Crystal Writes A Blog

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The Fruits (and Vegetables) of The Spirit


Fruit Mix by Flickr User Graela, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Fruit Mix by Flickr User Graela, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Scripture and reference added by me.
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

What’s better for you; fruits or vegetables? Is a tomato a vegetable or a fruit? How about hot peppers? Avocado? I think most of us have the idea that if it’s sweet, it’s a fruit, and if it’s not sweet, it must be a vegetable. At least that’s how I always thought of things until my first battle with someone over tomato. I was sure it was a vegetable. Truthfully, I don’t know if either is better for you since I’m not a nutritionist, but I found the information at the Mayo Clinic’s Expert Blog pretty cool. They confirmed that avocados and peppers are fruits; and would you believe that so are sunflower seeds? Click above for a list and for information on how to tell a fruit from a vegetable.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 18:1 through Deuteronomy 18:5, we have just a few short verses about the high priests and the Levites. I’m not sure if it’s Moses or God that wants to keep bringing it to the attention of the people, but it would seem that one of the two wants to make sure the community does not forget those that do the work of the tabernacle. This passage begins with another reminder that the Levites, including the high priests, do not have a share in the inheritance with Israel. Their share is literally The Lord Himself.

Because the Levites’ share comes from a portion of the inheritance of the other tribes, it is important for the other tribes to remember to bring that share to them. Without it, those who work in the service of God and His tabernacle will have no place to live and nothing to eat. The share they receive is actually God’s portion. We’ve read before how the people give land, shelter, and food to the Levites. In this reading, we see that they are to bring the first fruits of all their abundance to the high priest. According to God, the first of their increase in all things–fruit, grains, new wine, olive oil, and even sheep’s wool–belongs to the high priest because God has chosen him from all the tribes to stand and serve in the name of The Lord forever. He and his sons will serve forever.

I have met people who work in such a sacrificial capacity for The Lord, that it made me wish I were rich enough to buy them everything they could ever need, so they would never want for anything. When people truly sacrifice what they could have in their lives for the sake of doing God’s work, I believe they deserve to be cared for, so they can continue to do the work. Even if there is no longer a tabernacle and animal sacrifices that require the amount of work we’ve read about in Torah history, those who make themselves available 24/7, 365, for God’s work are a rare and special breed. Of course, I’m not talking about schmoozing and doing talk shows in the name of The Lord, I’m talking about working in the spiritual trenches.

Even those who don’t work full-time in ministry are worthy of support from those who do not work in any type of ministry capacity, and that’s why I think it’s important to support them. For those in writing and music ministries, we can purchase their wares, and if we like them, we can help their marketing efforts by spreading the word about their products. The hard part for me is trying to be a good steward with my money when I’ve got less time to read than I have space on my bookshelf. At the same time, I’m also trying to keep to the golden rule since I hope people will read my novel when I get it finished. 🙂

I don’t think any Christian disagrees with the idea of supporting those in ministry, but there are differences of opinion as to what constitutes ministry and how we should support it. In Old Testament history, we know it was fruits and vegetables, grains and oils, etc. Now, our increase is mostly in the form of money, so most are satisfied to tithe directly from their paychecks. But, since the fruit  of God’s Spirit is not financial, I would like to encourage people to give more offerings from God’s fruit, and not just to those in ministry. As God shares His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control with us (Yeshua modeled all of these), let us share those same virtues with others.

If we are not receiving these things from God where we can find an abundance of them from which to share, we may need a trip back to the altar to discover what is hindering our growth. Maybe it’s as simple as needing to eat more vegetables. A regular habit of opening God’s word to get some holy nutrition may be all we need to abound in the fruits (and vegetables) of The Spirit.

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

How to Party God’s Way


image

Hamburger cake my friend Julie made for her husband on his 50th birthday. I'm amazed at her talent with fondant.

Did you know that getting saved does not mean we must stop having fun? As a matter of fact, I’ve had more real fun since I started serving God than when I served my own selfish ideas of fun. See, a lot of people defend their right to, as was said in the days of my youth, party hardy, but you’ll never hear them defending the right to pay the hardy fees that follow the party. Anything we do to excess comes with an excessive price tag. And if we’re not willing to pay the associated costs, we’re not only looking to party, we’re looking to do it selfishly, and that’s where the problem starts.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 14:22 through Deuteronomy 14:29, we will learn about how to party God’s way. We begin with instructions on an annual tithe that God says to take to a specific place and eat in His presence. And right there is your first hint that God isn’t trying to create a miserable people. He wants us to enjoy even that which we would give as a sacrificial tithe.

As the reading goes on, we learn what God says to do when the place of sacrifice is too far away for the people to get to. In that case, God tells them to take their tithe to another location where He sends them, and once there, they are to sell their tithe in exchange for money. With that money, they are told to have a good time with their families. They can buy whatever they want, including intoxicating liquor, as long as no one is left out–especially the Levites on their property since they do not have their own inheritance.

The last instruction for the tithe of the people is to take a tenth of their produce every three years and store it in towns for the Levites, the orphans, and the widows.

What I find amazing is how the tithe that is set aside for the Levite towns is only a tenth of what comes in for one out of every three years. From that, the ministers must also share with the widows and orphans. In the other two years, the people are supposed to find joy in their own tithes. Imagine telling most of our modern preachers to live like this. :-\

I see a running theme in all of this, and what I see is simply that no one should live selfishly and unto himself. People should share with ministries, ministries should give to the needy, and everyone should make sure that no one else is forgotten. And something tells me that if we all lived that way, all provisions would be taken care of.

Even our fun and celebrations should include sharing and not selfish drunkenness. They should never include drugs because drugs put the mind in places that are only self-focused. You can’t think of others, or of personal responsibility, when you can’t think clearly. But, if everything we do, including partying, is done with God and others in mind, and if we stay fully aware and responsible no matter what we do, we can have fun and still not bring harm to ourselves or others. And that is how to party God’s way.

August 13, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tithing On Your Dough


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From a Pillow to an Altar


Sun rays in clouds.

Sun Rays in the Clouds by Crystal A Murray
St. Louis, Missouri, July 2011

This is a night where I am thanking God for another way to at least begin my post, and I’ll add that I’m thankful for the Nuance people who created the Swype keyboard since I can type so much faster with it.

So, tonight we begin a new portion since sundown was the beginning of a new week. We are at Parashah 7, called Vayetze and meaning He Went Out. The full portion runs from Genesis 28:10 through 32:3. Our first piece of this week’s portion runs from Genesis 28:10 through the end of the chapter at Genesis 28:22. In it, we read the story of Jacob and His meeting with Yahveh Almighty. We don’t get to see their full conversation yet, but the introduction has some great stuff in it.

Jacob lies down in a field to sleep, and he grabs a rock to make a pillow for himself. As he sleeps, he sees a ladder where angels are making journeys from Heaven to Earth and back. And then it says, “Suddenly, Adonai was standing there next to him.” He reminds Jacob that He is the God of his grandfather and his father, and then He reveals to him that the ground where he’s lying will be given to him and his descendants. He goes on to tell him of future promises like He gave to Abraham and Isaac; that his seed cannot be counted and that all the families of the earth will be blessed because of him and his descendants. And here, from verse 15, is my favorite part (and a part I am holding claim to for my very dear friends Mark & Debbie): “Look, I am with you. I will guard you wherever you go, and I will bring you back into this land, because I won’t leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Do you realize what that means? It means God is telling him that He will NEVER leave him since what He has promised him is untold numbers of generations in his future. It lines up with His promise from Matthew 28:20, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

When Jacob wakes up, he says, “Surely, God is in this place, and I did not realize it.”

Okay, so I have to break here for a minute for a song. I think in songs quite often, and I’m guessing it’s something I picked up from my grandmother who left this world back in 1988, and with whom I shared a birthday for my first 24 years. I heard she had a song for everything. Anyway, this Scripture makes me think about the song that goes…

Surely the presence of The Lord is in this place,
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can feel the brush of angels wings,
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of The Lord is in this place.

So back to Jacob who declares the place the gateway to Heaven and names it The House of God even though it was originally called “Luz.” He then takes the pillow that he was sleeping on, stands it up, pours oil on it, and makes it into an altar for God. After setting up his altar, he makes a vow that if God will stay with him as a guard and provider, so he can travel in peace back to his father’s house, he will follow Him and will faithfully return ten percent of all God gives him. And that’s where this portion ends, but I have a last thought here.

The word tithe means tenth, so without God asking for it, Jacob has decided it is right to give back to God a tithe from all that God provides for him. This is the 2nd place since Genesis 1:1 where a tithe has been mentioned, and both were something men came up with as a way to say thanks in return for provisions. Later, we will read how that changed with it becoming a portion for the Levites, but I find it interesting that it was originally thought of by men as a type of “thank you” gift. I know the feeling of wanting to give back to someone who has freely given to me, and at that point, a tenth often doesn’t even feel like enough, so I can understand the idea of wanting to give back to God when He has been a faithful and loving provider. I can also understand the resistance of people who don’t want to feel forced into tithing to someone who they do not feel is giving to them and who is demanding that people give to them because they deserve it or because of their position, or whatever. Tithe belongs to God as a gift of thanksgiving, and when I look at it this way, giving feels much better. Actually, everything I look at from God’s perspective feels better.

P.S. Because this was our writer’s meeting day, my NaNo word count went way down. I’m incorporating the story I wrote for our writer’s exercise into my novel for this day just so I can have some kind of word count. My total for today is 18, 749, and that at least keeps me still on track for my personal goal.

November 9, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Battle in Clay


I know some things may seem to just be things, but I am one of those who believes that everything and everyone has a purpose. In today’s reading from Genesis 14, verses 1 through 20, we find a battle among kings. Five kings to four kings to be exact. And if you want to read all their names and such, just click the link since The Complete Jewish Bible has them listed mostly phonetically. Anyway, in this battle of kings, they are fighting in a valley filled with clay pits where many fall in.

When I read of clay in the Scriptures, I always think of the flesh. So, here are a bunch of kings (people with authority–some to do good and some to do evil) fighting not to fall into clay pits (flesh). And I don’t think it’s just chance that this valley is near the Dead Sea. The evil kings have kidnapped Lot, the nephew of Abram who we introduced in yesterday’s reading. Abram calls on those born and trained in his own household to go out to battle with him and rescue that which belongs to him (Lot) who is likely in the valley of pits himself. They succeed and bring back Lot, his possessions, and all the women and children that were taken with him.

Not only is this a battle with which most who serve God and reject the flesh are acquainted, it ends with the kind of victory most of us seek. They get help from like-minded soldiers, and they take back what the enemy has stolen. When it is all said and done, Abram goes to meet the King of Salem (later called Jerusalem), aka King of Peace, and the King, Melchizedek, blesses him. When we get victories over the flesh, we praise God for His mercy and deliverance, and since Melchizedek was a high priest for God, it was a similar action. As part of their meeting, they shared bread and wine, and at the close, Abram gave the first recorded tithe (tenth) I’ve read about.

So next time you feel like you are in a valley of pits, gather some prayer warriors and fight to win. Scripture tells us that we have more who stand on our side than we have who stand against us. It also says that He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world. We can win in our battles if we open our eyes and take care not to fall into the pits of flesh. Oh, and when we win, we can offer our praises to Christ our King of Peace.

And here’s a nice chorus about the subject from the song, He Brought Me Out of the Miry Clay

He brought me out of the miry clay,
He set my feet on the Rock to stay;
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, hallelujah!

Also, if you’d like to read some interesting information about the connection between Melchizedek and Jesus, check out an article from Hebrew for Christians where you can also find more commentary on this Torah portion.

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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