Let’s Talk Leviticus: How to Not Stop Reading at those Sacrifices

I finished reading Leviticus last week. If there’s a book in the Bible that Christians want to avoid reading, it’s Leviticus. Or maybe Ezekiel. I actually loved reading Leviticus this year in my chronological reading. (That’s my favorite way to read the Old Testament.) This is not a theological study that I’m offering here. I simply want us to all know that the Bible is for us: the plain, everyday believer. Actually, we are all the same kind of believer; there’s no hierarchy in the faith (2 Peter 1:1).

God has done a lot of work in my heart, teaching me who He is and how His Word connects together. I’ve shown up for that too. I’ve put in a lot of work to get to a place where a few of the layers of Leviticus makes sense to me. It’s taken work to be able to read Leviticus with awe of how God reaches out for humanity.

I want to start there because often we tell a story that reading and understanding the Bible is easy. That you simply show up (which is most of the battle) and it all falls into place and it isn’t ever confusing or hard to process. That has not been my experience. It has been my experience that it is worth the effort and that small work done frequently will pay off in the long run.

Let’s start somewhere besides Leviticus and make a few points that drastically affect what we’re reading.

Setting the Temperature; Salting the Potato

The world is loud and noisy. My mind is loud and noisy. The enemy is loud and noisy. God is never described as loud and noisy. His voice thunders, yes; but with power and majesty, not confusion and turmoil.

I have to keep retraining my heart and mind to listen for His voice. I must quieten, be still. John 10:3-4 says, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” In verse 27 Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” He speaks and we can know Him. Is that not one of the greatest miracles? We can know Him.

I love that God is such a patient teacher. He’ll gently remind me again and again, until I finally notice that He’s reminding me of the same thing and, that perhaps, I should pay closer attention. Even this weekend, it was the same reminder that I’m not here to adjust to the temperature of the room. I’m here to adjust the temperature of the room. I’m not here to fit in, to reflect what’s already happening, to mold myself to what’s going on. I’m here, bringing the temperature. I’m here, passionate and gracious, because of Jesus, not what’s going on around me.

Loving My Neighbor: How I Get Over the Inconvenience of People

I’ve slowly been discovering that I can’t peel my relationship with God apart from my relationship with other people. You’d think this is Christianity 101, right? But somehow I’ve often reduced my faith down to a list of rules or a collection of doctrinal statements that I affirm that do nothing to change how I interact with these other people who are different from me, who believe differently than I do, who irritate and frustrate me, who inconvenience me and cause me pain. Maybe that’s why I’d like to separate the two, to insist that I can truly love God and walk blindly, unfeelingly, past those around me.

Jesus didn’t mince words about what He wanted. Mark 12:28-32, “And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ 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.”

Vacation and New Creation: Finding Eyes for Eternity

Every September for the past three years, we’ve spent a week at the beach. As you’re reading this (at least if it’s the first week of September when you’re reading it), we’re digging in the sand and wiping mud off little boy faces. The memories linger longer than one week though; I’m reminded of the beach all year. I’ll take the boys on a walk and, when one of them zooms by on a bike, I’ll picture the asphalt sidewalks and our parade of bicycles. We’ll order pizza in the evening and I’ll think about how, most nights at the beach, we put the boys in bed and get take-out for ourselves.

I’ve never been to the new creation. I’d just say “heaven” but for most of that that conjures up thought of some other-worldly place where we sit on clouds and strum harps and that is decidedly not what I mean. I mean the new heavens and earth where God will dwell among us (Revelation 21:3) and be our light and we will reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:5). I’ve never been there but I have seen glimpses. Every flash of beauty, life, peace, joy is a signpost to that future existence. It’s a remembrance of how God made all things to be. It’s the half of reality that exists right along with the brokenness. I, myself, am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), even if I’m not fully like Jesus yet (1 John 3:2). There are tastes, glimpses, just enough in the Bible to know that something familiar and yet completely different is destined.

Learning to Handle Theological Differences

I used to have a “checklist Christianity” mentality. If I do these things and I affirm these doctrinal statements, I’m a good Christian and that means, of course, that I’m a mature believer as well. Right along with that went the belief that all other faithful Christians believed exactly as I did and checked the same things off of their lists (otherwise, heresy!). Since then I have learned that a checklist isn’t a sign of a mature faith or spiritual growth and that many believers I respect have different viewpoints.

There are so many interpretations on every single topic or idea in the Bible, each held by people who think they are being faithful to Jesus and the Bible. If I am going to be involved in the church, and I’m supposed to be, I am going to be interacting with people who believe differently than I do. My reaction is to run away and gather with people who think just like me. I think that’s the reaction of most people because that is most comfortable. We get social validation from people agreeing with us; it makes us feel confident that we are right.

Holding Fast to a Slippery Faith

We should ask our questions.

Don’t even bother pretending that you don’t have them. We all carry questions, some more on the surfaces of our lives and some we’ve probably never told to another soul. People don’t always like questions. They challenge our comfort or security. They might make us doubt our faith. We might worry about life running off the rails.

We don’t even like our own questions. To find answers that matter, we have to sit in pain. To sort through some issues, we’re going to have to walk through those issues again. To ask our questions means admitting that there might not be answers.

But regardless of how people feel about questions, God is not put off by questions. Life is full of challenging situations. Job asks questions, and then more questions. He complains about even being alive. Abraham seems silent, choosing belief in God’s victory over death, as he prepares to sacrifice Isaac, but I’d really like to read his mind as he traveled to that mountain. Elijah asked for God to kill him following a tremendous victory. Jesus spent time in the wilderness being tested by Satan and He was led there of the Holy Spirit. Jesus asked God why He had forsaken Him (that will tie your brain in knots if you think about it too long). The Bible is full of questions and doubts.

Read through Psalms. It’s full of admittances that life does not add up like we think it should. Things look bad even though we are promised redemption. Sometimes, maybe more often than not, it seems like we would be better off if we jumped off this Jesus train that we are convincing ourselves to stay on.

People Who Have Influenced My Faith: Hurrah for the Internet

Yesterday finished #the100dayproject. I’m relieved and satisfied. I intentionally set out to take off weekends and I only missed a handful of days outside of that. That’s a lot of talking, and honestly, much more prep work than I expected. But for all that work I have a book full of notes and ideas and reflections, some of which I’ll turn into podcast episodes.

In yesterday’s video (go check it out if you want), I mentioned that we all need to be students. Read the people that inspire you and then read the people that inspire them. Would that be an inspirational grandparent? It’s one reason I’m sharing all the books I’m reading this year in an Instagram story highlight; that, and I really like to track things.