How I Make It Through Leviticus

 

I get it.  Reading through Leviticus is tough.  Real tough.  In fact, as you read it, your mind is probably wandering off to other things, fighting the urge to turn to more enjoyable portions of Scripture, while struggling with guilt that you aren’t really engaged or enjoying God’s Word.  I get it.

In fact, I have heard countless testimonies of people being gung-ho about starting to read the Bible, flying through the awesome historical events of Genesis and Exodus.  Things start slowing down like a traffic jam when they get to the Exodus guidelines for the Tabernacle and its furniture.  And then … they hit the wall with Leviticus, and the progress stops.  Discouragement sets in.  The Bible gets closed for far too long.

I get it.  Leviticus has been described as the Manual for the Jewish priests, the sons of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi (hence the name).  When was the last time you read a manual, dictionary, or encyclopedia for pleasure and inspiration?  But, who would question the importance of their content?

All of the Bible is necessary and profitable for Christians to read and study (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  It may not all be light reading, or immediately inspirational, but it is there for an important reason, and we need to understand and appreciate its content.  So, what can we do to “make it through” Leviticus in our Bible reading?  Here are some things that help me:

  1. Use a colored pencil or highlighter.  Those who are closest to me know that I am OCD with red pencils (“Thanks, Dad!”).  I have used highlighters, but you just can’t be as detailed with them.
  2. Mark the various key words or subject changes.  I put boxes around the words that mark a shift from the references to the different sin offerings, meat offerings, burnt offerings, or trespass offerings.  These kinds of transitions help me follow the movement of the book, but also make it easy to come back later for reference study.
  3. Underline repeated words or phrases.  I love noticing phrases like “without blemish,” or “lay his hand upon the head,” or “sprinkle the blood.”  When God repeats something in the Bible, pay extra close attention!  Those patterns and repetitions are both interesting and meaningful.
  4. Reflect on the symbolism of it all.  Everything points to Jesus, the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  It points to the Cross.  The book of Hebrews spells it out beautifully.  Don’t overlook this as you make your way through Leviticus.  It’s about Jesus!

I get it.  It’s tough.  I’m reading there now myself.  But it’s okay.  Don’t get discouraged.  Just get more engaged in a way that works for you, so you can better glean the precious treasures that can be discovered … even in Leviticus.

What are some tips or suggestions that have helped you read and study difficult passages of the Bible? Share them in the comment section below.

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Personal Devotions: An Invaluable Resource for Preachers

 

A preacher’s personal devotional time with the LORD is invaluable.  It is our time to connect with our LORD in prayer, Bible reading, Bible study, and reflection, aside from our ministerial responsibility to study and prepare sermons and lessons.  I admit, it can be difficult to focus on feeding ourselves when we are facing the never-ending deadlines of teaching others several times a week.  It is very easy to mistake our sermon prep time with our personal quiet time with God.  But we need this personal time!  I try to make it a point to read Scriptures, even study and research as I read, in portions of the Bible where I am NOT currently preaching from.  It helps keep me refreshed and loving God’s Word in a personal way.
 
That being said, I am about to contradict myself!  I also believe our personal devotion and study time can also be an invaluable source of sermon material.  I don’t know how many times I have been studying Scripture and the LORD impresses me about a future sermon series or message topic.  That is when I write it down immediately and file it away for the future.  In fact, I have a note file specifically for sermon ideas.  It never fails that I come back to it in the future!  But there is another benefit as well.  Let me make my point by sharing a recent situation which preachers face from time to time.
 
It was early Sunday morning, I got up around 5 am to pray, review and finalize my message and lesson for that morning.  I was looking forward to the evening service when a guest musician would be presenting a concert.  That was when I noticed a message on my phone, in which the musician shared that something serious had come up and he had to cancel his visit to our church.  I was somewhat disappointed that he would not be able to come, but I completely understood.  My second thought was, “What am I going to preach?”  I had nothing prepared.  Ever been there?
 
It is in times like these, when we have to speak with short notice, that we can go back and review how God has spoken to us in our personal time with Him.  What verses stood out?  What did God challenge you with?  Even though you will not have your usual time to prepare, you can share from the heart, from the overflow, something fresh that God has spoken to you about recently.  In my experience, those times are used greatly of the LORD.  In our weakness, He proves to be strong.  In our inadequacy, He is more than enough.
 
I would not recommend this be your regular habit in sermon preparation, but what a great opportunity to “go to the Well” and share with others how God has fed your soul!  How has your personal devotional time proven to invaluable in your ministry?  Leave a comment below.

 

The Vitality of Discipleship and Training

 

As a former second-generation missionary I can’t help but compare ministry on the foreign field to ministry in the United States. There are so many things that are considered fundamental and assumed in missionary work, but are often neglected in established works “at home.”

One area that comes to mind is that of discipleship and training. On the mission field there are often no Christian bookstores, radio stations, or Bible colleges. If believers are going to be trained and equipped for maturity and ministry, the responsibility falls squarely upon the local church and pastor/missionary. The necessity forces them to do what is already commanded. It is also understood by most that just coming to weekly services doesn’t accomplish the task of making disciples and training them to do the work (Matthew 28:19-20).

A typical missionary will take time outside of regular service times to disciple believers one-on-one (the most effective ratio). Basic topics are covered, but individual needs and challenges are prayed about and Biblical counsel is given. Sometimes a series of lessons are taught in a small group (like a new believers class). But beyond that, in depth, specialized training is needed if that individual is to be prepared to teach, lead, or even pastor. To meet that need, a missionary (or small team of missionaries) frequently organizes classes or Bible courses to train those servants, while they continue serving in their local church.

But discipleship and training are often missing in local churches in America. New believers are encouraged to attend Sunday School and church services, but are often not discipled individually (or in very small groups). When it comes to ministry training, we tend to contract it out to outside institutions or ministries. We pastors often pray for God to send us people who can teach and lead, yet we have no organized method or model to train men and women ourselves. We leave that exclusively up to Bible colleges and conferences (which have their place), but we forget that the burden of equipping believers for the work of the ministry falls upon the local church leadership.

Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

We can always debate about whether a seven-lesson Bible study makes a person “discipled” or not. We can discuss the role of Bible colleges and conferences to the local church. But what is clear is that ANY intentional approach within the local church is better than NO approach. It is vital that we take discipleship and training seriously in our churches. We often give in to the mentality that three services a week will automatically lead to discipled and trained believers. But that is a critical mistake.

I do not write as one who has this figured out. But I write as someone with an increasing burden to see our churches become reproducing New Testament congregations that will reach our communities, nation, and world for Jesus Christ. May God give us discernment, direction, and determination as we carry out our role within His Kingdom.