Tag Archives: sin

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.

Of Babies And Sled Dogs…Both Are Innocent!

But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Luke 18:16).

Tramadol is prescribed to treat moderate pain. Prescribed to people that is. But when dogs in the Iditarod tested positive for the pain killer, well…it caused quite a stir!

The Iditarod is a 1,000-mile race through Alaska that ends in Nome in March. Sixteen dogs, and a “musher” who drives the sled, compete in this challenging race. And, during the race, the dogs are drug tested at 3 different locations.

Some say it was the “musher,” Dallas Seavey. But friends and competitors defended Dallas, saying he would never jeopardize his dogs or the sport. Also, the place in the race where the dogs were drugged made no sense strategically. Some say anti-sledding animal rights groups are to blame. Even fans are under suspicion, as there are opportunities along the race to pet and give treats to the dogs.

The truth is, we will probably never know. But one thing is clear; no one is accusing the dogs! Why? Dogs don’t dope themselves.

So, consider this: if we immediately assume the dogs are innocent, why do many Christians fall victim to a theological lie about sinful babies?

Considering children, Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to “such as these” (Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16). Furthermore, we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom. Does it make sense to say, “become guilty, sinful, and totally depraved… like these little sinners” in order to enter heaven?

Sin falls into two categories: 1) Knowing what to do and not doing it (James 4:17), and 2) Doing what we shouldn’t (lawlessness) (1 John 3:4). Babies, therefore, cannot sin. Moreover, they can’t die in sin as happens with all who do not believe (John 8:24).

And, if guilty of sin, how could a baby be reconciled to God?
We must believe (Mark 16:16); what does an infant believe?
We must repent (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30); can an infant change their minds/lives?
We must confess Jesus with our mouths (Romans 10:9-10); what can an infant say?
We must be immersed for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38); what sins does the infant need washed away (Acts 22:16)?

But babies grow up. And when they do, they will make choices. And in those choices, knowing right from wrong, they will fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

When their sin separates them from a holy God, they will have to make another choice: be saved by the grace of a loving God, or refuse the mercy of a just God. Unlike dogs, people can, eventually, choose. We don’t blame dogs in a doping scandal and we don’t look to infants to reconcile sinfulness. Mush!

Ouch! Falling hurts.

So, as the folks at Clover know, I fell a couple of weeks ago. Wish it was a better story, but there were no heroics; I just slipped and fell. I was trying to wrestle a pontoon boat onto a trailer, slipped, and slammed into the trailer on the way down.

Of course, getting injured is never fun. Despite a small ding to the pride, a couple of stitches in the knee, and some back pain, I’ll be ok. It certainly could have been worse.

The fall reminded me, though, how quickly we can lose our footing and injure ourselves. And if physically slipping causes an ER trip, just imagine what can happen from a spiritual fall. A sprained back and banged knee are no fun; but a damaged soul can end in disaster!

In fact, falling is such a dangerous and important topic that we describe all of man’s experience in Adam as “The Fall.” Paul warns us to be careful that we do not fall from grace (Galatians 5:4). Peter warns us to be on guard against a “fall from your own steadfastness,” (2 Peter 3:17).

So what can we do? We can’t undo the fall. That’s done. There is no going back.

But, moving forward, there are two solutions:

  • First, we need to see the great physician. When I went to the doctor, they examined me, cleaned out the wound, and patched it up. Going to the Lord when we sin is similar. We honestly confess, ask for healing through forgiveness, and receive treatment.
  • Secondly, we need to do our best to remain on solid ground. The sure footing of salvation is in God alone. Scripture warns that we had better be careful so we don’t fall, especially when we think we are “fine” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

We all slip in sin. When we do, John comforts us with these words: “if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;” (1 John 2:21). He picks us up when we fall and helps us to stand securely when we live in Him!

Tragedy Into Triumph

cmak“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother, drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School, fatally shot 20 children (ages 6-7) and 6 adults, and then took his own life as first responders arrived.

That could have been the end of the story. In fact, for many people, the tragedy at Sandy Hook is a distant memory. For others though, it stands as a stark reminder that we must do better. We live in a sin-sick world, and we should be an influence for good.

And, thankfully, the tragedy at Sandy Hook isn’t the end of the story. Some people are making a difference. And I was thankful to have been a witness to two events recently that are ensuring that we change the narrative in this country.

The first is called Race For Chase. Chase was a young boy who was killed in the Sandy Hook tragedy. But his story didn’t end there. Chase loved to run, swim, and bike. And the CMAK foundation (http://www.cmakfoundation.org; Chase Michael Anthony Kowalski) honors his life in many ways, the most well-known is helping kids take part in something Chase got to do and loved – triathlons.

CMAK’s vision statement is: To turn tragedy into triumph by healing and strengthening our families and communities.

CMAK - FamilyBoth my girls got to participate in the Race For Chase this week through the YMCA in York County. After 6 weeks of training, 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, ~30 kids took part in this great event. We are so thankful for the foundation, the coaches, and all the sponsors who helped bring Race For Chase to York County. It was a blessing to watch these kids, several of whom couldn’t swim or bike beforehand, blossom into triathletes!

The other event I got to take part in recently was an Eagle Scout’s project to help train first responders. As sad as it is, school shootings have become a part of life in this country. And, while we want to do everything we can to stop that from being our future, training police and EMT staff to respond better, could save lives.

So, last month, several dozen teens and adults took part in two “mock” shootings in Gaston County, NC. The Eagle Scout candidate, a member of our congregation, worked with the law enforcement and EMTs to help provide this training. They got to see in “real time” how to react and how to save lives in these worst-case scenarios.

While we hope there is never any reason for them to use this training, they are all better prepared to serve in their community and save lives.

I am thankful to know that there are people like the Kowalskis who turn tragedy into triumph. I am thankful to know that there are first responders who put their lives on the line every day. I am thankful to know that are young people still have a hope of a better tomorrow.

In Church, we occasionally sing the hymn, “This World Is Not My Home.” It reminds us that our citizenship is in Heaven and this earth is our temporary residence. And we often need the reminder that our focus should be more heavenly than worldly. But we must also remember that we are called to be lights in the world.

Last week I began a series on the Olympics by preaching about our need to be torchbearers in a lost and dark world. I am thankful for those who don’t just talk about change but truly try to enact it.

Of course, the greatest change of all, eternal life in Heaven, is only possible because of the sacrifice made by Jesus. CMAK’s vision statement ought to be a rallying cry for all Christians: “To turn tragedy into triumph by healing and strengthening our families and communities.”

Have you believed in Him? Have you repented of your sins, confessed Jesus as the Son of God, and been baptized for the forgiveness of sin? A safer, better world is a wonderful thing to strive for while we are here. But let’s do it with the knowledge of our eternal security by giving our lives to God today. If I can help you come to know that joy, please get in touch.