Crystal Writes A Blog

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Judgment and Transformation


Repent, Then, And Turn to God by Flickr User Sharon of Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Repent, Then, And Turn to God by Flickr User Sharon of Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr

The Hebrew word Yom means “day” in English, and the Hebrew Kippur means “to atone” in English. This is the “Day of Atonement,” and is the precursor to the atonement we now receive through Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ). This day began Friday (Oct 3rd) at sundown and continued through sundown Saturday (Oct 4th). If you want to read the Torah reading that goes with the holiday, read through Leviticus 16.

This day gives us an opportunity to examine ourselves and repent from anything that may separate us from our Creator and Lord. So, what is repentance? I found a great definition that said, “Repentance is the willingness to allow God to judge and transform you.” I love that. It gives me reason to repent on a regular basis.

The word repent is used in some armies to say, “About face.” It literally means, “Go in the opposite direction.” But how can we turn around and walk in a new direction without acknowledging the current direction we’re heading? We need that repentance that allows God to examine our direction if we want to be sure we’re walking according to God’s will. It’s like looking at a satellite map to make sure we’re on the right path. Who better to tell us we’re lost than the One who can see all the way to the end of our road?

Just receiving judgment is not the end of the things. If we used our GPS to see where we were going, but we failed to turn as instructed, we might hear the GPS voice say something like, “At the next intersection, make a u-turn.” If we still don’t turn, we might hear the voice say, “Rerouting,” as the GPS tries to find a new way for us to get to our chosen destination. If we want to get to the right destination, we must reroute, make a u-turn, do an about-face, or in some way repent. Just hearing that we need to change routes will not get us where we want to go.

I think most of us fear judgment because people use it as an excuse to make us feel less than them. People also tend to stop with judgment, and that leaves us feeling hopeless with the permanence of it. However, until the final judgment, what God finds in His examinations of us is not permanent and definitely not hopeless. He doesn’t tell us something like, “So sad, you’re on the wrong path. You might as well give up and stay there.” No, instead He says (in Acts 3:19 NKJV), “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Be converted could just as easily say, be transformed.

When we repent, it’s like a trip to a diagnostician (doctor who diagnoses troubles). Imagine this doctor finds a cancer that needs to be removed. That’s judgment. You agree to let him do surgery because you trust that he knows better than to just slice it off and leave you bleeding. And you’re right. He medicates and binds up the wound to bring healing and comfort. That’s the beginning of your transformation from sick to healed. It continues until you are fully back to health.

Just like we don’t have only one lesson to learn in life, we don’t repent only one time. We do best if we allow God to judge and transform us as often as possible. Remember, Moses was the only man who talked with God face to face, as a man talks to his friend. And yet, the time came when Moses did not allow God to transform him. He hit the rock to bring forth water instead of being transformed and speaking to the rock. That disobedience and distrust cost him dearly. It didn’t stop God from loving him, and we know he is with God because he was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Yeshua, but he missed blessings God longed to give to him.

So, what about you? Are you willing to come before the cross to allow God to judge and transform you either again or for the first time? Comment below if you would like me to pray for you and with you as you walk through this repentance to your deliverance. Like Paul, I often feel the need to repent multiple times in a day, so I gratefully accept your prayers for me as I seek God for my own judgment and transformation…today and in the future.

And enjoy this video of the song Search Me, Lord by The Heritage Singers. There is one incorrect lyric where it says “holed” instead of “whole,” but the music is great…

October 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boss; Da Plague, Da Plague


In yet another give-away to my age, let us harken back to that adorable little guy, Tattoo, that made the great announcement to his boss when he spotted the plane to “Fantasy Island” about to land. The boss of the island, Mr. Roarke, was basically the “god” of the island, and while people paid handsomely to enact their greatest fantasies, he was in charge of how those fantasies played out much like an author decides on the final plot for his or her characters. I don’t remember any specific episodes, but I remember how often things didn’t go exactly as people expected, and I remember that no matter how they went, most people learned some type of valuable lesson from their experiences.

In today’s reading from Numbers 17:9 through Numbers 17:15 (in The Complete Jewish Bible) and Numbers 16:44 through Numbers 16:50 (in The Amplified and other Bibles), we’ll read about “The Boss” over the community of Israel. Yesterday, we saw that after Korah and his family and followers were killed, many of the Israelites began to falsely accuse Moses and Aaron of killing God’s children. Their false accusations didn’t sit well with Yahveh Almighty, so in today’s portion, He tells Moses and Aaron to get away from the rest of the community while He destroys them.

Moses and Aaron are good leaders, and they are not satisfied with the destruction of the people even when they would’ve been justified because of their attacks. Instead, these priests fall on their faces and beg God to–once again–spare the lives of the people. Moses knows what will get God’s attention, so he tells Aaron to grab a censer, put fire from the holy altar in it, and lay some incense on it. Moses then tells Aaron to hurry and go out to the people to make atonement for them because the anger of God has already gone out to them, and the plague has already begun.

Aaron did just as Moses directed and ran to the middle of the assembly where the plague was raging full speed ahead. He added the incense to make atonement for the people, and the plague began to slow down. As Aaron stood between the dead and the living, the plague stopped, but many were already dead. When it was finished, there were 14,700 dead in addition to those killed in the Korah incident. When the plague stopped, Aaron returned to The Tent of Meeting and to Moses.

There are plagues in the world that can enter “the church” because of the sins of the people, and it is prayer for God’s mercy that makes all the difference. The greatest leaders are the servant leaders who will stand in the midst of the people and offer praise to God that makes atonement because they care for the people and want the plague stopped. These are the ones that, like Mr. Roarke on “Fantasy Island” may not preach the fantasy message the spoiled people want to hear, but they will preach hard and true messages that will draw people to the God of Truth.

I hunger for the kind of preaching that hurts when it touches the things in my life that shouldn’t be there. I may not like the pain right when it happens. I may even bristle and feel a resistance at the first hearing, but good teaching from a caring teacher will find its place in my soul, and I will seek to get right with God. I call for all who consider themselves priests, prophets, preachers, teachers, or ministers of any kind to take up the cause of ringing the bell and calling out to those who would be lost, “Da plague, da plague; beware of da plague.” Even those who fight it at first will eventually receive it and apply it to their lives and gain the wisdom that will draw them closer to their Wonderful Creator. Proverbs 19:20 states it well…

Listen to advice, and accept discipline,
    so that in the end you will be wise.

May there be more teachers that are willing to stand between the dying and the living and give the advice and discipline that brings wisdom–and life.

June 10, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tithing On Your Dough


Gift Box Cake by Flickr User Ken's Oven, CC License = Attribution

Gift Box Cake by Flickr User Ken’s Oven, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Tithing is one of those subjects that brings defense from those both pro and con on the subject, so I will only tell you of my personal experience. When I was a new follower of Christ, I heard a message about tithing and how God would come through for me if I put Him first. I was working a minimum wage job at a truck stop, and my check barely covered rent and food. The payday after learning about tithe, I knew that if I paid it, I would be short on rent, but I chose to pay it anyway and prayed that God would make my manager understanding.

I paid the tithe on a Sunday, and I got a knock on the door Monday afternoon from the manager who I thought was there to collect the rent. As it turns out, he was there to inform me that he would no longer be living on the premises. He was looking for a resident who would manage the property in exchange for free rent plus pay for general duties around the property, and he wondered if I was interested. I asked when I could start, and he told me I would start immediately and that I could keep whatever rent I was prepared to pay for that week.

In today’s reading from Numbers 15:17 through Numbers 15:26, we learn about God’s command of tithe on the bread made from the produce of The Promised Land. God advises the people that when they bake their bread, they are to set aside from their first dough a cake to offer as a gift to God. He told them they should set aside this portion for The Lord from their first dough throughout all their generations.

I know the instruction to make a cake was more of a pancake than a fancy cake as in the image above, but I love looking through pictures of beautiful cake designs because I truly admire the creativity and talent of the bakers. I looked for images with a search for “cake gift” and boy did I find some amazing designs. You can click the highlighted search term if you want to see some of them for yourself.

So, back to the reading, which then switches gears to speaking to the people about what to do if they make a mistake in observing all the laws and commands that God has been giving through Moses. God tells them that the whole community is to come together to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as a fragrant aroma to The Lord. He tells them they are to offer it with the grain and drink offerings in keeping with the rule and to add a male goat for a sin offering. It goes on to say that the priests will make atonement for the people, and the whole community, including any foreigners living with them, will be forgiven because it was a mistake.

As I read through this, I could see the set up for the Blood of Messiah to make atonement for us in our sins against God. I know that Yeshua’s Blood was perfect blood, so it represented all the types of offerings that could be sacrificed for all types of sins. I rejoice in this, and at the same time, I feel the tug in my heart to once again check myself. I want to make sure that the ways I fail God are never with intention or purpose or with an attitude of just not caring.

In the Spirit of the law, which is even greater than the letter of the law, everything that has been said points to the law that Yeshua said was the greatest commandment: “You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Love Him enough to want to give him a gift from your first fruits, first labors, and first dough (including the green kind.) Love Him enough to want to obey His commandments to the best of your ability just because you know it is pleasing to Him. Love Him enough to trust Him and have faith in Him. Love Him enough to study His Holy Word and draw as close to Him as you can in this life while keeping your eye on the promise that you will dwell with Him for eternity.

June 5, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are You Guilty of Guilt?


Judge Not by Flickr User Tim Ellis, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Judge Not by Flickr User Tim Ellis, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Are you guilty of guilt? That was the title of my first college essay. My argument compared guilt to conviction, and I received a high grade for my presentation–except for my excessive use of commas. On that, I’m guilty as charged. As I have matured in my walk with Christ, I have learned that I was lacking something back then. At the time, I thought guilt was not something from God at all, and that God only created conviction that made people want to change their sinful ways. Since then, however, I have learned that guilt is a byproduct of sin, and God put it there to help us want out of our sinful ways just as He allows us to have pain, so we’ll get our flesh out of the fire before we burn to death.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 5:11 through Leviticus 5:26 (or through Leviticus 6:7 in versions other than the Complete Jewish Bible), we read about sin offerings and guilt offerings (called trespass offerings in some versions). The guilt offering seems to be the one offered when a person goes against something God has declared as holy, or when a person sins against a neighbor. I’m guessing the latter would be considered unholy because the sin is done against someone who is made in the image of God.

The parts that stood out to me as I read this portion were the rules about making restitution. The offering to make atonement, and whatever acts of restitution were required, were to be done at the same time. In today’s church, that would mean we should be prepared to right our wrongs at the same time as we place ourselves under the blood of Christ. It’s not about showing up to the altar and asking for forgiveness while planning to fix the issue at some later date and time. Or, as my husband put it, it’s not about hollering up “Forgive me, Lord,” and going about your business, or telling everyone how your sins are under the blood of Christ, so it doesn’t matter.

A good example comes from the latter part of the reading where it talks about doing wrong to a neighbor. According to this, there’s no such thing as Finders–Keepers, Losers–Weepers, as we have stated with a sing-song voice since childhood. It says that if someone entrusts something to a neighbor, finds something that belongs to a neighbor, makes a promise to a neighbor, etc., and fails to do right by that neighbor, he is not only to make restitution in full, but he is to add one-fifth (twenty percent) to it. Furthermore, it says that the repayment should be done at the same time as the offering is brought to the priest.

The Lord does not change, so while we now have His blood to cover our sins, and we no longer have to pay the wages of sin that equate to death, we are not set free from doing our best to make things right. We are not saved by works, but we are still justified by them as far as consequences go–and maybe even concerning some of our heavenly rewards. There will be a trial by fire that will test our works, and the blood of Christ will get us across the threshold, but there must be something beyond the entrance if our works are being tested. But, even if there were nothing beyond getting a foot in the door of Heaven, why should we walk on this earth in the bondage of sin’s by-product of guilt? We don’t have to pay the price of death for eternity, and we don’t have to be guilty of guilt now. As Yahshua said to the woman caught in adultery when He set her free from death by stoning, “Go, and sin no more.” Now, He says the same to us through His written word (my paraphrase of Romans 6:3-7): Rise up, and walk in the newness of life. You are free to go and sin no more.

March 7, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tried and Failed


Fail Reel by Flickr User Nicko Gibson, CC License = Attribution

Fail Reel by Flickr User Nicko Gibson, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

In the movie reel of my life (somehow, I really think God has one of these), I know I have tried and failed thousands of times. I have made promises that still go unkept, whether because I’ve forgotten or for some other reason. I’ve had all the best intentions, all the best plans, and all the best efforts, and still I have failed. I fail because I am human. We fail because we are human. God understands because He made us. He says in Psalm 103:14 that He knows our form.

As I read through today’s reading from Leviticus 4:27 through Leviticus 5:10, I looked at all the answers God gave for what to do in case of failure during the times of the tabernacle and priests. Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, I don’t think He would have us discard any of it. As a matter of fact, The New Testament does not say that the old law is done away with. Rather, it says that it was fulfilled so we are no longer under the curse of it. What was the curse? It was that if we failed in one point, we failed in all of it.

I woke up one morning having an awake dream–maybe a vision. I saw a steel ring with bits of it missing and the word law in the middle of it. As I watched it, another steel ring came into view. This one had the word love written in the middle, and it had no missing pieces. As the vision continued, the ring of love settled into the ring of law and filled in all the missing parts. God’s law of love became the law and absorbed all the emptiness that keeping the works of the law could not fill in. I have never forgotten it.

But as for why all these commands were there to begin with….I believe God laid them out because He never wanted His people under a curse. He knew His children, and He knew they would fail, but He wanted to put every possibility of provision out there to make a way out of the bondage that comes with sin and failure. It’s like a mother, one many would call over-protective, giving her child an abundance of “just in case” scenarios to make sure the child is protected no matter what.

“Okay, honey, don’t answer the door; make sure the deadbolt is locked; the doorknob is locked; the chain lock is pulled; the intruder alarm is set; and your phone is charged in case you need to call us. I put the number where we’ll be on the refrigerator, but I also gave it to the neighbors on both sides in case you have to run out of the house to get away from a bad guy. Oh, and Aunt Sally will call you at 8 to check on you, and then Uncle Mike will call you at 9. Make sure you answer or they’ll call me to report you might be in trouble. Etc., etc., and, and, and.”

Does this seem like too much? God provided 613 total commandments to the Levitical priesthood. We have commandments in today’s reading that include when to sacrifice a goat, when to sacrifice a sheep, when it must be a female offering, and when a dove or pigeon can be used. He even provided for the unplanned sins, including those committed by making a promise (whether to do evil or good) and not keeping it. God has always wanted to make sure that we have ways out of our sins if we have a heart that is willing to step out of them through repentance.

And that is the most important part of it all… repentance. Whether it was following the Levitical commands back then, or stepping under the cleansing of Christ’s blood now, repentance is what makes the difference. Now, as then, a person must see his sin and failures as bondage (if nothing more than the bondage of being separated from his Loving Creator), and he must want to be set free. It’s not about finding reasons or excuses, and it’s not about trying to find some way to continue in sin. The blood–all the way back to the garden–has always been about repentance and being set free.

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Missing the Mark


Missed the Target by Flickr User Tom, Switzerland, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Missed the Target by Flickr User Tom, Switzerland, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Been there, done that, have the stains on my shirt to prove it. And boy, how frustrating it is when you are hungry or thirsty, and you really want to get that bite in your mouth, or that drink down your throat, and you miss the mark and spill something down the front of you. And it is equally frustrating when we want to please God but somehow, even with our best desires and efforts, we make a mess out of things.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 4:1 through Leviticus 4:26, we get to see how God even created provision for His children should they fail Him unintentionally. In many Hebrew prayers, there is a line of thanksgiving for the laws (Hebrew mitzvot) of God. This shows that the foundations contain pleasure in serving God according to His perfect will. Rather than make excuse for why they could not serve Him, they looked for ways to do it better. So, when they inadvertently failed, they wanted to be set free from that.

God has a system worked out of exactly what sacrifices are acceptable for offerings given in case of failure and the process required depending on who failed. If it was one of the anointed priests that failed, the process was a bit different than if it was one member of the community. It was yet a different method of action for repentance when the whole community shared in the failure.

The one thing about this reading that grabbed me harder than other parts was what happened if one of the anointed priests failed. The Word says that it brought guilt on all the people. Imagine if the one you were following as your anointed leader was required to repent and offer a sacrifice worthy of repentance to keep his or her sins off of you. Would it change who you choose to look up to for your leadership?

Remember that in the book of Jude (especially verses 3-4) we are warned about those that sneak into the church without us being aware of them (other than Scriptural warnings) and teach something less than adherence to God’s word. Even though the blood of Christ sets us free from being yoked under bondage if these people do not repent, I believe we are still required to go in with eyes wide open and be aware of false teaching and sinful leadership. I believe God still requires those in leadership positions to treat their positions with the highest reverence and responsibility, knowing that what they teach, and what they do behind closed doors, will affect their followers in some way. Think Jim Jones, and note what came upon all who followed him.

Today, I’m thankful for a provision in Christ’s blood that will help me when I miss the mark. I desire to do the right thing, just like I desire to get the food to my mouth when I’m hungry, but I still fail. And I know there are those in leadership who desire to do the right thing and fail, but the ones who truly adhere to God’s calling will bring fruits of repentance and not just words of sorrow for being caught. That is why I’m picky about whose words I follow–online and off. I know God sees my heart and judges me on my desire, and I know He sees the heart of all who try to serve Him and fail. Above all, He sees the blood of Christ when we fail but then repent and place ourselves under it. Halleluyah!

March 5, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Pigeons to Pancakes


Pancake Face by Flickr User Kevin Severud, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Pancake Face by Flickr User Kevin Severud, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I had planned to go to Salem, Indiana, today for the last day of the Maple Syrup Festival, but we had the beginnings of an ice storm, so hubby and I stayed in. I wonder, though, if the griddle cakes Israel prepared in the desert–both for meals and for offerings–were the catalyst for what we now call pancakes or griddle cakes. Of course, I doubt anyone brought their offering with a happy face on the offering itself, but hopefully, they had a happy smile on their own face in thankfulness for God’s mercy.

Today’s reading from Leviticus 1:14 through Leviticus 2:6 begins with information for those who would make an offering of birds. The birds are to be either dove or pigeon, and this time, the priests do most of the work in giving the offering. I am thankful that God provided ways for everyone to be able to give an offering even if they didn’t own a flock or a herd to choose an animal from. God made it possible for all to come to Him to receive mercy and grace.

Most of us have probably heard or read the story of Yahshua turning the tables over in the temple in Matthew 12:12-14. And I’ve heard a lot of people use that Scripture to explain why nothing should be sold in a church. But some years ago, I had an interesting fact pointed out to me about this Scripture. In verse 14, after the famous statement about turning the temple of God into a den of thieves, Scripture says that the blind and lame came up to Yahshua, and He cured them. Apparently, those who were both sick and poor were being kept away from the priests and the chance to receive prayer. If they couldn’t provide their own offerings, and if they couldn’t afford to buy from the sellers, they were restricted to the courtyard. This is the scene The Savior walked in on, and–I believe–THIS is why He called them thieves, They were stealing the grace and mercy of God away from those THEY felt did not deserve it because of their financial situations. Scary huh?

Our reading continues with God providing yet another way for anyone to bring an offering to God. I think there may be specific reasons for grain offerings as well, but I believe they were also provided for those who had nothing to offer but what they could glean from the grain harvest. I found it interesting that God said they could bring fine flour mixed with olive oil and frankincense, or they could bring flour cakes or matzah baked in the oven or cooked on a griddle. All of it had to be unleavened, so I’m thinking that since matzah is like a cracker, the cakes are probably like our pancakes.

The important part was that which went up to God as a sweet aroma. I think He is greatly blessed to see us separated from our sins, however briefly. His word says, in Galatians 5:1 (GW), “Christ has freed us so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. Therefore, be firm in this freedom, and don’t become slaves again.” He desires that we would have both freedom and joy. As He says in John 15:10-11, He wants us to have His joy that our joy will be complete.

Speaking of joy–well laughter really, I was thinking about the fact that the priests got to eat part of that offering. Do you suppose they only put the frankincense on the parts they knew they wouldn’t eat? Or do you think there’s a recipe out there for potpourri pancakes that tastes better than it sounds. LOL

March 2, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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