Crystal Writes A Blog

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Packing Up, Getting Ready to Go


Are you the type that likes to make a list of items to pack before you get ready to travel somewhere? I know I make a list because there are too many things I’m just afraid I can’t live without if I forget them. But even with the best lists, I still showed up for one of my writer’s conferences without certain essentials, and boy was I glad that Wal-Mart sold Fruit of the Loom products. ūüôā

The song in the video above says…

I am on my way to that New Jerusalem
Where the sun will never go down.
Every day I’m making preparation
Packing, getting ready, getting ready to go, I’m packing up getting ready to go.

In today’s reading from Numbers 4:1 through Numbers 4:20, we come to the end of the “In the Desert” portion, and it’s time for the Levites to pack up the tabernacle and get ready to go where God leads them. That may not seem like a big deal, but remember that there are parts and pieces to God’s tabernacle that are especially holy. Packing them takes a bit more finesse to keep from exposing them to anything or anyone not meant to interact with them.

To start, God has Moses take a new census of the Levites from the clan of K’hat (sons of Kohath aka Kohathites) that are between the ages of thirty and fifty. They will help get the tabernacle, and especially the articles of¬†The Holy Place ready to travel. God gives an exact list of the items, how to disassemble them, how to wrap them, and how to pack them. Most of the items will be covered with cloth and fine leather (or possibly porpoise or dolphin skins). The cloth will be blue, purple, or scarlet, depending on the item to be wrapped.

Because the Levites that are doing this work are not all priests, if they look on the things of God, they risk being killed–or at the very least being separated from the community. To prevent this, God instructs Moses what to do for those in the clan of K’hat to avoid the¬†risk. Aaron and his sons will be the ones to move and touch the holy items and wrap them to prepare them for packing.

Aaron and all his sons are to remove the sheet that separates the¬†Especially Holy Place where the¬†Ark of the Covenant is stored.¬†Aaron’s son Eleazar is in charge of all the oils. He will prepare and wrap the oils for the menorah, the anointing oils, the holy incense, and all that is used for the daily offerings. After the priests cover the holy items and bring them out, the other Levites¬†will be able to pack them up without looking at or touching the holy parts and risking their own deaths.

If you’ve ever packed up for more than a trip, like packed up a house to move, you know that all things are not packed with the same level of care. Books, CDs, DVDs, and the last remaining VHS tapes can be packed as much as you can stuff in a box and still be able to carry. Clothing can be folded, or if you’re in a hurry, stuffed in a bunch of suitcases. (I know I’m not the only one who’s ever done this. LOL) Oh, but your fine china, and the blown glass that was passed down to you from Grandma, will be treated with extreme care and caution.

God wanted his house packed up carefully and with the utmost respect. He did not want to risk any holy items being treated as if they were just some old plastic-ware from the kitchen. His items were a part of Him, and they represented Him to the whole community of Israel. So what does that say about us now? We are God’s current tabernacle. We are what God has poured His Holy Spirit into as fine vessels made holy by His presence. There will come a day when we will move to the New Jerusalem. Now, it’s time for us to live like we’re on our way and get packed up and ready to meet Christ when He calls us home. Let us remember our value to Him and pack carefully.

May 16, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Holiness, Then Good Works


Salvation Poster by Flickr User Realistic Imaginations, 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.

Salvation Poster by Flickr User Realistic Imaginations, 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.

If I were to ask you if you honor the Lord with holiness, you would likely begin to look at the works you do for Him to decide how to answer. But I believe holiness has everything to do with our hearts, and only has to do with our works insomuch as they follow the thoughts of our hearts. Holiness begins in our hearts and with a commitment to give to God that which He should have because He is worthy. Holiness is the change of heart that makes us see God as worthy of our belief, our obedience, our trust, and our praise.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 21:16 through Leviticus 22:16, we start with Yahveh telling Moses to tell Aaron the following: “None of your descendants who has a defect may approach to offer the bread of his God.” And then the teaching goes on to explain all the types of defects that would prevent a descendant of Aaron from working in the priesthood. I would not be able to bring offerings into the holy place because I have stunted growth. My husband could not bring offerings into the holy place because he has a cataract. We could both eat the bread of God, both the holy and the especially holy, but we could not offer it to God with our defects because that would profane God and His place of holiness.

Moses tells these things to Aaron and to all of Israel, and then he goes to Aaron to deepen the lesson. He tells him to have his sons keep themselves separate from the holy things of God, so they will not take a chance of defiling them by approaching them in an unholy state. If they do, God will cut them off from their people. For us, this means that we should not try to come into “the church” by doing all the right stuff without first repenting and being covered with the holy blood of Christ to make us clean. Like the verse above says, our salvation is a gift from God, and that alone should be enough to bring us to our knees before we strap on the apron of good works.

The teaching goes on to explain more ways in which a descendant from Aaron (member of the tribe of Levi) can make himself or herself unclean, and that uncleanness can prevent both doing the work of the tabernacle and partaking of the holy food. Even a daughter who has married outside of the tribe is no longer able to partake of the food, but a widow or divorcee with no child that comes back to live with her father may share in the food. Also, while an employee or tenant may not partake of the holy foods, a slave that lives in the home of a Levite may eat them.

I see all of this teaching as a simple commandment to not put the cart before the horse. We don’t do the works of God with unholy hearts that are not committed to Him. That means we don’t get brownie points for going to church on Sundays and hoping it will erase the demerits we earned during the rest of the week. We don’t get a pat on the back from God because we donate to good causes or give ourselves to service if we are doing those things in the sin of pride and arrogance instead of with a holy love for our Creator.

Holiness is a changed state of heart and mind that will have us proclaiming the glory of God in wondrous new ways. Here are just some of the verses from King David’s song in Psalm 96 in which I can see his holy heart…

1Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
3 Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.

4¬†For the¬†Lord¬†is¬†great and greatly to be praised…
6 Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

9 Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.

I especially like that last verse because I see holiness as something beautiful and wonderful. It is an acknowledgement that God’s holiness is so majestic that all we can do is tremble in His holy presence. Hallelu-Yah!

April 20, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Managing the Management


Ethics are a journey to objective truth, where the individual is subordinate to the universal. Image (and quote?) by Flickr user Dan Hutcheson, 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.

Ethics are a journey to objective truth, where the individual is subordinate to the universal.
Image (and quote?) by Flickr user Dan Hutcheson, 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.

Have you ever worked under bad management in a job? Whether it is a team manager, a department manager, or the leader of a company, managers can make or break the future for every person who is subordinate to them. I’ve found the best managers to be the ones who know how to be managed by others and how to manage themselves.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 21:1 through Leviticus 21:15, we begin a new portion (Parashah 31). The Hebrew name for it is¬†Emor and it means “Speak.” In this reading, we find God telling Moses to speak to Aaron and his sons about their requirements as priests. What is expected of the people will be expected that much more from those God has called to lead the people. And even in the leadership, the higher the rank (anointing), the stronger their need to adhere to God’s commands.

We begin with the ruling that a priest is not allowed to make himself unclean by touching anything or anyone dead except for his close relatives. Because he is a leader among his people, the priest must maintain an integrity to set an example that will never profane God’s call on him or God’s word to him. God gives the reason here to be more than just the example though. He must maintain these rules of being separate and clean because he is the one who offers sacrifices and bread to God.

Later, we learn that the priest ranked highest among his brothers (the one who has had anointing oil poured on him and who has adorned the consecrated garments) is not allowed to make himself unclean even if his father or mother dies. This is speaking of the priest who is actually on duty to make offerings at the time, so leaving his station to deal with the dead would interrupt the holy practices he is currently involved in. A modern-day visual might be something like a preacher stopping in the middle of a baptism to jump in a mud bath.

The other rules for our leaders concern their marriages. While some have decided that being a priest means being married only to the church or to God, (I’m guessing they’re leaning on Paul’s statement here that a man can be more effective if he stays unmarried), these priests could marry, but they had strict requirements about their marriages. They could not marry a prostitute, a widow, a divorcee, or any woman who had been profaned in any way. The high priest was required to marry a virgin of his own people so as not to disqualify his descendants from following in the priesthood.

These Scriptures explain why a calling to any kind of leadership for God is not just a simple “I think I want to be a preacher” thing. We have those who come in declaring themselves to be apostles and prophets for no reasons but pride and money. We have those who are barely saved but want to run their own churches and ministries before they have learned how to be submissive to God. 1 Timothy 3:1-13 lays out a modern-day equivalent to our reading from Leviticus (leaders and elders compared to high priests and priests) , and it explains well why leaders must be above reproach, and why they must not be new converts. It’s summed up well in verse 5 which reads (in NLT), “For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God‚Äôs church?”

If it is not God who manages the management, then the management will not be able to bring forth the fruit God desires of His church. And that’s the key to remember if you are in any position of leadership or ministry…it is not our church, but God’s. He must increase, and we must decrease, and that even applies to management (leadership).

 

April 19, 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

God’s Affordable Health Care Act


 

Medicine of the Highest Order by Flickr User Benjamin Golub, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Medicine of the Highest Order by Flickr User Benjamin Golub, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

It is not in God’s perfect will for anyone to be left out of any blessing He has to offer. Unlike politically motivated health and welfare services, God’s idea of affordable health care is not driven by brownie points to get votes. God has actual compassion to make sure we can all receive His benefits even if we have previously rejected Him and/or brought many of our troubles onto ourselves. Oh, if only those who think God makes all His rules to exclude people could just see that He actually makes them to be inclusive of more people. Rather than just letting us languish in our sins and sicknesses, He provides instruction for prevention, healing, and purification. And He even provides adaptations to His plans, so they can apply to both rich and poor.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 14:21 through Leviticus 14:32, we have the same basic instructions as yesterday, but today’s rules are slightly different to cover a case of a poor person who needs purification after healing from leprosy. The many offerings that were used in the act of purification could get expensive, especially if someone did not already own flocks and herds. So God set up a contingency plan to make sure those who could not provide sacrificial lambs could also receive the needed rituals.

Most of the steps toward purification are exactly the same, including putting blood on the right ear, the right thumb, and the right toe of the person needing to be cleansed. The priest is still required to pour olive oil in his left hand and then sprinkle it seven times before The Lord before also placing it in all the places where the blood has been placed. The difference for a poor person is that the blood for the sacrificial offerings can come from a dove or pigeon instead of it needing to come from lambs.

God is more than good to us, and He has provided all we need in order to serve Him according to His perfect will, including even having the desire to serve Him in the first place. Why can some people get saved in some room or deserted place when they are all alone? Because the desire was planted in their hearts from the beginning. It may be hidden beneath ignorance, false teaching, sinful desires, etc., but God will make Himself known to a hungry soul just as soon as He is invited. He says we will find Him when we seek and search for Him with all our hearts.

For me, I can see where God actually pursued me–before I invited Him. I believe He tries to show people how much He cares before we meet Him, and then He confirms that it was Him all along once we begin to study His word. I used to sing a song called “I Keep Falling in Love with Him” that says in part, “I thought I couldn’t love Him (God) more than I did right at the start. But when I look back over the mountains and valleys where we’ve been, I find I love Him more every day, much more than I did then.”¬†The more I get to know Him, the more I realize that ALL His plans (for health, for life, for salvation, for eternity) are for our good and to give us a hope and a future.

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

Palm Oil


Palm Oil Plantation by Flickr User Rainforest Action Network, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Palm Oil Plantation by Flickr User Rainforest Action Network, 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.

I’ve always known there were different types of palm trees–like date palms and coconut palms, but I had no idea there are also completely different palm trees that are used for making palm oil; oil palm trees to be exact. And until I did a search to go with tonight’s post, I also had no idea that using palm oil is said to have a negative effect on rainforests. Of course, that’s what the rainforest defenders say, but I also haven’t read the whole story, so I can only report what I found while doing my search.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 14:13 through Leviticus 14:20, the palm oil mentioned here is not actually the kind from the trees, or from any palm tree, but rather it is oil in the palm of the priest’s hand. I thought that might be harder to find a picture of, so I decided to add an image of something a little greener and prettier. In the process, though, if we can learn something more about the earth God created and how to protect it, that will be a good thing. The image above will open a new tab or window, so if you want to see all of what the group posts, and read about what they stand for, don’t forget to click on it before you leave.

So, we know the focus for this week’s portion is on helping a person become clean who has been infected with leprosy. We saw most of the process in yesterday’s reading, and what continues today is a bit more detail on the lamb sacrifices. The two lambs, one for the sin offering and one for the guilt offering, are to be slaughtered in the place of the sanctuary that is designated for those offerings. That is what is most often represented by an altar in the sanctuary of a modern church. The altar is the place we humble ourselves and confess our sins and our need for atonement, and it’s a place where we understand that the blood of Our Messiah is the only thing that can truly deliver us from our sins. And, just like the altar in the Torah, it is there for us every time we need it.

Truthfully, I’ve always disliked the statement that a person who wants to follow God just has to¬†accept His salvation. My reason for this is that acceptance¬†says to me, it’s a one-time thing. We can only accept the same gift from a friend once. I think it’s more important that we teach new believers that their new life is more about¬†rejection. We¬†reject sin; we¬†reject doing things our own way; and we¬†reject anything that is not of God as much as we are able. This is not a one-time thing, but a daily, and sometimes multiple times per day, activity. We actively seek to push away those things that would separate us from the heart and love of The One who offers us His salvation. That is an active way of accepting His gift.

After the sacrificial offerings have been taken care of, part of which includes placing the blood of the guilt¬†offering on the right ear, right thumb, and right toe of the person seeking purification, the priest is told to put oil in his right hand and dip into it with his left finger. He sprinkles the oil seven times, and then he takes what’s left and puts it over the blood on the ear, thumb and toe, plus over the blood of the guilt offering, and then on the head of the one who needs atonement. After these things are done, the priest is to offer the burnt offering and the grain offering, and then the person will be clean.

After having gone through so much to be purified, don’t you suppose the person who is now clean will reject anyone he even thinks might be contagious? And don’t you suppose he will do his best to be cleaner than he has ever made an effort to be in the past? I think so, and I think that rejection of the things that put him out of the camp, and that needed to be atoned for, will now be easy for him. It’s not always easy for those of us who make an effort to walk blamelessly before Our Creator to reject every sin that comes our way, but the more we learn about the depth of the sacrifice He made for us, the more we willingly reject anything that separates us from His salvation, His¬†love, and His wonderful presence.

March 30, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shave and a Haircut–Two Birds


Shave and a Haircut by Flickr User Pete Markham, CC License = Attirbution, Share Alike

Shave and a Haircut by Flickr User Pete Markham, CC License = Attirbution, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Even if you’re not old enough to realize there is a tune to the words¬†shave and a haircut, two bits, you probably know the rhythm. Someone, at some point of your life, probably knocked on a door with the beat of “knock knock knock knock knock (rest) knock knock.” Then again, that may only be for my readers in U.S. since I don’t think a quarter was called¬†two bits anywhere else. Still, I find it a catchy tune, and I can rarely see a barber shop pole without thinking of it.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 14:1 through Leviticus 14:12, we begin a new Parashah (portion); number 28. The Hebrew title for it is M’tzora and it means “Person afflicted with Leprosy.” Okay, so that means I was wrong yesterday when I said we were probably done talking about leprosy. Of course, for me, the hard part is taking a few verses–often with repeated statements or themes–and trying to find something deeper to share with my readers. When I can find the truly spoken word within the written word, I get very excited though, and I hope you do as well.

So, from the title of the portion, I’m going to guess that our entire week will focus on what to do if someone is definitely infected rather than in making the determination as to if the person is clean or unclean. Today’s section of the portion deals with a person who has been infected and has been put out of the camp to begin purification. The first thing I noticed here is that¬†the priest goes outside the camp to examine the man. If you think of leprosy as sin, it means we should not be waiting for sinners to walk through the church doors, but should be ready to speak with them about their sin where they are.

Next, the purification requires a sacrifice of two birds. One of the birds must be slaughtered over a clay pot under running water, and the other will be sprinkled with the blood of the dead bird and then set free.¬†The live bird, along with a cedar plank, scarlet yarn, and hyssop leaves, is to be dipped into the blood, and then all of those will be used to sprinkle blood on the person who needs to be purified. The death over clay speaks of Calvary to me, so I’m certain there is more here in the process that is represented by the sacrifice of our Messiah, but I am unsure, so I won’t try to teach something I don’t know.

Once the infected person is cleansed, he is to shave off all his hair, beard, and even his eyebrows. Then he must wash his clothes and bathe before he returns to camp. Once he’s in the camp, he still can’t go to his own tent for another seven days, and then he has to shave everything off again before he is completely clean. Once he has reached that point, the priest will offer a sacrifice of two lambs and a grain offering to complete his purification process.

The one thing that stands out to me in all this is how difficult it is to become clean once you have been infected by leprosy. We want to march people into a church building and say that since Christ offered Himself for their sins, becoming sin free is just as easy as reciting the¬†sinner’s prayer. But the offering of blood was only one part of the process. I know we don’t want to scare people away with a bunch of religious rituals, but I think it’s important to teach that our walk with God is not to be taken lightly. If God required these things to represent purification during the times of the wilderness temple, He has made a way to fulfill those things for us now. They haven’t gone away, but are being carried out in another way–through the blood of Christ, through the Holy Spirit making intercession for us, etc. To me, that is all the more reason to get up each day and praise Him for all He has done, and for all He continues to do, to bridge the gap between Himself and us. He is worthy of more than we can even think¬†to praise Him for.

March 29, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lather, Rinse, Repeat


Shampoo Bottles by Flickr User Eric Mesa, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Shampoo Bottles by Flickr User Eric Mesa, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I don’t know how often bottles are printed with¬†the instructions to¬†“Lather, Rinse, and Repeat” anymore, and I’m not sure if they were only on some shampoos previously. Maybe they were used as a default instruction on all shampoo to help consumers go through a bottle faster. I do know the second application of shampoo always foams up more, so it feels¬†like hair is cleaner anyway. I’m not sure of the reason, maybe just expense since I use some pricier shampoos than when I was younger, but I haven’t done the double wash in a while. Are you one who still washes twice?

In today’s reading from Leviticus 13:55 through Leviticus 13:59 (the end of the chapter), we come to the end of the portion, and likely to the end of instructions for dealing with leprosy and contagious infections. Yesterday, we learned about washing a stain and then waiting to make sure it didn’t reappear to know if an item that picked up an infection was clean or not. Today, we’re told that if the stain does not change color from washing, the item is rotten is should be burned up. If it fades, the stained portion should be torn out of the garment. And if the stain evidence of infection goes away completely, the garment is to be washed a second time before it can be called clean.

Whether you lather, rinse, and repeat, or just lather and rinse, you do so because you know if your hair and scalp feel clean. The end result is the important factor, and the same is true of sin. Being cleansed of anything and everything that would separate us from a pure and holy walk with Our Loving Creator should be our goal. We can get dunked in a thousand baptismal pools and still be just as unclean as the permanently stained garments in this week’s Torah portion.

When we are clean, we will have a clean, new heart, that is sensitive toward God and His directions to us. I love the way God’s Word describes our new heart in Ezekiel 11:19 (NLT)…¬†And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart. In a bit more context, here’s a paragraph from “The Message Bible” of Ezekiel 11:16-20

‚ÄúWell, tell them this, ‚ÄėThis is your Message from¬†God, the Master. True, I sent you to the far country and scattered you through other lands. All the same, I‚Äôve provided you a temporary sanctuary in the countries where¬†you’ve¬†gone. I will¬†gather you back from those countries and lands where¬†you’ve¬†been scattered and give you back the land of¬†Israel. You‚Äôll come back and clean house, throw out all the rotten images and obscene idols. I‚Äôll give you a new heart. I‚Äôll put a new spirit in you. I‚Äôll cut out your stone heart and replace it with a red-blooded, firm-muscled heart. Then you‚Äôll obey my statutes and be careful to obey my commands. You‚Äôll be my people! I‚Äôll be your God!

And before you go, here’s a beautiful song I used to sing at all my concerts (and will be on my album if I can ever figure out how to move forward with it). It’s called I Wanna Be Washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and it¬†speaks my heart of always wanting to repeat the cleansing process to keep my heart pure before God. This video includes the lyrics, my favorite of which come in verse 2 where it says, “How oft I’ve cried when far away from You, my heart would catch a glimpse of Calvary; remembering nights down on my knees in prayer when I said, ‘Lord, here I am, please use me.’ ” Enjoy!

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When It Won’t Come Out in the Wash


Somewhere in my youth, I used to enjoy all those scary shows like Outer Limits (I really did think they had control of my TV set), Night Gallery, and others. I still watch¬†Twilight Zone and own the whole collection. Some of the morals given in many of those old programs have stayed with me for years. The episode above has stuck with me, though I’m not sure when I saw it, since IMDB says the series, Tales from the Darkside, started in 1983, and I had quit watching TV for a time as of July of that year. In reading through the other episode descriptions, I would never watch the kinds of things it tells stories about, so I’m thinking this may be the only episode of the program I ever saw (thankfully). I posted this before I realized the content of the other episodes, so I will say this one is safe, but in case you don’t want to spend 20 minutes watching it, here’s the gist (spoiler alert–words in green)…

An evil man would rather use a special laundry service to wash the sins from his clothes than to stop sinning. He hires a launderer who charges him big money, keeps raising his prices, and finally quits picking up the clothes which have greatly accumulated since the man now feels no guilt for his actions. When the man calls the launderer, the guy tells him he won the lottery and is out of business. The evil man then knows he’s stuck with his sins, so he jumps to his death.

Well, in today’s reading from Leviticus 13:38 through Leviticus 13:54, we’ll learn about leprosy on clothing. We’re still on the subject of what types of skin sores need to be shown to the priests, and we even get a little comic relief in verses 40-41…

40 “If a man’s hair has fallen from his scalp, he is bald, but he is clean. 41 If his hair has fallen off the front part of his head, he is forehead-bald; but he is clean.

At least I thought it was funny–“he’s bald but he’s clean.” LOL

In the next verses, we get a bit of insight about those who live in the isolation I mentioned in another post. They must live outside the camp, and wherever they go, they must wear torn clothes, leave their hair hanging down, and put their hand over their lip while calling out, “Unclean, unclean.” I’m guessing the hand over the lip is to amplify the sound, but it could mean something else that I’m unsure of.

Now we get into the verses that talk about what to do when a sore has caused a stain on clothing. The instructions to the priest are to watch the stain to see if it spreads through the fibers of whatever material it is found on. If the stain spreads, it is contagious and the articles of clothing must be burned up. But if the stain doesn’t spread, the clothes are to be washed and set apart for seven days.

Since leprosy represents sin, I find it interesting that God says whatever it touches is to be burned up. That tells me that, even when we ourselves are washed of our sins, the things (not people) in our lives that were connected to the sin, must be destroyed. They demonstrate that well in the movie Fireproof where they have the main character destroy the computer he was using to access pornography. For someone who practiced witchcraft, that would mean getting rid of things like Tarot Cards and Ouija Boards. For a drug addict, it would mean getting rid of drug paraphernalia. We must separate ourselves from the things that could reinfect us with sin when we choose to walk a road of pure service to God. His will and ways must become our priority. But I can tell you from experience, what we give up for Him is NEVER a loss.

March 27, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Set Apart for a Time


Isolation by Flickr User digitalmindphotography (David Smith), CC License = Attribution

Isolation by Flickr User digitalmindphotography (David Smith), 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 felt the need to just “get away” for a little while? Do you ever find that the day in, day out, ongoing events of life sometimes make you feel like you’ve just got to declutter and thin things out a bit? Something about isolation can often help us to sort through the stresses and re-prioritize what’s important in our lives.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 13:29 through Leviticus 13:37, we read about times of purification–set apart times of isolation to allow the healing necessary to be considered clean once again. In this week’s portion, we’ve read all about leprosy and learning it could be speaking of other¬†viral or contagious skin diseases as well. Today, we see the instructions to the priest on how to check a sore on someone’s head or on the skin beneath a beard to find if the person has an infectious disease. If the signs of infection are there, the person is to be put into isolation for 7 days.

There’s nothing that describes the isolation, whether they had a quarantine tent or just what, but later, the time in isolation is described as a time of purification. The instructions even include having the person shave around the sore, but not shaving the sore itself. After that time alone, the person is to be examined again, and if there is no change, they get 7 more days in isolation before they will be examined again to determine if they are clean enough to go back into the community.

While these instructions were given for the physical health of the community, I can see how the same situation could be a good way to reclaim the spiritual health of a Christian community as well. If we’re all so busy planning events and looking perfect for “Sunday School,” when do we take time apart to examine ourselves before God to determine if there might be some purification needed? I’ve heard it preached that we should be in church every time the doors are opened, and I spent part of my Christian walk doing just that. But now, I see the great need for that time to be set apart for a time of purification.

We all need vacations from the daily grind, the irritating boss, and the demands of life in general. We need vacation to renew and refresh our minds and bodies. And I believe we also need times of renewal for our spirit, and that won’t always come with just a different set of circumstances–even if those circumstances are for a higher purpose. The priests had to examine sores to look for crusty spots that might be contagious to others. Let’s examine ourselves, or get with an accountability partner for examination, before we get any “crusty spots” on our spirits that might be contagious to others. ūüôā

March 26, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just A Scar


 

Tree Scars by Flickr User Randy Robertson, CC License = Attribution

Tree Scars by Flickr User Randy Robertson, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

 

Besides a bit of a hard day with some news I’m not quite free to share yet, I’m having some issues with WordPress and images and changes they’ve made, so I’m going to keep this short. Of course, the current portions of Scripture we’re in are a bit short anyway, but I hope I’m able to bring something out that will bless all those who read–at least a little. Today, I want to focus on the fact that I believe God made scars with a purpose.

In today’s reading (another super short one) from Leviticus 13:24 through Leviticus 13:28, there is more instruction on determining if a person has leprosy. This time, it is talking about a person with a burn and how to tell if the burn has become infected with leprosy. The fact that a previous injury can get infected seems to support the article I mentioned in another post that said these statements about leprosy may also refer to other types of viral infection.

So, God explains to the priest, through Moses, that if a person has a burn, the priest should examine it thoroughly to check for signs of infection, so it can be determined if the priest can declare him clean and not contagious. The signs of infection to the burn are similar to the signs in other wounds except that with a burn, redness may simply indicate a scar instead of an infection. If it is just a scar, the person can be considered clean.

I decided to use tree scars in the image above because, just like God gave DNA to all living things, I believe He created all living things with the ability to be scarred when hurt. It’s all part of His way of showing us that we cannot be damaged without a permanent record of it. And, if He will not go without remembering hurts on our behalf, I believe that means He will not go without doing something about it in His way and time.

I believe scars are just one of God’s ways of caring for His creations. Other ways include self-healing attributes, toxic cleansing, regeneration, and so much more. But, while He created our bodies (and many bodies in nature) to work toward their own healing, He made sure the healing does not discard all traces of the injury. And even though we cannot see them, I believe God also sees the scars on our souls as well. So, next time you look at one of your own scars, or next time you see a scar in nature, remember that God created those scars in His infinite wisdom and mercy to let you know that He is watchful and caring over all your days.

March 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When Brothers Weep


Sorrow by Flickr User Daniel Waters, Co. Sligo, Ireland, CC License = Attribution

Sorrow by Flickr User Daniel Waters, Co. Sligo, Ireland, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Sadness and sorrow are strong emotions that can change moments, days, weeks, and longer parts of our lives. When the sorrow is generated by a painful situation involving someone we care about, it can affect everything from appetite to moving forward in our daily routines.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 10:16 through Leviticus 10:20 (the end of the chapter), we read about the effects of sorrow on Aaron and his remaining sons after two of his sons were killed for offering strange fire on God’s holy altar. I found it just a little harder to understand from the¬†Complete Jewish Bible, so I recommend also reading from another version as well. Here’s a link to read today’s portion from¬†The Amplified BibleLeviticus 10:16-20.

So Moses is checking up on the rituals he has trained the new priests to perform, and he is concerned that he cannot find the meat from the sacrificial goat. The priests were supposed to eat the meat in a holy place as their portion of the sacrifice, but Moses discovers that they have burnt it up as waste instead. He asks them why they did things their own way instead of God’s way, and why the blood was not brought into the holy place as Moses commanded.

The response from Aaron is basically something along the lines of, “After what happened to the other two members of our family, we were all depressed and had no appetite.” And then he asks Moses if God would have been pleased with them if they had gone ahead and eaten in spite of what they had just been through. Upon seeing that perspective, Moses is pacified and understands the sorrow of the men.

I understand the pain of these brothers and father too. When I see a perspective that shows me the sorrow of others, I have to fight feeling sorrow myself–even for something as far back as a story in the Old Testament. I cry so easily that I wept when I thought of my kitties going under anesthesia for being fixed and not having anyone there who could explain in kitty cat language what was happening to them. Today, when I heard the family members weeping for their relatives who were passengers on the lost Malaysian Airlines jet, I immediately felt their pain and began to cry. I am highly sensitive to the emotions of others, and that can be both a good and bad thing at times.

While the brothers and father in our Bible story were experiencing common mourning, what I have described about myself is a bit less common. There is a great article (lens) on “Squidoo” that describes it perfectly. It’s called¬†The Empath Within–Are You A Highly Sensitive Person, and it explains what it means to be empathic rather than just empathetic. It helped me to understand why something like a trip to Walmart can make me feel so emotionally drained, and it has to do with the sensations I feel from the huge mix of emotions there. I highly recommend the article.

So, why am I tying the sorrow of today’s story to my own empathic spirit? Because it’s a great segue to explain to my readers why the world sometimes feels like too much for you to bear. If you’re like me, when there’s a lot of pain around you, it makes it hard to complete even basic tasks. You’ll understand if you click on the article above, and you’ll even get a bit of a better understanding of me as a person.

Of course, the hardest thing of all is feeling stuff the rest of the world either doesn’t feel or won’t admit to, or maybe feeling things differently than the rest of the world thinks I should feel them. For example, while I am hurting over my nephew who is still not waking up, I feel more sadness for some of my Facebook friends who are battling cancer because I know they did not bring it onto themselves. Yes, I want Joshua to be healed, but if I had to choose only one person to receive a miracle, I would hand it to my friend, Judy Sliger, who is at the end of anything doctors can do in her battle with ovarian cancer. That brings its own kind of pain because I want to take on everything for everyone, but no one other than Our Savior was ever built for that task, so I’m left with fighting guilt.

I will ask you, my lovely readers, to continue to pray for my nephew. I ask above all else that you pray for God’s most perfect will to be done, and that you pray for God to be glorified in the situation. I would love to know that God is somewhere with him in that comatose state, and that he will wake up as a servant of God who is ready to tell the whole world about it. And I also ask you to pray for the many on my heart for the cancers and sicknesses and pains they are going through.

I will end today’s post with this: Judy is one I have known and met as we worked together to plan the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference some years back. She has written a book about her struggle with cancer. So, if you want to support her, or if you know anyone else who is fighting a terminal condition, I encourage you to consider purchasing her book. You can visit by clicking on this title… Take Heart: Prayers for the Terminally Ill. (This is a direct link to the paperback with no affiliate link embedded.) Thank you, and may your days ahead be blessed with more positive emotions than negative ones, and more and more of God’s presence as you continuously draw nearer to Him.

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

God’s Way IS the High-Way


Highway 1 at Sunset by Flickr User namealus, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Highway 1 at Sunset by Flickr User namealus, 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.

Proverbs 16:17 in the Amplified Bible (AMP) says, “The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; he who guards his way preserves his life.” With all we are seeing as consequences for the use of drugs, and all I have been learning from the doctors, the idea of doing things God’s way to preserve our lives is making more and more literal sense. We have a relative that completely looks past what our nephew did to bring on the consequences, and she refuses to acknowledge her own part in it or to repent of her continuing sins. Yet, she continues to claim that there will be a miraculous healing just because she is claiming it in Jesus’ name. But is there communion between holy and unholy just because the unholy uses a holy name?

Today’s reading from Leviticus 9:24 through Leviticus 10:11 shows that God is picky about the purity of what is offered to Him and whether or not our offerings are given with a spirit of obedience. After the offerings and blessings that brought forth the presence of Yahveh, we see His Spirit consume the offerings with fire. The people shout and fall on their faces in His holy presence.

But the next thing you know, two of Aaron’s sons (apparently he had four sons who were becoming priests based on this reading), march up all big in their britches and try to put on a show. They take unauthorized incense in their censers and try to light it from the holy altar of God. Not smart! As the fire of God’s presence comes down upon the altar, it consumes these boys who gave an offering other than what God had commanded to give. (Some versions use the term¬†strange fire.)

Oh, but shouldn’t God be merciful just because they were offering something to Him? After all, they were called by God to be priests, right? In today’s theology, it would seem that anything done in Jesus’ name (or by a person who calls himself or herself a pastor or a prophet) is supposed to win God’s favor. Yes, we are made holy by the blood of Christ, but we still have to be led by the Spirit if we want to be free from the curse of the law. It’s all about our hearts, and if our lips are simply declaring the word of God while our hearts are far¬†from¬†Him, then we are an evil tree that cannot bring forth truly good fruit. But if we are sincerely following God, we will walk on His “high above sin” way, and we will bear good fruit.

As the reading continues, God declares that He will be glorified before all the people, and Aaron keeps silent, Then Moses calls Aaron’s other two sons and tells them not to perform any of the rituals of mourning, so that God will not be angry. He tells them to let the community of Israel mourn for them instead. And then he tells them to stay by the entrance to the¬†Tent of Meeting because if they go out while God’s anointing oil is on them, they will die. They are also given¬†a warning to never enter God’s presence having consumed wine or other intoxicating liquor because they must be able to know the difference between clean and unclean, holy and unholy.

The last statement makes me wonder if the first two of Aaron’s sons were intoxicated, and that’s why they couldn’t tell the difference in which incense to offer. If not, I’m guessing they just had disobedient spirits. We don’t get to see a lot of information about them, but we know they had been anointed and consecrated as priests for God, we know they were dressed in holy garments, and we know they had been in the presence of Yahveh. But none of those things compared to the moment they decided to follow after their own ideas instead of being led by God’s Holy Spirit. Living God’s way is about abandoning our own thoughts and ways because we love and trust God, and because we know that His thoughts are above our thoughts, and His ways are above our ways. His way really is the high way.

March 17, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Blessings Ready You for God’s Presence


Above the Earth by Flickr User thoughtquotient.com, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Above the Earth by Flickr User thoughtquotient.com, 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.

A seed doesn’t grow just because you plant it. It must be planted in ready soil. And, if the seed is to grow to maturity, the soil must be maintained for growth. Maintenance may come in the form of watering, weeding, and/or nutrients, but rarely does something left to itself grow to the best it can be. This is only part of the law of the harvest, and since we are made from earth, it’s important that we understand the part the harvest plays in us.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 9:17 through Leviticus 9:23, we continue the events of the eighth day from the beginning of the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests for Yahveh. They offer a grain offering, and a portion of it goes up in smoke on the altar. Then they bring peace offerings and wave offerings as Moses directs them. And then Aaron comes down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, and he blesses the people. After he blesses the people, Moses and Aaron go back into the¬†Tent of Meeting, come out again, and bless the people once more. AND THEN (my emphasis), God’s glory appeared to all the people.

If God planned to show His glory to the people anyway, why didn’t He just meet them as soon as they had all gathered? If it was because of sin, then why didn’t He meet them as soon as the offerings were completed? I believe this all comes back to the law of the harvest. Just because soil looks ready, doesn’t mean it is. Only those who work with soil for a living would know if it is actually ready for the specific seed to be planted. God knew the order of things that would make His people ready to receive His glory. He knew which offerings should be completed, and which blessings should be spoken over the people, to prepare them for God’s holy presence.

These days, we have preachers who just bless people because that’s what the people want to hear. There are many who never go into a holy place with God to consult Him before dishing out blessings, and they don’t give the blessings for the purpose of God’s presence as much as for the thanks of the people. In what way does telling someone that God is about to bless them with a big house and a new car prepare them to commune with God? I imagine what they called blessings in these Scriptures were something more along the lines of, “The sacrifice has been accepted, and you are purified to receive God.” And after Moses and Aaron came out from meeting with God, they might have said something like, “God has looked upon your hearts and sees your desires for Him, so now He will meet with you.” I mean, truly, can you think of a better blessing than that?

Even under the blood of Christ, there is a plan and a pattern. If there was not one, then we would not even need the written word beyond the story of crucifixion and redemption. The blood of Our Savior is the sin offering, but where are we in the other offerings and sacrifices? I believe¬†WE¬†are to give ourselves as an offering to God to allow Him to prepare us for His presence. We bring sacrifices of confession, humility, repentance, and accountability. We may offer a sacrifice of praise as our wave offering. And in all the sacrifices and praise we give, and in all the blessings we receive, we should strive for those that are holy and acceptable to Yahveh, and for those that prepare us for God’s holy presence in every moment of our lives.

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eighth Day of The Week


Infinity Fireworks by Flickr User karmakimmie, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Infinity Fireworks by Flickr User karmakimmie, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Tell me the truth: When you read the title, did you mentally start to sing the Beatles‘ song by a similar name? If not, are you wondering if I found some obscure Bible verse that says we had, at some point, eight days in the week, and that’s why time seems to be going so fast anymore–because we’re trying to fit it all into seven days a week now? ūüôā Sometimes, it does feel like we’re trying to fit more and more into less and less. That can be especially true when we’re dealing with trauma and tragedy. And, on that note, our nephew is still in a coma even without meds, so we’re still waiting for him to wake up to see if there is brain damage and how much. If only the whole world did things God’s way…but I guess that won’t happen until we reach the other side.

Today’s reading from Leviticus 9:1 through Leviticus 9:16 begins a new portion. We are now up to Parashah 26 with the Hebrew name¬†Sh’mini meaning “Eighth.” Aaron and his sons have completed their seven days of consecration with The Lord in the¬†Tent of Meeting. Before I go on to tell you the rituals they perform, let me stop and talk about the eighth day. Eight is often the number used for completion, for new beginnings (as in circumcision), and for regeneration (as in infinity). I have a lot of thoughts about all of that as applied to the types and shadows in the “Wilderness Tabernacle,” but my mind is tired now, so I’ll let my readers think and pray on it.

When the new priests come out of the tabernacle, God has them gather all the animals and grain needed to perform every ritual and sacrifice they have just been trained in. They gather the whole community of Israel to the front of the tent, and they make offerings for both the priests and for the people. The details are much the same as previous portions, but this one gives a reason for performing all these things; it is so that Yahveh can appear to them.

I’m thinking that having the presence of God in our lives should be enough for whatever sacrifice, offering, ritual, or behavior God would ask of us. There is no presence of any person that can benefit us the way His holy presence can benefit us. There is no presence of any person that can bless us the way His holy presence can bless us. And these people who had spent time with Him already knew the beauty of His holiness because they had experienced it. It is my prayer that those of us who have experienced even a moment in His glorious presence will be willing to do anything to bring it back. And for those who have not yet felt the amazing touch of Our Holy Creator, I can promise you that no self-devised touch of a person, a drug, or a way of life can compare.

May you all have a blessed week, blessed in your spirit by God’s holy presence regardless of what is going on in your physical world. And, just in case you did start singing a song after reading the title here, I want to give you the ApologetiX page for the song¬†Eight Ways to Be with some really cool lyrics. In addition, here’s a video so you can hear them sing it for yourself…

March 15, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Consecrated, Separated, Dedicated


Preacher Man by Flickr User familymwr (U.S. Army), Photo by MSGT Dale Atkins, CC License = Attribution

Preacher Man by Flickr User familymwr (U.S. Army), Photo by MSGT Dale Atkins, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image from the Army Photography Contest and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr. There’s also info about the U.S. Army Arts & Crafts History on this image’s page.

If only people could be as consecrated and dedicated to things of God as those who live in the darkness are to their worlds. From the information I gathered from numerous doctors today, my nephew is only one of many who sacrifice their brains, their hearts, and often their lives, for the sake of one high. One doctor said he has seen first-time users needing open-heart surgery because they push natural bacteria from the skin into their bloodstream, and they end up with bacterial lesions on their hearts. I know “they” teach about dirty needles and such, but I’ve never heard a message about dirty (as in bacteria-laden) skin. I’d like to believe that if we all share that message, maybe a few less people will make the sacrifice to the IV drug idol. We still don’t know what’s up with my nephew, but it is looking like there’s some brain damage from the lack of oxygen, so I will keep the rest of this short and to the point again.

In today’s final reading of the week’s portion, we cover Leviticus 8:30 through Leviticus 8:36, the end of the chapter. We begin with Moses taking anointing oil, along with blood from the altar, and sprinkling it on Aaron and his clothing and on his sons and their clothing. This is to consecrate Aaron and his sons and their clothing. Moses then tells Aaron and his sons to boil the meat at the door of the Tent of Meeting and eat it there with bread from the basket of consecration. Whatever is left, they are to burn up completely.

After the sacrifice is completed, they are to remain separated from the rest of the camp and in the tent of meeting for seven days while Yahveh continues to consecrate them. They are to stay at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting day and night for seven days, obeying everything God has laid out for them to do. The final verse says that Aaron and his sons did everything Yahveh told them to do through Moses.

Again, I wonder why it seems so much harder for those of us who are the children of God’s Light to keep this kind of dedication, especially considering we are assisted by God’s Holy Spirit. As I continue to pray for my nephew, I will also try to learn what drives him to be so dedicated, and I will try to apply it to my own life and walk with God.

March 14, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Listen, Do, Go


Revival Prayer by Flickr User Corrie ten Boom Museum, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Revival Prayer by Flickr User Corrie ten Boom Museum, 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.

I’m going to keep this short because it has been a difficult day in our family. While I study God’s word and try to learn more about what He would have me to be and to do for Him, and where He would have me to go for Him, there are those who are certain their own ways will yield them something far greater than God’s way. My nephew is one of those, and we spent today in the emergency room with him having overdosed on a mix of serious drugs. He has a three-year-old daughter that may or may not ever know her daddy again. Physically, he should pull through, but we won’t know until tomorrow if he will have any brain damage from the time he was gone before they revived him.

So now, in today’s reading from Leviticus 8:22 through Leviticus 8:29, we read about the ram of consecration, This offering required that Moses anoint Aaron and his sons with blood from the ram by putting it on their right ears, the tips of their right thumbs, and the tips of their right toes. After that, the blood was splashed on all sides of the altar. After these things, when the animal was burnt up, it was one that was a sweet smelling offering to God.

I see the places the blood was applied as representing what the priests would listen to, what they would do (with their hands), and where they would go (with their feet). As a member of God’s royal priesthood, I believe that being consecrated to God means listening to Him, do what He would have me to do, and going where He would have me to go. It may not always be easy, but it is always simple. And even when it’s hard, it’s a lot easier than ending up in the hospital or the graveyard.

March 13, 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

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‚Äôt 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

USDA Choice Offering


Cow Painting by Flickr User Svadilfari, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Cow Painting by Flickr User Svadilfari, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Did you know that meat has all sorts of levels in quality?¬†USDA Choice is only one of them. Another is¬†Angus, and normally, I’d say it’s my favorite, but for this post, let’s focus on the USDA. For starters, I’m going to change the acronym from “United States Department of Agriculture” to my own new acronym: Unblemished Sacrifice–Divinely Appointed. Whether from the flock or from the herd, God gave Israel specific instructions on what was considered an acceptable sacrifice to Him.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 1:1 through Leviticus 1:13, we begin a new parashah/portion, a new chapter, and a new book. This one is called in Hebrew Vayikra and means “He called.”¬†The tent of meeting is set up, and it is time for the sacrifices to begin. If a man needs to make atonement for his sins, he will be required to go to the flock or the herd to choose the animal he will bring to the priests as an offering to God.

What I noticed as I was reading this section is the requirement for involvement by the person who brings the offering. He must choose the unblemished animal; he must bring it to the priests; he must lay his hand upon its head; he must slaughter it before God; he must cut it into pieces; and he must wash its entrails and lower parts of the legs. For some reason, I had it in my mind that the person brought the offering, and the priests did all the work, but apparently, this is not so.

If I compare this to a modern-day offering of repentance and bringing forth works fitting for repentance (something that makes it more than just talk), that has the sinner (and the saint who still repents of his or her failures) doing a lot more than just showing up at an altar. We choose a work (or a sacrifice of praise) that is unblemished and acceptable to God, we present it before our High Priest (Yahshua/Jesus) to make sure it is acceptable; it is a work done by our own hand–or voice; it costs us something; we measure out how to perform it; and it cleanses us.

In the reading, the priests are the ones who splash the blood on all sides of the altar, and I believe this is where our High Priest comes in with His own blood that was shed for us on Calvary. The priests also arrange the pieces on the altar, so we trust in The Lord to apply the works we give Him according to His perfect will. And the priests then make all the pieces go up in smoke on the altar. If our hearts are right as we offer our works and our praise to God, the Holy Spirit will carry them to the throne room for us.

The sacrifices could not be made without the unblemished offering, without the involvement of the one who needed atonement, and without the priests who do their part in making sure all was done according to God’s will. When we offer whatever we have to give to God Almighty, if we offer a pure sacrifice with a pure heart, our High Priest will take over in the parts that we cannot do for ourselves, and we will receive the cleansing and the blessing. And that’s an unblemished offering that is a divinely appointed choice.

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Grease is Not the Word


Anointing Oil by Flickr User Ancient Oils, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Anointing Oil by Flickr User Ancient Oils, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Sometime back, while I was looking up the definition of anointing for the purpose of one of my earlier blog posts, I happened upon an article that really gave me a wake up call about the biblical meaning of anointing. If you are interested, you can read the article yourself at http://www.blessedquietness.com/journal/housechu/anoint.htm since it goes into some deep study. The main thing I took away from it was that anointing is not the same thing as power.

In today’s reading from Exodus 40:1 through Exodus 40:38 (the end of the chapter and the end of the Book of Exodus), God instructs Moses on how to set up the tabernacle for the very first time. He explains how to arrange the furnishings and the coverings for the courtyard, and then God tells Moses to prepare the tabernacle for use by anointing everything.

Now, if¬†anointing were equal to power, the items used for God’s service would be where the power was at rather than the power existing with God and God alone. Just as with our Messiah, with the word¬†Meshiach and¬†Christ meaning “The Anointed One,” we know that what set Yahshua apart from other men was not His power, but it was His consecration to the work of God. Power could have struck all His accusers and crucifiers down, but consecration helped Him to say, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The anointing on the articles in the tabernacle was to consecrate them for God’s service.

After all the furnishings and utensils were anointed with the special oil based on God’s direction (not just any old oil or grease would work), God told Moses to bring Aaron and his sons to the tent of meeting, put them in their vestments, and then anoint all of them for the work of the priesthood. This anointing consecrated them to do the work that God was calling them to do. The consecration to the work of the Lord carried a heavy responsibility, and we will see in the next Bible book the results of some of that responsibility and what happens when it is taken too lightly.

When you seek an anointing from God, remember to seek it for the right reasons, and remember the responsibilities that go with it. It is not a light thing, but it is a great blessing to see even a small work of obedience yield great results for The Lord.

February 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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