Viewing the Cross From the Old Testament: Leviticus 16

  THE DAY OF ATONEMENT: GOD’S GOT YOU COVERED   The word “atonement” is one of those biblical terms that few of us can easily define. It is an incredibly important word with respect to our salvation, so it is worth tackling. Atonement means “to cover.” When it comes to our sinful natures and the moral debts that we have racked up in our lives, God’s got you covered. Let me try to illustrate atonement.             A pastor was visiting a sheep ranch when he spotted what he thought was a two-headed lamb. He asked the ranch foreman, “Why in the world does that lamb have two heads?”             The foreman smiled and said, “You’re from the city aren’t ya? Let me tell you what we did. Two ewes each gave birth to a lamb. One of the ewes died in childbirth and one of the lamb’s died also. We took the surviving lamb and put it in the pen with the living ewe to see if she would nurse. But she smelled the lamb and walked away. She knew it wasn’t hers.”             “What did you do?” the pastor a

Viewing the Cross from the Old Testament: Exodus 12

THE POWER IN THE BLOOD   We have often sung that dynamic chorus, “There is power in the blood, power in the blood, power in the blood of the Lamb.” If you have given some thought to those familiar lines, you will, as I have, mused on the meaning of blood as an agent of power. Why do we say there is “power in the blood”?              Blood is messy. Blood is sticky. Blood causes some people to faint at the sight of it. If a movie contains enough violence and blood, it is rated R for its graphic portrayals (think “Passion of the Christ”). Blood in a PS5 game garners a rating of M for Mature.             And yet we celebrate the blood in Christian ceremony. Both in the Jewish Passover and the Christian celebration of communion, we focus on the blood of the sacrifice. In both, it is the blood which has the astonishing power to solve the problem of acceptance before God. Without the blood, all of Egypt suffered a small but frightful microcosm of the judgment of God. Having been marked by th

Viewing the Cross From the Old Testament: Genesis 22

THE LORD WILL PROVIDE   The Bible contains many difficult passages that make us scratch our heads in confusion. Few are more challenging than when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on the altar. It leaves us with a lot of questions about the kind of God we believe in who would ask this.             Imagine you are a couple that has had trouble conceiving a child. You have tried everything that modern science has developed. No results. Then, when all hope has vanished for having a family, when you are too old to have children, the doctor tells you that you are going to have a baby. You and your spouse are the parents of a healthy boy. Fifteen years later, God somehow speaks to you and asks you to give up your beautiful son, your only child, the one on whom your hopes and dreams rest. Give him up!              That makes it too real, doesn’t it? What are we supposed to learn from a difficult situation like this? In one way or another, everything in the OT points to Jesus. Whe

Living a Faith that can be Seen - James 5:13-18

PRAYING THE PRAYER OF FAITH   Praying the “prayer of faith.” That sounds a little redundant, doesn’t it? Isn’t every prayer prayed by faith, in faith, or out of faith? Praying requires some measure of faith that there is a God who hears and responds to our requests. What’s the difference between simple prayer and the prayer of faith?              If we consider the context of James 5:13-18 we may assume that the “prayer of faith” has more to do with asking God for healing. That’s a big “ask” and we would further assume that this request would require greater faith than many of us possess. I first encountered a request for healing as a 20-year-old preacher at a nursing home. After delivering my message on prayer, an elderly resident approached me meekly and asked that I lay my hand on her head and pray that God would take away her pain. I nervously muttered a prayer, but having never prayed for healing before, I wasn’t sure what was supposed to happen. Did I blow it by not praying a pra