Crystal Writes A Blog

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Imitation is not Flattery to God


Flattery by Flickr User Sanctu, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Flattery by Flickr User Sanctu, 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.
I recommend a visit to Flickr to view this image in full size. It’s actually very cool what the guy has done here, and apparently it’s an imitation of another artists style, but I think the guy did a great job. I thought it was perfect for this post because you can’t sit on a chair made with words , and you can’t depend on imitation service to Christ.

When we call someone a copycat, it’s not usually a compliment, and yet, there’s the quote that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So, is margarine a compliment to butter? Is polyester a compliment to silk? Most of the time, we use imitations of things not because we think the imitation is as good as the real thing, but because we have some reason (usually cost) for not using the real thing, and we are looking for an acceptable replacement. Me, I’m satisfied with cubic zirconia in my jewelry because it often has more sparkle than I could find in any type of diamond that would be affordable for me.

In today’s reading from Numbers 16:20 through Numbers 17:8 (in the Complete Jewish Bible), or to Numbers 16:43 (in the Amplified and other Bibles), we will find out what happens to people who imitate the things of God without being chosen to perform them.

The first thing we see is that Yahveh is angry enough with Korah and his followers that He is ready (once again) to destroy the whole community of Israel. He tells Moses and Aaron to step back while He comes down to take care of business. And, (once again) Moses saves their lives by presenting a perspective to God that turns His wrath around. This time, Moses asks God if all should pay for the sin of one.

With that question, God tells the community of Israel to get away from the tents and families and belongings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. As the people move away, the troublemakers come out and stand in the entrances of their tents with their families. Moses speaks out that if the men die natural deaths, the people can know that God did not send Moses as a leader for them. Moses goes on to tell them that if, however, God does a new thing and brings the men alive into Sheol (the place of the dead), the people can be sure that God is with Moses and has chosen him.

As soon as Moses quit speaking, the earth opened up beneath Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and swallowed them up completely. It also swallowed up all who sided with them and all their belongings before it closed up again. The community of Israel ran away shouting that the earth might swallow them too, and then the fire of God came down and destroyed the 250 elders that brought up fire in their censers. I’m guessing the fire in the censers part was based on the fact that the 250 elders were imitating an act of the priesthood, and back then, God did not put up with apostates in the camp, so He dealt with the trouble immediately.

God spoke to Moses and said to take up the censers that the 250 used for incense and hammer them into a covering for the altar of sacrifice. He said they were holy because they were used on God’s altar, and covering the altar with them served as a way to keep them holy as well as making them a warning to others of Israel who might consider trying to imitate the priesthood in the future. No ordinary person, not descended from Aaron, is allowed to offer incense at the altar of God if he does not want to suffer the same fate as Korah and his followers.

After all that was done before them, the community of Israel began to accuse Moses again. This time they said that Moses killed the people of God. (I did a mental “I could have had a V8” slap on the head when I read this.) However, as the community gathered against Moses and Aaron, they looked in the direction of the temple and noticed the cloud of God’s presence descending on it, and the glory of The Lord appeared. Moses and Aaron then went to the front of the Tent of Meeting to meet with God.

From all of this, I would guess that imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery to God. He is interested in real people, real hearts, and real lives being dedicated to Him. Our position doesn’t matter to God except that He wants us to fulfill the demands of the position to which He has called us. In Malachi 1:6a, God speaks a message to the priests that can be applied to all of us…

The Lord All-Powerful said, “Children honor their fathers. Servants honor their masters. I am your Father, so why don’t you honor me? I am your master, so why don’t you respect me?”

I actually recommend a reading of the whole 1st chapter of Malachi for an interesting perspective on how we as people treat our Wonderful and Almighty Lord God. It’s eye-opening and heart-breaking. It reminds me of my own salvation experience, and what God spoke to my heart the night I gave my whole life over to Him. To keep it short, I’ll just say that I was not at church because I wanted to be, but I was there because someone manipulated me, and I could only have my way if I agreed to attend. The preacher did something he had never done before (or since) in asking everyone in the building to pray where they were because of a baptism they were having that night. As everyone knelt around me, I was the only one standing, so I got down by my seat to imitate what everyone else was doing.

Like I said, God doesn’t like imitation, so He used my own prideful behavior “against” me (though it turned out for me) by having all the women in the church gather around to pray with me. I thought to myself, “Oh, Crystal. What have you gotten yourself into now, and how are you gonna get out of it?” And then came a voice as audible as if He was in the room in human form, and God spoke these words, “You’re not rejecting these people or all the other people who have hurt you in your life. You are rejecting me, and I haven’t done anything to hurt you.” I broke at those words because the last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt God even if I wasn’t purposefully walking according to His will.

I have served God to the best of my ability since that date back in July of 1983. I have failed Him many times, and I used to keep the Malachi 1:6 scripture printed on a card at my desk to remind me to always keep my attitude filled with honor and respect toward God. I cannot put into words how much I love Him, or how humbled I am by the fact that He loves me. When I try to make myself useful to Him, I usually fall flat on my face. Maybe my motivations aren’t right, or maybe I’m stepping outside of His calling for me when that happens, but I don’t like it. Oh, but when He chooses to use me for something, the feeling is indescribable. When it comes to God; keep is honorable, keep it respectful, and keep it real.

June 9, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hail or No, We Won’t Let You Go


Leaves and Hail by Flickr User Michael J, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Leaves and Hail by Flickr User Michael J, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab to access original image and user’s photo stream at Flickr.

What is it about stubbornness that makes so many people hold onto it so strongly? I mean, Pharaoh has had far more than three days of trouble. All he had to do was let the people go for three days, but because he remained stubborn and hard-hearted, he is getting ready to suffer yet another plague. And we can be pretty sure that he is blaming all of these plagues on God, on Moses and Aaron, and/or on the people of Israel. But all the blame and justification in the world will not change the fact that a simple act of obedience, and maybe a little compassion from Pharaoh toward Israel, could have stopped all of Egypt’s troubles.

In today’s reading from Exodus 9:17 through Exodus 9:35 (the end of the chapter, and the end of this week’s portion), God is having to issue yet another warning to Pharaoh. This time He tells Pharaoh that He is getting ready to send a terrible hail storm on Egypt that will be worse than anything they have ever seen. But, this time they actually have another way out. Anyone who brings their slaves and animals inside and out of the field will not lose them. But every human and animal left out in the field will die from getting pelted by the hail stones. Those among Pharaoh’s servants who believed Yahveh brought their slaves and animals inside.

When the storm begins, it comes with thunder and fire as well. From the way it’s worded about flashing up, I’m guessing the fire is lightning, but I can’t be sure. The storm destroys plants and kills animals and people, but in the land of Goshen where God’s people stayed, there is no storm at all. As I’m typing this, I’m imagining Goshen to be in the eye of the storm and thinking how this would be like saying they were being watched by God as the storm was going on around them. If we trust in God, we too can have the promise of His eye watching us and of His protection in our midst. If we keep our eye on Him, then we do not have to fear no matter how severe we see the storms raging around us.

Now this next part almost made me laugh. Pharaoh calls Moses and Aaron with a confession. He says, “This time I have sinned.” What? This time? So he’s not only stubborn and hard-hearted, he’s an idiot too? Maybe the plagues are finally starting to wear him down, but why would a person need to be scraped along the bottom before he decides to look up? And why, when he does finally look up, does he look through half-closed eyes instead of confessing and forsaking all his sins so he can be set free from them? It makes no sense to me, but then pride never has made sense since–from the time Lucifer used it at the throne to this moment. It always comes before destruction, but we humans continue to push the boundaries anyway.

Still, after Pharaoh pleas for deliverance, God does stop the storm. Moses even gives Pharaoh the good news that the crops which had not yet blossomed would still come up for him. And yet again, when Pharaoh is no longer uncomfortable, he hardens his heart like a big piece of hail, and he changes his mind again about letting the people go–just as God told Moses would happen. And this is the end of the week’s portion, and the news of the seventh plague. Shabbat Shalom.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hugging Porcupines


Have you ever tried to hug a porcupine? No? Well, me either. But even if I had the opportunity, I don’t think I would want to do so. I have hugged someone wearing wool, and the itchy scratchy feeling that makes me feel like I have little pins sticking me all over doesn’t make me want to continue for long. It’s just not pleasant to hug something that hurts. Well, sin is like that to God. He wants to spend time with us, but He doesn’t want the prickles of pain caused by our being covered in the sin in which we immerse ourselves. So, He asks us to “come out from among the unbelievers and be separated from them.” (See 2 Corinthians 6:17.)

In today’s reading from Genesis 19 verses 1 through 20, God sends angels to Sodom. Abraham’s nephew Lot recognizes them, and he knows the situation in the town is something these men should not have to deal with, so he asks them to come stay at his house. Maybe he feels that if he hides them out of sight, they will be protected, but the sinners in that city are so bent on defiling all that is good, they show up at the house and demand that Lot send his guests out to them as playthings for their disgusting lust. It’s as if they can smell purity and innocence and will not be satisfied unless they can destroy it.

Since Lot has lived with these people for so long, maybe he has learned to ignore much of their behavior thinking that as long as he is not part of it, it doesn’t matter if he lives in the midst of it. But he doesn’t realize how much can change just by being in the constant presence of sin. So, while he knew it was wrong to let the men have their way with his angelic guests, he apparently did not see the harm in trying to appease them by offering them his virgin daughters. In that moment, he forgot that part of his role as a father included protecting their innocence.

In the end, the angels pulled Lot in from trying to make deals with the evil men, and then they blinded the men at the door so they could no longer find the door. They protected Lot and his daughters and then warned them not only to walk away, but to run away, from the coming destruction. Unfortunately, though freedom was also offered to his other children who lived in different parts of the city, they chose to stay rather than to heed the warning.

I guess the moral of this story, whose ending should come in tomorrow’s reading, is that it is better for us to come out from among unbelievers and keep ourselves pure and separate than to try to pry ourselves away when we finally get a clear vision of where sin is leading. Lord, please separate us and keep us out of the miry clay. Set our feet upon You–our Rock and our Salvation.

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

For the Sake of the Righteous


In our homes, if we have a family member that routinely violates the law and the respect of other household members, we will usually find that our households feel like places of chaos and unhappiness. Even when that family member no longer lives with the family, the strain is heavy. We call for interventions. If we pray, we call our prayer-warrior friends and ask them to bring the situation to God. We plead for God to have mercy on the soul of the disobedient one, but we also pray that somehow the rebellion will stop, so we can have peace. And in those situations where a positive change takes place, we are grateful for whatever it took to bring it about and for having our families back in order and harmony.

In today’s reading from Genesis 18:15 through Genesis 18:33, we learn the real reason the three men stopped by Abraham’s homestead; to bring peace to a chaotic situation. There was a cry of help rising from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. People created in the image of God were in trouble. They were victimized. They were miserable. Like Abel’s blood crying to God from the ground, this creation was crying to The Creator from the depths of misery. And Yahveh God grabbed a couple of warrior angels and headed to earth to deal with it. As the story continues, God talks with the angels about letting Abraham in on the details of the mission. God said He wanted to include Abraham in His plans because of the strong future he had in front of him. Maybe God also thought it would be good to share with Abraham out of respect for his nephew’s family that still lived there–especially since the mission included the destruction of the city because of the abundance of wickedness.

Now Abraham, like any loving family member, begins to plead with God on behalf of the possibility of righteous men having to pay a price for the deeds of the wicked. He even says to God, “Far be it from You to destroy the righteous with the wicked.” Of course, he was likely imagining that Lot and his family were righteous since they were raised up that way, and maybe he even thought they were stuck in the depths of that horrible place. So begins the conversation between God and Abraham about just how many righteous men would have to dwell there in order for the city to be saved.

Eventually, Abraham brings the number all the way down to ten people. God tells him that even if there are ten righteous people there, He will spare the city. Of course, we know the outcome of that, so we can be sure there were not even ten righteous men living there. It was like the wrong side of the tracks on the wrong side of the tracks–all the wickedness gathered into one bad place. But even with all that evil, God would have been prepared to have mercy on them if He could have found ten people who could lift Him up as a light in the darkness. He is just that merciful. And He let Abraham pose scenario after scenario until even Abraham knew the situation in the place was hopeless.

There are days when I look at the behaviors of people that just don’t make sense, and I know God must be sparing this whole earth just for the righteous on its face. I know He is strained at the cry of the victims against those who kill, steal, and destroy for whatever evil reason they can justify–and often just because they don’t care. I know God grieves even more than I do over the pain of the righteous and the innocent as we live out these last days where men are calling good evil and evil good. And I know God longs to bring those who love Him to that promised place of eternity with Him. But, for now, we have to trust that He is sparing the earth because there are still enough righteous people who follow their Creator and will bring His light to a lost and dying world. Let us ask Him to continue to help us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. And if we have unsaved family and friends, we can praise God for His mercy as He delays His return and His judgment for the sake of the righteous.

October 20, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Righteous Before The Creator


My reading today from Genesis 7:1-16 is short, but it puts feet on the commands God gave to Noah yesterday. The ark is built, the animals have shown up, and now God invites Noah & his family into the place that will save them from destruction.

You know, it seems from the beginning that God has always delighted to give those who love Him a refuge from the troubles and trials that are created by the disobedience of those who do not love Him. He truly lives up to the name, Deliverer. Here is a slide from a Bible study by Beth Moore that nicely describes how God is ALWAYS our Deliverer:

Image

While the slide talks of fire, it was no less a deliverance for Noah and his family to be delivered from the death of all other living things. This story is only the beginning of God showing people that He wants to be our Deliverer, and it represents His heart of hearts–to deliver us from the ways of sin and the wages of sin (which is eternal death). Now our question; will we give up our own ways and go into “the ark” when we are invited?

October 6, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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