The Real Thing

For twenty years I lived in a town just south of Atlanta, Georgia, which gave me a deep appreciation for a man named Asa Candler. Candler was the founder of a soft drink company known as Coca-Cola, but what many people don’t know is that he was a generous philanthropist who donated millions of dollars to Emory University and what later became the Candler School of Theology, a Methodist seminary. I am a blessed recipient of that generosity, as Candler was where I attended seminary. To borrow a slogan from Coke, Asa Candler was the “real thing” when it came to giving generously.

In our reading today, we see a well-articulated treatise on why the world should accept Christ as the real thing when it comes to the sacrificial messiah that God had promised, and the prophets had foretold. Prior to Jesus’ arrival, animal sacrifices were made in an attempt to blot out one’s sins and transgressions. But the best that could happen was that the animal blood “covered” the sin but could not erase the sin … thus the adherence to the Law that required such sacrifice was only a shadow-form of a much greater atonement yet to come. It needed to be repeated once a year, thus proving its inefficiency in actually making sin go away. 

Hebrews 10:1-10 (Common English Bible)

10 The Law is a shadow of the good things that are coming, not the real things themselves. It never can perfect the ones who are trying to draw near to God through the same sacrifices that are offered continually every year. 2 Otherwise, wouldn’t they have stopped being offered? If the people carrying out their religious duties had been completely cleansed once, no one would have been aware of sin anymore. 3 Instead, these sacrifices are a reminder of sin every year, 4 because it’s impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

5 Therefore, when he comes into the world he says, You didn’t want a sacrifice or an offering,
but you prepared a body for me; 6 you weren’t pleased with entirely burned offerings or a sin offering.

7 So then I said,
“Look, I’ve come to do your will, God.
This has been written about me in the scroll.”

8 He says above, You didn’t want and you weren’t pleased with a sacrifice or an offering or with entirely burned offerings or a purification offering, which are offered because the Law requires them.

9 Then he said, Look, I’ve come to do your will. He puts an end to the first to establish the second. 10 We have been made holy by God’s will through the offering of Jesus Christ’s body once for all.

 Beginning in verse 5, the writer recalled a time when Christ quoted Psalm 40:6-8 and drew out the validation of his own sacrifice on the cross as the final and complete offering for the sins of the world. “Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.” Jesus made the case that God never desired burnt sacrifices and sin offerings from humanity, but rather a heart that was obedient and redeemed by the shed blood of the real atonement of his crucifixion. 

Obedience versus shallow offerings is the lesson for us today. When you offer your time, talent, and tithe, do you do so out of a sense of obligation, or as an act of obeisance? Do you mentally calculate the cost of your service and your witness before you respond? Do you nitpick the “law” regarding Christian behavior or are you all in?

 The book of Hebrews is a study in why Christ was the ultimate offering on our behalf, and it calls us to respond accordingly. We acknowledge that Jesus was indeed the “real thing” and recognize that his death and resurrection means that our response as Christ followers should be just as real and meaningful.     

Ponder this today as you go about your routines. Is God calling you to “get real” about your behaviors, attitudes, actions, and thoughts? Jesus gave it all on the cross. May we do likewise.

Jesus went all in, too.

No Shame in this Game

My local theater is showing a movie called “Call Sign Romeo.” It was completely filmed on the Outer Banks, taking advantage of our picturesque vistas and vibrant sunsets. It tells the story of a young high school wrestler who lives in a state of perpetual motion as he navigates the treacherous waters of school sports, big dreams, young romance, and his own sense of importance as he learns the value of “we over me.” His desire to one day become a Navy fighter pilot like his deceased father undergirds his ambition, which is often derailed by his arrogance and ego. This coming-of-age story is wonderfully told by a local doctor-turned-screenwriter, with a lot of local kids and adult actors filling the screen with great enthusiasm and sincerity.

Our hero learns the hard way that life is a team sport. He realizes that he will keep faltering and failing as long as he puts his faith only in himself while excluding the others around him. When he matures enough to put his team first and becomes a true leader, his own goals are met.

There is no shame in that game.

God calls all of us into this team sport called life together. We find ourselves on the wrestling mat over and over again, hoping to do better than we did in the last match.

We wrestle with temptation.

We wrestle with addiction.

We wrestle with entitlement and self-righteousness.

We wrestle with the need to be right.

We wrestle with depression, grief, and inertia.

What are you wrestling with today?

In the book of Romans, Paul talks about what happens when the constant wrestling with daily problems overwhelms us. Do we give in? Or do we endure?

Romans 5 (Common English Bible)

5 Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. 

When we boast in our own accomplishments, we reap the results that ego-driven behavior usually produces. That kind of emptiness is not what Christ intends for us. But when we boast in the hope of God’s glory, we acknowledge his power and might over our circumstances and claim that in all things, he works for our good. Even our problems.

But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

What problem is plaguing you today? Are you in trouble? Have you surrounded yourself with effective teammates? You can rest in the knowledge that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and all of these things lead you to HOPE. All you have to do is to yield to God. God has a future planned for you and it is a future with HOPE! (Jeremiah 29:11).

So, if you feel as though life is slamming you down and you’re trapped in a “Whizzer” (look it up!), hang on. God is on the mat with you and your faith in him will help you to prevail.

Hope in Glory by Michelle Robertson


I need to start this devotional with an apology. I have a beef. I apologize that I am about to hurt some feelings. The beef is about the way people are attributing things that happen in their lives to the whim and fortunes of “the Universe.” I have seen this all over social media. I get it. It’s trendy. It’s cool. It’s….wrong.

In short, the “Universe” has no power of its own. It can’t control your fate, bring you good luck, find the right mate for you, or open doors to success. The universe is just part of God’s creation. HE is the one to whom we should attribute our lives and our blessings. God’s creation can not do this. Only God can.

I am in good company when it comes to this. When he traveled to Athens to share the good news of Jesus Christ, Paul saw a lot of things that weren’t right.

Acts 17 (The Message)

22-23 So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with.

The Greeks had created a god-structure which was represented in stone, and worshipped these gods as powerful deities. Paul set them straight.

24-29 “The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him.

Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! One of your poets said it well: ‘We’re the God-created.’ Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?

Christians, here comes the warning. God will overlook these slights as long as we don’t know any better.

We know better.

30-31 “God overlooks it as long as you don’t know any better—but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he’s calling for a radical life-change. He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone by raising him from the dead.”

A radical life-change means we don’t follow trends, use popular language the way the secular world uses it, or stray from the things we have been taught. Give God the credit he deserves. He is the only one who is capable of offering you a future with hope. Even the universe knows this.

Praise God of the Universe by Bonnie Bennett