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. 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