Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Case For Christ

Last night my family made its way to a local theater. It is something we rarely ever do because there is rarely anything these days we feel is worth going to see. So this was a rare exception.

The film opened across the country just a week before Good Friday. That timing was no accident because of the theme. The title is "The Case For Christ". If that sounds at all familiar, there is a reason. The movie was created from a best-selling book by Lee Strobel that has sold some 14 million copies worldwide since the early '80s when it was authored.

The basic premise is this. Mr. Strobel set out to disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He had become angered when his wife became a born-again believer. So in order to do this, the award winning investigative reporter for The Chicago Tribune put all of his considerable talents to work for almost two full years. He was certain that Christianity could not stand up to any real and deep scientific analysis. And his research left no possible angle uncovered. But the more the reporter dug into the known facts, the more he found the exact opposite of what he set out to prove. To make a long story short, he eventually gave in to the reality that Christ was real, died on the cross, was resurrected from the grave and was who He claimed to be – God in the flesh and the Savior of mankind.

This most powerful film was, in my estimation, able to accomplish two great feats at once. First, it serves as an amazing witness to those who might feel like Lee Strobel who was a committed atheist. The film left no doubt as to the veracity of the Gospel accounts surrounding the resurrection. For any who may themselves doubt, or know someone who is rejecting Christ on any level, this would be the film that could speak to their disbelieving heart and change everything!

But the other aspect of "The Case For Christ" is how inspiring it is to those who have already come to Christ through faith. The film, as revealed through Strobel’s careful research, pointed out various aspects that prove out the Biblical accounts. He cites the massive support of the manuscript evidence for the New Testament, expert testimonies from the physiological and medical communities, and other aspects of Biblical criticism and historical data. These all helped Lee Strobel come to the conclusion of the reality and significance of the crucifixion and resurrection of God's Son.

As the film stated, the resurrection is indeed at the core of Christianity. Remove or disprove it, and the faith becomes null and void as is verified in 1 Corinthians 15:16-18. “For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen, And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” But since the resurrection is true, Christ is truly God and therefore able to be the sacrifice for sin and the Savior of man!

If, when you read this, the film is still around, do yourself a favor and take it in. Or perhaps do someone you know who desperately needs Christ a bigger favor, and take them to see it. Either way it is a win, win! You will be encouraged in your faith, or, even better, perhaps see someone come to the saving faith you already possess.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18-19)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Affordable Care Act. Now What?

As everyone now knows, the repeal of Omabacare by the new Republican Party leadership did not go as hoped for or expected. House leaders recently pulled their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. President Trump said he agreed to do that once Paul Ryan made it clear that the legislation lacked the votes to pass. In subsequent remarks, both Trump and Ryan indicated they were ready to move on from health care to other issues. But that remains to be seen.
Over and over again, GOP leaders argued that their proposal represented the party’s best chance to kill and then fix Obamacare. But efforts to corral enough Republicans failed. That occurred mostly because leaders were dealing with two separate groups whose interests apparently did not fully line up.
To summarize what happened, some conservatives worried that repeal didn’t go far enough, while moderates worried that it went a little too far. And every effort Republican leaders made to appease one group seemed to alienate the other. Regardless of what happens now, and as Republicans regroup for another attempt down the road, health care is likely to remain a subject of intense interest and controversy.
Without question, health care is a major concern for the American people. Any who do not have coverage can feel quite vulnerable and worried about something major happening that would be beyond their ability to handle financially. And it is rather obvious that one’s health has great impact on most every other aspects of life. And any who lives with serious issues in this realm will quickly attest to that sobering reality.
But physical health problems vary from person to person. Some seem live to ripe old ages and experience relatively few issues along the way. Then others seem to have problems almost from day one. And of course there are accidents and others circumstances that bring physical and medical hardships and suffering. But in the end none are fully immune. That is simply a consequence of human sin and eventually everyone sees the physical decline of the human body and then death at some point.
The subject of health care seems to be an ever-present subject in the nation. That will likely not end anytime in the foreseeable future no matter which party is in power. But what does not seem to be much of an issue, despite being far more important ultimately, is the spiritual health of a deeply divided nation. Not nearly as many seem to worry about their spiritual health and eternal destiny as they do about their real and nagging, but temporary, physical issues.
Health care coverage in America is viewed as almost a birth right. Sadly, the spiritual re-birth described clearly in God’s word is often not even part of life’s equation. That is tragic and dangerous on many levels. But while the powers that be squabble about how to best care for the physical needs of an entire nation, perhaps its citizens should begin placing all of their collective needs in the hands of a much higher power. And the wisdom of how to do that, and the result of doing so, is spelled out in Proverbs 3:5-8.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.  It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.”  

It is God alone who can meet all of  the needs and concerns of this life and fully prepare us for the life to follow - one where there will be no more death, sorrow or pain! (Rev. 21:4)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

David Rockefeller Gone at 101

Bank executive, philanthropist and oil fortune heir David Rockefeller died on Monday morning March 20th.  He was 101. The grandson of John D. Rockefeller Sr. and a former chairman and CEO of The Chase Manhattan Bank, died in his sleep of apparent congestive heart failure.

Rockefeller was born in June of 1915. He graduated from Harvard in 1936 and earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago in 1940.  He was reported to be valued at some 3.3 billion dollars at his death. And he is credited with giving away some $2 billion to various causes along the way. He had pledged to donate at least half of his fortune during his life or in his will. The entire family today is said to be worth an estimated at about 11 billion dollars in all.

It is hard for the average person to begin to fathom possessing a fortune like this or anything even close. According to an article in Inside Wealth, the U.S. today has a total of some 10.4 millionaires. And there are now 145,000 U.S. households worth $25 million or more. And another source state that, as of 2016, there were 540 billionaires in the US.  The U.S. Census Bureau reported that almost 12% of households in the U.S. now earn between $100,000 - $150,000 yearly.

But wealth is a relative thing. In some places in the world, there are those who are considered filthy rich who would fall well below the poverty level in America. And then, tragically, there are those who are unable to make any living at all and exist on the literal verge of starvation and death  – with some losing that battle daily. One source said that about 21,000 die of hunger each day and over 7 ½ million each year.

But what does the Bible teach about the place of money in the lives who have it in abundance or may have more than they need to live?  There is no clearer passage on that question than the one seen in 1Timothy 6:19.  “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,  storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

Then too, in Hebrews 13 we find that the worship God includes words about sharing with others who may be in need. Verse 15 begins. “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.” But how many of us ever consider that our sharing with others in need is a literal form of sacrifice and worship to our God?

In Revelation 3 we read of the Laodicean church. It is labeled ‘The Lukewarm Church’. And many Bible scholars feel this is referring to the overall church of our modern day. But even if not, it still warms about having an attitude where material prosperity interferes with, or totally overshadows, spiritual maturity and the priority of a God-centered life for a Christian.

I know that David Rockefeller gave away vast sums of his fortune while he was alive and perhaps more even after his passing. He is to be highly commended for that and has left a great legacy in the process. Multitudes have bee blessed by his generosity over the years. But what I don’t know is whether or not he had ever become ‘rich’ in Christ before he died. If not, despite his great charitable efforts, it won’t mean anything personally as far as his final destiny in eternity is concerned

For those who have the means to help others materially speaking, some specific, interesting and encouraging promises are offered in Psalm 41:1-3. And perhaps this is worthy of serious and prayerful consideration in light of what is declared there.

“Blessed is he who considers the poor;

The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.

The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive,

And he will be blessed on the earth;

You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.

The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness;

You will sustain him on his sickbed.”

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

'The Shack' - Fact, Fiction or Heresy?

It began as a book that was initially self-published with relatively few copies in print. But it gradually grew into something much more and sold some 10 million copies. It was translated into over thirty languages on its way to becoming one of the best-selling paperback books of all time. But the novel ‘The Shack’ has had no shortage of controversy surrounding it and now the new movie version has just been released.

So what is this successful book that is based on Christian themes all about? And more importantly, is there anything that Christians should be warned about? Or should they even avoid all together? The Christian Broadcasting network said of the new movie the following on their website:

"Mack is a dedicated dad with a troubled past. While on a family camping trip, Mack's daughter is kidnapped while he is distracted by a canoe accident involving his other children. Police determine that his daughter was murdered by a serial killer in a hunting shack, but do not find her body. Some time later, Mack finds a note in his mailbox asking him to come back to the shack where his daughter was killed. It is signed by "Papa," which is the name his wife calls God. A suspicious Mack tells no one about the note except his friend and neighbor, Willie, and goes to the shack while the rest of his family is away for the weekend. At first he finds no one there, but a man passing by invites him to walk. It turns out that the man is Jesus, and he leads Mack to a beautiful mountain cottage inhabited by "The Trinity:" "Papa," portrayed as a maternal woman the Holy Spirit, portrayed as a quietly mysterious woman; and Jesus himself. As Mack becomes acquainted with the Godhead, they lead him on a journey of faith and forgiveness.’ End of quote. The review also stated that 'The Shack deals with spiritual themes and questions from beginning until the credits roll."

But considering all of the controversy surround the novel, and now new movie, the question remains are these themes things handled in a Biblically accurate way? And also, if they are not, is the average Christian today spiritually grounded enough to even know that when they see it?

I have not seen this film or read the book and therefore cannot make final judgment on it. But others who do know what it is about have offered their thoughts. And I found that someone that I highly respect, and who is more than qualified to offer a expert opinion, has indeed spoken out forcefully and comprehensively on this book and film.

He is Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. and he serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world. Time.com has called him the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.” In addition, Dr. Mohler hosts two radio  programs, writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural and theological issues. So exactly what does this highly respected and brilliant scholar think on the subject of this book and movie? That question was answered at length in his recent article titled, ‘The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment’.  I highly encourage you to read the entire blog post can be found here.

One great way to get a full and fast grasp on what this book and movie is all about is to visit this blog link just shared and take in the sobering comments from a man who is more than qualified to label harmful spiritual issues when he sees them. To make a long story short, this respected theologian has major concerns with ‘The Shack’.  He points out grave errors with views about the Trinity. There are major flaws with how God views sin, judgment and especially concerning salvation. Apparently the book declares a form of universal salvation and that coming to Christ is just the 'best' way but not the only way. These are more than minor mistakes and are the reason why Mohler uses the tern ‘heresy’ when speaking to what this book teaches.

But there was one other aspect that he pointed out concerning ‘The Shack. Here are just a few of his closing comments that are closely related to the issue. And I quote:

"In evaluating the book, it must be kept in mind that The Shack is a work of fiction. But it is also a sustained theological argument, and this simply cannot be denied. The crucial question is whether the aberrant doctrines are features of the story or the message of the work. When it comes to The Shack, the really troubling fact is that so many readers are drawn to the theological message of the book, and fail to see how it conflicts with the Bible at so many crucial points."

And then he adds this most sobering paragraph: “All this reveals a disastrous failure of evangelical discernment. The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity. The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us — a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine.”

Perhaps you have read this book, know someone who has, or have even seen the new movie already. If so, and If you are a Christian, you need to compare that what you observed to what your Bible actually teaches. And you need to be ready to lovingly and truthfully engage those who might be wrongly influenced by this film and may thus feel 'spiritually safe' when the exact opposite may be the case.

The Shack can be used as a tool, despite its flaws, if it opens a dialog between those who need Christ as Savior and those who know Him now. But to do that, believers must be fully grounded in the truth of Scripture and willing to take a stand for the same. May that be true of each of us and may we be the ever present light of Christ in this difficult and darkening world.

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."  (2 Timothy 2:15)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Richest Man The World?

A recent article from Marketwatch.com offered insight into the wealthiest men in the world. According to the recent Forbes list of the world’s richest men, it was no surprise to see Microsoft founder Bill Gates coming in first with a staggering $86 billion. Warren Buffet came it at $76 million, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at $50 billion, and President Donald Trump weighing in, too, but only with a paltry $3.7 million.

What the article also mentioned was that there may be others who are worth more than even Mr. Gates but who fail to make the list. This is because of how they got their wealth and because their total worth may not be properly documented or accounted for. The primary example is President Putin of Russia.

Bill Browder, a former fund manager in Russia, stated the following to CNN. “I believe that Putin is worth $200 billion. After 14 years in power of Russia, and the amount of money that the country has made, and the amount of money that hasn’t been spent on schools and roads and hospitals and so on, all that money is in property, bank, Swiss bank accounts, shares, hedge funds, managed for Putin and his cronies.”

Also, John Oliver, on HBO’s Last Week Tonight program, stated that nothing about Putin’s finances adds up. He said that the list of the leader’s extravagances aren’t possible on his reported $100,000 salary. These include 58 planes and helicopters, 20 palaces and country retreats, and a billion-dollar home somewhere on the Black Sea.

It is one thing for someone to become wealthy beyond the imagination through honest endeavors and hard work, but it is another thing altogether to do it at the expense of others and through the suffering of those that are under your care. And that kind of greed is due to the influence of human sin!

The Bible talks at length about the spiritual dangers that accompany the out of control pursuit of worldly riches. No two passages say it better than James 4 and Matthew 6. James spells out a stern warning to those who place their priorities on material goods. He begins in verse 13, “Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.'  But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil."

And in Chapter 5, James continues. “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire.”

Then Jesus addressed the subject directing His words at those whose priorities are mainly materialistic. In Matthew 6, He declared, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Then in Verse 24, He added, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” That could not have been made much more clear!

Most of us cannot even begin to grasp what it is like to be worth 86 billion dollars. Many in the world today cannot even fathom an amount like $8,600 for that matter. And, yes, having massive sums of money can make life much easier and fun on many levels – for now! But eventually the very poor and the outrageously rich will all face the same thing at life’s end. The playing field will be fully leveled when each stands before his or her Creator. But none will be asked how much they owned or amassed in this life. That will be more irrelevant in that moment then we can can ever imagine. What will be asked instead is how rich we have been in faith. And not just any faith. Each one must offer up what, if anything, their personal faith in Jesus Christ was worth and how they lived in the light of that. Riches will take on a whole new meaning immediately and forever more!

After His warning about keeping material possessions in their proper perspective, the Lord laid out how to do just that in Matt. 6:31-33. He stated simply what not to do along with what to do. "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” 

This life is about laying up permanent treasure now for the next life. And that can only occur when the Author of all life comes first and foremost!

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Five-time Super Bowl MVP

This year’s Super Bowl pitted the Atlanta Falcons against the football dynasty New England Patriots. The franchise has been led seemingly forever by its legendary coach Bill Belichick and prolific all-star quarterback Tom Brady. The two are highly successful no matter who makes up the remainder of the team – a feat that is not easy considering how the way the NFL is structured today.

But anyone who follows football knows that this year’s big game had the potential to be historic for the New England QB. He already had the most Super Bowl starts with 6, but was tied with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with 4 wins at that position.

And as we now know, Brady and company were successful in their bid to win the 51st version of the biggest sporting event of every year. But not only did they win, it was how they won that was impressive. The Patriots made the greatest comeback ever in Super Bowl history by scoring an amazing 25 unanswered points. And they won it in overtime, also a first for the big game.  

The effort put Brady and his coach alone at the top of their sport, and they are likely to forever remain there. It really was a stunning turn of events and made football history on a variety of levels. Not only so but it also largely put to rest, at least for most, any debate about who truly is the greatest quarterback of all time.

Several years ago after winning his 3rd championship, something only three other quarterbacks had ever done, Mr. Brady was interviewed on 60 Minutes. And after sharing some personal thoughts about his fame, he offered a rather shocking and sad admission.  He stated that, after all of his great success, he was feeling that there must be more to life and that he had no idea what that would be. If you care to watch briefly what this sports icon had to say, it can be found here on Youtube.

I have never met Tom Brady and have no idea where this super talented athlete is spiritually speaking after his 5th championship this past Sunday. His bid to stand alone on the Mount Olympus of the NFL at his position was secured in Houston. But if he has still not figured out the answer to his own profound question about there being more to this life, then he remains a famous man but one in great need! If he has never personally embraced Christ the way the Bible requires, then he is still missing that this life is largely about preparing for the next.  If he has never been born from above, he will still possess his five Super Bowl rings but does not possess eternal life.

Perhaps you can’t tell the difference between a football and a hockey puck. But if you are in God’s family and have Christ as your Savior, then you are rich in the things that matter most and that will never fade away or lose their value! Jesus Himself set the tone for life’s priorities in Matthew 6 where He said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In verse 33, He declared, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

It is an exciting thing to have one's name engraved in the sports record books. But that cannot even be compared with being written in the Lamb's Book of Life forever! (Revelation 20:12-15)

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

An Inauguration And After?

On Friday the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, will be sworn into office in Washington D.C. The inauguration is a process that every President has participated in since George Washington became the nation’s very first on April 30, 1789 in New York City .

The event every 4 years includes the solemn ceremony, but then extends to parades, parties, balls and other assorted celebrations well into the night. This year, Trump's people raised a record 90 million dollars for the affair from private sources, but does not intend to spend anywhere near that much. The remainder will be donated to charity. Also, the security costs may well exceed 100 million. That is a large but understandable sum considering who will attend and with the very real potential for serious disruptions in today’s climate.

Just about everyone knows that the past election was a bitter fight and has left many on the losing side in a state of confusion, anger and despair. Some have even gone to extreme lengths to try to overturn the election results or at least discredit Mr. Trump before he even begins his first full day in office. Like it or not, such is the current political climate in a highly divided America.

But what now? With the voting booths silent for the next few years, and the new administration coming into control, what are citizens on both sides of the isle to do? That may be a rather daunting question for some.  But it should not be, on either side, for any who call themselves Christians and serious followers of Jesus Christ.  For these, there is something that is their Biblical duty concerning those who will lead the nation for the next 4 years at least.  They may not like and totally disagree with those now in leadership. But with that acknowledged, they are to at least support them in a few specific ways according to Scripture.

First, there is the weighty admonition found in 1 Timothy 2:1-3. “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.”

Then there are Paul’s pointed words in Romans 13:1-7. Here he goes into great detail on the matter. And if this passage meant what it said under the conditions Christians faced back in the New Testament, there is little excuse for not following this directive in a place like modern-day America.

“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. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”

America needs help and primarily in the form of a serious spiritual revival. And any new President, cabinet and congress will only be as good as their acknowledgment and dependence on God. And part of that can only come through the people of God when they pray for fervently and without political bias as commanded. And they must do so if for no other reason than this. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”

Bill Breckenridge