Charles Stanley – The Need for a Sacrifice

 

Hebrews 10:1-4

Have you ever read about sacrifice in the Old Testament and wondered what it was for? The only payment for sin is death (Rom. 6:23), and the Lord graciously allowed animals to be offered as a substitute for human lives. So people regularly brought sacrifices to God as atonement. However, it was only a temporary solution and had to be repeated often.

In order for mankind to be eternally freed from the guilt of sin, God required that the once-for-all sacrifice had to be completely pure (Lev. 22:20). What’s more, it could not be an animal. After all, the guilt belonged to man; therefore, the world was in need of a perfect and sinless person to be offered.

What an impossible situation: Man was responsible to pay the price, but God alone was capable of sinlessness. The only possible solution was for Jesus Christ—who was wholly God and wholly man—to offer His life on our behalf. Unlike the blood of bulls and lambs, Christ’s blood was a fully sufficient one-time payment for all sin.

This is why we say that we’re saved by the blood of Christ. Jesus did what we could not—He set us free from our sins. Consider the immensity of the sacrifice He made on your behalf. Have you thanked Him lately?

 

Bible in One Year: Amos 1-4

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Making Peace with Trouble

 

Bible in a Year:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Today’s Scripture & Insight:John 16:25–33

We were almost home when I noticed it: the needle of our car’s temperature gauge was rocketing up. As we pulled in, I killed the engine and hopped out. Smoke wafted from the hood. The engine sizzled like bacon. I backed the car up a few feet and found a puddle beneath: oil. Instantly, I knew what had happened: The head gasket had blown.

I groaned. We’d just sunk money into other expensive repairs. Why can’t things just work? I grumbled bitterly. Why can’t things just stop breaking?

Can you relate? Sometimes we avert one crisis, solve one problem, pay off one big bill, only to face another. Sometimes those troubles are much bigger than an engine self-destructing: an unexpected diagnosis, an untimely death, a terrible loss.

In those moments, we yearn for a world less broken, less full of trouble. That world, Jesus promised, is coming. But not yet: “In this world you will have trouble,” He reminded His disciples in John 16. “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (v. 33). Jesus spoke in that chapter about grave troubles, such as persecution for your faith. But such trouble, He taught, would never have the last word for those who hope in Him.

Troubles small and large may dog our days. But Jesus’ promise of a better tomorrow with Him encourages us not to let our troubles define our lives today.

By:  Adam R. Holz

 

 

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Ravi Zacharias Ministry – A Theology of Immersion

 

Comedian Brian Regan tells a great joke about spiderwebs. For many of us the reaction is dramatic when walking into a spiderweb: arms flailing, freaking out at the invisible strands that have just accosted us. There are legitimate reasons for people to not want to walk into spiderwebs; a spider web is quite literally a device created and placed to trap and devour prey. But to anyone watching the drama unfold from afar, the whole scene appears far less rational, looking more like someone just buckled under life’s pressures and gave into insanity. “Did you see that guy?” Brian asks in character. “He just snapped!”

I can’t help but think in our recurring cultural divides that this joke has become a sad metaphor. There are those of us who judge from afar, pridefully thinking we know what is happening, but in reality we are too far removed to see the spiderwebs that entangle those crying out for justice. Their cries leave some bystanders astonished, thinking that they just saw someone walking peacefully down an ahistorical road suddenly snap for no reason.

Christians profess to serve an omnipresent and immanent God, and as his children, we are called to reflect those attributes in incarnational and immersive community. It is a call to proximity, listening, learning, growing, and serving. But this sadly isn’t often what the church looks like. It is no wonder that the trend of racial isolation (in and outside the church) leads to a lack of understanding and concern for the cries of those hurting. In their book Divided by Faith, Michael Emerson and Christian Smith describe how this isolation breeds a sort of apathy and ignorance to the larger problems involved in healing deep societal wounds.(1) As Ravi Zacharias reminds us, “It is Christ who shows that unless a person’s pain is understood, one will never understand a person’s soul.”(2)

 

Several years ago in my seminary studies, I first heard about a man I would come to greatly admire, Samuel Hopkins. Hopkins was an 18th century Congregationalist minister (the most direct denominational descendants of Puritanism) and the closest disciple of New England theologian Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was a slaveowner who opposed the slave trade, but not slavery. Like many Christians in that day, he would have understood Africans as spiritually equal but naturally inferior and failed to see how his own theology convicted him. Yet Hopkins, who had previously agreed with Edwards and owned a slave himself, just one generation later would become one of the most ardent opponents of the slave trade and slavery itself, calling for immediate abolition and emancipation. He would even argue, quite ahead of his time in an era when many considered Africans to be a cursed race, that they were created by God “free and Equal with ourselves.”(3) And he did not just consider them spiritual equals, but equal “by nature, and by right,” which all could understand if they were able to rid themselves of prejudices.(4) So how did Hopkins rid himself of his own prejudices? By immersion in community.

Hopkins settled in Newport, Rhode Island, to begin his new role as minister of the First Congregational Church in 1770. A prominent woman of faith there, Sarah Osborn, had been holding prayer meetings in her home since 1742 due to the former minister’s struggles with alcoholism. Those meetings had turned into full-blown revival by 1765. There Osborn welcomed all, including enslaved Africans, though she was criticized by several ministers for doing so (not just for allowing Africans, but also for taking a leadership role as a woman).(5)

Through Osborn’s prayer meetings and proximity to slaves, Hopkins began to hear firsthand accounts of what slavery truly was and how it felt. The loss of dignity, the ripping apart of families, the harsh treatment. Ultimately, it was the inability to fulfill what Hopkins’s friend, enslaved African poet Phillis Wheatley, called a divine principle that lives in every person’s heart “which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance.”(6) The docks were not far from where Hopkins ministered. He more than likely saw many an African family ripped apart on auction blocks. His prejudices were confronted with reality. He was finally close enough to see the spiderwebs that entangled, and he was changed by the experience. He would be transformed by the close relationships he entered into here, and by those black saints he would later befriend.

Hopkins soon found that he was not the only one with an experience like this. He began to find others like Anthony Benezet, Moses Brown, and Granville Sharp who were part of the abolitionist cause. His mind was opened to a whole body of literature from people who had traveled to and studied Africa. Hopkins in humility had to admit that his ideas had been blatantly wrong. His understanding of the total depravity of man meant that it was no shock to him to think that a dominant culture would seek to domineer and create systems to oppress another culture for their own selfish purposes. What he learned must have felt, then, like a shock, but also no shock at all. He had his eyes opened to the bloody reality of racial discrimination. In this instance, the American colonies had “blood on their hands” and were under a curse because they “deface the image of God in [slaves], and set up in ourselves the image of the Devil, the Great destroyer of men.”(7)

It is no surprise that this is the method used by Jesus to confront the prejudices of his own disciples. He did not just tell them a shocking parable about a Good Samaritan; he confronted them with a Samaritan woman who became the first evangelist to Samaria. He showed them faith par excellence in the actions of a Canaanite woman, a woman from that most ancient enemy of Israel. From afar, they saw wickedness, but up close Jesus showed them Image and humanity. We were created for community, and Jesus died for the vertical and horizontal reconciliation of community. Bonhoeffer reminds us that first, as in the case of the disciples, we must pastorally “listen with the ears of God, so that we can speak the Word of God.”(8)

What we are being called to in this world is not to spread a message of God’s love without ourselves living God’s love in ethical action. No, we are called to share this message and listen for cries of help and seek justice, as this is to love our neighbors.(9) We are called to restore shalom in vertical and horizontal dimensions. The call to immersion in community is like baptism: the genuine heart will not remain unchanged. Let us seek immersion in the milieu of the other so that they may be other no more.

 

Derek Caldwell is a writer for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

(1) See especially chapter 6, “Let’s Be Friends,” in Emerson and Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Oxford University Press, 2000).
(2) Ravi Zacharias, The Logic of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019), 54.
(3) Jonathan D. Sassi, “‘This whole country have their hands full of Blood this day’: Transcription and Introduction of an Antislavery Sermon Manuscript Attributed to the Reverend Samuel Hopkins,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 112, no. 1 (2002): 89.
(4) Samuel Hopkins, A Dialogue Concerning the Slavery of the Africans (Norwich, CT: Judah P. Spooner, 1776), 34, in Early American Imprints, Series 1: Evans 1639-1800, no. 14804.
(5) Catherine Brekus, Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013), 217-288.
(6) Phillis Wheatley in a private letter to Rev. Samson Occom, a highly respected Native American convert, published in the Connecticut Gazette in March of 1774. In Vincent Carretta, Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage (Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 2011), 153.
(7) Sassi, 67.
(8) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 99.
(9) Isaiah 1:17; Micah 6:8; Matthew 25:40; Luke 11:42.

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Joyce Meyer – Free to Fly

 

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound. — Isaiah 61:1 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Closer to God Each Day – by Joyce Meyer

Love offers people both roots and wings. It provides a sense of belonging (roots) and a sense of freedom (wings). Real love doesn’t try to control or manipulate others. Jesus said that He was sent by God to proclaim liberty. As believers, that’s what we’re meant to do also—to free people to fulfill God’s will for their lives, not to bring them under our control.

Have you ever seen parents push their children to do things they don’t even want to do, just to meet their own frustrated desires? Or maybe a person who’s clingy and emotionally smothering to a new friend because he or she is afraid to lose that person? Both of these are examples of a misguided, counterfeit kind of love that dominates rather than sets free—this is not at all the way true love works.

Love does not try to gain personal satisfaction at the expense of others. Love will always nurture and promote liberty. When we truly love God and others, we’ll gladly allow the people in our lives to follow His plan—not our plan—and see who they can be and what they can accomplish in Christ. A caged bird cannot fly, so cultivate liberty! Allow people the freedom to be themselves, and watch how they flourish.

Prayer Starter: Father, please help me be a person who loves others in a liberating way. Thank You for setting me free to be myself, and for giving me the grace to do the same for the people in my life. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

 

 

http://www.joycemeyer.org

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – If Two Agree 

 

“I also tell you this – if two of you agree down here on earth concerning anything you ask for, My Father in heaven will do it for you” (Matthew 18:19).

Some of the richest experiences of my life have occurred in the practice of meeting with one or two individuals to pray specifically for definite things. The Scripture promises that one person can defeat 1000 but two can defeat 10,000 (Deuteronomy 32:30).

I believe that same principle holds in prayer. When individuals pray together, agreeing concerning a certain matter – assuming, of course, that they are praying according to the Word and will of God – the mighty sources of deity are released in their behalf.

Some interpret this verse to refer to church discipline, rejecting the claim that I am making in principle that there is great power, supernatural power, released when God’s children unite together in prayer. We have not because we ask not (James 4:2). Whatsoever we shall ask in prayer, believing, we shall receive (Matthew 21:22). If we ask anything according to God’s will, He hears and answers us (1 John 5:14). If we ask anything in Christ’s name, He will do it (John 14:14).

When two or more individuals unite and together claim these promises concerning a certain matter whatever it may be, they should expect answers. That is in accordance with God’s promise and God does not lie.

Bible Reading: Matthew 18:15-20

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will seek opportunities to unite with others to pray specifically concerning the needs of individual believers or my church or missions around the world, and we will expect answers in accordance with God’s promise.

 

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Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devos – Serving God for the Right Reasons

 

By Kids4Truth Clubs on 09/21/20

https://equipu.kids4truth.com/podcast-player/10885/serving-god-for-the-right-reasons.mp3

 

“As the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Ephesians 6:6–7).

Kara walked quickly down the church hallway. She was late for orchestra practice. When she reached the auditorium, she searched the chairs for her usual empty spot. To her surprise, it was filled by her friend Melanie. Kara stalked up the stairs and stood in front of her chair. Melanie stopped practicing and looked up.

“Oh hi, Kara. Pastor Fox just moved me up here this morning,” she explained.

“Okay. Did he say why? This has always been my spot.”

“Not really, but it’s not a big deal. I mean, if you need to sit here, I can just move back,” Melanie offered.

Kara gave a plastic smile. “It’s fine. I’ll just move somewhere else.” She found an empty stand at the back of the first violins and flopped down.

After a couple of minutes, Pastor Fox came in. As he passed Kara’s chair, he stopped and said, “By the way, Kara, I moved you because I thought it’d be nice to give Melanie a chance to sit in the front. You don’t mind, do you?”

“No—it’s fine,” she said sourly. They began practicing the Sunday offertory, but Kara’s heart wasn’t in the music. All she could think about was the injustice of her new seat. It’s not fair. I’m so much better than Melanie, she thought.

After practice, she made a beeline for the door but was stopped by Pastor Fox. “Kara, can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Uh, sure,” she swallowed.

“I noticed you didn’t seem very happy about your new seat. Maybe Melanie isn’t as good a musician as you, but this is a leadership opportunity for her. I want you to really think about why you play in the orchestra. Are you doing it for God, or for yourself?”

Kara thought a minute, then said, “I guess, myself.”

God wants us to serve Him because we love Him. When we do something to be recognized by other people or to make ourselves feel good, we are being selfish in our ministry.

We glorify God when our motivation is to honor Him.

My response:

» What is my attitude when others get attention that I don’t get? What does this show about me?

» What’s my reason for ministry—do I do it for God or for myself?

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Denison Forum – The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and our unique role in God’s drama of the ages

Joan Ruth Bader was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15, 1933. She met Martin Ginsburg on a blind date when they were undergraduates at Cornell. The couple had a daughter, Jane, and a son, James.

She became a Supreme Court Justice in 1993, serving for twenty-seven years before her death last Friday at the age of eighty-seven.

In days to come, we will discuss some of the biblical aspects of her work on the Court, including her judicial philosophy and her views on cultural issues. For today, I’d like to focus on Justice Ginsburg’s life and influence in the context of one of the most famous chapters in Scripture.

Here we discover a life principle that she illustrates and that our Lord commends to us.

“A Prayer of Moses, the man of God” 

Psalm 90 is titled “A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.” It was apparently written as the Jewish people were preparing to enter Canaan together.

Moses led them from Egyptian slavery through the Red Sea and forty years in the wilderness. He gave them the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Torah as God’s word and guidance for their lives and nation. He brought them through battles, rebellions, and hardships to the edge of their future in the land God intended for them.

If we had met Moses forty years earlier, however, we would never have imagined that the last paragraph would be possible.

A fugitive from Egyptian justice, he was keeping his father-in-law’s sheep in the wilderness. When God appeared to him and called him to liberate his people, Moses’ reply showed his astonishment: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11).

But God had a plan for his life that Moses could not imagine at the time.

“Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature” 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg received her BA from Cornell and attended Harvard Law School, where she was the first woman to serve on the editorial staff of the law review. When her husband got a job in New York, she finished her law degree at Columbia Law School, where she tied for first in her class.

After graduation, however, she struggled to find employment. One of her Columbia professors intervened on her behalf and she got a job as a law clerk from 1959 to 1961.

She became a professor of law at Rutgers (1963–72) and Columbia (1972–80). She was instrumental in launching the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1971; she served as the ACLU’s General Counsel from 1973 to 1980 and on the National Board of Directors from 1974 to 1980.

She was appointed a judgeship on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980. President Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court on June 14, 1993; she was confirmed by the Senate on August 3 and took her seat on August 10. She became the second female and first Jewish female justice of the Court.

After her death, Chief Justice John Roberts stated, “Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature.” Known as a “lioness of the law,” she became a cultural icon, inspiring T-shirts, a character on Saturday Night Live, an Oscar-nominated documentary, and a major studio motion picture about her early legal career.

According to one legal scholar, her work as an attorney decades before joining the court “fundamentally changed the Supreme Court’s approach to women’s rights.” Writing for the New Yorker, Harvard professor Jill Lepore stated: “Ginsburg bore witness to, argued for, and helped to constitutionalize the most hard-fought and least-appreciated revolution in modern American history: the emancipation of women. Aside from Thurgood Marshall, no single American has so wholly advanced the cause of equality under the law.”

“Suddenly a wall becomes a gate” 

As we will discuss tomorrow, I disagreed with Justice Ginsburg on a host of biblical issues, but I’m grateful for the way she inspired generations of women to know that they can accomplish their dreams. Like Moses, you and I are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) with a unique role he intends for us in the drama he is directing through the ages.

Our part in this drama is a present-tense calling with present-tense urgency. However long we live, our years “are soon gone, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). As a result, we must pray, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). Each day takes us one day closer to eternity.

It is significant that the first female Jewish Supreme Court justice died on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which is seen by Jews all over the world as a day for new beginnings.

The fact that you and I are alive on this Monday morning is evidence that God has a plan and purpose for us. Each day is a new beginning in which we are invited to know our Lord and make him known with greater passion and purpose than ever before.

Then, when our last day in this world comes, Christians can know that our death is only the doorway to life. As Jesus said, “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:26).

Henri Nouwen was right: “Death is part of a much greater and much deeper event, the fullness of which we cannot comprehend, but of which we know that it is a life-bringing event. . . . What seemed to be the end proved to be the beginning; what seemed to be a cause for fear proved to be a cause for courage; what seemed to be defeat proved to be victory; and what seemed to be the basis for despair proved to be the basis for hope. Suddenly a wall becomes a gate.”

Are you ready to step through that gate today? If not, why not?

 

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