Crystal Writes A Blog

A Place to Read What "Crystal-Writes"

Over the Rainbow Across the Sea


Rainbow Over the Atlantic by Flickr User Nemossos, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Rainbow Over the Atlantic by Flickr User Nemossos, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Do you ever wish the laws of God were easier to follow? Does it sometimes feel like pleasing God is a pie-in-the-sky goal that is as unreachable as a pot of gold, over the rainbow and across the sea? I think we have all felt, at one time or another, that staying in step with His commandments was unattainable. Sometimes, we look in the mirror of His word, and we feel like failures. If we’re not careful, we’ll let that feeling push us in a direction close to giving up. But don’t give up. In God’s word, we have promises that He will never give up on us: His mercies are new for us every morning, and He will never leave or forsake us. No matter what we have done, His arm is not too short to reach down into the miry clay and lift us out.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 30:11 through Deuteronomy 30:14, God speaks to Israel through Moses and explains just how attainable following His commandments can be. It’s short enough that I’ll paste it here and let you read it for yourselves…

For this mitzvah which I am giving you today is not too hard for you, it is not beyond your reach. It isn’t in the sky, so that you need to ask, “Who will go up into the sky for us, bring it to us and make us hear it, so that we can obey it?” Likewise, it isn’t beyond the sea, so that you need to ask, “Who will cross the sea for us, bring it to us and make us hear it, so that we can obey it?” On the contrary, the word is very close to you — in your mouth, even in your heart; therefore, you can do it!

We can do it! We can please God and keep His commandments (mitzvot). We can walk in a way that lifts Him up above our fleshly desires, so that He can use us to draw other men to Himself. And that’s the key. If we keep the two commandments upon which, as Yeshua told us, hang all the other laws, it will mean we keep the whole law. If we love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength, we will desire Him more than we desire sin. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will desire their salvation like we desire our own.

We are told in 1 John 5:3-4 that God’s commandments are not burdensome or grievous. I love the way these verses read in the Easy to Read Bible version…

Loving God means obeying his commands. And God’s commands are not too hard for us, because everyone who is a child of God has the power to win against the world.

Everyone means everyone, and to everyone is the promise that we can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength and power to please Him, so we can keep His commandments. God’s commands are not standing on golden sands beyond the sea, waiting for us to sail to them. They’re not somewhere over the rainbow evading us until we fly up to get them. God says His commandments are in our mouths and even in our hearts. We’re born with His direction in the depths of our being, but–from the beginning–the flesh wants to steal it. That battle between spirit and flesh is first done by the discipline of our parents whose job is to drive foolishness far away from us, and then we take over. Even though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak, so we can use the tool spoken of by King David in Psalm 119:11

Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You. (NKJV)

Serving God, loving God, loving our neighbor, and keeping God’s ways in our hearts is a gift all of us can receive every day. We can receive it in prayer, and we can receive it by studying God’s holy word. If you’re reading the Scriptures in this blog, you’ve already begun. 🙂

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

Shotgun Wedding


Shotgun Wedding by Flickr User Matthew C Wright, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Shotgun Wedding by Flickr User Matthew C Wright, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I once witnessed a shotgun wedding, and it was pretty funny. It wasn’t the usual case where a woman is pregnant and her father uses a shotgun to make sure the father of the baby will “do the right thing,” but all parties involved got the message. Of course, I only got to see the video tape because I was not a store employee, but they captured the event quite well. The store employees at the K-Mart store in Kingman, Arizona, had a great relationship with their managers and with each other, so they all pulled together for a unique wedding event that involved all of them. Here’s how it went…

Early one morning, a manager showed up for work as usual and was met with a shotgun and a tuxedo. They took him to the back of the store and informed him that he would be representing K-Mart “upper echelon” in a marriage ceremony. My Aunt Shirley was the bride who represented all non-management employees, dubbed “lower echelon” on the marriage certificate. She is one of the few people that could get away with something like that. With a shotgun behind him, the managing groom made vows detailing how management would treat employees from that day forward, and the employee bride made vows detailing how employees would be faithful and respectful all the days of their employment.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 22:8 through Deuteronomy 23:7 (23:6 in versions other than Complete Jewish Bible), Moses issues some more common sense rulings for living at peace in the new land of Israel’s inheritance. He begins by instructing the people to build low walls around the roofs of their houses to keep people from falling off. Then, he explains problems with planting two types of seeds between vine rows or weaving two types of material into cloth, or plowing with an ox and donkey together. None of those ideas will work as smoothly as people might hope.

The next parts of the reading all concern sexual acts, so I recommend reading them yourself, but I’ll give a quick summary. If a man suddenly decides he’s no longer in love and tries to get out of a marriage by saying his wife wasn’t a virgin, then if the man is proven to be lying, he is not allowed to divorce the woman and must pay a fine for publicly humiliating a virgin of Israel. If a man sleeps with a woman who is married to another man, they are both to be stoned. (Yeshua could’ve written this verse in the dirt when the men brought only the woman caught in adultery.) If a man rapes an engaged woman and she doesn’t cry out, they are both killed, but if she does cry out and no one hears her, only he dies. If he rapes an unengaged woman, he is sentenced to marry her and never file for divorce.

That last one is my favorite because I can imagine the scenario with guys blaming a woman for how she’s dressed and how he couldn’t help himself. I see the lonely woman admitting to provocative clothing and then winking when the judge sentences them both to marriage. There were likely situations where the guys wished for imprisonment instead, and I think this is God’s idea of a shotgun wedding and includes a bit of His sense of humor even though it’s not a humorous situation.

What would be the last verse of Chapter 22 is the first of Chapter 23 in the CJB (and he explains his reasoning for these differences in the front of the Complete Jewish Bible), and it reminds men they are never to take their father’s wife. From there, it gives a list of those who cannot enter into the assembly of The Lord, including a man with damaged private parts, a man with no father, or any Ammonite or Moabite because they would not care for the children of Israel when they passed through their land. Oh, and because they hired Balaam to try and destroy them too. Because of these things, God says for them not to seek their peace or wellbeing for as long as they live.

When I read that last part, I became concerned because of knowing that Yeshua’s genealogy contained Ruth the Moabitess. If they were never allowed in The Lord’s assembly, that could create quite a problem. I made a guess and was correct that the lineage in question was in Joseph’s line, so Yeshua had no Moabite blood in Him. This may actually be another reason God chose to overshadow Miriam (Mary) to create the “Unique Son” that is Our Messiah. God would never violate His own commandments, even if someone were standing over Him with a shotgun. 🙂

August 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Box of Words


Magnetic Poetry Created Online by Crystal A Murray

Magnetic Poetry Created Online by Crystal A Murray
Click image to open a new tab/window to go make your own poem at the Magnetic Poetry(TM) online site.

Whether it’s song lyrics, simple rhymes, or silly parodies, I have always liked to write poetry. I learned when I taught a lesson during National Poetry Month (April of each year) that I can put out some rhythm and rhyme without even taking much thought, so it must be one of those natural gifts. I struggle a little more when I play with my refrigerator magnets because I want all the articles and proper verb tenses and such, but sometimes, the struggle to work with only what’s available stirs my creativity in a different way. If you like playing with words, be sure to click on the image above to visit the online site for Magnetic Poetry(TM) where you can build and share some of your own creations.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 10:1 through Deuteronomy 10:11, we’ll read as Moses gives details on the story of God giving him the covenant on stone tablets. Yesterday, it mentioned the entire covenant, so I thought it might be more than what we call The Ten Commandments, but today it lists what Moses receives as “The Ten Words,” so I guess maybe that is all that was on them.

Moses begins with God giving him the command to cut two stone tablets like the first ones he broke. Then God tells him to build an ark (basically, a box) out of acacia wood before he comes up on the mountain. Timeline wise, I tried to determine if this is the same ark that will be stored in The Holy of Holies and covered with gold, and since it’s called The Ark of the Covenant, I guess it’s the same one. I just never realized that it was Moses who built it originally. Anyway, Moses obeys and after God inscribes the new tablets, Moses brings them back down the mountain and puts them in the ark. He tells the people that they remain there to the day he speaks with them.

Moses then tells the people of Israel’s travels. He shares the journey to where Aaron died and was buried, and he tells of Aaron’s son, Eleazar, taking over as high priest. He talks of traveling to a place filled with streams called “Gudgod” which other translations list as “Gudgodah.” To me, it sounds like the words could mean “Good God,” and maybe were a place where the people named it in honor of God’s goodness to them. He does share that this is the place where God assigns the Levites to carry the ark for the covenant and to stand before God to serve Him and bless Him. He tells them that The Lord is Levi’s inheritance, and that’s why he has no possession among his brothers.

As he speaks to Israel, Moses reminds them of God’s desire to destroy the people for their rebellion, but he tells them of how God listened to him as before and agreed to spare them. And then God tells Moses to go back down the mountain, so he can lead the people to the land He promised to their ancestors.

I love the part in verse ten where Moses says The Lord listened to him. Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine with all God has to keep an eye on–and an ear out for, that He could actually find time to listen to each one of us, but He does. Of course, while God does hear us as we holler from the bottoms of some of the pits we get ourselves into, something tells me He is more attentive when we do like Moses and make our way up closer to Him. I notice that Moses listened to God before he spoke to Him, and I see Moses going into God’s presence with reverence and an obedient spirit.

See, we’re not just a box of words that God put on this earth to play with when He gets bored. We are a testimony written in such a way as to glorify God and lift Him up, so that all men can be drawn to Him. We may seem like a jumbled mess while we toss around trying to do things our own way, but I believe God has a plan to use every moment of our lives to bring glory and honor to Him. If we seek and search for Him with all our hearts, and if we humble ourselves before Him, He will rewrite the mess we’ve made. We have His promise in Romans 8:28 that ALL things work together for good, so we can trust that He will take our jumbled up days and moments and pull them together as a beautiful letter (hand-written and edited by God Himself) for all men to read and find His mercy, grace, and love.

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

Scared of a Little Leaf


Dried Leaves by My Sister & Flickr User Candiece Nelson, CC License = Attribution

Dried Leaves by My Sister & Flickr User Candiece Nelson, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

You’re walking down a country road at dusk. No one is around, and the only sounds you hear are the birds and the light rustle of the breeze blowing through the trees. All at once you hear a loud crunch, and you jump and start running. You never look back to see that it was simply a loose branch that fell into a pile of dried leaves left over from winter.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 26:10 through Leviticus 26:46 (the end of the chapter), we will see what might make a whole community of people jump and run at the sound of a leaf. The reading actually starts with a paragraph of promises. God tells Israel they will have such an abundant harvest, they will need to throw away food from last year to make room for this year’s harvest. He says He will put His tabernacle among them and not reject them, and that He will be their God, and they will be His people. He reminds them how He broke the bars of the yoke of slavery from Egypt, so they could be free and walk upright before Him.

But the remaining paragraphs paint a grim picture for those who do not want to keep the laws and commands of Him who set them free. God basically says, (in paraphrase), “Because you do not value the freedom I’ve given you, and you do not honor Me for giving you that freedom, I’m going to show you a life of what it’s like to live without the peace and true freedom of My presence.”

The warnings are numerous. God tells Israel that if they reject His covenant and worship other gods, He will bring terror upon them. The terror will be so bad that the sound of a driven leaf will frighten them. More than once He tells them that they will flee when no one is chasing them, and they will stumble and fall as if they are running from the sword. In addition to terror, He will bring them wasting disease and sickness that saps their strength. And He promises them the opposite of the promise of harvest when He says they will plant seeds, but their enemies will eat the crops.

A few different times in the reading, He breaks to say something like, “If these things don’t make you listen to me…,” and concludes with a warning of punishments that are seven times worse. Those worse punishments include such things as not being satisfied with bread, cities laid to waste, desolation of lands, and the inability to rest. (Unfortunately, this sounds like many metropolitan areas in the United States.) He goes on to warn them that when He turns His face against them, they will eat the flesh of their own children.

Finally, however, He tells them that if the uncircumcised in heart will humble themselves and turn to Him, and confess their sins and the sins of the ancestors, He will remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even though the lands they left will lie desolate without them, He will not forsake them while they dwell in the lands of their enemies, and He will not loathe them to the point of breaking His covenant with them. Instead, He promises that, for their sakes, He will remember the covenants He has with His people.

There is so much more in the actual reading, but it’s hard to read because the warnings are so grievous. I can hear the pain of a Creator who gave His children everything only to have it completely rejected. His laws are not grievous, but the breaking of them certainly can be.

For each of us who has been delivered from our own Egypt–from the bondage of slavery to our sins or ways of living that did not glorify our Creator, we have the promises of His covenant with us no matter what land we now dwell in. And because He paid the debt we owed for that deliverance with the blood of Yeshua, that covenant has been sealed for us forever. We have the greatest peace and the least fear when we walk according to His life-giving laws instead of walking according to the ways of the flesh where there are no good promises. We can choose to fear a loving God, and let that fear keep us fenced in on a land of spiritual prosperity, or we can reject God and end up in some desolate place where even the sound of a leaf can startle a man to death.

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

Grace that Teaches Hearts to Fear


Fractalized Cross & Skyline by Flickr User David Gunter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Fractalized Cross & Skyline by Flickr User David Gunter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image (minus text & frame) and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

The second verse of the song, Amazing Grace, says…

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

In today’s reading from Exodus 20:15 through Exodus 20:23 (verses 18-26 in translations other than CJB), we see the people trembling at God’s presence on Mt. Sinai. The people are so afraid, they ask Moses to go talk to God alone and leave them out of it. But Moses tells them not to fear and explains that God only brings them fear to make them afraid to sin.

I guess we could compare this to all the dramatic stories parents tell their kids to keep them in line. You don’t really want the child to think there’s a scary snake in your closet that will attack and bite if the child opens the door; you just don’t want the child to peek in and see his Christmas presents before he unwraps them. The difference with God is that He can teach fear with truth instead of making up scary stories, but His purpose is still the same.

God’s word says the fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom (see Psalm 111:10). His laws can bring fear but only because of the price of breaking them. Even if we resist doing God’s will because we want things our own way, we fear disobeying because we don’t want to pay the cost. But God is okay with that because our fear protects us from living with the wages of sin. If we are afraid to rob a bank, we won’t have to risk the price of being shot in the act–or caught and imprisoned. That’s why 1 John 5:3 says (in paraphrase) that loving God means keeping His commandments, but keeping His commandments is not grievous or burdensome.

In the final paragraph of this week’s portion, God has Moses remind the people that because they have seen how He can come down and speak with them from Heaven, they have no need to create gods of silver and gold and worship them as if they are Yahveh. He tells them that if they wish to build an altar to Him, they should create it out of the earth. He does not want it created with tools because that would defile it by changing it from its natural state. And He does not want them to build steps to go up to it because it would make the people indecently uncovered.

Yahveh does not want the people (or us) building things and lifting them up as if they have power. That’s what they learned from those who worship false gods. Our God is personal and does not need a statue or cathedral to represent His majesty. And when it comes to earth, which I believe represents people, God wants our hearts as His altar. And I don’t believe He wants any of us to use some “cookie cutter” tools on ourselves in an effort to look like a better sacrifice. He wants us to yield whoever we are to His laws and His will to avoid the penalties of sin, but He knew even as He spoke to these people that The Perfect Sacrifice was on its way and would keep us from paying the ultimate price for sin–that being eternal death. The grace of God’s law creates fear that sets us free from having to fear death.

January 24, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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