Tag Archives: salvation

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!

Safety Is In the Boat – In Fishing and Salvation!

Ross Chapman was fishing off the coast of Australia. He had just caught a 450lb marlin, tagged it, and released it. As he was releasing the marlin, he knocked his GoPro camera overboard, reached out to grab it, and fell into the ocean. His boat, still in gear from boating the marlin, drifted away faster than he could catch it.

Chapman spent 6 hours in the water. Thankfully, other fisherman saw his boat drifting, rallied others to the search, and found him in the open ocean. Had they not found him, he would have remained in waters known to have jellyfish, sharks, and orcas.

Now, as anyone who has boated much knows, bad stuff can happen on the water. A couple of lessons are clear: 1) don’t fish alone, and 2) don’t reach overboard for your camera if your boat is in gear! Still, I can’t imagine the horrible feeling of watching my boat motor away into the open ocean.

It is almost too obvious to say, but “safety is found in the boat.”

In many ways, salvation is likened to a boat in the Bible. Of course, the oldest lesson came in the days of Noah (Genesis 7:23, 1 Peter 3:20). Getting in, and staying in, the ark saved eight souls. In the New Testament, Paul warned that abandoning the ship would cause death (Acts 27:31).

When teaching salvation, most people concentrate on the “getting in” part. They concentrate on belief, or perhaps repentance, confession, or even baptism. And, of course, the “getting in” is essential. But some forget to teach the equal importance of “staying in” Christ!

The New Testament consistently teaches: salvation is for those who stay in Christ. Getting in is just the beginning. We must be wary against falling from grace (Galatians 5:4), abandoning the faith (1 Timothy 4:1, 6:21, 2 Timothy 2:18), or shipwrecking our salvation (1 Timothy 1:19).

Get in Christ, remain in Christ, and arrive safely at your eternal destination – heaven. And be careful what you reach out for in this world…it might just cause you to fall out of the boat!

Cutting the Cable…On Purpose!

Cutting-CableWe finally cut the cable…on purpose this time! If you are like me, you’ve been digging in the yard and had one of those, “uh, oh” moments when you realized that you just “cut the cord.” Usually someone comes out yelling, “what did you do?” But not this time. This time, we made the decision, on purpose, to cut the cord!

We’ve been talking about it for far too long. In fact, we should have done it last year when they started monkeying with the prices. But we did that, “I’m gonna cancel” threat, and they did that, “we’ll give you a 6 month promotion” thing…and I caved.

But not this year! In 2015, I want to be a better steward of my time and my finances. So yesterday, I gathered up the equipment, brought it down to the cable company, and handed it over. With all the recent fees and rate hikes, it was $100/month back in our budget, so we are pretty happy about that.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that all TV is bad. There are programs I like, programs the wife likes, and stuff the kids watch for enjoyment and for homeschooling. And with the Internet, we can still access what we really need. But what we (hopefully) nixed was the Pavlovian response – sit on couch, turn  TV on, waste time looking for something of value.

If I am going to be an example to my kids, I can’t imagine a more immediate impact on our life and our budget than to significantly reduce our time in front of screens.

Making plans is a good thing. Of course, we should always make our plans with an attitude of, “If God wills it” (James 4:15). But more believers should recognize that God never did anything without a plan. Thankfully, he has revealed those plans to us through His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). And planning to follow His plan more in 2015 should be our priority.

But sticking to the plan is the tough part. And that is why the crown of life is given to those who read, hear, heed, and remain faithful to the plan (Revelation 1:2, 2:10).

What about you? Do you have a plan for 2015? Or do you simply “hope for the best?” I encourage you to make your calling and election sure in 2015 (2 Peter 1:10). Put Christ and His Kingdom first in your life (Matthew 6:33); reduce the “static” that distracts you from the weightier matters (Matthew 23:23); and live the abundant life in Christ (John 10:10).

 

He Can’t Quote The Bible! Can He?

ObamaAndBibleRecently, President Obama has gotten in hot water for…wait for it…quoting the Bible! Yes, it’s true. And the unlikely folks who have been so upset? Conservatives! Confused yet? Let’s discuss.

In support of his immigration policy, President Obama quoted a very important verse from the Old Testament with regard to how to treat others: Exodus 23:9. It is one of my favorites, and I quote it often. The NASB reads: “You shall not oppress a stranger (sojourner), since you yourselves know the feelings (literally ‘soul’) of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

The principle of Exodus 23:9 (Leviticus 19:33, & Deuteronomy 24:17; 27:19) is a bedrock principle of the New Testament as well. Jesus tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31).

But many conservatives were upset with the President’s use of the verse. They were so upset that they declared that the Bible is off-limits; he isn’t allowed to quote from it! But is that how God’s people should respond? Surely we can do better than telling people to not quote the Bible! Here are a few thoughts on what to say instead:

1) The Bible is a good place to start any discussion.

In a famous/infamous 2008 speech, the President said, that the Bible should not be used in shaping public policy. Now, he takes a Bible passage to prove why his public policy is correct. While this is hypocritical, Christians must guard themselves against the same hypocrisy. He did actually quote the Bible! And we want people searching the scriptures, don’t we?

Rather than responding in anger, “He can’t quote the Bible,” let’s congratulate him on looking to the Bible for inspiration and then give him a better understanding of the meaning of the passage.

2) A text without context is a pretext for a proof-text.

Do what? Ok. Translation: if you take any text and rip it out of its context, you can make it mean whatever you want it to mean.

The principle the President quoted is correct; we should treat others as we want to be treated. But what is the context? Is this the only verse in the Bible where God instructs His people on what to do and how to live? What about the other verses in Exodus 23? Might they be important to the discussion? This is a good opportunity to discuss context and meaning.

3) God is no respecter of persons.

God’s offer of grace and mercy is freely given without regard to race, age, gender, or nationality.

If the President had studied the passage more closely, he would have seen that the protection is unilateral for ALL strangers. It is there to remind God’s children to deal fairly with strangers and not take advantage of them because Israel was enslaved in Egypt.

Whether you oppose or favor the immigration policy, this verse simply doesn’t fit his usage. The policy is limited to illegal aliens with US born children, who have been here for 5 years, and it is only temporary. That would mean that God’s kindness doesn’t apply to some strangers. But no one, not even the President, is taking the position that we should unilaterally treat ALL sojourners as citizens!

The point of the passage is that we should not oppress others and we should be giving toward those who are in need. It isn’t a political statement, it is a moral statement. And morally, you can’t treat the Bible like a buffet, picking and choosing a little of this and a few of those.

The greatest gift we have is the gospel. Jesus said salvation is available to all who would come – whosoever believes. And that is irrefutable. Help others to read the Bible for God’s intended meaning rather than hunting for verses that appear to support political positions. God sent His Son to die for us; doesn’t He at least deserve a fair read?