Christmas Eve at LakeView Church. We finished up the Advent series by looking at John 1:1-14 to see what the Bible says about who Jesus is, and how we need to decide what we’re going to do with that claim.
“Forgive and forget.” Or so we’re told. So often we believe that forgiving means forgetting. And, since forgetting about the sin and hurt someone has caused us is darn near impossible, we give up and assume we just can’t forgive. But biblical forgiveness is not forgetting!
“The word on the street is that faith is a potent mixture of intellectual and emotional self-control that when properly harnessed can literally change outcomes through positive thinking and clear visualization” (Larry Osborne, Ten Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe). What is faith? And, can it really fix anything?
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” But does that really mean that raising kids in a godly home guarantees they’ll grow up to follow Jesus? What about all the kids who were raised well, but walked away from God as adults?
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” (Psalm 84:10, NIV)
You may be wondering why I’m writing from Psalm 84 when I said a few weeks ago I was going to work through Leviticus. No, I haven’t given up on Leviticus (again)! In my study of the third book in the Bible, I came across this great quote from L. Michael Morales:
“Entering the house of God to dwell with God, beholding, glorifying and enjoying him eternally, I suggest, is the story of the Bible, the plot that makes sense of the various acts, persons and places of its pages, the deepest context for its doctrines. For this ultimate end the Son of God shed his blood and poured out the Spirit from on high, even to bring us into his Father’s house, in him, as sons and daughters of God… The primary theme and theology of Leviticus (and of the Pentateuch as a whole) is YHWH’s opening a way for humanity to dwell in the divine Presence.”1
What a great (and I think accurate) perspective of Leviticus! The primary theme isn’t the Law or all the regulations concerning sacrifices and offerings. The main point of the book is how we can dwell with God. All the other things drive toward that end. This brought to mind Psalm 84 and one of my favorite songs to sing in worship. I’ve linked it below.
My prayer for this week is that you will enjoy some time in the personal presence of God, even if it’s just for a few moments while you listen and maybe sing along with the song below.
1 L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus, ed. D. A. Carson, vol. 37, New Studies in Biblical Theology (England; Downers Grove, IL: Apollos; InterVarsity Press, 2015), 21–23.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21, NIV).
In Matthew 22, the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. If Jesus had said, “Yes,” then many of the Jews would likely reject him as a Roman sympathizer. But if Jesus had said, “No,” then he would be in violation of the Roman law and could be arrested as a rebel instigator. Jesus’s answer not only evades their trap but stumps them in the process (sometimes I wish I could think on my feet as fast as Jesus with a quick and clever reply)!
Jesus asks them to show him a coin and asks whose image is stamped on the coin. “Caesar’s,” they replied. So Jesus tells them to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God. Caesar has his little kingdom, his domain that is marked by his image; and God has his Kingdom, his Domain that is marked by his Image. Coins bearing the image of Caesar might belong to Caesar, but human beings bearing the image of God belong to God.
As I read this, I was reminded whose I am. Yes, I’m a citizen of the US. Yes, I’m a pastor of LakeView Church. Yes, I’m a husband and a dad. But I belong to God; his image is stamped on my soul. I should give time, money, thought, energy, and effort as is appropriate in each domain–work, home, country, etc. But my heart and soul belong to God, and it is to God that I give my very self.
My prayer for you this week is that you would remember one very important reality: You belong to God. This week, give to God what belongs to God.
In just a few short weeks I will be graduating from Moody Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree (although I certainly don’t feel like a “master”). If there’s one thing I’ve learned through my studies at Moody (and there are a ton of things I’ve learned), it’s how much I don’t know. The more I learn, the more I realize how much there is to learn, and how little knowledge I possess. To that end, and because the thought of leaving school is a little scary, I’ve begun compiling a “summer” reading list. There are too many books on the list for this summer, but nevertheless, here’s a sample of some of the books I’ll be digging into in the coming months. Click on any of the titles to see them on Amazon. What’s on your summer reading list?