Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Don’t Bring Me Cows


Cattle on a Hill by Flickr User thskyt, CC License = Attribution

Cattle on a Hill by Flickr User thskyt, 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.

There was a time in my life when I thought I wanted to become an animal trainer, so I went to a presentation at a school for that. When I asked about financial aid, I was told with a wink, “We can work something out.” I never went back. I was much younger (and much thinner ūüôā ) then, so it wasn’t the only time someone tried to manipulate me for my affections. “Be my girlfriend, and I’ll give you a nice home to live in,” said a few guys who were old enough to be my father, but I wasn’t interested in them no matter what their offerings.

Most people like to be wanted for who they are, not purchased for what they can give, and I think God is the same way. He doesn’t have a price on His love. We can’t, as it says in the song in the video at the end of this post, pay off The Lord.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 26:12 through Deuteronomy 26:15, Moses tells Israel how to offer the three-year tithe on produce. At four verses, it’s a short enough reading that I’m going to paste it, but since you can click to read it in the Complete Jewish Bible, I’m going to paste it here from The Message Bible

Every third year, the year of the tithe, give a tenth of your produce to the Levite, the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow so that they may eat their fill in your cities. And then, in the Presence of God, your God, say this:

I have brought the sacred share,
I’ve given it to the Levite, foreigner, orphan, and widow.
What you commanded, I’ve done.
I haven’t detoured around your commands,
I haven’t forgotten a single one.
I haven’t eaten from the sacred share while mourning,
I haven’t removed any of it while ritually unclean,
I haven’t used it in funeral feasts.
I have listened obediently to the Voice of God, my God,
I have lived the way you commanded me.

Look down from your holy house in Heaven!
Bless your people Israel and the ground you gave us,
just as you promised our ancestors you would,
this land flowing with milk and honey.

God wants an offering that comes from a lawful heart, so the statements that accompany the offering are a chance for the one making the offering to proclaim his love for his Creator. His prayer, like the words above, might say, “Lord, I love You so much, I’ve kept every one of Your commands; I haven’t changed anything about any of them, and I haven’t forgotten any. I set this special offering aside for You, and I didn’t use it for anything else because You’re special to me. Look down to me as I look up to You in praise.”

No one wants others in their lives who are only there to buy affections. They want to be wanted. We all want to be wanted. We don’t want gifts with strings attached that make it seem¬†like the gifts are not really gifts but payoffs instead. God feels the same way, and He deserves our best. He wants us to come to Him with love great enough that it stirs us to holiness for His sake. He wants us to bring Him gifts that we choose¬†for Him out of love, not just leftovers we couldn’t give to someone else.

By the way, God doesn’t hate cows, but He would rather have your pure and true love than every cow on every hill in the world. Besides, He already owns the cows on a thousand hills, so keep it simple; don’t bring God cows, bring Him your heart.

And now, enjoy this ApologetiX parody of ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” called¬†Don’t Bring Me Cows

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

Counting Sheep


Counting Sheep by Flickr User Tim Green, CC License = Attribution

Counting Sheep by Flickr User Tim Green, 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.

I once bought a mattress set just because I could get one of those¬†Serta Counting Sheep with it. Actually, it wasn’t just any counting sheep, it was a pink one to honor survivors and victims of breast cancer. I found a picture of one amongst someone’s collection of counting sheep at Flickr at¬†https://www.flickr.com/photos/houndstooth4/6831677590/, but you have to visit there since it has an¬†all rights reserved copyright on it. I gotta wonder, though, what the sheep in the picture above thought of being written on. They don’t look like they mind too much. ūüôā

Anyway, in today’s reading from Numbers 29:12 through Numbers 30:1 (in the Complete Jewish Bible) and Numbers 29:12 through Numbers 29:40 (in the Amplified and other translations), we conclude another week of Torah with instructions on celebrating the feast of Sukkot. The feast begins on the 15th day of the 7th month on the Jewish calendar, and it runs for seven days. The details for the celebration are repeated from older readings, but since they have a countdown included in the sacrifices, I’ll list those just so you can do like me and see the totals offered. God told Israel to sacrifice as follows…

  • On day one: 13 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.
  • On day two: 12 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.
  • On day three: 11 bulls,¬†2 rams, 14 lambs.
  • On day four: 10 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.
  • On day five: 9 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.
  • On day six: 8 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.
  • On day seven: 7 bulls, 2 rams, 14 lambs.

The eighth day, Simchat Torah, is a festive assembly that also includes sacrifices, but this time it is 1 bull, 1 ram, 7 lambs, and 1 goat. All these sacrifices are in addition to the regular vows and voluntary offerings, and they all require lambs that are in their first year and without defect. Every sacrifice also has a grain and drink offering that accompanies it.

If you’re like me, you noticed the countdown of the bulls from 13 to 7, and maybe you even counted all the animals to see how many were sacrificed in one week. If you didn’t, don’t worry. Here’s the counts I came up with: 70 bulls for the first week plus the 1 on the festival day is 71; then 14 rams plus 1 is 15; then 98 lambs plus 7 is 105; plus 1 goat. That’s a total of 192 animals in addition to the regular offerings.

I know that God doesn’t do anything arbitrarily, so I’m certain there are specific reasons for the numbers of animals He told Israel to sacrifice. Two things I noticed about the bulls. First, I don’t read where they were required to be without defect like the lambs. Then, I noticed the bulls in the week of “Tabernacles” (Sukkot), numbered¬†seventy. When Scripture speaks of “the nations,” it is referring to the 70 nations that were not Israel.

Did God have Israel sacrifice that number of bulls each year to represent His mercy toward non-Jews to allow them to become converted? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that He has always had mercy on all men–before, during, and since the formation of Israel as a nation, and it would not surprise me to find that an exact number of bulls was sacrificed to represent an exact number of gentiles who were saved before Yeshua shed His blood for all mankind. Tabernacles (or tents) represent our temples of flesh, so it would be the perfect feast to represent salvation for all by sacrificing both bulls and clean lambs. Whatever it meant then, I do know the blood of Christ now makes us all lambs in the flock of God, and we are counted as children in God’s family.

And with that, I bid you¬†Shabbat Shalom, and enjoy this video by ApologetiX with a parody of the song “Barbara Ann” called “Baa, We’re Lambs”…

 

July 4, 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

Bring Out the Best


Trophies by Flickr User Vitor Antunes, 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.

Trophies by Flickr User Vitor Antunes, 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.

During my time growing up on the west coast, our family was pretty picky about the type of sandwich spread we used. Whether it was for a sandwich or a salad, we always used “Best Foods Real Mayonnaise.” Since I am typically alert to details, I always read the part on the label that said, “Known as Hellman’s East of the Rockies.” So, do you know what I did the first time I traveled east of the Rocky Mountains? I went into a grocery store to look for some “Hellman’s Mayonnaise.” so I could read the label to see if it said, “Known as Best Foods West of the Rockies.” And, sure enough, it did.

Such a little thing to get excited about, but it really was important for me to find out. Oh, and if you live east of the Rockies, like I do now, you may have heard the commercial jingle that says, “Bring out the Hellman’s, and bring out the best.” That makes so much more sense, though, when you hear it as, “Bring out the Best Foods, and bring out the best.”

In today’s reading from Leviticus 22:17 through Leviticus 22:33 (the end of the chapter), we read of God wanting us to always bring out the best for Him. This entire teaching covers the offerings brought before God whether for vows or for voluntary burnt offerings, and it gives the details of the acceptable and unacceptable offerings. In order to make the person giving the offering acceptable to God, the offering they gave had to fulfill the requirements that made it acceptable to Him.

Just as the priests who had defects could not give offerings to The Lord, people could not offer animals with defects like blemishes, uneven limbs, blind, injured, mutilated bodies, etc. Even if a foreigner tried to offer something less than perfect, ignorance would not entitle him to give a defective offering.

So, how many of you readers would like it if you gave your child all the ingredients to make a wonderful and tasty dessert, and after the child made it, he or she gave it to a bunch of friends and said you could only have whatever leftovers you could scrape off the pan? As the reading ends, God once again reminds Israel to keep His commandments because He is The Lord, and He is the One who brought them out of the land of Egypt to deliver them and make them holy. He gave them all the cattle and land from which to choose their offering, and He gave them the life of freedom that allows them to now offer gifts to Him, so He not only wants the best from them, He deserves the best from them.

Because of the grace and mercy we have from God through the blood of Yeshua, we might sometimes be tempted to think that God is not so picky anymore. After all, He accepts us just as we are, right? Yes, He does accept us, but only because He, Himself, brought out the best when He robed Himself in flesh to lay His life down for us. As the Lamb of Our Salvation, Christ had no imperfection, no blemish, and no sin. He was not even born of the sinful seed of man. He became the offering that was worthy to allow us to come to God broken, blemished, and damaged by sin. And His blood cleanses us and makes us whole in God’s eyes, so we can now offer ourselves to Him in the way He requires and deserves.

I hope this is enough to inspire and encourage people to keep themselves cleansed and holy before God. Let us not allow any of the desires of our sinful nature to drag us down to a place where we are covered with the muck and mire from which God delivered us. God gave us His best, now let us bring out the best for Him.

April 21, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Community Sin


Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by Flickr User marsmettnn tallahassee, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by Flickr User marsmettnn tallahassee, 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.
There are a few messages on the Flickr site to go with this image as well.

Why is it so hard to stand for the right these days? I mean, it’s even hard for those who want to stand for the right things¬†because there is such a rising up against standing for God’s holy word and standing against any kind of sin. People try to tell those who stand for the right things that what others do is none of our business. The popular culture of music has kids being harassed in the lyrics just for wanting to live on the right side of¬†the law. There are even songs that warn people not to report a crime to protect the innocent. In those songs, they’re called snitches, and they’re threatened with violence.

But what happens if we all just give in and let the bullies win? The picture above is a good example of a land where sin became so accepted that it infiltrated the church and led to the slaughter of The True Messiah and later the destruction of the temple. Sure, Yeshua went silently as a lamb before the slaughter because He chose to give Himself as our Passover sacrifice to cover our sins, but does that mean we are supposed to watch silently as people commit one sin after another? Do we allow the innocent to pay the price of being sacrificed to gods of comfort and convenience through sins like abortion? Do we keep silent while the music steals the souls of the young by loudly proclaiming to them that life is better on drugs? Where does it cross the line between the individual’s sin and become the community’s sin because too many are turning away and pretending it doesn’t exist?

In today’s reading from Leviticus 20:1 through Leviticus 20:7, God talks to Israel about those in the land, including foreigners, who sacrifice their children to the god of Molech. I’ve been taught that in this sacrifice, women would self-abort and throw their fetuses into the fiery mouth of the stone god, and fathers would sacrifice infants after they were born. Supposedly, they have excavated jars with tiny remains in them, but I cannot verify that information. I did find some interesting information in an article at Wikipedia.

God tells Israel that if they see anyone at all¬†performing this disgusting practice, they are to stone the person because it defiles God’s tabernacle, and it defiles the land. He goes on to say that if the people turn away and try to pretend they did not see this vile sin, God will set Himself against the sinner. Then, in addition to the person who committed the crime being cut off from his people, God will also cut off his family and all who follow after him. The cost of turning away is greater than the cost of making a person responsible for his own behavior.

For me. I would have trouble with the whole idea of being in the judgment seat to the point of stoning a person to death, but I understand why God wanted people to follow His will in this. I have yet to see a case where a person got away with a crime against the innocent and became a better person by getting away with it. In the end, many more members of their family, and often even their friends, end up paying prices for ignoring the original crime. It’s hard to find the line between having mercy for the sake of winning a person’s soul to Christ, and becoming a party to community sin by ignoring that a price must be paid and refusing to make the guilty person pay it himself.

But the fact is, God is a holy and a just God, and His laws and rulings are holy and just. If we ignore the laws of the harvest (men reaping what they sow), and if we decide that a person should not pay a price for a sin he commits–especially against the innocent, we are symbolically saying that we know more than God. And, we are also saying that it’s okay for the innocent to pay a price while the person who harmed them should go free. There is no balance or justice in that. Let us not participate in community sin by hiding our faces when evil is done because a price will be paid, and we do not want to get any part of that bill.

 

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

Slaughter Fodder


One Lord Poster by Flickr User marsmettn tallahassee, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

One Lord Poster by Flickr User marsmettn tallahassee, 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.

By definition, fodder is something that is set aside for a particular use¬†but has no natural¬†value. It’s like the stuff of life that a comedian might turn into a joke for his next routine, and then the value would be added. But when God created life–all life–He created it with value. If He thought of the animals He requested for sacrifice as fodder, He would not have cared if they were spotless, and He would not have demanded such care be taken even when their end was to die.¬†But if these same animals were killed senselessly, or killed to be offered to a false god, the killer would be seeing them as mere fodder and without value.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 17:1 through Leviticus 17:7, we find that the community of Israel doesn’t see the animals with that value. Instead, they have been slaughtering some of their sacrifices away from the tabernacle, and God is saying it must come to an end. When I first started reading it, I thought it was speaking of slaughtering for the purpose of a meal, and I was praying in my heart; asking God about it. Then I kept reading (which didn’t take too long at only seven verses, but the mind works pretty fast), and I found God’s reasons.

As it turns out, there were people in the camp who were slaughtering animals to make offerings to a false god. This Scripture calls¬†these false gods¬†“goat-demons” and says the people¬†were prostituting themselves before them. After everything they have seen Yahveh Almighty do in their midst, I’m amazed they would even consider giving a sacrifice to a false god, but I’m also thinking they knew it was wrong since some were doing their sacrifices outside the camp. They’ve already received the commandments, and they know Yahveh is a jealous God, but I wonder how they could not know He is also an all-seeing God.

To prevent the people from being able to sacrifice to anything or anyone other than Their Holy Creator, God institutes a permanent regulation that all slaughters must take place at the door of The Tent of Meeting. My guess is that some people caught in the act of sacrificing to a false god might have tried to hide it by saying they were just preparing their offering for Adonai. But whether they lied about who it was for, or lied about why they had blood on their hands, performing the offering only at the door of the tabernacle and with the tabernacle priests would put a stop to the bad practices. It would also create a system of accountability.

The idea of accountability is helpful in everything from dieting and exercise to business and government. If we are only accountable to ourselves, we can¬†eventually lose perspective. In the case of the tabernacle, the priests were accountable to the “high priest” who was accountable to God. The one(s) to whom you are accountable must be someone who truly cares to help you do the right thing. If a criminal is accountable only to other criminals, they will excuse his behavior rather than holding him to a higher standard. That’s why the people could not be accountable only to themselves.

As we walk and live for Christ now, we are living sacrifices and not just fodder. God looks on us and all we do with value. He saw us with enough value that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Now, after choosing to live for Him, we have our High Priest Yeshua to oversee us and offer accountability. We also have the accountability of God’s Holy Spirit living in us to guide us, so we don’t just run off trying to do things our own way.

I like the way The Message Bible talks about the living sacrifice from Romans 12:1-2

So here‚Äôs what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life‚ÄĒyour sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life‚ÄĒand place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don‚Äôt become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You‚Äôll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

And to close, let me give one more wonderful verse portion from Colossians 3:15-17 also from The¬†Message Bible…

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ‚ÄĒthe Message‚ÄĒhave the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives‚ÄĒwords, actions, whatever‚ÄĒbe done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

April 8, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prepare to Let God Fight for You


Territorial Battles by Flickr User Thomas Izko, CC License = Attribution

Territorial Battles by Flickr User Thomas Izko, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

In Proverbs 21:31 (AMP), we are given the following wisdom…

The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance and victory are of the Lord.

So we do all we can to prepare to take a stand and to fight if necessary, but in reality, the battle against sin truly belongs to The Lord. Paul said he kept doing the things he didn’t want to do, and he kept failing when he tried to do the right things, because sin reigned in his mortal body. That doesn’t mean we quit fighting, but it does mean that it takes something (or Someone) greater than our personal self-control to wage and win this war.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 16:25 through Leviticus 16:34, we are still reading God’s instructions for the priest making atonement for the sins of Israel. We’re told that the man who takes the scapegoat outside the camp must wash his clothes and bathe before he can return to the camp. And then we’re told that the person who takes the hides and dung from the offerings and burns them outside the camp must also bathe and wash his clothes before he can return to the camp.

I see the verses above as a sort of physical representation of the symbolic steps we take as we change from who we are without Christ to who we will become with Him. These steps include confession (we saw that over the head of the goat yesterday), repentance, sending our sinful behaviors away from us, burning up any remnants of sin, and¬†then washing our bodies and clothes (baptism) to show that we are fresh and new without even the smells of “old goat” or “smoke” of sin remaining on us.

And this walks us perfectly into the next part of today’s portion where we learn about¬†The Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month. We learn that the community is to take a complete Sabbath on this day, and that atonement will be made to purify them. While this high holy day is prepared for with fasting, self-assessment of sins and weaknesses, confession and repentance, the day of¬†Yom Kippur¬†is a day of complete and total rest, and a day of self-denial. It is the actual day when the high priest would go into the¬†Holy of Holies, and the congregation would wait in silence to see if he would come back out to them alive to declare their salvation.

In our lives today, we should not¬†enter lightly into the atonement we have under the blood of Yeshua. Yes, He does all the work. Yes, His blood completely cleanses us. But to say we should not prepare for that holy moment would deny us of the knowledge of the awesome work Christ (our High Priest) does on our behalf. How can we value the depth of what He has delivered us from if we go in with our eyes closed and never look at the pit? How can we even know which side we’re on until we understand where the enemy occupies in his stand against our souls? Yes, Yahveh Almighty is The One who will win the victory for us; who has already won the victory through the blood of Christ, but let us prepare for the battle to stand for Him that we can cheer with everything in us when we hear His voice as He declares our salvation.

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Follow Your Sins to Hell


Goat on Desert Mountain by Flickr User S. F. Pitman, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Goat on Desert Mountain by Flickr User S. F. Pitman, 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.

Do you realize that¬†Hell was not actually made for people? According to Matthew 25:41, it was made for the adversary and the fallen angels. Personally, I don’t believe God has ever desired for any of those He created to suffer an eternity of torment, but the enemy chose to try and exalt himself above God and it’s unforgivable to know God and not recognize Him as God. But He has always wanted mankind to walk with Him as a friend. Someone even pointed out to me recently that when Adam and Eve were in the garden, they already had knowledge of good, so the reason God told them to stay away from the tree was to protect them from the painful knowledge of evil. But unfortunately, now that we have the knowledge, we often choose evil regardless of the end result.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 16:18 through Leviticus 16:24, we read of more instructions for Aaron to atone for the uncleanness in the camp of Israel. Because God wants to dwell with His people, He must find ways to bring cleansing to His altar and His people. Aaron will sprinkle blood on the altar to atone for it, and then he will change clothes and offer the sacrifices that will atone for the people.

We touched lightly on the 2nd goat yesterday, but today there’s a bit more detail on what is often called “the scapegoat.” Aaron must place his hands on the head of the 2nd goat, and he must confess all the transgressions, crimes, and sins of the people of Israel over the head of the goat. After that is done, he will send the goat away to the desert with a man appointed for that purpose. The goat will then bear away the transgressions of the people to an isolated place in the desert.

I may have mentioned this before, but when my nephews were little, I told them the story of sin using helium balloons. (It is my intention to put the story into an illustrated children’s book someday.) The balloons represented sins and things God does not want in our lives. I told them that if they didn’t let go of the balloons, they could be carried away by those sins. The blood of Christ gives us the ability to let go of our sins and let them be sent to Hell without us like the goat was sent to the desert without the people following. But if we choose to hang on to our sins instead of putting them under the blood, then when God sends the sins to¬†Hell, we will go where they go.

As I said at the beginning, sending people that He created to a place of eternal torment has never been God’s perfect will. His word says in 2nd Peter 3:9 (and I love the way this reads in¬†The Names of God Bible)…

The Lord isn’t slow to do what he promised, as some people think. Rather, he is patient for your sake. He doesn’t want to destroy anyone but wants all people to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act.

So, when we are given the opportunity to repent and let go of our sins, let’s do it, so that we don’t follow them to a destination intended only for them and not for those God loves.

 

April 6, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Presents to Present before God’s Presence


Come Boldy by Flickr User Dr Michael D Evans, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Come Boldly by Flickr User Dr Michael D Evans, 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.

Now isn’t that title just a mouthful? Of course, I love words, and I have a thing for words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and have¬†different meanings. They call them homophones, and the list includes many words that often get misspelled like there, their, and they’re; hear and here; to, too, and two, your and you’re; etc. I have challenged myself many times through the years to see how big a list of these I can make. I currently have over 400 sets and well over 800 words total, especially since so many of them have three to a set.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 16:1 through Leviticus 16:17, we begin a new portion for a new week, Parashah 29: Hebrew¬†Acharei Mot meaning “After the Death.” This portion focuses on the requirements of Aaron before he is able to enter the¬†Holy of Holies to meet with the presence of God. It begins by focusing on what not to do that got the sons of Aaron killed, and it explains that the rules apply because God’s presence is actually there in the¬†Holy Place.

We’ve read the laws in previous portions but to summarize, there will need to be gifts from the community of Israel who will provide a bull, a ram, and two goats. Aaron will put on the priestly vestments, and then he will give a sin offering and a burnt offering, and he will cast lots over the goats to determine which will be for The Lord, and which will be for Az’azel. (Note: KJV translates this word as “scapegoat” but many are unsure what the word actually means.) After the blood sacrifices, Aaron will perform the other cleansing and praise rituals with the incense and the sprinkling of blood.

The important things in these behaviors are in Aaron doing whatever it takes to gain atonement for himself, for his household, and for the community of Israel, before he enters into the presence of God. The incense is to create a cloud over the¬†Ark of the Covenant because God’s presence dwells there, and the smoke will keep Aaron from dying. Even though we now have the blood of Christ for our atonement, so we can come boldly before the throne of grace and mercy, I think heartfelt and sincere praise as we enter into the holy Presence of Yahveh Almighty is a valuable offering. I guess it’s like greeting someone you love with a kiss before you start making demands on them. ūüôā

The verse that stood out to me today is verse 16 which reads…

He will make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleannesses of the people of Isra‚Äôel and because of their transgressions ‚ÄĒ all their sins; and he is to do the same for the tent of meeting which is there with them right in the middle of their uncleannesses.

Mostly, I noticed the fact that the tabernacle, which represents God and His presence, was right in the middle of the sins and unclean behaviors of God’s people. It makes me think of Psalm 40:2 (CEB)

He lifted me out of the pit of death,
    out of the mud and filth,
    and set my feet on solid rock.
        He steadied my legs.

I know God’s presence can stand right in the middle of sins and uncleanness now just as it did then. Because the blood of Christ covers our¬†sin, even those in sin can now come boldly before the throne of grace. When we¬†come into His presence bearing presents (fruits of repentance), God will reach into the pit of miry clay and pull us to safety. I’m watching Him perform a miracle right now in the life of my nephew that overdosed three weeks ago, and I’m believing that He will pull him out of that pit and raise him to new and clean places in His holy presence. And that’s worth any thank-you gift (any presents) I can give to Him.

April 5, 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

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

God’s Will “in” Earth


The Lord's Prayer by Flickr User Elaine Layden, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

The Lord’s Prayer by Flickr User Elaine Layden, 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.

Thy will be done IN earth as it is in Heaven. Depending on the translation, you might see on¬†earth, but in the original, it is in earth, and I love that because it’s asking God to have His perfect will IN me. I believe that “sin” means going against God’s perfect plan for me, my life, life on earth, etc. I pray for more and more of His will (He must increase), and less of the will of mankind (we must decrease) that goes against it.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 8:14 through Leviticus 8:21, we see Moses performing the rituals of the sin offering and the burnt offering. It’s interesting to read the two paragraphs and compare the two offerings. The sin offering is a bull, and the burnt offering is a ram. The sin offering must be atoned for, while the burnt offering is accepted as is. The sin offering has parts that must be burnt outside the camp, and the burnt offering is accepted fully on the altar of God.

It is the part about atonement and burning some of the sin offering outside the camp that really stuck with me. The greater part of the bull, plus its insides, its hide, and its dung, were taken off the altar and burned outside the camp, and nothing says that any part of this offering was pleasant to The Lord. As a matter of fact, I don’t think God even likes the sin offering, but He instituted it because of necessity–nothing unholy can dwell in His holy presence. No one that goes outside His boundaries (trespasses against Him) can be where He wants them; with Him in holy places.

I think putting our sins on the altar and making atonement is not supposed to be a pleasant experience for us either. Repentance can be very painful, and true repentance doesn’t end at the altar but often requires a painful disconnection from those things that drag us to unholy places. We must willingly separate ourselves from sinful behaviors after we have walked away from an altar of repentance. And even though that separation can hurt, we know¬†the price of our atonement was more painful to Our Savior who exchanged His throne for suffering here on earth and offered His life for it.

After the sin offering, when the ram was offered completely on the altar, it went up as a sweet aroma to God. This sacrifice is pleasant to The Lord, and I believe it represents our lives and the sacrifices we make after we have repented and turned away from sin. When our transgressions (going against God’s will for us) are under the blood of Christ, it pierces the veil of sin that separated us from God. When we are walking in His will, our works and praise become more beautiful and pure to God. He can see us as delivered from evil and brought into that kingdom, and glory, and honor that is His forever and ever.

March 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Clean or Just Covered Up


Air Freshener Warning by Flickr User Environmental Illness Network, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Air Freshener Warning by Flickr User Environmental Illness Network, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image (with a link about air freshener ingredients) and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I have an old Bible message on cassette that talks about the difference in being clean and in just covering something up with deodorant. It’s like the air freshener ad that says it doesn’t just mask odors, but it actually cleans the air you breathe. Given the choice, I’m certain we all would rather breathe clean air than dirty air that is just sprayed with perfume. The preaching tape goes on to compare real prayer from a sincere heart to shallow praise, and it says the latter is like spraying perfume in stinky shoes. But God looks on the heart, and in the heart, so while people may be fooled by a good dose of deodorant in the form of praise, worship, good works, etc., God will not.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 7:11 through Leviticus 7:38 (the end of the chapter), we learn about the law for sacrificing peace offerings to Yahveh. If a peace offering is given to also give thanks to God, it is to be combined with a thanksgiving offering. For this type of offering, one part of each thing offered is to be given as a gift to The Lord. The meat that goes with this offering is to be eaten on the same day, unless it is for a vow or from a voluntary offering, and then the left over meat can be eaten the next day as well. This part tells me that some peace offerings are compelled, and some are free-will, so maybe that’s the difference in praise that we offer because we’re truly thankful for something and praise that feels more like a sacrifice.

Now, this next part is pretty common sense to me. It says any of the meat left for the third day will be disgusting and should be completely burned up. It also says that, regardless of the type of offering, no meat should be eaten on the third day, or the person who eats it will bear the consequences of doing so. Me; if I don’t have refrigeration, I don’t even want to eat meat later in the evening, let alone meat that is three days old. And I imagine the consequences here would be in the form of digestive troubles.

As for the days when eating the meat of the sacrifice is okay, I think this next part is very important. It says that any clean person may eat of the sacrifice. It also says that neither the person making the offering, nor the offering itself, should touch any unclean thing. I relate this to what I said above about being clean and not just deodorized, and I believe it is saying that God wants a pure sacrifice from a pure heart. I think it’s a perfect type and shadow of our need to lift up¬†holy hands to God. We should approach God with a clean heart and clean hands, so that our sacrifice of praise will be completely acceptable to Him. We can be sure¬†He will be able to smell if we have a sweet-smelling aroma, or if we’re just trying to cover things up with a strong dose of perfume.

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

Tried and Failed


Fail Reel by Flickr User Nicko Gibson, CC License = Attribution

Fail Reel by Flickr User Nicko Gibson, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

In the movie reel of my life (somehow, I really think God has one of these), I know I have tried and failed thousands of times. I have made promises that still go unkept, whether because I’ve forgotten or for some other reason. I’ve had all the best intentions, all the best plans, and all the best efforts, and still I have failed. I fail because I am human. We fail because we are human. God understands because He made us. He says in Psalm 103:14 that He knows our form.

As I read through today’s reading from Leviticus 4:27 through Leviticus 5:10, I looked at all the answers God gave for what to do in case of failure during the times of the tabernacle and priests. Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, I don’t think He would have us discard any of it. As a matter of fact, The New Testament does not say that the old law is done away with. Rather, it says that it was fulfilled so we are no longer under the curse of it. What was the curse? It was that if we failed in one point, we failed in all of it.

I woke up one morning having an awake dream–maybe a vision. I saw a steel ring with bits of it missing and the word¬†law in the middle of it. As I watched it, another steel ring came into view. This one had the word¬†love written in the middle, and it had no missing pieces. As the vision continued, the ring of love settled into the ring of law and filled in all the missing parts. God’s law of love became the law and absorbed all the emptiness that keeping the works of the law could not fill in. I have never forgotten it.

But as for why all these commands were there to begin with….I believe God laid them out because He never wanted His people under a curse. He knew His children, and He knew they would fail, but He wanted to put every possibility of provision out there to make a way out of the bondage that comes with sin and failure. It’s like a mother, one many would call over-protective, giving her child an abundance of “just in case” scenarios to make sure the child is protected no matter what.

“Okay, honey, don’t answer the door; make sure the deadbolt is locked; the doorknob is locked; the chain lock is pulled; the intruder alarm is set; and your phone is charged in case you need to call us. I put the number where we’ll be on the refrigerator, but I also gave it to the neighbors on both sides in case you have to run out of the house to get away from a bad guy. Oh, and Aunt Sally will call you at 8 to check on you, and then Uncle Mike will call you at 9. Make sure you answer or they’ll call me to report you might be in trouble. Etc., etc., and, and, and.”

Does this seem like too much? God provided 613 total commandments to the Levitical priesthood. We have commandments in today’s reading that include when to sacrifice a goat, when to sacrifice a sheep, when it must be a female offering, and when a dove or pigeon can be used. He even provided for the unplanned sins, including those committed by making a promise (whether to do evil or good) and not keeping it. God has always wanted to make sure that we have ways out of our sins if we have a heart that is willing to step out of them through repentance.

And that is the most important part of it all… repentance. Whether it was following the Levitical commands back then, or stepping under the cleansing of Christ’s blood now, repentance is what makes the difference. Now, as then, a person must see his sin and failures as bondage (if nothing more than the bondage of being separated from his Loving Creator), and he must want to be set free. It’s not about finding reasons or excuses, and it’s not about trying to find some way to continue in sin. The blood–all the way back to the garden–has always been about repentance and being set free.

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Missing the Mark


Missed the Target by Flickr User Tom, Switzerland, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Missed the Target by Flickr User Tom, Switzerland, 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.

Been there, done that, have the stains on my shirt to prove it. And boy, how frustrating it is when you are hungry or thirsty, and you really want to get that bite in your mouth, or that drink down your throat, and you miss the mark and spill something down the front of you. And it is equally frustrating when we want to please God but somehow, even with our best desires and efforts, we make a mess out of things.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 4:1 through Leviticus 4:26, we get to see how God even created provision for His children should they fail Him unintentionally. In many Hebrew prayers, there is a line of thanksgiving for the laws (Hebrew¬†mitzvot) of God. This shows that the foundations contain pleasure in serving God according to His perfect will. Rather than make excuse for why they could not serve Him, they looked for ways to do it better. So, when they inadvertently failed, they wanted to be set free from that.

God has a system worked out of exactly what sacrifices are acceptable for offerings given in case of failure and the process required depending on who failed. If it was one of the anointed priests that failed, the process was a bit different than if it was one member of the community. It was yet a different method of action for repentance when the whole community shared in the failure.

The one thing about this reading that grabbed me harder than other parts was what happened if one of the anointed priests failed. The Word says that it brought guilt on all the people. Imagine if the one you were following as your anointed leader was required to repent and offer a sacrifice worthy of repentance to keep his or her sins off of you. Would it change who you choose to look up to for your leadership?

Remember that in the book of Jude (especially verses 3-4) we are warned about those that sneak into the church without us being aware of them (other than Scriptural warnings) and teach something less than adherence to God’s word. Even though¬†the blood of Christ sets us free from being yoked under bondage if these people do not repent, I believe we are still required to go in with eyes wide open and be aware of false teaching and sinful leadership. I believe God still requires those in leadership positions to treat their positions with the highest reverence and responsibility, knowing that what they teach, and what they do behind closed doors, will affect their followers in some way. Think Jim Jones, and note what came upon all who followed him.

Today, I’m thankful for a provision in Christ’s blood that will help me when I miss the mark. I desire to do the right thing, just like I desire to get the food to my mouth when I’m hungry, but I still fail. And I know there are those in leadership who desire to do the right thing and fail, but the ones who truly adhere to God’s calling will bring fruits of repentance and not just words of sorrow for being caught. That is why I’m picky about whose words I follow–online and off. I know God sees my heart and judges me on my desire, and I know He sees the heart of all who try to serve¬†Him and fail. Above all, He sees the blood of Christ when we fail but then repent and place ourselves under it. Halleluyah!

March 5, 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

I’m Not Talkin’ Bout the Linen


Nepali Woman Hanging Sheets to Dry by Flickr User Matthew Ramsey, CC License = Attribution

Nepali Woman Hanging Sheets to Dry by Flickr User Matthew Ramsey, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

In one of the greatest misheard lyrics of all time, we get the title of this post from the song¬†I’d Really Love to See You Tonight by England Dan and John Ford Coley. The line actually says, “I’m not talkin’ about movin’ in.” It’s a song with a catchy tune but sort of a sad set of lyrics. The guy misses his ex, and to get her to consider spending time with him, he tries to assure her that he’s not talking about anything permanent.

But in tonight’s Torah reading from Exodus 29:38 through Exodus 29:46, the end of the chapter, God speaks a message directly opposite this song. There are details about the lambs that are to be offered in the morning and the evening every day, details about the grain offering of flour and olive oil, and details about the drink offering of wine. There are no more details about the fine-woven linens, so even though it’s based on a misheard lyric line, my title is correct.

The last half of the paragraph in today’s reading is the one that got my attention though. The offerings are given to draw the Spirit of Adonai with their pleasing aroma. At the place of offering, Yahveh says He will meet with the people, and the glory of His presence will consecrate the meeting place.¬†Then, it says, God will live with Israel and be their God. He says that when He lives with them, He will be their God and they will know that He is the One who brought them out of Egypt. More importantly, it says they will know He brought them out of Egypt¬†in order to live with them.

Yes, God is talkin’ about movin’ in. He does want to change their lives. He wants to be their God, and He wants them to know Him as their God. And because Yahveh is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I believe His message is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His purpose in delivering us from the bondage of sin is because He wants to move in. He says that He is a jealous God, and He has never liked being a stranger to those He created with love and with His own breath. He doesn’t just want to see us for one night, or once a week. He wants to move all the way into our lives, and then He wants to continually move IN our lives if only we will let Him.

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

Holy Is As Holy Does


Holy Ground by Flickr User Roger Lynn, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Holy Ground by Flickr User Roger Lynn, 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 grew up hearing the statement “Pretty is as pretty does.” It was a good lesson for teaching me to look beyond outward beauty, and it may be the reason I rarely thought of celebrities as any more valuable than non-famous people. Of course, even pretty behavior doesn’t guarantee a pretty heart, but the self-control required to maintain things like courtesy and respect can at least slow a person down to a point of being more reachable. In a culture that now seems to value wild unruliness over dignity and chivalry, it would be nice to see the quietness that would come from pulling people back to a place of more controlled character and virtue.

In today’s reading from Exodus 29:19 through Exodus 29:37, we read a number of duties and details for becoming holy. Just being selected as a generation of priests, or even for the position of high priest, did not make Aaron, his sons, or any part of Israel automatically holy. Just being washed, redressed, and anointed didn’t even do the job. And as if offering sin offerings, atonement offerings, and sacrifice offerings was not enough, today will add the “wave offering.” Yet, even all of these things together did not create any kind of guaranteed position of holiness.

As I read through the required works, including the seven days required for sanctification, two things caught my attention. First, I noticed that from days ago, none of these works are random. They are all prepared for in advance. The bread the men will eat today was put in a basket before the washing had ever begun. The clothing was created in advance. Because of the stringent requirements of perfection on the part of the animal sacrifices, there couldn’t just be a noisy stampede by the door while the priests grabbed the first critters they could get their hands on. Being holy is not just something to be, it requires becoming; constantly renewing those things that don’t fall into line the same way a¬†lady would do in guarding her every step and word to fall in line with the behaviors of a true debutante.

Planning ahead takes planning ahead. I have never been very good at that. If I was, it wouldn’t have taken me years after starting my blog to become regular at posting on it. Still, if I had not already started it, that may have become an excuse for not moving forward, so I’m glad I had a place already prepared. I’m trying to learn to do better at planning ahead for my Sabbaths. There is even a word in speaking of biblical Sabbaths that means “Sabbath preparation day” rather than actual Sabbath, and that is the word used when they said they had to hurry up and get Yahshua crucified because “the preparation day” is coming. Unlike most of us Christians who run rampant getting ready for services on Sunday mornings, most Hebrews spent a full day preparing for their day of rest, so everything would already be taken care of ahead of time. Of course, this is also why I’m fairly certain that Yahshua was crucified on a Thursday, but that would be another whole blog post in itself.

The other thing I noticed was the last line that “whatever touches the altar will become holy.” I’m certain this relates to the first thing in that nothing was even allowed near the altar until it was prepared. The priests had to be washed, dressed, and anointed before approaching the altar. The animals had to be chosen, washed, and cut into whatever pieces were required for specific rituals before the remains were put on the altar. Even Our “Sacrificial Lamb” spent 33 years being human, and enduring human things like weakness and hunger,¬†before He came to the altar of sacrifice. He had to learn obedience to parents¬†before being considered mature, and He had to learn the value of manual labor before He graduated to miracles. He even had to go toe to toe with His enemy after 40 days of suffering in the wilderness before He was even ready to get baptized.

As I said above, we live in a world of wild abandon, and too many just want to throw themselves on an altar and become instantly holy. Maybe that’s why so many fall to their knees in moments of emotion but run back to their old and familiar ways when the going gets rough for them. If I could teach anyone anything of true value it would be that Yahveh Almighty is worth the preparations and sacrifices required to be holy to Him. Feeling His presence and love surround you and separate you from the distractions and clamor of your worldly needs and desires is more valuable than any reward the world has to offer. As the song of the same title says, “I keep falling in love with Him over and over, and over and over again,” and that love makes me want to do holy as much as I want to be holy for Him.

P.S. Just in case you’d like to hear that song, here’s a link for it at YouTube…

February 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Will Be Right Back


Image by Flickr user Miles Berry

Abraham & Isaac–Baptisitry door panel in Florence, Italy by Flickr user Miles Berry

So, we know that Abraham has learned to trust God in everything, and we know that his belief has paid off. His trust in and of itself was so great that it was counted as righteousness. That’sbig trust. What we will read today is going to take every bit of that big trust. The last part of this week’s portion is the entire chapter; Genesis 22:1 through 22:24. It is the story of when God gives Abraham the ultimate test of his life.

First, a little note, if you read this in the King James’ Version, you will see the word “tempt,” but I looked up the Hebrew word used here,¬†and it means, test, try, or prove. I have heard people argue because of the New Testament quote that God does not tempt any man, so I wanted to clear that up. Of course, I’ve also heard people change that to say that God doesn’t test anyone, but I believe this shows us that there are times when testing can prove us like the trying of gold in the fires of purification. However, I also believe that God will never make or allow something to happen to us that is not ultimately for our own good.

Now, back to the story. At this point, Isaac is said to be in his early twenties. God wakes Abraham with a command to take his only begotten son, the son who Abraham loves¬†and has all his hopes and dreams resting¬†in (italics mine), and offer him up to God for a burnt offering. I feel like Abraham would’ve needed to wrestle that one through a bit to convince himself, but maybe not. I do know, however, that by the time they got to the foot of the mountain where the sacrifice was to take place, Abraham was convinced enough of God’s promises to him that he said the following from verse 5:

“The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” (NLT)

Do you see the faith and trust there? Can you hear the hope in his words? He didn’t say, “I’ll be back,” he said WE will be right back. Somehow, Abraham knew God would keep His promises. He knew that either God would change the way things were planned out, or he knew God could raise his son up from the ashes. Abraham was known as a man of his word, so if he said “we” to his servants, then he meant¬†both of them would be returning.

If you’ve read the story, you know what happens next. Abraham stacks the wood and stuff on Isaac’s shoulders, and they head to Mount Moriah. (This is also thought to be the same mountain where Jesus was crucified. I found an interesting article on the archeology of the place at the Discovery News site.) Anyway, Isaac takes note of the lack of sacrifice and Abraham tells him that God will provide Himself a sacrifice. Whether that wording was intentional or not, I can’t be certain, but that it has arrived to us saying that God would provide (or make) Himself a sacrifice, I think is definitely in His plan.

As the story closes, Abraham has Isaac bound and ready for sacrifice, and he even has the knife raised to do the deed when The Angel of the Lord tells him to stop. He also tells him that now He is certain Abraham will hold nothing back from Him. Somehow, I think God already knew that about Abraham, but I’m sure now Abraham knew it about himself. We can all say we won’t sell out our beliefs for a million dollars or a bag of gold, but until someone offers us a million dollars or a bag of gold, do we really know that for sure? Well, if Abraham ever said he would do anything for God, he just proved it to himself beyond all doubt. And then, just when Abraham needed it, God provided a lamb stuck in the briars, so Abraham was able to worship God with a proper sacrifice.

On a personal note here, I want to say that some years ago, I went to Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida and saw an amazing movie about this subject. It was sort of a triple story showing Abraham and Isaac, Jesus on Calvary, and the destruction of the temple, all in tandem. It was quite powerful to watch in that fashion. One of the most beautiful parts showed Isaac putting his arms out, willingly allowing himself to be bound and laid on the altar of sacrifice. I wish they would make that available as a DVD, but last time I checked, it was not. If any of you have seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you have not been to Holy Land, I recommend a visit. I’m sure some things have changed with the new ownership, but I loved my visits there each time, and I hope to go again someday. Let me know if you have been there and what you took away from your visit.

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Follow Him–A Poem


The content of this poem I wrote many years ago says a lot about everything I’ve written to this point, especially about the covenant made by God in the post for October 17th. I felt this was an appropriate time to share it.

I FOLLOW HIM
By Crystal A Murray – (C)2005

I follow Him…

…Around the corridors of Heaven, where beings created for worshipping Him fall at His feet.¬†He sighs, and I hear Him say, “How I long for a friend with whom I can commune, and who will¬†worship Me and desire to commune with me–because he loves Me.” A few heavy sighs later, I see¬†His breath flowing into His new friend. He smiles and says, “It is very good.”

I follow Him…

…through a garden, where He walks and talks with man and woman. I see His despair¬†on the day He can’t find them because a veil of sin now separates Him from His new creation.¬†I watch as, in pain and desperation, He slays an animal to cover their nakedness and then uses the¬†animal’s blood to temporarily pierce sin’s veil, so He may commune once more with His friends.¬†I hear Him lament that all communication with mankind will now be strife for Him because of sin,¬†but He loves them, and He will not give it up. He will never leave nor forsake them.

I follow Him…

…to His drawing board and see His plans for a temple in Heaven and its counterpart on¬†earth. I also see plans for an ark; a covenant; splitting a sea; how blood sacrifice should work and¬†why it doesn’t; and a way to bring Perfect Blood before the Heavenly altar and permanently destroy¬†the veil of sin.

I follow Him…

…to Bethlehem on a star-lit night; to a carpenter’s shop; to a temple service; to a¬†wedding in Cana and a pool in Bethesda.

I follow Him…

…now to another garden. In this one, called Gethsemane, His flesh and Spirit wrestle. I hear Him pray¬†for my salvation–and yours. The flesh bleeds, but the Spirit prevails. I watch as His¬†betrayer kisses Him … and then flees with Perfect Blood on his lips.

I follow Him…

…to the judgment hall and the whipping post.

I follow Him…

…to the death stake: where Perfect Blood stains the ground … the Centurion’s sword¬†… and the hands of His killers. I see a tomb where His body lays still while His Spirit¬†descends into Hell to take the keys of death and forever deliver His creation–His friends–from¬†bondage. As He returns to His tomb, I watch as His Spirit awakens His body with the dawning of a¬†3rd-day’s sun.

I follow Him…

…as He comforts those who grieve at His tomb, makes Himself known to disciples¬†walking a lonely road to Emmaus, and fills the nets of forlorn fishermen. I hear Him tell of a¬†Comforter. Soon, I watch as He ascends in a cloud back to Heaven, where He goes to prepare a place for me–and for all who love Him. I see that, even today, He works in Heaven’s Holy Temple as our High Priest continuously offering His Perfect Blood to atone for our sins.*

I follow Him…

…because I love Him and desire to commune with Him. He makes a way because He¬†loves me and desires to commune with me. And someday, with the sounds of a trumpet and a¬†shout, He will split the skies and call His people to come home. And then…

…I will follow Him for eternity!

*Hebrews 6:19-20

October 18, 2013 Posted by | Devotion, Poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Covenant Only God Could Keep


We have a long reading today from Genesis 15:7 through Genesis 17:6, and that means it is¬†harder for me to boil it down–especially since it has two important story parts. I will focus this post on the first part, from Chapter 15, where we have a ceremony between God and Abram that most people likely read through without realizing its significance. To understand the importance of this ceremony, I first need to tell you about the meaning of the “Blood Covenant” which is what is being performed here in what is now known as the “Abrahamic Covenant” or “Covenant of the Pieces.” It’s one of my favorite Old Testament stories because it gives us a glimpse into the future promise fulfilled by Jesus.

In a blood covenant, the sacrificial animals are cut in two pieces as a representation of the two parties or sides who are¬†making the covenant. If either party breaks his agreement, the penalty is to pay in blood. At Wikipedia, I found an article explaining biblical¬†covenants, and the writer there states it this way… “Covenants in biblical times were often sealed by severing an animal, with the implication that the party who breaks the covenant will suffer a similar fate. In Hebrew, the verb meaning to seal a covenant translates literally as “to cut”. It is presumed by Jewish scholars that the removal of the foreskin¬†symbolically represents such a sealing of the covenant.”

Now, here’s the understated thing about the covenant that I find very exciting: Each party walks through the pieces to symbolize his own keeping of the promise. This was a covenant between Abram (representing mankind) and God (representing Himself), and we see that before Abram was able to walk through, God put him to sleep. Both a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared in the midst of the pieces, which means that God Himself walked through the pieces as both man and God. By doing this, He promised that He would pay the price in blood if either side of the covenant was violated.

We know that God keeps His promises, but we also know that He understands the ways of man and knew we would not keep ours. That means He planned from way back to shed His own blood. Acts 20:28 says, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God¬†which He purchased with His own blood.” (Italics mine.) Also, in 1 John 3:16a, the Bible says we know the love of God because He laid down His own life for us.

This was just a beginning of promises to Abram, who will be renamed to Abraham by the end of today’s reading, but I will cover the rest in a separate post due to the length of today’s post. For now though, it excites me¬†to know that His plans for us–and me–have always been to do whatever it takes to make sure He can spend eternity with those He loves. He does this in spite of our rebellious behaviors and our rejection of Him. I guess that’s why in John 15:13-14, Jesus told the disciples that there is no greater love than that where a person would lay down his life for his¬†friends. And then He called them His friends. Halleluyah! We have been granted the greatest love if only we accept it.

October 17, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thanks A “Lot”


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweet Aroma


This is my first post from my phone app since I know I will not get home on time. I’m thankful I have this option.

Now, to continue on with the story of Noah. In today’s reading from¬†Genesis 8:15 through Genesis 9:7, he and all living things from the ark are finally getting to come out and restart life on earth.¬†I don’t imagine life trapped inside the ark for almost a year was pleasant. Yet, the first thing Noah did when he exited the ark was to build an altar and give an offering to the One who saved him and his family. There’s no record of what Noah thanked God for, but I imagine it was an extensive list. If I were Noah, just some items from my list would be…

  • Thank You for looking at me with grace;
  • Thank You for saving me from destruction;
  • Thank You for being my Provider and sustaining me for all those months;
  • Thank You for saving my family;
  • Thank You that I know You Yahveh Almighty.

Whatever Noah thanked God for, that smell of his thankful offering went up as a sweet aroma to God and was pleasing to Him. And I believe that¬†sweet aroma was more about the offering of thanksgiving that came from Noah’s heart and mouth than it was from anything that burned upon the fire. I believe this because of the new testament verses that tell us that the sacrifice of our praise goes up as a sweet-smelling aroma to God. I can compare this to how I respond to the smell of something grilling on a barbecue. Even when I’ve just eaten and am full, I could sit downwind of the aroma of a barbecue and just enjoy it as it wafts in my direction. If our praise smells even close to that good to God, no wonder He is enthroned on the praises of His people.

October 8, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merciful God from the Beginning


Not only was I out and about after reading today’s portion from Genesis 3:22 through 4:26 (end of chapter 4), I was driving, so I couldn’t do the entry from my phone app as I intended to do on days when I’m running. I just got home and looked at the clock, so time is short, which means I’ll have to keep this short. But I’m determined to make my best effort to write every day.

Yesterday, the Scripture ended with man and woman knowing they were naked and sewing fig leaves together to cover themselves. And then God shed the first blood to cover them completely. It was only after I began studying the Hebrew roots of my faith and falling in love with the old testament that I saw God in a new and merciful light, and this is the first place I saw Him that way. I had always believed in God as the “Big Meanie” in the old testament who got nice when He robed Himself in flesh in the new testament. But now, I see Him wanting to visit with Adam and Eve, and feeling pain because of the sin that has now divided them. Scripture says that for God, associating with the flesh is “strife” ( see Genesis 6:3), and He will not have it that way forever.

So, here is God with the new creation, the ones He called “very good,” and it’s hurting Him to even visit with them. What does He do? He causes Himself a bit more pain by slaying yet another of that which He has created, so the blood can temporarily cover the sin and allow Him to fellowship with them once more. I believe He hurt over killing that animal even more than most animal lovers would hurt. I don’t think it was a small thing for Him with that sacrifice or any sacrifice He demanded later. But it was a necessary sacrifice in order for God to participate in the lives of those He made in His very own image.

As this reading begins, we have God setting up angels to guard the “Tree of Life” to make sure that mankind cannot touch it and eat and live forever. That is a huge act of mercy because had they eaten from that tree after being in the sinful state caused by their eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would have been doomed to live in that terrible state forever. Imagine having a front row seat to all the darkness and evil in the world and having to sit and watch it forever. That would have been their fate if God had not intervened with His mercy. Yahveh God purposely caused the knowledge of evil to shorten their lives, so they would not have to live forever in hopelessness. Not only is that a great mercy from Him, it is still only the beginning of what He would do to give hope and a future to those who love Him. Amazing!

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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