women with a membership of 600,000. Their work as a team prompted Time magazine to name the LaHayes "The Christian Power Couple" in 2005. He was also listed as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America. Wheaton College named LaHaye the most influential leader in evangelical Christianity in 2001 — coming in ahead of leaders the caliber of Billy Graham, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell.

LaHaye also founded two accredited Christian high schools, a school system of ten Christian schools and San Diego Christian College, formerly known Christian Heritage College. In 1972, he co-founded the Institute for Creation Research with the late Dr. Henry Morris. Other ministries that he founded or co-founded include Tim LaHaye Ministries, the Pre-Trib Research Center and the Tim LaHaye School of Prophecy at Liberty University.

De. LaHaye is survived by his wife, Beverly, four children, nine grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, one brother and one a sister.

This man was certainly one of the giants of the Christian faith. The impact he made was enormous and continues on through his decades of faithful service to God. And his full influence for the kingdom will not be realized until it can be seen in eternity. He was a spiritually gifted and brilliant man. But most importantly, he was found faithful!

Few will ever possess the gifts of Tim LaHaye or others like him. That is just the reality. But the Bible does not say we can, or all, should be a Tim LaHaye. Scripture simply confirms that we are to give our best back to God with whatever He has blessed us with to serve Him. That is certainly seen in the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. There we read of a man traveling on a long journey and who gave three servants each specific investments to work with and increase upon. The two who were given the most doubled what they had been left with. But the servant given the least simply ignored his share and did absolutely nothing with it. This decision would find him later suffering the wrath of his expectant, but highly disappointed, master.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 4:3, "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." The Greek word for "steward" is basically a manager of a household or one who is an overseer. And that is precisely the position that every believer in Christ has been given. Some have been given larger areas of service to attend to than others, but that is not the issue. What matters is that each has been granted a gift or gifts from the Holy Spirit that are to be faithfully nurtured, used and invested. They are to never be ignored or hidden away as did the lazy and unfaithful servant just mentioned.

In the parable in Matthew 25, the reward for faithfulness for serving God is also revealed. I’m sure Tim LaHaye has already heard these words or something similar. "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' And if we are to hear the same when we someday stand before God, we must give the Lord our consistent best now being motivated by all that He has done for us!

"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." (Colossian 3:23-24)
Bill Breckenridge