Crystal Writes A Blog

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Be A Part of the Set Apart


Stand Out from the Crowd by Flickr User Steven Depolo, CC License = Attribution

Stand Out from the Crowd by Flickr User Steven Depolo, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I once received a request from someone who wanted to be apart (sic) of a writing project I was putting together. My first reaction was to wonder how much editing I would have to do based on that incorrect request, but after some of the “I know better than this” mistakes I’ve made on Facebook posts, I realized it was an easy mistake that spell-check would never catch. I sent a reply that I would like her to be “a part” of the project and hoped she didn’t really want to be “apart from” it.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 20:23 through Leviticus 20:27 (the end of the chapter), God tells Israel to make sure they do not live by the laws of the land’s former inhabitants. He reminds them that the reason He detested those who lived in the land before He chose to give it to Israel is because they were doing all the things He’s been commanding Israel to avoid. And then He reminds them that He is their God, and He has set them apart from all other people groups.

He wants Israel to be a people that knows the difference in good and bad, clean and unclean, obedient and unruly. He does not want them to be ignorant about what sets them apart for Him or what makes them holy to Him. He is a Holy God who has set apart a people to be holy to Him, so they can belong to Him.

As a Christian, I have been offered many opportunities to go along with the crowd and participate in a variety of behaviors that I felt were not something God would have me do. The ones doing the offering were always quick to explain how the activities would not hurt anyone, so they couldn’t really be wrong. I came up with a little chorus along the line of the country song “On The Other Hand” where the man says he won’t cheat on his wife because of the ring on the other hand. My chorus basically said something like…

On one hand, I could go out and party all night long,
And maybe grace could justify all your wild and wooly plans.
But even if our fun would not be all that bad or wrong,
The reason I can’t sin, is in Jesus’ nail-scarred hands.

I can’t remember the actual words I wrote back then, and I don’t remember if I even had verses, but I’m sure you get the idea. If we try to fit in with the ways of the world by looking to justify the “minor” sins, how are we treating the price that was paid for our salvation? It doesn’t matter if a sin seems to be a little thing, or if it seems to be innocuous in that it would not really hurt anyone, if our purpose in committing it is to be a part of the world instead of being set apart for Christ, then we need to examine our hearts.  Because we serve a holy God, our hearts should desire holiness.

Think of it this way; just as we don’t want someone marching across our freshly washed floor with muddy boots (or paws if we’re talking about fur-babies), God doesn’t want a parade of unclean things in His presence. With His blood, God has set us apart and welcomed us to be a part of a wonderful eternity. And until then, He wants us to be a part of the intimate relationship He created for a set apart people. It should be our pleasure, and our gift back to Him for choosing us, to live in a way that seeks to be separated from all things God Himself would not want in His holy presence.

April 18, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If God is Around, It’s Okay to be Square


Square Peg by Flickr User Simon Greig, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Square Peg by Flickr User Simon Greig, 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.

As I was looking for pictures of square pegs, it suddenly occurred to me that the only way to get a square peg into a round hole is to make the square smaller. Maybe that’s why people who consider themselves to be “fitter-inners” are often found belittling those they consider to be squares. But if you have to become less of what you are to fit in with someone else’s idea of success, I say, be happy to be a square peg.

In today’s very short reading from Exodus 33:12 through Exodus 33:16, we follow up with God telling Moses that He will no longer travel with the people of Israel because their stiff-necked behaviors might make Him destroy them. Now remember, Moses talks to God face to face as a man talks to a friend, so while most of us would not dare to speak to God the way He is doing, Moses has proven his respect to God and his love for Him, so he gets away with it.

So, in my own paraphrase, here is Moses’ conversation with God…

Moses: You tell me to move on with these people, but you haven’t told me who is going with me as a support system since You aren’t going with us. But then again, You told me that You know my name, and that I have found favor in Your sight, so here’s my suggestion. First of all, if what You say about how You see me is true, then show me Your ways of righteousness and truth. Grant me an understanding of You, so I can continue to find favor in Your sight. And, above all else, I ask You to please keep seeing Israel as Your people.

Yahveh: Don’t worry yourself, Moses. I have decided to go with you after all.

Moses (as if he hasn’t heard what God just said to him): Because if You don’t go with us, I don’t even want to move on. I mean, how else will people know I have favor in Your sight? How else will they know You favor Israel? There is no way unless You go with us. Your presence–that’s the thing that sets us (me and Israel) apart from all the other people on earth.

So, what if the whole world decides that Israel is nothing but a bunch of square pegs with a bunch of square traditions? That’s what’s coming in their future. Is it their adherence to law that sets them apart? No, it’s not. It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now. Rather, it was always God’s presence that made them the people they were. That’s what was proven while Moses and the elders were up on the mountain. God’s presence was up there on the mountain, and the people were just people then. And their humanness led them into sinful behavior, even though they had a leader in Aaron (albeit one who was slacking in his duties), and they had the history with God as their deliverer. They needed God’s presence right there with them to be a truly set apart people in all their ways. And as the people of God go, that has never changed.

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

Dressed for Success


Christ the Anointed One by Flickr User Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Christ the Anointed One by Flickr User Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon, 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.

There’s just something about a uniform that evokes more trust than everyday clothing. For me, working for a company that gave me a uniform, even if it was just a vest to wear over my own clothes, made me feel like I was a part of something important. The first picture I ever saw of my husband was of him in a uniform. It didn’t have to be his dress uniform for me to know he was a soldier, and I felt a sense of pride in that even before meeting him. After getting to know him, I noticed that the uniform didn’t only affect me, but it affected his behavior as well. He knew when he was dressed in uniform that he represented more than just himself, and he cared that others saw that representation as perfectly as possible.

In today’s reading from Exodus 29:1 through Exodus 29:18, we step into the dressing room of Aaron and his sons. I’m going to try my best to compare the steps that prepared these first priests with the steps today’s servants of God should be taking. After all, we are called “A Kingdom of Priests” and “A Royal Priesthood.” See Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9-10, and Revelation 1:6. I hope I can bring it all together, and I hope each of my readers will feel dressed for success after reading about this wonderful calling to walk before Yahveh as servants and friends.

In yesterday’s reading, we were told that Aaron and his sons were to be anointed, inaugurated, and consecrated to serve in the office of priest. I looked up the definitions of those three words and found the following: anoint = ceremonially confer divine or holy office by smearing with oil, and nominate or choose; inaugurate = begin, admit formally, or mark the beginning of office; and consecrate = dedicate formally for divine service, ordain or devote to service. Based on the definitions, I believe that lines up with the Scripture in Revelation 17:14 that says those who will minister on the side of Christ in the final war are His called, chosen, and faithful.

For Aaron and his sons to take their chosen offices, and for us to take our positions in service to God, I believe the steps are similar. They start with things that happen at the door of the tabernacle before anyone even approaches the Holy Place or The Holy of Holies. The first thing done to Aaron and his sons were that they were washed. They could not put on the ministry uniforms until they were cleansed. We usually hear our call to serve God outside the church as well. Maybe we see a good example, maybe we have a dream, or maybe someone ministers to us. Maybe we hear Christ knocking a number of times before we choose to open the door and walk through. Once we walk through, we often choose to get baptized to represent that we are washing away our old lifestyle, so we can be consecrated to God’s service.

After Aaron and his sons were washed, then they were dressed in the ritual vestments. Those uniforms, as I pointed out previously, covered them from head to toe. These new priests were completely washed and completely covered in a new image. When we make a decision to walk according to God’s will, we are told (in Romans 13:14) “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” We are also reminded in Galatians 3:27 that if we have been baptized (washed) into Christ, we have put on Christ. Since the word baptism means “immersion” that means we have been dressed or uniformed–head to toe–in Christ, just as the priests were dressed in their vestments.

The last thing done to Aaron and his sons to prepare them for service was to have the anoiting oil poured over their heads. It was only after these new priests were washed, redressed, and anointed that the sacrifices could be offered in atonement for their sins. They placed their hands on the head of the sacrifice to be offered. I believe that gave them a connection to it. It wasn’t just some light message of an errand boy running up saying it was done. They were a part of the sacrifice as it was slaughtered. Once we have committed ourselves to Christ, and after we have been washed and dressed, it is time for us to become connected to Yahshua. When we have a relationship with Him, His atonement for our sins will mean that much more to us.

Let me break here by giving a quick example of how much more something means after a connection has been established. When I read Eli by Bill Myers, the crucifixion scene was done quite differently since it was shown in the 1970s instead of 33AD. I have never seen a live crucifixion, and other than biblical stories, I haven’t even seen them on television. But I have seen fights, and I have seen televised fights that included people being kicked when they were down. So when the author describes Jesus being kicked in the ribs with pointy-toed cowboy boots, I felt it to my core. I cried as much or more than I did when I watched the beating scene in The Passion.

After the initial offering of the bull, the remains were given as a burnt offering, and then the whole ram was also given as a burnt offering. I believe that last offering is the one that represents us burning up our old ideas and our old ways because it was only after the washing, the consecration, the new image, the anointing, and the first blood sacrifice that the second offering became a sweet-smelling aroma to Yahveh. It is after we have begun our dedicated service to God that the sacrifices we make in the form of good works, or things we give up for Him, are seen by Him as acceptable.

As with the priests, being anointed for ministry to God is only one step in our service to Him. It’s the step that says He has called us to do what He has already prepared us to do. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are of God’s making, created in union with the Messiah Yeshua for a life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do.” (Red letter emphasis is mine.) After we are anointed and washed, we can dress for success in the uniform that is Christ. When we’re wearing that uniform, we walk as if we are consecrated, or “set apart,” for our anointing and calling. As we walk in that calling, we will have opportunities to fail, but like Aaron for his sons, our High Priest, Yahshua, is always making atonement for us, so we can continue to walk. Micah 6:6-8 puts it most simply, and here it is from The New Living Translation…

Micah 6:6-8

New Living Translation (NLT)

6 What can we bring to the Lord?
What kind of offerings should we give him?
Should we bow before God
with offerings of yearling calves?
7 Should we offer him thousands of rams
and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
to pay for our sins?

8 No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.

February 11, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jingle Bells


Golden Jingle Bells Kaleidoscope by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Golden Jingle Bells Kaleidoscope by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view my original image and to access my full photo stream at Flickr. There are other kaleidoscopes from the bells, and you can find the link to the original image from which this design was made.

I was looking for something with a picture of bells when I came across the above image from a challenge I had while in a digital kaleidoscope creation group back in 2008. I was torn between using an image and a song title, so in my search, I also discovered that there are a lot of songs out there with lyrics or titles about bells. So, just for fun I thought I’d ask, how many songs can you name that are about bells or have bells in the title? Here are some to get you started…

  • Jingle Bells
  • You can Ring My Bell
  • If I Had a Hammer (verse 3: If I had a bell to ring)
  • I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
  • Ding Dong, Ding Dong, Christmas Bells Are Ringing
  • Let ‘Em In (Somebody’s knocking on the door, somebody’s ringin’ the bell)
  • Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead
  • Silver Bells
  • When They Ring Those Golden Bells

And the last one I’ve listed is the perfect segue into today’s reading from Exodus 28:31 through Exodus 28:43, the end of the chapter. The details for adorning the priest are now up to the blue robe that the priest will wear under the ritual vest. On the hem of the robe, the artisans are instructed to add blue, purple, and scarlet pomegranates with golden bells between each of them. The bells will ring continually while the priest walks around and ministers in the Holy Place, so the people will know He has not gone into the presence of Yahveh with a sinful heart and collapsed in death.

So now my mind is all over the map with trying to figure out if the bells signified anything else besides the evidence of life. I know from a tour of The Tabernacle Experience when it was in Louisville that on the highest holy day, Yom Kippur, the people knew the importance of their sins being pushed forward a year, so they waited quietly, listening for the priests bells to make sure nothing interrupted this important part of his ministry. But, I also wonder if the bells were a type of music to God. Did He long for the sound of the bells that said one of His priests was about to enter His presence? Did He rejoice with the music of the bells as the priest went out to announce to the people the good news that their sins were forgiven for another year? Interesting things to think about, huh?

In addition to the adorned robe and vest, the priest is to wear a linen turban that includes a golden seal engraved with the words, “Set Apart for Adonai.” This reminder is needed because the high priest, Aaron at the time, goes in bearing the guilt of the people who have erred from God’s commands. It is both a blessing and a grave thing to be set apart for the Lord. It is a blessing because to be set apart means to be holy in God’s eyes. And it is a grave thing because, for the high priest, it meant he carried a very heavy burden until it was hoisted upon the altar. For our final High Priest, Yahshua our Messiah, it was a blessing to come to this earth holy enough to bear the weight of our sins permanently, but it was also said to be a curse to die upon a cross as He had to do to free of from our sin.

The priests were also to wear woven tunics and colorful belts to hold everything in place. And while I haven’t checked it piece by piece yet, I think there’s a connection to all these priestly vestments and the whole armor of God. Be my guest and see what you can come up with, and add your notes to the comments section.

Finally, the last paragraph talks about what I think is the very first pair of underwear. With both pomegranates and underwear in the same story, I momentarily thought of using the title “Fruit of the Loom,” but I decided against it because of the holiness that all the priests vestments represent. In this case, God tells Moses that the men are to wear linen shorts that they will not be found guilty in His presence, and so they will not die.

I am amazed at how God covered, literally, every part of the human form that our humanity and sin could be covered to allow for ministry and sacrifice. He desired to be connected to us so much that when these artistic coverings and the blood of bulls and goats were still not enough, He created a priest’s garment made of flesh and robed His Spirit head to toe to give us His life in our place. While He was still walking in that flesh, He stated that there was no greater love than that of one who would lay down his life for a friend. His word tells us that we are not just His flock as the people were like flocks for Aaron and other priests, but we were also Christ’s friends. Truly, there never has been, and never will be, a greater love.

February 10, 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

   

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