Sweet Potato Review with Pictures

Everyone joined in on the fun

Last Saturday a good number of folks went out to help bag sweet potatoes in Hillsborough. A produce company had a distribution deal fall through so they donated the sweet potatoes to a number of organizations, including the Society of St. Andrew.

I found out about it from their website and it was just perfect timing for Year in the Bible as we had been going over Leviticus, which talks about gleaning and leaving food for the poor and the sojourner (and Exodus, too, talks about such practices). It was wonderful to get out on a beautiful Saturday morning and discover what 80,000 lbs. of sweet potatoes look like.

Personally, I do not fear where my next meal will come from as my family is well fed, often to excess in the area of baked goods. But that is not the experience everyone in our country has, and because of this donation, many will have good food to eat. Our church has worked with Durham Rescue Mission before and it was a blessing to see men from that organization arrive and take 350 lbs. of potatoes that I know will be well prepared for people in need.

And to think, the work we did to help in the distribution was fun. It is great to see the fellowship that develops as people get together with a common purpose to serve others, as encouraged by God’s Word. I hope this is something that continues throughout this year. So, if you see an opportunity or have an idea of what we can do to connect what we read with what we do, please let me know. Maybe we can work out a way to make it happen.

Here are some pictures from Saturday to understand a bit more of what happened:

Story So Far, Week 8

If you go back and read through Leviticus 14 you’ll see the lengths the priests had to go to make clean those afflicted with leprosy. The priest required the sacrifice of birds, hyssop, scarlet yarn, and cedarwood, and the process involved sprinkling of blood, shaving off hair, and washing. And that was only the beginning.

Compare that to the power and authority that Jesus has in Luke 17. Jesus meets not one, but ten lepers on his travels. They cry out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” He tells them to do what seems to follow the order of Leviticus, “Go and show yourself to the priests.” But what should amaze the reader is that they are not cleansed after the priest heal them. Luke says, “as they went they were cleansed.” Their faith in Jesus’ words and their obedience was enough and they were clean. They did not need a week of sacrifices and ritual. Christ has greater power.

Sadly only one of the ten, upon finding out he was healed, turned right around to fall at Jesus’ feet and give thanks. If this Samaritan did not fully understand it before, Jesus then makes it explicit, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

In Jesus Christ, God has done so much to make us well, and because Christ has lived the righteous life for us, we need only to place our trust in him to be clean.

Having now finished Leviticus, and knowing that Christ has come to fulfill the whole law (Matt 5), not abolish it, isn’t it amazing that he could do so? All of Leviticus deals with the laws for the priests and much of Exodus directs people how to live in accord with God’s law. Jesus Christ came and perfectly fulfilled it. All that the law could not do, Christ did for us. What the law could never be for us, Christ is. He has fulfilled it and he has made us clean before God.

I hope by reading through these books of law you gain greater appreciation for the perfect work of Christ that he accomplished for us. He fulfilled the law and went beyond what it could ever offer us. “For if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal 2:21b). By his death we are saved and made righteous, and we can take no credit for such a gracious act.

Reinforce What You Read

So this Sweet Potato event is almost upon us. We’ve had a handful of folks who plan to get their hands dirty bagging some produce, and just so you know, it’s not too late. You can still register yourself and meet us out there.

But I bring this up as another reading tip for you. Whatever you can do to add action to reading will add depth to the reading. Whether that is a Sweet Potato Double Drop or taking notes in a journal as you read. We are to be doers of the word and if you read through the entire Bible twice, but do not allow it to move through your eyes, into your brain, and down and out your arms and legs, you’re missing out.

If you can’t come tomorrow, no worries. There are countless ways to serve that come up in our church and beyond our church. But make it a priority to ask yourself how you can live out the faith we learn of in our readings. Doing so will help us to learn and keep within us God’s Word. We have a great God worthy of love, and we should seek to be holy as he is holy and to love him by doing what he commands.

Spring Cleaning

Mr. Clean, a levite?

There is a great concern in Leviticus for cleanliness and purity. There are sacrifices in order to be cleansed from sin and long lists of actions that are clean or unclean. An important role of the levitical priests is to help the people determine clean from unclean. Their job starts to sound like that of a doctor with all the descriptions of examining skin and sores and making appointments for follow up visits. I for one am glad my job description as pastor does not include diagnosing leprosy.

What is fascinating is that there is no great divide between physical cleanliness and what could be called moral cleanliness. God’s law for the priests is concerned with his people being clean in every way. This is not the way we tend to think today. If you were to go to church and hear a sermon about being clean, you might expect it to be entirely about spiritual things, things like prayer and confession, attitudes and motives, sin and morals. But you might be caught off guard if the preacher then spoke about toilet bowl cleaner, vacuuming, drinking enough water, and exercising. That stuff is physical, not spiritual, right? Why would the church care about whether my body or house is in order?

But it is a modern notion to completely cut off the physical from the spiritual. And it is foolishness to think that what we do with the body has no bearing on the spirit. We see in Leviticus that God cares about the wellness of his people in every area of life. And God does the same now. He doesn’t care about just a bit of our life. God cares about all of us, more than we can imagine.

I’m not saying God cares more that you eat wheat grass and work out two hours a day than he does that you love him and love your neighbor. But there is not one inch of our lives, as seemingly insignificant as they may seem in the grand scheme of human history, that our God isn’t concerned about. His love and care extend beyond Sunday mornings and beyond church doors. He follows you into the workplace and in the home, morning, noon, and night.

To be clean is a whole life commitment. This perspective demands more and is difficult, but be comforted knowing that God has always provided ways for forgiveness and cleansing. Ultimately it is only God who can make us clean. By the blood of Jesus Christ are our sins washed way.

Story So Far, Week 7

We’ve made it to the last day of week seven, so give yourself the customary pat on the back for getting this far. We’re now half way through Leviticus with only one week remaining and we’re getting toward the end of Luke.

I posted earlier this week an image about the most read books in the world, and the Bible tops that list. The question I asked was how many people have read the Bible–the whole Bible? It may be the most circulated book by a mile, but that isn’t the only thing that matters. I want the Bible in the hands of the people, but I want its bindings creased. I want you to open it and read it and love it. Having read half of Leviticus you’re probably in a small percentage of readers. Maybe in these last seven weeks you’ve read more pages of the Bible than you have in your life. Fantastic.

This isn’t to say that you’ve now earned some badge of honor. But God’s Word is a beautiful thing and it is of great value to have spent this time with it. Even if you’re not seeing God work through you in his Word yet, he will do so. He who has planted these seeds will continue to tend them.

So keep out carving time out for the Lord. Spend time with him in study and prayer. Learn at his feet and follow him. We’ve had many challenging words from Jesus to that point. I like his imagery about salt, and how it loses its value when it loses its saltiness. Let the Bible flavor you each day. Be salty.

If you want one piece of homework, one little activity, try going without salt for a few days. I’m not saying put your salt shaker away. Do that, but more than that I mean don’t any eat food that has salt as an ingredient. I suspect it wouldn’t take long to develop a better appreciation for salt and a better understanding of Jesus’ words. Salt preserves, but it also flavors. As disciples of Christ we are the salt of the earth, and what we are endeavoring to do in reading all of Scripture is great preparation for that seasoning process.

More Than Thou Shall Nots

Too often we reduce the moral imperatives of our faith into “thou shall NOT” statements. We shall not steal, kill, nor covet. And that list could go on and on. It is easy to think about what we are not supposed to do, but if we stop there we are left with a very shallow understanding. If we’re only called to not do certain things, then we are left with little idea of what we’re actually supposed to do. But the Christian life is not summed up by sitting on our hands. We are called to act.

We could look throughout Luke to see what Jesus calls us to in obedience to him. This obedience is a response of love, it is how we show love to him. But instead of quoting from Luke, read this example from Leviticus:

“‘If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.” (Leviticus 5:1 NIV)

The law was not concerned only with not bearing false witness, but in the people standing up to testify. It may seem mundane to you, and maybe it is because I watch too many crime shows, but this sounds bold to me. We don’t always want to speak up and stand out. Sometimes it is for our personal benefit to keep our mouths closed. But we have a responsibility to speak truth. Again, we can’t be content to understand the expectation of us to cease just at not bearing false witness. It goes beyond. Just as the golden rule isn’t: Do not do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. Rather we have the difficult, challenging call to do for others as we want done to us.

No More Sacrifices?

You see a lot about the sacrifices as we read Leviticus. It’s practically a manual for how to perform them. But you may ask yourself, do Jews still sacrifice today? Christians see a radical change when God came to earth in Jesus Christ. That event changed the world. But for the Jews who don’t accept him, should they continue in Old Testament practice? If they don’t sacrifice, why not?

I found this article to be helpful. It’s written from a Jewish perspective and is a bit technical, but if you stick with it, it may shed some light on the situation. I have a different perspective on some issues, like the Old Testament system being a precursor to Christ, but that’s to be expected.

Here is sample:

The last place appointed by G-d for this purpose was the Temple in Jerusalem, but the Temple has been destroyed and a mosque has been erected in the place where it stood. Until G-d provides us with another place, we cannot offer sacrifices. There was at one time an opinion that in the absence of an assigned place, we could offer sacrifices anywhere. Based on that opinion, certain communities made their own sacrificial places. However, the majority ultimately ruled against this practice, and all sacrifice ceased.

Thoughts on Old Testament Sacrifices

NT Wrights offers some thoughts about the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. He doesn’t give a definitive answer to a question, but leaves more questions to answer. But it is interesting.