Great Boasts From Small Parts

James 3:5-6The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – The tongue can do more damage than many destructive and lethal weapons.

My Advice – Keep your tongue in check. It will keep you from a lot of grief and hurt feelings that are hard to undo.

What Good Is Your Faith?

James 2:14, 17What good is it my brothers if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by actions is dead. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Good actions or good deeds cannot result in salvation. But salvation, which is by grace, should produce good actions and good deeds.

My Advice – Do your best to make your faith alive by doing what is right, good and decent.

Your Sin Is Bigger Than My Sin

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John 8:3-12The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (NIV 1984)

Whether Great or Small – It is always difficult and dangerous to attempt to list sins according to their degree of seriousness. In one sense, all sins are equal in that they all separate us from God. The Bible’s statement, “For the wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23), applies to all sin, whether in thought, word, or deed.

At the same time, it seems obvious that some sins are worse than others in both motivation and effects, and should be judged accordingly. Stealing a loaf of bread is vastly different than exterminating a million people.

However, remember that whether our sins are relatively small or great, they will place us in hell apart from God’s grace. The good news is that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and the sins of the whole world at the Cross. If we will repent and turn to Jesus in faith, our sins will be forgiven, and we will receive the gift of eternal life. (Billy Graham)

One Sin Makes You A Sinner – One leak will sink a ship: and one sin will destroy a sinner. (John Bunyan)

However, Your Sin Is Worse Than Mine? – A rather clever person once said: “Lord, help me forgive those who sin differently than I do.” (Crucial Conversations, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. McGraw Hill, 2012)

The similarities between [your sin and mine] are different. (Yogi Berra)

My Musings – We have a tendency to believe our sins are more forgivable (less bad) than the sins of others.  That was one of the main points of the story of the woman caught in adultery.  The teachers of the law saw her sin as so grievous it deserved death.  Jesus taught (reminded) them that they were all in the same “leaking ship” in danger of sinking.  I am reminded of a somewhat similar scene from Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, where Frodo and Gandalf are debating the sins of that miserable creature Gollum:

Frodo:  “It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance.”

Gandalf:  “Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death [cast the first stone] in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.”

Frodo:  “I wish The Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had ever happened.”

Gandalf:  “So do all who live to face such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

My Advice – As I’ve written in a previous blog, there is no sin so great (probably someone else’s) that Jesus did not die for it, and no sin so small (obviously mine) that He did not have to die for it.   So let’s not be too eager to “deal out death” to others.  The “similarities in our sins may be different” but we are all in need of God’s grace and forgiveness (“pity”), that is found only in Jesus. He was the only One who ever paid (or could have paid) for our sins. His sacrifice was the only thing that could “stay [God’s] hand” of judgment.  “All we have to decide is what to do with the [opportunity] that is given to us.”

Let’s not forget the second main point in Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery, that we have a tendency to gloss over.  Just because we do not have the right to judge the sins of others, does not mean they are not sins.  Just because we may think that our particular sins are not serious enough to deserve judgment does not mean they do not.  If we are in Christ, our sins are forgiven, let’s show our gratitude by following His admonition to “go now and leave [our] life of sin.”

What Might Have Been Is Possible Again

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Genesis 1:1, 31In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. (NIV 1978)

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.” – John Greenleaf Whittier

“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” –  Robert Kennedy

“But what would have been the good?” Aslan said nothing. “You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?” “To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.” “Oh dear,” said Lucy. “But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me – what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.” ― C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

My Musings – “And it was very good.”  That is what God saw then.  What does He see now?  Certainly not the goodness of His original design.  We can look at the ways things are now, and wonder what might have been had Adam and Eve not fallen.  This is not a dream of things that never were, but what could have been.  Why not?  Because of man’s sin.  “Of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, “It still would be good if man had not sinned?”

We are not told what would have happened.  But as Aslan is quoted, “anyone can find out what will happen.”  It is written in the rest of the Book.  There is only one way of finding out  – by following Jesus.  He is the only way.

My Advice – Do not question what might have been. Do not despair about how things have become.  Set your hope on what can yet be, by putting your faith is Jesus.

Stop Hanging Around the Tree

James 1:14But each one of you is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Temptation will come. It will come and appeal to that part of our sin nature that captures our desire the most. We are enticed by that which appeals to us the most.

My Advice – Know your weaknesses. Those areas of your life that are most vulnerable to temptation. Then, do your best to avoid the situations that will appeal to those desires. Learn the lesson that Eve did not: if you don’t want to eat the apple, stop hanging around the tree.

Whenever, Because, So That

James 1:2-4Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Trials will come. We need not be joyful about the trial itself, but we should be joyful about what it can produce in our lives.

My Advice – Persevere under trials. Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the lesson. Ask God what He is trying to show you or teach you, and learn the lesson well.

Equipped for Good

Hebrews 13:20,21May the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing His will. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – God will not call us to something that He has not equipped us to do.

My Advice – God has richly equipped you. Make sure you also use your talents to do His work.