Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Miraculous Island Rescue

A TV crew for Animal Planet's show River Monster was out on the sea filming last November. Suddenly,  they came across a man on a largely deserted Australian island. The team was trying to solve the mystery of a plane that had crashed killing all six aboard near the Gulf of Carpenaria. It is a large, shallow sea enclosed on three sides by northern Australia.

The director of the Inside Edition program stated that, while doing their research, a semi-naked man came running from a cave waving his arms in the air. Apparently he had been out fishing when he decided to leave his boat to go find better oysters. But when he tried to walk back on the hot beach he was overwhelmed by the sun, suffered from sunstroke and was unable to go any further.

No one knew Tremine, a roofer from Borroloola, Australia was even missing. He had been stranded without supplies for almost 3 days. After his unlikely rescue, he revealed that he had said his last prayer and was “prepared to die”.  And had the TV crew not showed up when they did, he would have likely perished there all alone.

It is hard to imagine how it would feel to be in this particular man’s boat. No pun intended. Of course there was the physical discomfort and his emotional pain of second guessing why he put himself in the position to die helpless and alone. This man was literally facing the real life circumstances portrayed in a so-called reality show on the Discovery Channel called ‘Naked and Afraid’. This program finds two strangers dropped off in a hostile wilderness environment with literally nothing. They must then use their wits to survive for 21 days. The difference here is that the show does have emergency medical and rescue crews in the area if anything goes really wrong. And for the record, I don’t recommend the program because of the inappropriate and graphic content as the title reveals.

But it was encouraging to hear Tremine state that he had prayed and was therefore ready to face death. To some that may sound simplistic and just wishful thinking. And that may, or may, not be the case depending on what that prayer is and to whom it is addressed!

In Luke 18:10-14, Jesus shared a story of two men. Both prayed and the details of their words are recorded as is the result. Verse 10 begins, "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.'  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

In this account, the Pharisee prayed to emphasize his own supposed righteousness before God and thus why he deserved to be justified based on his own good works or lack of sin. But the man who was seen as a sinner most in that day admitted his own sinfulness and that it was God’s grace alone that could forgive him and make him spiritually right. Both prayed. Both prayed to the same God even. But only one prayer resulted in true Biblical justification. These few verses epitomize what so much of the world does not grasp as far as what legitimate salvation is all about.

If there is one verse that sums this all up better than any other, it is Ephesians 2:8-9. It is the passage that led my own mother to Jesus Christ many years ago. The Apostle Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Redemption is about faith and grace - period!

I sincerely hope that this rescued roofer from Australia, not only prayed to God in those desperate hours, but that he prayed the right prayer to the right God as did that desperate tax collector back in Jesus’ day. And those who do the same today, no matter what terrible circumstances may befall them, need never be afraid of facing anything alone including standing before their Creator some day. They are never truly alone now and then!

"For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you ."  So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"  (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Achieving World Peace - Really?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently visited the revered Hiroshima atomic bombing memorial in Japan. The occasion for being there was a meeting with foreign ministers from the G7 nations. Kerry delivered a message of peace and hope for a nuclear-free world some seven decades after United States used the weapon for the first time in history against Japan thus bringing Word War II to a quicker end.

 At one point, the Secretary wrote in the museum's guestbook, "Everyone in the world should see and feel the power of this memorial. It is a stark, harsh, compelling reminder not only of our obligation to end the threat of nuclear weapons, but to rededicate all our effort to avoid war itself. This memorial compels us all to redouble our efforts to change the world, to find peace and build the future so yearned for by citizens everywhere."

Shortly before the ceremony, Kerry called the gathering "a moment that I hope will underscore to the world the importance of peace and the importance of strong allies working together to make the world safer and, ultimately, we hope to be able to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction."

If there is one thing that is in the minds of most in our world today it is the issue of peace. If you go to, you’ll find the following definitions there. First comes what they term the "simple definition" of peace. This includes a state in which there is no war or fighting, an agreement to end a war or a period of time when there is no war or fighting. That is followed by a "full definition" of peace. Under that category they list things like a state of tranquility or quiet, freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions, harmony in personal relations or a state or period of mutual concord between governments.

Peace, in any of these forms, is a treasured and sought after commodity. Just ask anyone who lacks it in any sphere and on any level. Countless millions suffer daily in unimaginable ways and perhaps can’t even fathom what it would be like to experience even the smallest slice of peace in their lives. And sadly, those who do have it for a time often take it for granted. But true and lasting peace, on the world scene, is simply not going to happen – at least for the present. The reason is simple. There is sin in the world, and thus there will always be pain, aggression and conflict as a result.

But most everyone in their right mind, and there are some who are not, covets peace. And gaining and maintaining peace should always be the goal, even if the desired outcome does not come as a result. For example, the Bible says in Romans 12:17-18, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” And verse 21 adds, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  That is God’s preference and should be ours as well. But because of the reality of sin and evil, making and sustaining peace in a fallen and evil world does not often work. This is true from playground strife all the way to nation rising against nation! And true peace will never really work until Jesus Christ, the Price of Peace, returns and makes it fully work through His mighty will and power.

But what always works, even in a broken and chaotic world, is the personal peace of God. That comes as a part of God’s great redemption plan and package. Even the most casual study of the concept of  "peace" in the New Testament quickly confirms that. This tangible spiritual asset is always available for those who have trusted Christ as their personal Savior. Here are just a few verses of confirmation for starters:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
  (John 16:33)

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
  (Romans 15:13)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
(Galatians 5:22-23)

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." 
(John 14:26-28)

Yes, peace in general is a precious, but often fragile and illusive, thing in a harsh world. But personal inner peace is a promised asset and is always there for every follower of Jesus Christ. That is not just wishful thinking or some hit-or-miss proposition. God's unique peace is an unwavering  guarantee  as the above verses, and others like them, assure. And to not take full advantage of this most priceless of all blessings in this uncertain life is not only sad, but simply hard to fathom on any level.

“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.”
(Philippians 4: 6-7)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Truth About The Walking Dead?

There are times when something you hear about, or are somehow exposed to, will suddenly trigger a response that is odd or unexpected. Such was the case with me just recently. It arose from the finale of a very popular TV show and one that most everyone is aware of by now.

Without question, nearly anything and everything can be found on cable these days. And a good portion of what is available is certainly far from acceptable. This show, for me, fits solidly in that category. Actually, when you get past sports, news, weather, the Food Network and a few decent kids' programs, good material seems to be quite limited depending on your standard of what is fully appropriate. At home, we have just the standard cable features, with nothing extra except Disney and Hallmark. But even so, we have literally blocked 30-40 percent of the regular channels due to the shady and violent content they spew out 24/7. We should probably ask for a discount from the company considering what we feel we cannot watch on their current menu.

But this past week, a very popular program ended its sixth season with its much anticipated finale.  It is a show I do not watch nor care to. "The Walking Dead" premiered in the U.S. on October 31, 2010 on cable television. Nielsen ratings have been unprecedentedly high for a cable series, including averaging the most 18- to 49-year-old viewers of any cable or broadcast television series during its third through sixth seasons. The series has been renewed for a 16-episode seventh season which will debut in October. Sunday’s episode of the drama pulled in an average of 14.2 million viewers and a 6.9 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic.

"The Walking Dead" is an American horror drama based on the comic book series. The show's lead character, sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes, awakens from a months-long coma to find himself in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by flesh-eating zombies. Grimes is reunited with his family and becomes the leader of a group along with other survivors. Together they try to survive against the aggressive monsters and some humans who are nearly as brutal as the zombies themselves. The theme will remind some of the 1968 cult classic movie "Night of The Living Dead" that had much the same plot. Again, the rather gruesome content and repetitious story line creates no interest personally for me.

But as was mentioned at the outset, the recent heavy advertising of the show’s finale somehow reminded my of a spiritual truth – and a very difficult one at that. The title "The Walking Dead" suddenly shifted my focus to what tragically describes a huge segment of humanity – even the majority of it. I was reminded that all who are outside of God’s family of faith are literally dead. They may have physical life for a time. They eat, sleep, breathe, work and walk. But their hearts are spiritually dead even as they go through the motions of this life. It is sometimes hidden on the surface, but it is a horrific, but very real condition none the less!

In 1 Timothy 5:6 the Apostle Paul gave an illustration of the same. “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.” But a far better example of how this can be true came from the lips of Jesus Himself in Mathew 8:19-22. “Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, 'Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.' And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.' Then another of His disciples said to Him, 'Lord, let me first go and bury my father.' But Jesus said to him, 'Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'"

So just who were the "dead" that the Lord spoke of  here? They certainly possessed living and functioning physical bodies if they were capable of burying someone who had died. But because they had no part in Christ, and His great salvation, they were "the walking dead" spiritually speaking. That is a form of death that, if not cured, leads an eternal wrath that is too terrible to be humanly grasped. (Matt 10:28, Heb. 10:31)

But the solitary cure for this deadly disease is described throughout the Scriptures. Verses like John 3:16, Romans 10:9 and Ephesians 2:8-9 lay it out precisely well. These reveal how to reverse the curse, by faith in Christ, and thereby take full advantage of God's forgiveness by His redemptive plan. And the end result of how anyone can go from being part of "The Living Dead" to becoming a member of "The Living Alive" is also beautifully depicted in Romans 8:10-11:

“And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

Bill Breckenridge