Thursday, March 10, 2016

Seasons of Hope

My new book, Seasons of Hope, will soon be coming out. We're in final formatting and are hoping to have it listed on Amazon around Easter. But I thought I'd share a few quotes from it:


I did a little research on the season we call “the fall.” Do you know why we call it that? It’s because of the “falling” of leaves during this period. Things fall in the fall. Leaves fall, branches fall, flowers fall. Pay attention, this is important! Everything that needs to fall falls in the fall. Fall is a pruning time. Fall is when things that are dead, diseased, and infested are removed. Fall is the season when everything that is superficial is stripped away. But, it’s also the time when seeds fall.

Several years ago, there was a grove of oak trees outside of my office. Every fall, you could walk in that grove and find numerous acorns peppering the landscape. Those acorns each experienced a long fall on their way to the ground. I bet if a typical acorn could talk, it would say that its fall wasn’t a pleasant experience. It would complain, “One day I was on top of the world enjoying the view. I was well fed, had plenty of friends, and had plenty of sunshine. My life was all blue skies. Then it happened. I fell and my life turned upside down. I went from the top to the bottom!”

Hope is like an acorn. It begins with a fall. But after the fall, it gets planted and grows into something beautiful . . .
Take a look at Romans 5:3-4. Paul seems to be talking about noble suffering here, like when we suffer for Christ. Look at what he says:
3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4 (NIV) (emphasis mine)
Notice in this passage how there is a direct line from suffering to hope. Hope begins with a fall of some sort in the passage. Paul says that “suffering” produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, what? Hope! Suffering eventually leads to hope in the hands of God. Hope very often begins with a fall.
If you're at the end of yourself due to some sort of fall, look up. God may just be up to something big in your life.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The End of the World

This is an excerpt of a sermon of mine on The End of the World. For those curious, I thought I'd do a quick summary of the future that the Bible predicts:

In the future, a world leader will emerge and finally bring peace to the Middle East. He will sign a seven-year treaty with Israel. This leader in the Bible is called The Beast and the Antichrist. During that seven year treaty, there will be worldwide wars, famines, plagues, and natural disasters the likes of which the world has never seen. This seven year period is called "The Tribulation." Three and a half years into that treaty, the Antichrist will break the treaty with Israel and declare war. He will also go to the great temple in Jerusalem, desecrate it, and proclaim that he is God. This is called the "Abomination of Desolation" in the Bible. The second half of the Tribulation is called "The Great Tribulation" in the Bible and will be the most horrifying period in all of human history complete with disease, bloodshed, massive natural disasters, and terrifying persecution.
It will end with a worldwide assault by the Antichrist on the people of God as the armies of the earth align themselves against Him. Just when the battle is the worst, Jesus Christ will return and defeat the Antichrist and his armed forces and cast him into eternal fire. Jesus will also have Satan bound and placed in a prison, called "The Abyss" for 1000 years and Jesus will visibly rule the earth, fulfilling all His Old Testament covenants to Israel. This period of the visible and complete rule of Christ as King is called "The Millennium." At the end of it, Satan will be released briefly and he will again fool people into following him. He will try to defeat Christ again and this time will be eternally cast into a place called the lake of fire.
Christ will then preside on a great white throne and judge everyone who has turned from Him in all of history. People like Adolph Hitler and Osama Bin Laden will actually be resurrected and stand before Christ to be sentenced just as Satan was and they will be thrown alive into the eternal lake of fire along with all those who have refused to accept the blood of Jesus for their sins. When this most Supreme of all Courts concludes, it will be the end of all evil for all time. Jesus will then form a New Heaven and a New Earth where there will be no more sin, no more sorrow, and no more death. All wrongs will be made right and we will finally experience the world as it was meant to be with all the longings of our souls fulfilled.
In addition to all these events, at some point around The Tribulation, Christ will take all those who believe in Him out of this world and actually meet them in the air. They will literally be "caught up" or raptured by Him and taken to Heaven. This event, known as "The Rapture," could happen before the Tribulation, during the Tribulation, or after it as part of His Second Coming. This writer believes the biblical evidence points to it happening before the Tribulation. Regardless, the only sure way to take part in this wonderful event is to believe the Gospel and give your life to Jesus Christ as Lord.
***Thanks to for their excellent summation as a source. I also recommend my book, All Things New, available at

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How Does Satan Get Away With This?

I recently had some excellent questions asked of me regarding the story of Job:
"Why would God allow Satan to come back up to heaven (after being thrown out)…..and allow him to accuse believers before God?
"Why does he even HAVE the ear of God . . . an unholy, fallen angel, standing before a Holy God . . . and God listens to him?"

Here's my response:

Good questions. My quick answers (there are volumes written on this though) are the following:

1. God may have allowed Satan to approach Heaven in order to further humiliate him. Think about it. If you're thrown out of your natural home and habitat but allowed to visit it as an outsider with no rights of ownership, wouldn't that be agonizing, especially if you lost yet another contest with God? As for the accusing part, where does it matter where Satan accuses? It is his nature to accuse, and God is omniscient, so He can see everything all the time. Whether in Hell, Heaven, or on Earth, God hears the accusations as does His people. Which leads to the next response:

2. Part of Satan's goal is to defeat God and all that is good. God permits Satan's efforts at this for a season (however at the Second Coming, this will completely end). There are at least two reasons: a. To completely discredit evil (which in the discrediting, ultimately glorifies God). And b. To allow an alternative for humanity to choose. If there is no alternative, humanity cannot choose to love God. This explains why Satan is allowed in the Garden. The freedom to genuinely choose God (which loves requires) also means an alternative must exist (the freedom to choose evil). However, one day, this choice will no longer exist among humanity, at the consummation of all things (the End of the world as we know it).

 One of my Professors, Dr. Roy Zuck, says this in his commentary on Job:

 "The Book of Job does more than raise the question of the suffering of the righteous. It also, through Satan's words, deals with the motives for godly living. Will anyone serve the Lord if he enjoys no personal gain from it? Is worship a coin that buys a heavenly reward? Is piety of a contract by which to gain wealth and ward off trouble . . . Job, Satan claimed, would no longer insert his coins of worship if nothing came out of the machine . . . Surely God knew Job's heart, but He used Job as a demonstration to silence Satan. In addition, God wanted to deepen Job's spiritual insight."

 Also helpful is S. Michael Houdmann's insights from his excellent website,

 "Here are some other facts to note: 1) Satan does not have open access to God’s presence. He is summoned by God. 2) The visits are temporary. His time before God’s throne is limited. 3) In no way is the purity of heaven tainted by the brief, God-ordained presence of a sinful being, “quarantined,” as it were, by God’s regulatory power. And, 4) Satan’s access is only granted prior to the final judgment. After the judgment, God creates a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1), wipes away all tears from our eyes (verse 4), reveals the New Jerusalem (verse 10), and promises the complete absence of sin (verse 27)."

 Hope this helps! PR

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Can I Lose Salvation: 4

In my previous three entries on this topic, I addressed the concept of being "born again" as a permanent, unchangeable condition. Then I discussed the mechanism of salvation, which is life-altering faith. This, again, appears to be permanent in Scripture. My last post on this topic discussed the gift of salvation, and how, by its very nature, a gift is not earned but given. In this post, I continue the discussion (remember, this is a letter written to a Roman Catholic friend regarding the relationship between works and grace in the saving of our souls). In this post, I examine some passages that are supportive of the view that it's possible to lose our salvation after it's given. Be warned, this is a lot of heavy exposition and theological discussion. If you like academics, it's for you. If you want more practical stuff, look at some of my other posts:

Now, can we lose salvation once we’ve had it? Some would argue yes based on several passages. Personally, I think the Hebrews 10:26-27 is the strongest text given in support of this view. The other passages often quoted can be interpreted within the framework of either “true faith will produce good works” or “it wasn’t true faith to begin with.”
Let's start with the Prodigal Son. First of all, I don’t believe Heaven and Hell are the main issues here. If anything, the story points out that works, again, are not part of the equation because neither the prodigal nor the older brother deserves the Father’s love. They don’t receive any sacraments, don’t do anything good, and both are clearly wrong. Jesus is pointing out the unconditional love and forgiveness of the Father and how much He longs for the lost to turn to Him in faith/repentance.
Look at the structure of Luke 15. The Prodigal parable comes after two other parables with the same theme: The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. The chapter begins with Jesus hanging out with tax collectors and “sinners.” The Pharisees, who had all their confessions done and tithes paid, complained about Him and couldn’t get over the fact that Jesus spent time with such unrighteous people. The Pharisees were paid up as far as good works were concerned. But good works aren’t the standard of God’s favor, grace is (and thank God for that, because I’d certainly be lost with all my sins!). In the first parable, God seeks out the lost sheep (who, incidentally does nothing but trust God to carry him). In the second parable, He seeks out the lost coin (who, also, does nothing to merit salvation). And, finally, He seeks out the lost, prodigal (who, also, does no good works meriting God’s favor). What’s the point? Well, we don’t have to guess. Jesus states it very clearly:
I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Luke 15:7 (NAB)
In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents."  Luke 15:10 (NAB)
The theme is the joy God has when someone comes to saving faith (i.e. repentance). Repentance is the other side of the coin of faith. To repent means “to change one’s mind” and make a radical decision of faith. It’s an extension of tangible faith (see Mark 1:15: This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.).
Matthew 6:12 is another passage cited: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (KJV)  However, I believe this is referring to intimacy with God as a family member, not divorce from the family. That is to say, God is asserting the “reap what you sow” principle. If, in this life, you want to have an intimate relationship with God, you have to be forgiving. If you harbor bitterness, your holiness is compromised and God is not pleased with you. But Jesus doesn’t say here that you’ll go to Hell if you don’t forgive. I also believe there is a hint here that true Christians will, eventually, forgive because the Spirit of God in our hearts will bug us so much and make us so miserable in our bitterness that we’ll probably give in. The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) is primarily about practically living out our faith in this life and the consequences, in this life, of not living out who we are in Him. The Lord’s Prayer isn’t a prayer for salvation, it’s a prayer for daily living “. . . give us this day our daily bread.” The whole context is about living on this side of eternity (see also 6:34—clearly Jesus is speaking about living in the here and now). Also, Jesus isn’t vague about Hell in Matthew 8:5-13. In the passage, he’s approached by a Gentile (like you and me) in faith (not works). Jesus contrasts this Gentile with the kingdom of Israel who has rejected Him and the Gospel. Take a look:
The centurion said in reply, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. 9For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come here,' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it." 10When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, 12but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." Matthew 8:8-12 (NAB)
Notice, the centurion states he is not worthy and has no good works to offer Jesus. Then Jesus says, “in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Then He says that sinful Gentiles, of all people, will sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in Heaven but those in Israel who have rejected Him will not, “the children of the kingdom (i.e. Israel) will be driven out . . .” Those who don’t accept Him by faith won’t make it.

 Another often quoted passage in favor of losing salvation is Matthew 18:21-35:
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (NAB)A rhetorical question: “Was the wicked servant a righteous servant before he was forgiven or was he always wicked?” In other words, did the master just pronounce what was always true, or was the man a good man who turned rotten immediately after the master forgave him his debt? The text indicates that the servant immediately, right after he’s let off the hook, runs into a fellow servant and demands his money. Here’s the point. The parable displays forgiveness as a fruit of a righteous person. A true believer forgives, period. A “professing believer” is very willing to accept God’s forgiveness, but is not a true Christian. And he’ll demonstrate his true colors by his actions. This guy was rotten all along. His actions proved where his heart really was when he asked for forgiveness from the master. It was never right. He never had true, saving faith. The point: true believers forgive.
Matthew 7:1-2 is another passage worthy of discussion: Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Again, I see this as talking about this life as stated above. I will say that the passage isn’t talking about “judging” like we typically think. It’s talking about being judgmental. A true believer will stop being judgmental as God sanctifies her. If nothing changes, the “believer” was never changed initially and doesn’t have the Spirit indwelling her. But I think Jesus is stating, again, the “reap what you sow” principle. God will bring back on you in this life what you dish out. If you’re a judgmental person, He’ll discipline you by having others be judgmental with you.
Another confusing passage is James 2:24: You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (NAB) A few things to note. As I mentioned earlier, St. Paul in Romans 4 uses the same illustration as St. James in James 2 in a seemingly contradictory way. But, they were close friends and commended each other theologically. Also, St. James himself recognizes that we will blow it at times but not lose our salvation (see James 3:2).
So what’s James saying? Well, the Book of James is often described as the Proverbs of the New Testament. It’s written for practical instruction and is full of all kinds of wisdom. It’s one of my favorites. The Book of Romans is a theological work written from an almost legal perspective. Paul is teaching for doctrine. James is teaching for practice.
Also, the term “justified” can have two shades of meaning. One is to legally “declared righteous” and one is to practically “demonstrated righteous.” Paul is speaking of the declaration aspect, and James is speaking of the demonstration aspect.
The main message of James is: You cannot separate your faith from your lifestyle. If your lifestyle shows no evidence of true faith, you have a fake faith and it’s worthless.
Paul is saying: Grace alone, through true faith alone saves. He’s not addressing the good works that spring from true faith. He’s hitting the issue soteriologically (from the perspective of salvation). In Galatians 5:22-25, St. Paul does hit the more practical theme that St. James is alluding to.
If you notice, James distinguishes between two “faiths” in v. 14. He says:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? James 2:14 (NAB)
Notice, he refers to “that faith” as distinguished from “faith that has works.” There are two “faiths” in the people who call themselves “Christian.” One is true faith that always produces good fruit, because the person has the Spirit of God inside and is born again. The other is “professing faith” that is just intellectual assent and not trust . . . the kind of faith that demons have of Jesus (as James points out). That is not saving faith. It’s not real. It’s fake faith and is not what Jesus was talking about when He refers to believing in John 3:16.
Ezekiel 33:18 is another notable passage: When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die in it. I, however, take the passage as is. Nobody believes a righteous man won’t ever sin. But, if he chooses to commit serious sin and stays there, he’ll both be miserable and is in danger of actual death. Death can be a consequence for individual sins. I knew a man who was virtuous who chose to give in to sinful pleasure. He had affairs and experimented with other sins. He was miserable and finally died in a car accident. Do I believe he’s in Hell? No. I believe he is in Heaven as we speak. He had a real relationship with God and real faith. But his death was God’s discipline.
Also, keep in mind, Ezekiel is speaking to a people under the Old Covenant of the Law. God’s Spirit is not permanently in them like He is when people come to know Him now. However, Ezekiel 36:27 talks about what happens today when someone with real faith accepts the Gospel:
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. 27I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees. Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NAB)
Isn’t it reasonable, just by this passage alone, to say that once that new Spirit is in us, we will not turn completely away from God ever again? Isn’t it reasonable that the description of a person’s heart above suggests that the true believer will, indeed, persevere?
Below are several more passages in the argument:
Matthew 12:50: For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother. (NAB) We’ve already seen what the primary will of the Father is: To believe in His Son (see John 6).
John 14:12 and John 15:12-14: Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father...This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. (NAB) Can’t these verses be taken to mean that we will love and will do good works if our faith is real? That would certainly square with the other statements Jesus says throughout John’s Gospel.
Rev. 3:5: He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (NAB) The passage is given as comfort to those who are “overcoming” because of their true faith. It’s a promise of assurance, not an implication that names will be erased. It would be like if my 5-yr-old came to me and said, “Daddy, will I ever stop being your daughter?” I would take her little face in my hands and say to her, “Precious, you will never, ever stop being my daughter.” That would encourage her, not make her think that it’s possible that she could ever not be my daughter.
Matthew 10:22, (see also 24:13, 7:21):  Jesus is simply stating a fact, not a condition. “You’ll know if you’re the real deal with real faith if your faith stands in the midst of persecution.”

In the final post on this topic, I will address the Hebrews 10 passage, which is the strongest biblical argument for losing one's salvation.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Skin Color, Cannibalism, and Courage

Recently, I preached a sermon on Joshua and the courage God gave him to conquer the Promised Land. In researching the message, I came across a claim that the Canaanites in Jericho were cannibals who especially targeted enemies of lighter skin, believing that they gained power by consuming these lighter races. After I preached the sermon, I started chewing (sorry for the pun) on this concept and decided to do more research. To my surprise, I couldn't find anything on skin color linked to Canaanite cannibalism. While it stands to reason that skin color in the ancient world would quickly identify different people groups as well as enemies, and while it's also possible that the Canaanites had darker skin than the Israelites, I found it suspicious that I couldn't substantiate the assertion that skin color was a major factor in the detestable practice. I did, however, find support for the idea that Baal worship included cannibalism along with the belief that participants would somehow gain power from their enemies if they ate them. So, for those of you who may have a bone to pick (sorry) with me about this, I'm modifying my sermon on the website and leaving you with the following revision of the main point I was making. And, by the way, the next time you're thinking of making a meal of someone, leave skin color out of it :-)

All of us have Jerichos God calls us to. Some may, indeed, involve skin color. God may call us to stand against overwhelming racism or some other social evil. Some Jerichos look like an illness or a divorce or joblessness or a broken family. Regardless, we will face overwhelming challenges in this life. And some of them will absolutely terrify us. In the midst of it, remember, courage comes from seeing the perspective of the Almighty. In Joshua's case, God gives him the monumental and horrifying task of conquering the literal city of Jericho, which was basically an evil version of the Emerald City complete with two massive stone walls that were at least six feet thick and 20 feet high. And, and by the way, Jericho was inhabited by big, harry, gigantic zombie warriors who made the Klingons look like tooth fairies. Oh, and what were these zombie people called? They were called "Canaanites." There is a word in our language that comes from the Canaanites. It’s the word “cannibal.” Evidence suggests that "cannibal' is a compound word that may come from “Canaan" and "Baal." Baal was one of their gods and the Canaanites were known to eat their enemies in worship to him (see Num. 13:32). Can you imagine how frightening this must have been for Israel!!! They're going to war against giants who literally want to eat them for lunch! And if all this isn’t bad enough, God tells them the way to conquer this warrior city is by circling it a bunch of times with a marching band. "March and make noise and you’ll kill the Hannibal the Cannibal Klingons." For those of you in Rockford, talk about the Phantom Regiment! This is a band that is about to turn into ghosts because these giants are going to skin them alive! But I want you to see something. Look at Joshua 6:2:
"Then the Lord said to Joshua, 'I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.'”
What’s interesting about this is that God speaks in the past tense about something that hasn’t happened yet. God tells Joshua He has delivered Jericho before they even take one step in their march. You see, from our lower story, we see a terrifying battle that is so big we don’t know how we could ever win. Haven’t you ever said, “I don’t know if I can do this? This is too much for me!” I have. The battle is so overwhelming, I feel I’ve lost before it even starts. But in God’s upper story, it’s already won. Listen, when we’re close to God, the battle is over before it even starts. Nothing and no one can beat God. Pastor Kyle Idleman has a great quote. I love this: "Courage is fear that has said its prayers." It's okay to be afraid. Courage isn't the absence of fear. Courage is the result of focusing on God instead of Jericho. So, be of good courage. The Lord your God is with you!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why Nice Is Not Enough

I was recently reading Henry Cloud's book, Integrity, and found his insights into connecting with others fascinating. Cloud discusses how being a nice person doesn't always translate into close relationships. Have you ever met a nice person that you couldn't connect with? Perhaps he always had a smile on his face and went out of his way to greet you, but you found yourself avoiding him. Or perhaps she was syrupy sweet, so much so that you found yourself looking for a way to escape long talks with her. Why? What could possibly be the problem? We're talking about nice people! Well, perhaps the problem is a lack of empathy. A person can be nice but simply not get you. Years ago, I counseled a couple that was having problems. The husband was a very successful businessman and the wife was a delightful, attractive, friendly person. But I noticed something when they were in my office. She did all the talking. She always had a smile on her face, a genuine cheerfulness, and kind words to say. But she had to be the center of attention. There was very little two-way communication. It was non-stop, high energy, fire hose in your face of gushy sweetness. And it soon became exhausting. In order to be in a relationship, you have to be more than cheerful. You also have to step into the experiences of others. You have to feel, at some level, what they are feeling. You have to understand what they're going through. Syrup doesn't lubricate tragedy or heartache or anger well. It can come across as condescending and aloof. If you're a cheerful person by nature and, yet, you find yourself lonely, ask yourself, "Am I empathizing with others well?" "Am I trying to feel what they feel and understand where they're coming from?" One of the things I love about Jesus is that He gets me and He gets you. Hebrews 4:15 says, "This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weaknesses, for he faced the same testings we do, yet he did not sin." Jesus was nice, but He was more than nice. He was also the point of actually living our struggles with us. What must I do to become more like Him, for in doing so I go beyond nice and make a true difference with others.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Narnia Christmas

I have yet to meet a child that didn’t like magic. As a matter of fact, every Christmas Eve, I do a little magic show for my kids and even my teenage daughters enjoy it. Every trick is tied to something in the Christmas story. Perhaps the reason children enjoy this is that their innocent hearts know there is something to it. I’m not saying magicians like David Copperfield are really flying between buildings and making the Statue of Liberty disappear. I’m saying that there is a real and noble “magic” in the world that lives in the realm of God’s workings. And, perhaps more than any other time, Christmas makes us think of such realities. If you’ve seen The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, you know that there is an unbending law that governs all of Narnia. It is called “the deep magic” and is binding on all residents of the land. It is the natural law of Narnia written by the Emporer-beyond-the-Sea which cannot be violated without destroying the Narnian Universe. At one point in the story, a character named Edmund betrays his siblings. And the deep magic of Narnia says that when there is such a betrayal, the betrayer must forfeit his life as an act of justice. Edmund eventually realizes that he’s been tricked by the White Witch and feels sorry for betraying his brother and sisters, but justice demands that his sin be paid for nevertheless. And there is a scene in the movie where the White Witch demands that Edmund be punished for his crime because the deep magic demands it. Listen to the White Witch as she cites the deep magic to Aslan: “You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to kill.” Later she talks about Aslan’s knowledge of the deep magic and says, “He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.” Because Edmund sinned, justice demanded that the sin be paid for. What’s interesting about this is that Narnian law reflects universal law in our world. An articulation of this law is found in the Bible in Hebrews 9:22: In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22 (NIV) This is cosmic, divine justice. Sin must be paid for. Wrong must be made right. Sin must be penalized. Another way of putting it is: sin always results in a sacrifice. All of us have committed many sins. We’ve betrayed our families and our friends. We’ve all stolen and cheated and lied and slandered and gossiped. All of us have committed so many sins against the real, deep magic that we couldn’t count all of them. But here’s the great news about Christmas. We have hope. You see, there is a deeper magic than even the deep magic. The Bible calls it a number of things. It’s known as the “New Covenant” (or the “New Testament”), the “Law of Faith,” and the “Law of the Spirit.” In Narnia, the deeper magic states that if someone who is perfect and without sin takes the penalty of the sinner on himself, the deep magic will be appeased and death will be reversed. Forgiveness will be offered to the sinner. Remember, the most traumatic part of the story is when Aslan is humiliated and killed on the stone table by the White Witch. Aslan doesn’t fight back at all and voluntarily offers himself. Soon after this, Lucy and Susan (Edmund’s sisters) hug Aslan’s dead, shaven body and weep over him thinking all is lost. Lucy says she’s cold. Winter is without Christmas. But when they get up to leave, something happens. All of a sudden, Aslan’s body is gone and the stone table breaks in two: “. . . 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 had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.” When Jesus came on the original Christmas, He came to give his perfect life to appease the true deep magic, the Law. He came to sacrifice Himself for our sins as the Law demanded. He appeased moral justice. And when he died, the holy curtain in the Temple in Jerusalem actually ripped apart like the stone table broke apart in Narnia. With the death of Jesus all sacrifices for sin were paid in full. The Old Testament temple sacrificial system was no longer needed. The stone table is no longer necessary. All that is required for the sins of the entire world has been paid. Look at Hebrews 9:15. Christ came with this new agreement so that all who are invited may come and have forever all the wonders God has promised them. For Christ died to rescue them from the penalty of the sins they had committed while still under that old system. Hebrews 9:15 (TLB) We’re not under the deep magic any more, we’re under the deeper magic of God’s grace. Christmas is about a plan that God conceived to save the human race from it’s own destruction. It’s about God’s Son coming to Earth and dealing with our sins. Now, with all that in mind, here’s an idea. During the Christmas Season, watch the movie The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe with your kids and tell them about the deeper, true magic of Jesus Christ. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:8-14 (NIV) Merry Christmas! Pastor Rusty