Tag Archives: forgiveness

Today Is The Day: No extensions, No loopholes, No Kidding…this time!

So? Did you get your taxes done weeks ago? Or did you procrastinate? Did you get a refund? Or were you waiting until the last second because you owed?

April 15this known as Tax Day. Well, sort of. This year, Tax Day was April 17th…or 18th, or just ask for an extension! Has the IRS gone soft? Well, not really.

You see, the IRS expected 17 million taxpayers to file their taxes yesterday, along with 14 million who were filing for an extension. But due to an online payment issue, millions of taxpayers were unable to pay. So the IRS gave 1 extra day to file.

Of course, as nice as it was of the IRS to give an extra day, they still mean business. And eventually, we have to pay. And if you wait too long, there could be serious consequences.

The idea of “giving an extra day, but still meaning business” reminded me of something Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3: “mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” Peter responded that God didn’t forget, but He has been saving a day for judgment.

He continues: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Did you catch that? Patient. God has given, and continues to give, “1 more day” extensions to humanity. But a day is coming when the “heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”

A spiritual tax bill is coming because of our sins. And as Romans 6:23 states, there is a steep penalty if we are outside of grace on that day. We can’t earn  forgiveness. Thanks be to Jesus,though, the payment has been made!

Enter into His grace, remain in Him, and receive a tax forgiveness better than the IRS could ever give!

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.

A Rosh Hashanah Dilemma: To Shemittah or Prozbul

Our_Canceled_Debts_00034664Ok. Odds are, my title either piqued your interest or made you turn to something else without reading any further. If you are still with me, I want to discuss how an ancient Jewish holiday will reveal something about your faith and your Christianity today. It begins with the holiday, Rosh Hashanah, the “Head of the New Year.”

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a New Year on the Jewish calendar. It is a time for reflection as the Jewish people head into Yom Kippur, the High Holy Day of Atonement. And this year, there is something special about Rosh Hashanah…it is a “Shemittah,” literally “remittance” or “release,” 7th year, lasting from September 25, 2104 to September 13, 2015.

Shemittah, found in Deuteronomy 15, is a year in which Jews practiced forgiveness of debt and a rest for the land. Few Jews, primarily only the very religious farmers in Israel, still practice the “land rest” portion of this holiday. But it is the forgiveness of debt that is much more applicable…and controversial. And believe it or not, the controversy dates back almost 2,000 years.

You see, even before the days of Jesus, Jews were trying to find a “loophole” on the forgiveness of debt. They lived in a “modern” society. They did not want to forgive debts. Even worse, repayment concerns caused the wealthy to avoid lending as the 7th year approached. Poor people could not get access to badly needed funds, and God’s laws were being abused and trampled.

So Rabbi Hillel provided a solution. He decided that only “private” debts needed to be cancelled. His reasoning? Deuteronomy 15 mentions loan forgiveness to a “friend” or “brother.” He therefore instituted a complicated legal system of “Prozbul” where you can temporarily (say for a year or so) turn over your debt collection to a court. Courts, after all, are not my friend, neighbor, or brother. Orthodox Jews still use this system today (see www.chabad.org). So, problem solved! At the end of the year, you can demand your debts back from the court and all is good.

Or is it? What level of tolerance does God have for loopholes? Jesus challenged Hillel’s prevailing ‘idea of the day’ in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He challenged the Jews to understand that their “neighbor” isn’t just the person living next to them. Rather, we are all created in God’s image and we are all inextricably connected. It is the one who does God’s will that is the real neighbor. He also challenged us to forgive our debtors as we are forgiven of our debts by God.

So, here’s my application, Christians: 1) Do you see those outside the church as your friend, brother, and neighbor? If not, Jesus would challenge you to start treating them as the Good Samaritan did. And, 2) Though you probably don’t celebrate tomorrow as your “New Year,” why not put into practice the spiritual principle of forgiveness this year? Are you harboring resentment? Do you hold an old debt? In this year of release, why not begin by reconciling with those who you should be treating like a brother. Forgive. Christ did, and He calls each of us to do the same.

A Few Great Travel Tips

Holiday travel can be a hassle. Here in the Charlotte area, travelers tried desperately yesterday to get to the airport, but traffic was backed up for miles. People left their cars and ran a mile or two with luggage, often only to find delayed or cancelled flights!

One way to avoid hours of trouble is to listen to travel tips. I recently read the following tips and was struck by how similar they are to the lessons God gives for getting to heaven. Give these some thought…

1)      Prepare for trouble. This one might be obvious if travelling in a winter storm, but Christians often seem surprised when life is tough. The road of life will be difficult if you live according to His way, but the reward is worth the trouble (John 15:18).

2)      Get to the airport 2 hours in advance. You don’t have to get to church that early, but it is far greater to make your decision to follow God now rather than later. Why not enjoy the peace that God offers to those who know their destination (Matthew 6:33).

3)      Travel is easier without a lot of baggage. While we all bring “baggage” to church, shedding the weight of past mistakes and travelling “lighter” are freedoms offered by the gospel (Matthew 11:28-30).

4)      Call an agent at the first sign of trouble. Amen! People tend to wait until addictions are entrenched, finances are ruined, or family issues are extensive. We would be so much better off if we would seek help at the first signs of trouble (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

5)      If you miss your flight call the airline ASAP. If you miss your flight, you wouldn’t just give up on getting to Grandma’s! You would say, “I messed up. Please help me get where I need to go!” If you sin (“miss the mark”), ask God for forgiveness and get back on your path to heaven (1 John 1:9).

Just don’t miss the last flight because you never got a ticket. The price was paid in Jesus’ blood. Accept His sacrifice today, be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, and enjoy the peace God offers His children.