The Deeper Magic

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1 Samuel 15:22 – “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – In the Garden (Eden) there was disobedience. God covered Adam’s and Eve’s nakedness, presumably from animals that were sacrificed.  The blood that was shed also covered their sin.

On the mountain (Moriah), Abraham was prepared to obey and sacrifice his son, but God prevented Him from doing so.  To obey is better, because it requires no sacrifice.

In the Garden (Mt. of Olives) Jesus prayed that if there was any other way, that He be spared from sacrificing His life.  Yet in obedience, He said “not my will but yours.”  In this instance, obedience (His) would necessarily lead to sacrifice because of disobedience (ours).

On the mountain (Golgotha), Jesus was sacrificed to atone for our disobedience.  There was no staying of the hand as in the case of Abraham, because there was no other way.  Christ’s obedience was more than sufficient to remove (not merely cover) the stain of our disobedience.

In the garden, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty, as death (the “deep magic”) turned into life (the “deeper magic”).  The fall of mankind in one garden comes full circle with the redemption of mankind in another.

My Advice – We have victory over sin, death and judgement because of Christ’s obedience.  And while no further sacrifice is required, we nevertheless should still live a life of obedience.  If we confess our sins, He will forgive them.  But why go there in the first place?  Let’s show our appreciation for God’s “deeper magic” that overcame the curse of “deep magic.”

“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”

(From “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis)

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.”

Brought Down or Rising Up?

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Proverbs 24:16 –  [F]or though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. (NIV 1984)

Seven musings to inspire us to rise again and not be brought down.

Billy Graham – “Each life is made up of mistakes and learning, waiting and growing, practicing patience and being persistent.”
My Musing – The fact that we all make mistakes is not an excuse to repeat them or wallow in them.
Rick Warren – “We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
My Musing – We are only prisoners if we choose to be, because Christ has set us free.
Colin Powell – “There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”
My Musing – Like Paul, we need to press on.
Abraham Lincoln – “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”
My Musing – What could be more dangerous than being content with our failures, with our life of sin?
Barack Obama – “The real test is not whether you avoid failure, because you won’t.  It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it.”
My Musing – We may not be able to avoid failure, but we can avoid situations that lead to failure.  If you don’t want to eat the apple, quit hanging around the tree.
C. S. Lewis – “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.” — C. S. Lewis
My Musing – A steady upward progress is often difficult to measure except in retrospect,
Winston Churchill – “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”
My Musing – Unfortunately we often keep going back to the same old tree.
My Advice – As Christians, our eraser (confession and repentance) that will always outlast the pencil (our sins).  But that does not give us license to sin.  And what a mess all those eraser crumbs can leave.  To obey is better than sacrifice (asking for forgiveness).

Pay Back or Pay Forward?

1 Thessalonians 5:15Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Our ways should not be the ways of the world, but the ways of the Lord. Rather than crush a foe, we should try to win a foe. After all nothing is gained by defeating another, but we can gain a friend by winning (not defeating) them over.

My Advice – Don’t seek revenge. This is the way of the world. You are called to be different. Rather, be kind to those who would harm you.

Lessons Learned, Pitfalls Avoided

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2 Samuel 11:1-4,14-15In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite? Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.  In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”  (NIV 1984)

2 Samuel 12:7-9Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.”  (NIV 1984)

2 Samuel 12:13Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” (NIV 1984)

My Musings – David was not where he was supposed to be.  He was supposed to go off to war with his army, but he stayed at home.  In his idleness (boredom), he ended up being where he should not have been and seeing what he should not have seen, which led him to do what he should not have done.  One sin (adultery) led to another (murder).  Yet,  [God] testified concerning him: “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart.” (Acts 13:22, NIV 1978)

How can this be?  Surely not because of his sins (they were horrible),  but because of how he responded when confronted.  No excuses, no shifting the blame and no denials.  Confession and repentance. Like David (maybe not as bad as David), we all make mistakes (sin).  Of course it is always better for us not to sin in the first place.  Often we can avoid sin by being where we should be and not where we should not be (if Eve did not want to eat the “apple,” why was she hanging around the tree?).  But when we do sin we need to respond like David.  There may be consequences (there were for David and Bathsheba – their child conceived in sin died), but our sins will be “taken away.”  For, if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:9, NIV 1984)

My Advice – We all heard the sage advice that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Prevention can mean avoiding idleness.  Making sure we are where God wants us to be.  When we know the “fruit” is forbidden (and we do), not hanging around it.  Nonetheless, whenever the inevitable sin occurs (and it does not “just” occur), recognize that we “are the man (or woman)” and respond appropriately.

If He Repents…

Luke 17:3If your brother sins rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We like the part where we get to rebuke, and we are quick to do so. But when it comes time to forgive, we would rather maintain a grudge. This should not be.

My Advice – Always be willing to forgive sincere repentance, no matter how badly you were wronged. Just imagine what it would be like if God had been unwilling to forgive.

Still A Long Way

Luke 15:20 – “But while he was still a long way off, his Father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; He ran to His son, threw His arms around him and kissed him.” (NIV 1978)

My Musings – The first thing to note is that the Father was expecting the son’s return. He was looking for Him. The second thing to note is that the son did not have to meet his father all the way or even halfway. While he was a “long” way off the Father ran to meet him. Finally, the Father welcomed the wayward son back.

My Advice – Do not be hesitant to move back towards God, believing that you are unworthy to be called His child. He is watching for you and will run to meet you with outstretched arms.