Crystal Writes A Blog

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Joy to the World


Not of This World by Flickr User Sharon at Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Not of This World by Flickr User Sharon at 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.

This world is not our home, so it’s not always comfortable. Sometimes, though, our homes here become a place to hide. Sure, home may be where the heart is, but home is not the place to keep our salvation. And neither should we keep ourselves holed up like rabbits only hopping from fellowship to fellowship between church friends and church services. We will have a chance to fellowship and rejoice together when we cross over into eternity, but right now, we have a gift of joy we need to share with the world. We are not of this world, but we can’t forget that we are in it.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 12:10 through Deuteronomy 12:28 (the portion starts at 11, but it’s in the middle of a sentence, so I’ve included what I left off yesterday), we read about God’s place in the midst of Israel’s new place of inheritance where they will have peace and safety from their enemies. (Now I see why the old hymns compare Heaven to The Land of Canaan.) Their place in Canaan was more like our place will be in Heaven–their reward for their journey through the world so far. Moses tells them to remember to bring their offerings, sacrifices, and promised gifts to God at the place God chooses within their new land. He tells them to be careful not to take their offerings just anywhere they choose, but to go to the place God designates within one of their tribal communities.

Because of God’s blessings, they can slaughter and eat meat whenever and wherever they want, even to the point of both clean and unclean eating it now, but they must not consume the burnt offerings and the tithes on their grain, new wine, and olive oil, at their own homes. They must eat them in the presence of The Lord. After God expands their territory, however, if it causes the place of His name to be too far away from them, they can slaughter and eat all the meat they want on their home property. As before, they can serve both the clean and the unclean, but they are not to eat anything still alive or eat any of the blood. Moses also reminds them to never forget the Levites since they do not have their own shares in the new land. (Boy, if that’s a type and shadow that says preachers won’t get their own mansions, but will have to live with others in eternity, I wonder how many would still want to be preachers.)

So, Hebrews 13:10-16 (NLT) talks of Yeshua being crucified outside the camp and how God’s people should be willing to go outside the camp and bear the disgrace with Him. It says we do this because this world is not our permanent home. It goes on to say we should bring a continual sacrifice of praise to God by proclaiming allegiance to His name. I see this as comparable to Israel being outside versus inside their new land. (Anything in the book of Hebrews is speaking to Messianic Jews, so they understood this comparison.) I think it means that while we live on this side of Heaven, it will feel like a sacrifice to proclaim The Lord, but when we move into His permanent presence, we can praise Him right where we live, and it will be out of desire instead of by requirement.

Our meat for sacrifice is no longer one with blood since the perfect blood of Yeshua finished that work for all mankind. Now, we bring a sacrifice of praise, and God’s designated place for that sacrifice is outside the camp since we still live outside of “Canaan.” We take our sacrifice into the world, so we can lift Him up where He will draw all men to Himself. And even though people in the world may try to disgrace us for our stand (that’s part of what makes it a sacrifice after all), we can still give that sacrifice as a blessing of thanksgiving to the One who promises us eternity in His holy presence.

I’m just going to change one word in the first line of a popular chorus…We bring sacrifice of praise OUTSIDE the house of The Lord. And when we bring our sacrifice of praise to the world, we bring His joy to the world.

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

Vinnie, Vidal, and Vickie


Veni Vidi Vici by Flickr User Boldly Wanderlust, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Veni Vidi Vici by Flickr User Boldly Wanderlust, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Vinnie the travel-planner did a good job at getting from point A to point B, but he often left before he took time to really see anything. He went away almost as fast as he came to any destination. He was the kind of person for whom they write things like stop and smell the roses.

Vidal the photographer, however, was quite the opposite. He stopped, saw, looked at, admired, and smelled…and smelled…and smelled the roses. He liked to linger over things of beauty, and he was never ready when Vinnie set off to yet another new location. So, Vidal got Vinnie to stop just a little longer, and Vinnie kept Vidal moving at an energetic pace.

Vinnie and Vidal needed each other, but they also needed Vickie the tour guide because she was the one who made sure they took care of whatever business they originally set out to accomplish. Vickie helped both of her traveling companions conquer their “to do” lists. Together, the three of them came, saw, and conquered a magazine full of journalistic endeavors.

The End.

I had to come up with a quick fiction story to head us off because today’s reading from Numbers 34:16 through Numbers 34:29 only gives us a couple of sentences of action and then a list of the names of tribal leaders that Moses put in charge of taking possession of the land and of dividing the inheritance among the people. Eleazar the high priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, were the primary leaders. After that, each tribe had a specific leader appointed to go, see, and conquer the land of Canaan for Israel.

So, there’s not some deep spiritual lesson in a list of leaders, but in the fact that we need leaders, and we need each other, for any important task is always a good lesson to remember. Even the Latin victory chant would sound incomplete if we only said, “Vici!” (We conquered!) Most of us are so accustomed to the claim of Veni, Vidi, Vici (we came, we saw, we conquered) that we know what it means even if we don’t really knowing what it means. The image above comes from a restaurant by that name, so they gambled on most guests knowing enough to trust it would be a winning cuisine.

Many of the images I found while searching for that phrase were of people standing in some type of dominant or winning position. They stood on mountain tops and in front of tall buildings to show their successes in travel or physical endurance. Because we’re reading the Bible from this point in history, we know Israel will be successful, so we may not even think of the internal battles they had to overcome to get to their victory. But God was there with them then, and He is here with us now, so that we can boldly say, “The Lord is my Helper,” and when we reach our points of success with Him by our side, we too can shout, “Veni, Vidi, Vici.”

July 15, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scout it Out


Scout Sniper by Flickr User DVIDSHUB, CC License = Attribution

Scout Sniper by Flickr User DVIDSHUB, 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.

Many years ago, I was a “Girl Scout,” but I wasn’t in it long enough to figure out why we were called scouts. Maybe it had something to do with preparedness. Hubby always says he could not be a scout in the military because he doesn’t pay enough attention to little details. Me, I might pay too much attention to the little things. In a recent TV western I watched about Bat Masterson (the man who became a legend in his own time), a scout made all the difference in catching the bad guys who got ambushed after the scout had passed, so it’s a pretty important position to hold.

In today’s reading from Numbers 13:1 through Numbers 13:20, we begin a new portion, Parashah 37, This one is called Shlach L’kha in Hebrew and means “Send on Your Behalf,” It tells of the men whom God is gathering from the ancestral tribes to go before the rest of the people to scout out the land of Canaan. Moses chooses leading men from among the people of Israel, one from each tribe (listed in the link), and sends them out from the Paran Desert.

Many of the names listed should sound familiar, including Joshua and Caleb, but until this reading, I was unaware that Moses renamed Joshua from Hosea. As I understand it from teaching I’ve received so far, his original name means “salvation,” and his new name means “God’s salvation.” What a name to give someone who is about to scout out the promises of God for a whole nation of people.

So Moses sends the men on their recon mission, and he tells them to take notice of things like the people who live there, if there are just a few or a lot of people, and if the people are strong or weak. He also tells them to take notice of the land. He says to see if the land is good or bad, fertile or unfertile, whether it has many cities or just a few, and whether the cities are open or fortified. As a last order, Moses tells the men to be bold enough to bring back some of the fruit from the land, and he sends them out right after the first grapes have begun to ripen.

I’ve heard a lot of messages about this story, and usually they have been about it being a lack of faith to send scouts ahead to claim a land that God has already promised. But in reading it more closely, the scouting of it is God’s idea. I believe it is all about proper prior preparation, and it is actually an act of faith to find out what movements and tools will be needed to claim God’s promises. God does not expect us to walk by ignorant faith when we have His wisdom to guide us and light our way. Luke 14:28 (CJB) puts it this way…

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Don’t you sit down and estimate the cost, to see if you have enough capital to complete it?”

And we read in Psalm 127:1 of the Common English Bible (CEB)

Unless it is the Lord who builds the house,
    the builders’ work is pointless.
Unless it is the Lord who protects the city,
    the guard on duty is pointless.

God is not only the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), but we’re also promised in Philippians 1:6 that He who began a great work within us is sure to finish it within us. That means that even our scouting and recon missions can be done in faith because we know that He is the One who started it all, promised it all, and will finish it all. Truly, He is the Alpha and Omega in and of all things.

May 31, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s In Your Walls


 

Wall Cleaner by Flickr User Dan Brady, CC License = Attribution

Wall Cleaner by Flickr User Dan Brady, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

 

Have you ever visited an old building that left you feeling sick after your visit because of whatever was in the old walls? What about visiting somewhere (old or new) that left you feeling sick in your spirit because you just knew something unseen was there?

There are plenty of television series where people try to use fancy technology to discover what might be hiding in the walls of old places. Apparently, the idea that spirits might become attached or trapped in parts of old buildings is pretty intriguing to a lot of people. I think most people want it to be at least a little true to explain some spooky feelings they’ve had from their own chilling visits to places.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 14:33 through Leviticus 14:53, God is giving Israel instructions for when they move into the land of Canaan and take over houses already there. It starts by mentioning that if they go into a house where Yahveh put leprosy, they need to call the priest to examine it. It doesn’t make it clear when The Lord would have put leprosy there, but I’m guessing it would have been something done to former occupants that were enemies of Israel.

The portion tells the priest exactly what to look for to determine if there’s a contagious infection in the walls. Then, God tells the priest to remove any stones with infection and scrape off any plaster. After they replaster and then close the house up for seven days, if they come back to spreading stains, they are supposed to tear the house down completely and throw all its remains in an unclean place outside the city. If the stains don’t come back, they declare the house clean and perform a purification ceremony.

One of the things I really liked about moving into my current home was that I knew the former occupants, who had been living here for three years, spent a lot of hours in prayer and praise in its walls. I could feel the presence of God whenever I came over to visit with them, and I knew they were leaving me with a spiritually clean home. The last home I lived in did not have that same clean feeling when I moved in, but I wasn’t taught to search that out before buying, so it took me a few years to figure things out.

When we are forgiven of our sins, the wage of sin (death) is removed from us, but the consequences and side-effects may remain. For example, a woman who commits adultery or fornication and gets pregnant will not suddenly become un-pregnant just because she repents and is forgiven. In our daily failures, there may be times when, with God’s help, we must clean our lives of lingering side-effects that can inhabit our homes and/or lives. That’s why He gives us authority over the spirits of darkness.

While it’s nothing to boast about since it’s just housecleaning in the spirit realm, we can rejoice that God will strengthen us to do it even if we’re not the type that likes housecleaning much. We can also rejoice that when God placed us in The Lamb’s Book of Life, He gave us the tools and instructions for keeping our path toward Him free of the debris and remnants of sin that plagued us before we walked with Him. When we’re feeling sick in our spirits, it may be time to ask ourselves what’s in our walls, and then to start some spiritual housecleaning.

April 1, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thanks A “Lot”


Maybe my title should actually be “Thanks Á la Lot” since the story, from Genesis 13:5 through 13:18 is the story of Abram and his nephew Lot, but I just couldn’t pass up the pun. 🙂

In today’s part of Torah portion three, Lot and Abram were both so abundantly blessed that they began to overrun each other. Their servants even started fighting with each other. So Abram, ever a fan of peace and family, decided that it would be best of they put some space between them. Because Abram was the one with the blessing, and because he was the elder, he could have chosen the land he wanted and given Lot the leftovers. Instead, he told Lot to choose whatever he wanted, and he would be the one to take what was left.

Lot decided to take for himself the land that looked the best. The well-watered plains of what we now called Jordan. He did not seem concerned about the inhabitants who already lived there–in Sodom and Gomorrah, and we will see in later chapters how that should have been a top concern for him. Still, because Lot took Jordan, Abram took Canaan.

Starting with verse 14, we find Yahveh talking with Abram and making him some more promises. Now, in addition to the promise of making a name for him, God tells Abram to look around him and see if he can count the grains of sand because his family of descendants will be just as innumerable as the sand. With that, the Lord also tells him to look around at all his eyes can take in and to walk the length and breadth of it. Yahveh promises Abram it will all belong to him.

So, because Abram put love, peace, and family first, God added to his blessings. And Abram knew these things were gifts from the Almighty and built an altar of thanksgiving. To those who are the type to count their losses, having to give up land to Lot may have seemed like a sacrifice too great to pay. But because Abram knew where his blessings originated, he willingly did what was needed and was rewarded for a heart that counted blessings instead of troubles. And what was left for Abram to do after God rewarded him? Offer a sacrifice of praise for God’s abundant blessings on his life in spite of any loss–and he lost “a Lot.” (Sorry, I can’t help it. But laughter is good for us, so I hope my silliness makes someone smile.)

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Covers A Multitude of Sin


Today’s reading from Genesis 9:18 through Genesis 10:32 is a bit longer, and it is so because it’s another chapter that covers a bunch of genealogy. This time, it’s the genealogies from the sons of Noah from whom the entire earth was repopulated after the flood. But before it gets into the genealogies, this chapter tells a story of excess, drunkenness, and disrespectful behavior.

Noah was a farmer, so after getting off the boat, he planted a vineyard. From the fruit of his labors, he drank a bit too much wine (it is easy to go overboard when you have gone without something for a very long time) and passed out in his tent. I’m guessing his robes came undone, or the wine made him warm, and he stripped them off, but for whatever reason, he was laying there completely naked. What happened next changed the future of many people groups.

Noah’s youngest son, Ham, happened by his father’s tent. Instead of backing out and respecting him, he ran to tell his brothers all about it. Now remember, the sons who entered the ark were married men and their wives, so this was a full-grown married man running off to make fun of his father to other full-grown married men. I think there is likely much more to the story, but here’s what I see: The states of mind before the flood were not only lacking any direction toward God, but they were so selfish, they were immature. Learning to care for others instead of just yourself takes time and maturity, so selfish people often act childish by being demanding, having temper tantrums, and/or being just plain silly. I think Ham came on board with the mindset of those who had just been destroyed. Maybe all but Noah boarded that way, but I believe Ham “missed the boat” mentally and emotionally when he did not learn a lesson by watching the end result of that evil behavior. And that childish behavior caused problems from his son, Canaan, on down the line because Ham did not create a legacy of maturity and obedience that could be taught through the generations.

As with all of God’s stories though, there is always some good news to find. In this case, it was the two older brothers who walked backward with a blanket and covered their father’s nakedness instead of making fun of him. Were they mature because they were older, or had they matured as a result of the last year and the lesson learned from the destruction of mankind? It’s hard to tell, but in a literal way, they fulfilled Proverbs 10:12 where it says, “Hatred stirs up contentions, but love covers all transgressions” (Amplified Bible). The immature son disrespected his father, and hated him enough to try to stir things up against him in the hearts of his brothers. But his brothers loved their father and chose instead to cover his transgressions. I also like the way this is stated in 1 Peter 4:8 (Amp)….”Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].”

We have a Savior who feels love toward us, so when given the choice to mock our sins and put them on public display for punishment, He chose instead to cover us–with His own body and blood. He took the public display, the mocking, and the punishment on Himself. And because mercy and love is more powerful than punishment and hate, we have the promise that His love covers our sins, not only unto the third and fourth generation (as it is with those who hate God), but unto thousands of generations of those that love God and keep His commandments. (See Exodus 20:6).

October 10, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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