Monthly Archives: February 2018

A Couple of Good Purim Lessons For Everyone

Do you celebrate Purim? Unless you are a Jewish child, or have Jewish children/grandchildren, Purim probably isn’t big on your to-do list today. But even if you aren’t celebrating, or Jewish, we can all learn good lessons from this holiday.

Purim comes from Esther, the last book of history in the Old Testament. It takes place when Persians ruled (mid-400’s B.C.). It is a “rabbinical” holiday, meaning that it was not instituted by God’s command, i.e., Passover, Yom Kippur, etc. Rather, somewhat like the 4th of July, it is a celebration of a great victory.

The holiday gets its name from the plural of “pur” or lots. Haman wanted to kill all the Jewish people because a Jewish man named Mordechai would not bow down to him. “Lots” were cast to choose a day for all Jews to be killed in their towns. Instead, though, by God’s providential care, and the work of Esther, God’s people were saved. A day of celebration, “Purim,” commemorates that victory.

Today, Jews celebrate Purim with:

  • Reading Esther.
  • Giving gifts to the poor – a reminder to help the less fortunate.
  • Festivities: decorations, costumes, food, music, etc.

You might ask, “What does that have to do with me?” Consider two great lessons from Purim…

First, Esther was in the right place at the right time to help people. We are equally in the right place at the right time to do something for God’s glory. What is it? I’m not sure what your calling is, but “for such a time as this” you have a purpose! Read Romans 12 and consider your spiritual gift for God’s purpose.

Secondly, Purim celebrates salvation from certain death. A letter of death was sent and their fate was sealed. God intervened. Today, Christians are also saved from the certain death of sin (Romans 3:23, 6:23). But do you celebrate that fact? Remember to thank God for salvation!

So…you may not be dressing up, celebrating, or eating yummy Hamantashen today, but it is always a good time to review some scripture, remember God’s providential care, and rejoice in His victory!

CDs May Be Out, But No Matter The Format, Spread The Word!

This summer marks the end of an era. Best Buy is announcing that, like K-Mart before them and so many others who are following suit, they will no longer sell CD’s. Goodbye. Eject.

If you’re like me, you’ve lived through a few music format changes. I used to own vinyl albums, 45’s, and cases of cassettes. I even had a friend who had an 8-track player in his car! Only niche listeners use those formats anymore. (see graph)

But when CD’s emerged, people praised their clear sound and portability. And, (unless you scratched them) they were supposed to last “forever.” Well, think again!

The announcement highlights an important fact – nothing in this world is forever.

Do you even remember what was the last physical CD was that you bought? These days, music is everywhere: Spotify, iTunes, Pandora, Amazon, etc. You can stream it, download it, or subscribe to a satellite radio. Automobile manufacturers even warn that CDs in cars will soon disappear.

One thing is certain when it comes to technology; it will change! And, this fact is a great reminder for Christians. While God does not change, adapting to new formats is important; nothing (on this earth) lasts forever!

Not long ago, churches agonized over using PPT in worship. Some preachers still insist on hearing “page turning” rather than digital devices for Bible reading. Many people don’t share blogs or sermons online because they won’t learn new formats.

Don’t get me wrong – CD’s will still be around for a while, and there is no need to throw away your printed Bible just because others use a Kindle, phone, or tablet. If you prefer the page turning that’s just fine with the Lord. But as we reach out to others, we should do everything we can to reach as many as we can (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Of course, we must never compromise the truth. Nevertheless, we must consider new formats that meet scriptural moral standards. The times may be a-changing, God doesn’t! (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17). The eternal truth of God’s Word never changes…no matter what the format.

On Valentine’s Day, The FBI Warns Against Romantic Scams…and So Does God!

This Valentine’s Day, the FBI has a message for you: “Avoid romance!” Well, not really, but you might think that is the message if you listened to recent warnings. Romantic scams have become a serious problem, and the FBI is warning you to BEWARE!

As online dating grows, it is more common for couples to meet through dating websites and online boards. In fact, it is the new normal for many. But online relationships are also a breeding ground for scammers looking to bilk unsuspecting romantics.

Did you know that the FBI “received more than 15,000 reports linked to romance scams last year?” They estimate that losses exceeded $230 million for 2016. Their advice? Be skeptical!

The problem, of course, is the heart. It wants what it wants. The FBI says that even intelligent, cautious individuals lose control when their feelings outweigh their rational minds.

One victim, Debby Johnson, said, “At this point your heart rules your head, and I was doing what my heart wanted me to do.”

There is nothing wrong with romance. In fact, love is the greatest emotion and spiritual gift. But a heart that rules the head is in grave danger. And, spiritually speaking, it could lead to eternal disaster.

God warned us long ago about the danger of letting the heart rule the mind: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Our hearts might FEEL that something is right, but living according to God’s Word is ACTUALLY right. That’s why Jeremiah said, “a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

God wants your heart and your mind. He gave us “everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). Feelings change. But the Word of God will never deceive.

Don’t be scammed! True knowledge in Him is the basis of true love. Anything else is just a con.

It Didn’t Take Torture…Just Truth

Kim Hyon-hui is back in the news. You probably don’t know that name. It was forgotten long ago by most. But Kim gained notoriety 30 years ago, when South Korea hosted the Olympics in Seoul. She was a North Korean spy, and she placed a bomb on a 707 headed for Seoul, killing 115 people.

With the 23rd Winter Olympics set to begin this weekend in Pyeongchang County, South Korea, Kim’s story has resurfaced. And, it is an amazing story. She was recruited at 18 years old; she learned to perfect Mandarin and Japanese; she was given weapons and martial arts training; and she was taught to blend into other cultures.

Nevertheless, Kim’s 1st mission, the 707 bombing, would be her last. She was captured while fleeing, and unsuccessfully tried to take a cyanide pill. She was imprisoned, but eventually pardoned. At 56 years old now, she lives a fairly quiet life, working for the South Korean government in witness protection. She has raised 2 kids, and she is still hunted by the North Koreans.

Of course, when she was captured, Kim expected to be tortured in interrogation. But her captors chose a different path. A simple ride around town eventually changed Kim’s ideology. She had been lied to her whole life. She was told that South Koreans lived in squalor; they were terribly unhappy; and they would love to live in North Korea.

Driving through South Korea exposed those lies. People had smiles, enjoyed life, and were free to go where they wanted. When confronted with the truth, Kim, to her credit, changed her false belief system.

Consider this, friend: if someone had been taught that Christians were hateful, vengeful, sexist, racists, bigots, etc…would a “ride” through most churches help change minds? You see, reality immediately exposed the lies Kim had learned. Christian life should prove the love of Christ to any who are “riding through” our midst (Acts 2:44-47).

Kim still experiences a deep pain and shame for what she did. She wrote about her experiences and donated book proceeds to the families of her victims. She hugs and weeps with the families. She has been pardoned, but she still desires forgiveness.

Unfortunately, even though she has been to church, true forgiveness still eludes her. In an interview recently, she wondered, “Can my sins be pardoned?” Sadly though, she answered, “They probably won’t be.”

Kim hasn’t experienced the great joy of salvation. Paul told Timothy that he received mercy to prove that all people can be saved no matter their past (1 Timothy 1:15-17). John assures that our forgiveness can be known (1 John 5:13). If our faith remains, we expect the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

It didn’t take torture to change Kim’s mind about her past sins; just being exposed to the truth did the trick. I hope that one day she learns the great joy of salvation – the confidence that comes through believing, repenting, confessing Jesus, and being baptized into the forgiveness of sins. I’ll probably never get to share that with her, but I’d love to tell you the same, and guess what? I just did.