Laudable Linkage

Here’s another list of good online reads:

Biblical Literacy: Jen Wilkin on the Importance of Bible Study, HT to Knowable Word. “By her twenties, Wilkin understood it was possible to drown in waves of opinion. If she was going to learn to swim, she would have to learn to read the Bible for herself.”

On Basketball, Spiritual Disciplines, and Sanctification. “I had in mind a list of characteristics that I felt were necessary for me to sanctified—to be holy. Most of them had something to do with keeping a list of rules or living by a certain standard in my life.” I did, too. I appreciate this testimony of learning that “Sanctification comes through relationship.”

You Will Fail Sometimes. Don’t Quit. “I used to think that there is some point in the Christian life when you arrive, when you finally see that your heart and head and spirit align in some sort of beautiful sphere of sincerity and goodness and true devotion to Christ. But the older I get and the more I have begun to understand why the Bible teaches that we need armor.”

Does Your Prayer Life Need to Change? Sometimes we don’t know where to start–sometimes our routines have turned into ruts. There are helps here for either problem.

Moms and Dads: Show Your Need, HT to Challies. “I wish I would’ve shown my kids my need for Christ more. I worked so hard to show them my godliness that I didn’t show them my need. I should have been more transparent. I should have shown them just how much I needed Jesus.”

Far From Home, HT to Challies. “Some of us include in our spaces only those who support our biases or our preferences; or those who have been born into our circle or have earned membership there. But the Bible is filled with admonitions to welcome and care for the widow, the orphan and the foreigner. It doesn’t say anything about first determining whether or not they deserve it, or how well they live up to our cultural ideals.”

The Scenes They Leave Out, HT to Challies. “This steady diet of films and books and TV full of action, adventure, and high drama is stimulating. But are we inadvertently teaching ourselves that normal life is not? When the ordinary stuff of daily living is at best a quick montage to set up the real action, aren’t we in danger of losing sight of the fact that the ordinary stuff of daily living is actually most of the real action of real life?”

It‘s Not Martyrdom if You’re Being Obnoxious. “When Christians suffer, there are more possible reasons than just ‘suffering for Jesus.’ Christians, individually or corporately, might be suffering because they’ve said or done stupid things, placing themselves under the divinely designed cosmic order, whereby life is tougher if you’re stupid (as John Wayne allegedly said).”

It Is All a Snare to Me. I don’t always get a lot out of reading other people’s prayers. But this touched home in many areas, reminding me “my greatest snare is myself.”

Should Christians Cuss? HT to Challies. “It is true that Jesus often used sharp, confrontational words, but that is not the same thing as using obscenities.”

2021 Audubon Photography Awards, HT to Challies. Stunning photos of God’s creation.

This is a cute excerpt from a BBC special about “Snow Bears” (which I have not seen):

“But it’s the wrong hole.” Not for the seal! 🙂

Happy Saturday!

14 Reasons to Read the Old Testament

It’s safe to say most of us gravitate to the New Testament of the Bible. We enjoy the Old Testament stories, the practical wisdom of Proverbs, the emotional depth of the Psalms.

But Jesus fulfilled all the OT ceremonial law and the sacrificial requirements, so we’re not under obligation to practice those any more. And all that past history is . . .well. . . .past. The NT seems more practical.

So why bother to read the OT?

Well, there are several good reasons.

1. The whole Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). One of our former pastors used to say the Bible is divinely brief. Think of all the things an eternal God knows and could tell us. He chose the particular words in the Bible for specific reasons.

2. The whole Bible is beneficial. 2 Timothy goes on to say all Scripture is “beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work” (3:16b-17, NASB).

3. The OT provides examples for us. “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11, NASB). The context of these verses talks about various things OT Israel did wrong. Then the passage warns the reader, “Therefore let the one who thinks he stands watch out that he does not fall” (verse 12).

4. The OT helps us appreciate what we have in Christ. Our  church recently studied Leviticus.

The tabernacle and temple system emphasized the distance between us and God. Only the priests could enter and only with the right sacrifices conducted the right way. When Jesus died, the veil of the temple was supernaturally torn in two, indicating the way to God was now open.

Hebrews 10:19-20 tells us, “We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, through His flesh.” Because He made a way for us and is our high priest, we’re encouraged to

  • approach God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith
  • hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering
  • consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds (verses 21-25).

5. The OT emphasizes holiness. A seminary professor taught a class on Leviticus. He asked his students to try to keep the regulations in Leviticus for a week and journal about the experience. One replied that the assignment had him evaluating everything in his life related to holiness all the time. The NT requires holiness, too. But we don’t often examine every area of our lives to see whether we measure up to God’s holy standards as they were required to in the OT. We’re free from the strictures of the OT ceremonial law, but we still need to submit our conscience and practice to God’s Holy Spirit.

6. The NT quotes or alludes to the OT over 880 times. The NT would not make sense without the OT foundation. [1]

7. Jesus quoted and believed in the Old Testament. Jesus told the Jews who opposed Him, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39, ESV). The Scriptures He referred to were the Old Testament writings. Many times He said, “Have you not read…?” and quoted something from the Old Testament, meaning that He expected them to know what it taught.

After His resurrection, when He walked along with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, ESV).

8. The OT instructs us and gives us hope. Paul tells us in Romans 15:4: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” When we realize we are not that different from the complaining, disbelieving Israelites in the wilderness, we have hope that God will be faithful and longsuffering with us as He was with them. When we read of God helping His people through various trials and troubles in the Bible, we’re encouraged that He will take care of us as well.

9. The OT and NT tell us about the same God. Some have felt that the OT presents an angry, vengeful God while the NT shows us a merciful, loving God. But they are one and the same. God shows His grace and mercy and love to His people many times in the OT, even when they behaved the worst. And many places in the NT warn of God’s wrath against sin.

10. The Old Testament shows us our need and prepares us for the only One who can meet it. The laws and sacrificial system showed Israel the impossibility of keeping God’s law and the need for a Savior. The law was our “schoolmaster” to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24, KJV). The sinless lamb of the sacrifices points to the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The OT sacrifices had to be repeated, but Jesus’s offering took care of our sins forever (Hebrews 10:14).

11. The Old Testament points to Christ, from the representation of the scapegoat, to the atonement, to Messianic prophecies. A former pastor, Dr. Mark Minnick, used to say that the Old Testament showed Israel’s need for a judge, a prophet, and a king. But even the best judges, prophets, and kings fell short. Jesus fulfills all those offices perfectly.

12. The Old Testament is part of our spiritual heritage. Romans 11:11-31 tells us we were grafted into the olive tree of the Jews.  The true Israel is by faith, not just lineage. Galatians 3:29 and Romans 9:6-8 say that those in Christ are children of Abraham:

Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham (Galatians 3:6-9, NKJV).

13. The Old and New Testaments form a whole, with each part of the same overarching story. L. E. Maxwell, cofounder and eventual president of the Prairie Bible Institute, said in his book Crowded to Christ, “The New Testament is enfolded in the Old, and the Old Testament is unfolded in the New.” [2]

14. There are treasures in the OT. If you skipped the OT, you’d miss some of the greatest treasures of the Bible, like these:

Zephaniah 3:17: The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Isaiah 30:15a: For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

If the OT seemed dry or hard to understand in the past, a good study Bible helps. You can find a variety of sizes and types of commentaries and other study aids. This past year I have used Warren Wiersbe’s “Be” commentaries on different books of the Bible. They often show up on Kindle sales. They’re detailed enough to give insights, yet simple enough to understand.

If you’ve been avoiding the OT, I encourage you to read and study  it. You’ll find rich, meaningful treasure there.


[1] “O.T. Quotations Found in the N.T. – Study Resources.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 15 Jun, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/pnt/pnt08.cfm&gt;.

[2] L. E. Maxwell, Crowded to Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1950), p. 272.

Unless otherwise stated, all Bible verses are from the ESV.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

A Better Blade for Killing Sin

There’s one piece of chocolate cake on the counter.

I love chocolate cake. But I’ve already had something sweet today, and I want to save that last piece of cake for my husband. So I am resisting temptation.

There’s nothing inherently sinful about chocolate cake. But a lack of self-control is sinful. And chocolate cake tests my self-control.

If I start thinking about the cake, I’ll think about how good it tastes. Then I’ll think about maybe taking a sliver of it. Then half. And then I’ll think, “Well, it’s just this once. It’s not like I feast on chocolate cake every day.” I might even talk myself into eating the whole piece: my husband doesn’t know it’s there, so he isn’t expecting cake when he comes home.

Each thought is like laying kindling to the initial flame of temptation. Instead of feeding that flame, I need to stomp on it, douse it, dump sand on it.

That’s the kind of thing that comes to mind when someone talks about killing sin.

Romans 8:13 says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Colossians 3:5 says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” and then names several wrong desires.

When something is killed, it’s . . . dead. Unresponsive. Not going to bother us any more.

But the problem is, wrong desires don’t stay dead. The next time chocolate cake is here, I’ll face the same temptation. So does that mean I didn’t “kill sin” in the first place?

Same with selfishness, probably my most besetting sin. Have you ever tried to kill selfishness in your life? It doesn’t stay dead. We might resist it one moment, but then it’s back soon.

So how can we kill it? I’ve supposed that the Bible means we kill sin in the moment. When I am tempted to sin, instead of entertaining the idea, I should look for ways to resist. God promises that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” 1 Corinthians 10:13). Too often I look for an excuse to indulge instead of the way of escape.

Instead of indulging the desire, I resist it–strangle it. Am unresponsive to it. It may come up again tomorrow. But for now, it’s slain.

Still, I wrestled with what it really meant to kill sin. Like the old slogan that promised Raid “kills bugs dead,” how could I kill sin dead?

A passage in Jen Wilkin’s book, Ten Words to Live By: Delighting In and Doing What God Commands, helped shed some light. The book is about the Ten Commandments, what they mean, how they apply today. In the seventh chapter on honoring marriage, Jen brings up Jesus’s command to cut off one’s eye or hand if those members cause us to sin, because “it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:27-30). Jesus is obviously using hyperbole, exaggeration, to make a point.

Jen points out that even if we could cut off any body part that causes us to sin, we’d still have a problem in our hearts. Jesus made the same point when He said it’s not just committing adultery that’s a sin, but lusting. Jen goes on to say:

We need a better blade than any formed by human hands, one aimed at ridding our hearts of disordered desires.

Praise God, we have one. The blade that slays the beast is the word of God, made living and active by the Spirit of God, dividing thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). By the word of God we learn to delight our hearts in the Lord, and the outcome is that which the psalmist predicts: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4) (p. 106).

Then Jen shares what was for me a light-bulb moment:

As we confess and repent, God puts to death our disordered desires and gives us rightly ordered ones. And our eyes and hands and feet and lips and tongues and noses begin to serve at the pleasure of a heart that delights in him.

“If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light” (Matt. 6:22). The antidote to the lust of the eyes is not self-inflicted blindness, but seeing as God sees (pp. 106-107).

Being tempted is not sin. Jesus was tempted, yet never sinned. He resisted Satan with the Word of God. The more we know God’s Word, the better we’ll be able to resist sin.

But we put sin to death in our lives not just by resisting temptation in the moment, but by exposing ourselves to the blade of the Word of God, by delighting ourselves in the Lord and letting Him change our desires.

Killing sin doesn’t mean that I’ll never be tempted by a particular thing again or that all outward influences to sin will die. I wish. That won’t happen until heaven. But by God’s grace, I am supposed to kill sin in me. Sin lost its power over me at the cross. But I have to learn to live in newness of life—a process called sanctification, which won’t be complete until heaven. As I grow in the Lord, take in His Word, delight in Him, He changes my desires, and sin loses more power.

Scripture describes the Christian life as the source of such great joy that temptations lose their appeal. Like the feeling we have after Thanksgiving dinner, we should be so full of Christ that we don’t have room for sin!…Does obeying Christ mean saying no to sinful pleasures? Sure. However, saying no to sin in favor of Christ is like saying no to a scooter in favor of a sports car, or no to peanuts in favor of filet mignon. Life with Christ is a feast, not a famine (Chris Anderson, Gospel Meditations for Women).

One of Jen’s discussion questions at the end of this chapter says, “If you believe that the sharp blade of the Scriptures can put [sin] to death and reshape your desires, what regular practice of gazing on them do you follow?” (p. 110, emphases mine).

May we continually make time for God’s Word and grow in our love for Him.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Laudable Linkage

Here are some of the online reads that caught my eye this week:

Providential Dullness. Ever wonder why the disciples didn’t “get it” when Jesus foretold His death and resurrection? The answer may surprise you.

Help Wanted: The Vanishing Work Ethic. “When God made the first man, He placed him in the Garden of Eden and gave him a job. Adam was to dress the garden and keep it (Gen. 2:15). God designed man to have both activity and responsibility. Sometimes we imagine that Adam lived a life of leisure in Eden. But that is not the case. God’s design for man’s health and happiness involved work.”

Each Man Before the Mob. “We should be happier if a man follows a different path than we do while heeding his conscience than if he imitates us while violating it. We should affirm him in making a decision that is different from our own, as long as that decision is consistent with his conscience.”

Why Our Secular Age Needs Ecclesiastes, HT to Knowable Word. “This world is desperate for answers to life’s fundamental questions. What is life about? Why is life so unjust? Why does work have to be so toilsome? How can I be happy when the world seems pointless?”

Christians, Beware the Blame Game, HT to Challies. “By all means, call out the moral failings of Christians, congregations and denominations, left and right; but be specific, do so without slander and vitriol, and make a clear distinction between the church and the specific failings to which you allude in order to promote clear thinking. And remember—if your critique of Christians is not balanced by a Pauline emphasis on the church, the body of Christ, as the answer to the world’s problems, you ultimately offer no true Christian commentary on the contemporary scene.”

The Word that Never Fades, HT to Challies. “Though her memories collide with the present and it’s challenging for her to stay rooted in the moment, the habits of faith that she has built her life upon still seem to anchor her with recognition of the Lord’s presence. Wherever her mind may travel, He is ever with her.”

Widowhood: More Than Grief. “Despite being a large number in our population (and with the boomer generation, the number will grow), widows may be overlooked in society and are often on the periphery in groups. Our culture is a Noah’s Ark culture, where much is geared to couples, including the advantage of filing joint US tax returns.”

When I Discovered I Had Three Fathers, HT to Challies. “I am still walking through the very real effects of all of this new information. I am grappling with how to establish a relationship with the father I have found at this point of my life—or with whether I should even try. There’s no playbook for this. But through it all, I have started to see what has anchored my soul through this period of uncertainty and upset.”

Becoming a Good Mother, HT to The Story Warren. “Our choices don’t make us good. Only grace working through faith in Christ can do that.”

Laura Perry’s Story in two parts: “T” Is for Transformation and Delivered from Destruction. A young woman finds that changing her gender doesn’t solve her problems.

Jen Hatmaker quits “church” and invites you to join her, HT to Challies. “Actually, Jesus met us in our sin, adopted us into an eternal family, and started a supernatural movement that was defined by believers getting together for worship, teaching, and serving together. It’s defined by people in relationships that are centered on Christ. Church is bigger and more mature than a life of casually hanging out with your favorite people on your porch.”

And for a bit of fun, here are different kinds of beach people:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Here are some of the noteworthy reads discovered recently.

What Changed After C. S. Lewis Came to Christ? We think mostly of Lewis’ intellect, but other areas of his life changed as well. “Lewis was always submitting his life to Christ to be changed. He was always renewing his mind. He understood the New Testament concept of the atonement as involving dying with Christ. He continually submitted habits and attitudes to be killed . . . “

Why I Stopped Calling Parts of the Bible Boring. The theologian she quotes is not my favorite, but otherwise I like this. “Scripture is history, drama, and art. And more importantly, it is the surprisingly simple story of God redeeming his creation. But if in our simplifying or systematizing we end up relegating entire portions of Scripture to boring irrelevancy, we have lost the plot of a God who chose to reveal himself to us in the form of a breathtaking story.”

Helping Our Kids Put On the Armor of God, HT to The Story Warren “Every parent yearns for their child to stand in the face of peer pressure, evil enticements, false claims, and even amidst their own disappointments and losses. Fitting them in these six pieces of spiritual armor will help equip and enable them to stand.”

Cinderella, Strong Women, and the Courage to Be Kind, HT to The Story Warren. “Most of us are strong in ways that go unlauded, and maybe we don’t see our daily routine as strength because of it, or we think we have to be fighting for something—whatever that might look like. But we are strong women when we practice virtues like kindness, when we are patient, when we show compassion and turn away wrath.”

Biblical Submission Does Not Justify Abuse (Or Even Permit It). “Her submission is not your responsibility. Loving her like Christ loved the Church is your responsibility, and abusing her in action or word is a gross violation of the direct command that God has given you. Demanding submission as a cover for acting abusively is a loathsome sin and God notices.”

Midlife, Christ Is. “In midlife, Christ is a consolation for all the things I wish I’d done differently. He doesn’t change my past, but he can redeem it. . . . In midlife, Christ is a companion through all the worries and stresses.”

God Loves Your Perimenopausal Body. “To tell you the truth, the shock as this reality began to dawn in my life left me feeling as though my body might have heard the gospel for the first time even though my heart, mind, and soul had been committed to Jesus since I was a teen. All that time, I’d gotten the message at church that my body was a problem, not a gift.”

Awesome June Activities for Kids, HT to The Story Warren. When school is out and boredom creeps in, here are lots of great things to do.

Just in time for Father’s Day, HT to The Story Warren: a “Try not to Laugh” challenge involving dad jokes:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

I’m way behind on blog reading, but here are some good ones I’ve come across the last couple of weeks:

So You Want to Be Relevant? “What does the Bible say about itself that will convince the reluctant and indifferent reader to dig in and spend time in the Word, to begin seeing biblical fidelity as the key to remaining relevant in every phase of life?”

Finding Repeated Words and Phrases in Bible reading. “Authors didn’t have bold and italics back then, so a common way to emphasize a point was to repeat it multiple times. It’s like saying, ‘Hey, don’t miss this!’”

Where’s the Lie, HT to Knowable Word. “Con artists don’t look shady. If a lie were obviously false, it wouldn’t be dangerous. Christians know that ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick’ (Jeremiah 17:9), and yet we regularly overestimate our ability to spot error. We need a consistent standard by which to compare every suggestion we hear. Because of God’s gracious provision, we have such a standard. The words God has already spoken are completely and always reliable.”

When It’s Time to Leave a Church, HT to Challies.

Bucking the Trans Trend, HT to Challies. I’ve been astounded at how far this trend has gotten with so little known about the effects. Thankfully, at least in England, it’s being questioned.

How Forgiveness Displays the Gospel to Our Kids, HT to The Story Warren. “And then it hit me. Only minutes before, I’d shown such little grace to my own daughter, but here I was showing mercy to myself for the very same mistake.”

Finally, I came across this quote this morning. Many of us don’t like change, and not all change is good. But much is necessary.

Have a great weekend!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are a few of the good reads discovered this week:

Why Biblical Literacy Matters. “Such artistry of language—from simple words that convey powerful truth to overarching patterns that direct our interpretation and application—reveals a God who communicates to us carefully and meaningfully through His words.”

Self-Talk and Sanctification, HT to Challies. Have you ever been confused by the thoughts in your head, wondering which are God’s which are your own, and which are Satan’s? This gives some helpful distinctions.

The Character of the Christian: Gentle. I think of gentleness as the forgotten fruit of the Spirit.

Tally On, Dear Writer. Though this is within the context of writing, it’s good in any area to frame goals in an encouraging way.

We Need Balance When It Comes to Gender Dysphoric Kids. I Would Know. HT to Challies. This is not written from a Christian viewpoint. But the writer makes an important point. There’s a downside to transgender treatment. “There is no structured, tested or widely accepted baseline for transgender health care. . . . It is not transphobic or discriminatory to discuss this—we as a society need to fully understand what we are encouraging our children to do to their bodies.”

On Boiling Goats, HT to Challies. Have you ever wondered about that odd prohibition in the OT about not boiling a goat in its mother’s milk? Here are some possible reasons behind it as well as tips on how to view passages like this.

A Bible Reading Plan Generator. Now you can customize your Bible reading plan!

Have a great weekend!

Where Bible Reading Plans Go To Die

Our church uses a Bible reading plan that takes us through the whole Bible in about four and a half years. We discuss the week’s reading each Sunday morning. The man making the announcements last Sunday mentioned that we’d be starting Leviticus this week, “where Bible reading plans go to die.”

It’s true, isn’t it? How often have we begun January in Genesis with good intentions of reading the Bible, only to get bogged down by the time we get to Leviticus.

So we tell ourselves all those regulations don’t apply to us any more since the sacrificial system and feast days were fulfilled in Christ, and we move on to something more interesting. That is, if we haven’t given up our reading plan completely.

But there are several reasons New Testament Gentile Christians should still read Leviticus.

It’s inspired of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” God gave it to us and it’s profitable for us even though we don’t observe all the rituals in it.

It’s instructive. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

The New Testament quotes from Leviticus and refers to it over 100 times according to Warren Wiersbe in Be Holy (Leviticus): Becoming “Set Apart” for God.

Key biblical truths are better understood with Leviticus as a foundation. Imagine growing up repeatedly bringing sacrifices for sin to the tabernacle or temple. Then imagine being stunned by this news:

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:11-13)

Or imagine reading that the lamb for a burnt offering had to be perfect and without blemish and then finding that “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Or imagine having the whole burnt offering in Leviticus 1 in mind when reading Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Sure, we can get some of these concepts in the New Testament on their own, but we get a fuller picture and a deeper appreciation when we understand the background of them.

It emphasizes holiness. Dr. Wiersbe writes in Be Holy, “The word holy is used 93 times in Leviticus, and words connected with cleansing are used 71 times. References to uncleanness number 128. There’s no question what this book is all about.”

A seminary professor taught a class on Leviticus. One assignment was to try to keep the regulations in Leviticus for a week and journal about the experience. One student wrote:

Every day, I found myself focused on thinking about ritual purity and impurity. Partway through the week, I realized that I was thinking about these things all day long and in every aspect of my life, and that’s when it hit me: God cares a lot about our purity and holiness. Not just from a ritual perspective, but also from a moral perspective. All day long and in every aspect of life, the Lord wants me to pursue purity in my heart, in my life, in my actions. He wants me to reflect his holiness in all that I do. I have been treating holiness way too lightly! O Lord, help me to be holy!

It underscores the pervasiveness and seriousness of sin. We take sin too casually these days, maybe because we seem to be able to receive it easily. But we forget what it cost.

It encourages thankfulness and appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice. We not only appreciate all that He went through, but we’re thankful for His deliverance. Jay Sklar, the seminary professor mentioned earlier, said that after teaching Leviticus, he could hardly sing a hymn about Jesus’ sacrifice without tears of thankfulness.

Israel’s feasts helps us understand our Christian celebrations. The ESV Study Bible’s introductory notes to Leviticus say:

The festal calendar of Israel enumerated in Leviticus (Lev. 23:1-44) has strongly shaped the Christian church’s traditional calendar. The three main national pilgrim feasts of Israel are the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Booths. For those churches that follow the traditional calendar, these celebrations find their climax in Good Friday,  Easter, and Pentecost. To fully understand the Christian celebrations, one must see their initial purpose in the OT (p. 213).

It teaches love for neighbors. Did you know that the first instance of the phrase “love your neighbor as yourself” occurs in Leviticus 19:18? We see justice tempered with mercy in the regulations in Leviticus. Justice and fair treatment at large begins with justice and fair treatment on a personal level to our neighbors and acquaintances.

In Mark 12, a scribe asked Jesus which was the most important commandment. Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” The scribe responded, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” “And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’” (Mark 12:28-34).

Many hymns refer back to concepts in Leviticus, like “Is Your All on the Altar?” and “Whiter Than Snow.”

Sure, there are some difficulties in Leviticus. Some of the regulations or restrictions that seem most odd to us are thought to have connections with the pagan worship in Egypt that the Israelites had lived with for 400 years. There are a few passages that are hard to understand.

But by and large, Leviticus sheds light on much gospel truth. OT Israel practices these things looking ahead to Christ’s sacrifice, seeing much of it in symbolic form. As the NT church, we look back on the symbols and object lessons to more fully understand.

I’m approaching Leviticus this time with eager anticipation.

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Dwelling Richly

Letting God's Word dwell richlyHave you ever wondered what Colossians 3:16 meant when it said, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”?

A couple of translations and one commentary connected “rich” to the “Word of Christ,” indicating that God’s Word is rich, and we should let it dwell in us. It is, and we should.

However, most translations phrase the verse so that “richly” modifies “dwell.” In fact, according to the definitions at the bottom of this page, the Greek word translated “richly” is an adverb meaning “Richly, abundantly, copiously.”

So how do we let God’s Word dwell “richly, abundantly, copiously” in us?

One former pastor put it this way. When a guest of honor comes to your home, what do you do? You “roll out the red carpet” for them. You give them the best bed, the best room. You bring out the guest towels and dishes that you save for company. You make your best recipes. You generally set aside your normal pursuits to some degree to spend time with that person.

In these days of more casual entertaining, you might not have special dishes or towels for guests, and you might have everyone work together on the meal and the clean-up. Still, you make some accommodations for a guest. You don’t generally put them in a drafty back room with a lumpy mattress where the Wifi doesn’t reach. You don’t invite someone over and then ignore them. You don’t go about your business and then bump into them in the hallway and act surprised: “Oh! I didn’t know you were here. Carry on.” Well, you might if one of your children’s friends came over unexpectedly.

What do most who come to your home value? Time, the hardest thing to give. As lovely as special table settings, wonderful food, and a well-appointed guest room are, they all fall a little flat if the hostess is constantly flitting about taking care of details. As Martha learned, Jesus cared more about her time, attention, and open heart than what was on the menu.

So how do we let the Word of God dwell richly with us? First of all, notice the word “dwell.” The Bible isn’t just a special guest who comes to visit once a year. It stays, lives in, abides in, inhabits us. Jesus spoke of His words abiding in us. God often tells people in the Bible to meditate, think over, chew on, His Word. You can’t think on what you don’t know. That meant they had to have read or heard it enough to mull over a piece of it at a time.

So we don’t treat God’s Word as a once- or twice-a-year visitor. We let it abide, dwell with us. That involves spending time with it. As we’ve discussed before, that doesn’t necessarily mean spending hours a day reading and studying it. Some days and seasons of life allow for more time than others, but we try to give it some time most days. We try to give it the best time of our day when we can get the most out of it rather than the leftovers of our day. One of my mottoes regarding the Bible is any time spent with it is better than nothing. So there may be busy, weary days when we fit it in whatever spare moments we can find. But as much as we can, we make room and time for the Bible.

And then, throughout the day, we think about it. That might involve listening to Christian music, sermons, Christian radio or podcasts. Or it might involve just thinking. John O’Malley suggests in Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles that we jot down on a 3 x 5 card something that stood out to us during our Bible reading, and then set the card where we can see it through the day and think over it.Some people have memory verse cards they’ll go over when their hands are busy but their minds are free.

Many mental health experts recommend getting away from the constant barrage of information available through our phones and computers, especially when so many agitated opinions are flung about. Instead of automatically checking our phones, we could spend those minutes reading the Bible or thinking about what we read earlier.

Psalm 1:1 says “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”

What’s the result of this rich dwelling we give God’s Word? Colossians 3:16 continues: “ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” When we fill up on God’s Word, we spill over into serving others and worshiping God. Psalm 1 goes on to say that the one who meditates on God’s Word day and night is “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” When we’re filled with God’s Word, we have a continual source of nourishment.

If our service seems lifeless and forced, our worship barren, our inner spirit dry and withered, we probably need some time letting God’s Word dwell richly in us.

What are some ways you let God’s Word dwell richly with you?

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My Journey with the Bible

My journey with the BibleI never heard Handel’s Messiah until I was in high school.

I had not grown up listening to either classical or religious music. (I grew up hearing “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and other such lovely little ditties). So while I was impressed with the beauty and grandeur of Handel’s oratorio, I can’t say I got much out of it. It was like drinking from the proverbial fire hydrant.

But my college performed selections from the Messiah frequently. And the church we attended the first fourteen years we were married did the same. I even got to be in the choir at church some of those years, so I learned the songs in more detail. Plus, I had become a Christian in later high school, so I could understand more of the spiritual significance and message of the piece.

When I learned that The Messiah had been composed during the Baroque era, with its “excessive ornamentation or complexity,” I understood why it was written the way it was.

As a result of hearing The Messiah over and over, becoming more familiar with it, learning more about it, and growing in the Lord, I came to love this piece of music. I anticipated each section just like I would rereading a favorite book or rewatching a favorite movie.

And then, just from growing familiarity with the music, I began to notice details. For instance, I had always thoughts of Isaiah 53:6 as somber and sad: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him   the iniquity of us all.” But the tune Handel put to this verse seemed almost jaunty to me at first. Then one day I noticed the notes on the word “astray” were going astray.

Further into that piece, on “We have turned,” the notes are turning over and over.

Isaiah 40:4 says, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” In the song based on this passage, the notes on the word “crooked” go up and down—they would look crooked on the sheet music. And the melody on “straight” and “plain” is mostly straight. The notes on “exalted” go up.

The melodies illustrate the words! And I had listened to and sung this I don’t know how many times before that clicked. In fact, I just caught “exalted” going up watching this video.

In many ways, my journey with the Bible parallels my journey with this piece of music.

I had attended church occasionally growing up. I knew some basic Bible truths and narratives. But I didn’t start reading the Bible myself until high school. The church I started attending when I was sixteen strongly encouraged its people to read the Bible through in a year. So I did.

And it was like trying to drink from a fire hydrant.

But I am so thankful for that emphasis at the outset of my Christian life. That grounded me more than anything else and set me off with good habits.

I didn’t understand everything I read. Similarly, in church, I couldn’t have told you the main points of the sermon afterward. But I got enough to chew on and to nourish me. The Bible speaks of those young in the faith as taking in milk from the Word. So I took in and digested what I could, and my life was changed.

When I got to something I didn’t understand, I’d just keep going.For instance, Psalm 60:4-5 says:

Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah. That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.

And I would think, “Wow, that’s good!” Then the next few verses listed a bunch of names I didn’t know. And then I came to verse 8: “Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph thou because of me.”

And I thought, “Huh?”

And then I’d keep going to verses 11 and 12: “Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.” And I’d think, “Wow, so good!”

I don’t know if that’s the best way for a new Christian to go about Bible reading. But no one had told me what to do about the parts I didn’t understand. I had never heard of study Bibles in those days. Still, the Lord met me in those times with His Word.

And as I kept reading in the 40+ years since (though not through the whole Bible in a year any more), I understood more and more. I saw how individual verses and books fit within the whole. I know what Moab and Edom and Philistia are now. There are parts that are as familiar as any favorite, much-read book. There are parts holding dear memories of God giving me just the right words in an hour of need. I anticipate what’s coming next in a passage. But I am still learning new things even from old, familiar stories and chapters.

So, why am I telling you this today?

I want to encourage you to get into a habit of reading your Bible, if you’re not already doing so.

And I want to encourage you to read all of it. Maybe not in a year. There are two-year plans and five-year plans and almost any kind of plan you could think of. But if we just keep turning to our old favorite passages, we’ll miss so much.

And if you’re discouraged because there is so much you don’t understand, I want to encourage you to keep reading. You’ll “get” more and more of it the more you read it. Someone has said that the Bible is shallow enough for a child to wade in, but deep enough for an elephant to swim in. God can speak to you and minister to you even if you don’t understand every little thing in the passage. In fact, we’ll never exhaust the Bible in this lifetime.

The Bible says to “long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2-3), and then to go on to solid food (1 Corinthians 3:1-2) as we “ mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrew 5:11-13).

But even more than spiritual food, the Bible provides spiritual fellowship. We don’t read the Bible as an end in itself, but to get to know God better. The Bible is the primary way God speaks to us. From the time God’s words were first written all the way through until the end of time, God expected His people to read and follow it.

God’s thoughts are precious to us. The Bible bears witness about Christ, increases our faith, guides us, teaches, improves, corrects, trains us in righteousness, equips us, builds us up, gives us hope and comfort, helps us avoid sin, makes us stable and fruitful, gives us life, understanding, joy, hope, wisdom and discretion.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Peter 1:3-4).

What a treasure trove we have in the Bible! May we partake of it every day.

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16).

Taking in and rejoicing in God's WordSee also:

Finding Time to Read the Bible

Ways to Both Read and Study the Bible

Real Life Devotions

Studying the Parts to Understand the Whole

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