Crystal Writes A Blog

A Place to Read What "Crystal-Writes"

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

Not Some Old Fantasy


Fantasy by Flickr User Pier-Luc Bergeron, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Fantasy by Flickr User Pier-Luc Bergeron, CC License = Attribution, 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.

Imagine a fairy tale where each thing the villain tries to do to the hero gets repaid with exactly the same devious scheme against the villain instead of against the innocent victim. Sleeping Beauty’s spinning wheel pricks the finger of the witch as she is setting it up for her. Snow White trips and her poisoned apple flies up in the air and hits the queen right in the mouth–poison side in. Cinderella’s mean step-sisters come in to demand more service and slip on the newly waxed floor only to land face first in a pile of cinders and ash, dirtying their ball gowns. Admit it, a part of you likes the idea of people being bested by their own worst intentions. We all love vigilantes who bring justice by making the bad guys, who think they can get away with anything, pay a price for their own bad behaviors. And it’s even better when that price means drinking their own poison.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 19:14 through Deuteronomy 20:9, we will see that God likes to hold up a mirror in the face of those who plan evil against the innocent. The first word from God that Moses gives Israel is for them to leave the landmarks in place when they move into their inherited lands. And then Moses reminds them that the word of one witness is not enough to convict a person in a “he said–she said” case. And then, as if Moses was thinking, “And, speaking of witnesses…,” he goes on to tell them what to do in the case of a false witness.

When a controversy involves two people, both are to stand before The Lord, the high priest, and the judges at the time. If it turns out that one testimony is false, and the witness has malicious intent to harm the innocent, then whatever the false witness requested be done to the intended victim will be done to him instead. It’s sort of like Haman being hung on his own gallows. The community is not to show pity, but to act out exactly as the person who willed harm would have done–an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, etc.

At the chapter change, Moses begins talking to the soldiers to prepare them for battle against those who currently reside in Israel’s inherited land. First, he encourages them that if an army comes against them that seems bigger and stronger, they should not let it create fear in them. They can trust that The Lord will go before them to fight for them and give them victory.

Moses then tells the military leaders to talk to all who show up to fight and ask them questions to weed out those who may have other life issues to deal with. He says if they have built a home and not yet lived in it, planted a vineyard and not yet harvested it, or proposed to a bride and not yet married her, they should go home instead of fighting the war. Otherwise, Moses tells them, someone else may live in their new home, drink from their vineyard, or marry their bride. Once those men are sent home, Moses says to also send home any who are fearful or fainthearted, so they will not demoralize their fellow soldiers. When all that is done, they can select commanders.

I love how perfectly God orders things. He doesn’t tell the community leaders to select army commanders until all the unprepared soldiers are sent home. He knows that those who are afraid will not bring strength and courage to those under their command. He also knows that those whose minds are on new homes or waiting fiancées will not be effective commanders in battles that need their full heart and attention. His word tells us in Luke 14:26 that unless we are willing to make everything currently in our lives less important than God, we cannot be His disciples. We can love Him, but we can’t effectively work for Him.

God’s ways of dealing with harmful intentions, protecting the innocent, strengthening His armies, and creating a perfect society without all the chaos we see these days are not fantasy. His mercy gives us the chance to live a perfect life in eternity, but because of those who abuse His longsuffering and mercy, we must deal with a world of chaos first. When He gave instructions for dealing with bad intentions, or those who harm the innocent, He instructed the community to deal with them immediately, as a deterrent to future occurrences. God knows that we cannot have peace as long as people think they can get away with intentionally hurting others.

If anything qualifies as fantasy, the idea of peace without God’s perfect rule definitely does. The flesh is unruly and selfish. It takes focus on God and not ourselves to bring an end to the war of my way versus your way. Self-centered motivations will always create chaos, but God-centered motivations will bring true peace. God’s word is not just some old fantasy, and neither is His promise of a happy ending in eternity. I hope to see you there.

P.S. I couldn’t find a video for the ApologetiX song whose title, Not Some Old Fantasy, I used for this post. Click the title for a link to the lyrics at the site. It’s a parody of Rock and Roll Fantasy by “Bad Company.”

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

You Talk Too Much…For a Horse


1962 Studebaker Lark Skytop Hardtop on Set of Mr. Ed TV Show by Flickr User Alden Jewell, CC License = Attribution

1962 Studebaker Lark Skytop Hardtop on Set of Mr. Ed TV Show by Flickr User Alden Jewell, 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.

How about starting with some trivia tonight? First, what’s the name of the horse in the pictured TV show? And do you remember the name of his humans? How about this: what trick did they use to get the horse to “talk” on command? I’ll give you the answers in the comments tomorrow, or you can click on the picture and read the comments at Flickr to find out the names of the actors and their characters. Oh, but I will tell you the trick for the horse’s mouth movements. I’ve heard they used peanut butter, but I’ve also heard they used chewing gum.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 11:10 through Deuteronomy 11:21, we will read about good times to talk too much. We begin with Moses talking about gardening in the new land. He tells the community of Israel that the new land won’t be like Egypt where they had to use their feet to run the irrigation systems. (And now I’m curious and want to know the history of Egyptian irrigation. 🙂 ) In the new land, because of the hills and valleys, the ground will absorb the rain more easily. Plus, God has His eye on this land and gives it rain to bring forth more vegetation. He wants the land and the people to be prosperous.

Moses then shares the promises of God that if the people will keep all of God’s laws, He will give the land its rain in the right seasons, including the extra rains in early fall and late spring. These rains will help bring in plentiful wheat, new wine, olive oil, and grass for the livestock. In this same promise, however, is the warning that if the people turn aside to worship other gods, Yahveh Almighty will shut up the sky, and there will be no rain. If that happens, the ground will not yield its produce, and the people will quickly perish in the land.

So Moses tells them to store up all the good words of God in their minds and hearts. They are to talk about them when they get up in the morning and when they go to sleep at night. They should discuss them when they sit down at dinner. Moses advises them to bind them on their hands and foreheads, and he says for them to write them on their door frames and gate posts. He says to diligently teach them to their children, and to talk of them while at home and while traveling. Remembering the laws of God will help both these people and their children to live long in the land that The Lord promised to their ancestors as a possession for as long as their is sky above the earth.

You know who wouldn’t be accused of not talking about it enough? Mr. Ed. (Oops, I gave you another answer.) Mr. Ed loved to talk even when no one was listening. And when he couldn’t get his human host to hang around the barn long enough, he would just make a phone call and talk to someone. He loved to talk.

I was reading all these places where Moses was telling the people to talk, and I imagined myself getting up in the morning to talk about God, speaking to my husband about Him before bed, and talking to the boys around the dinner table. And then I imagined them all saying, “Aunt Crystal, you talk too much.” I have been accused of talking about God too much, but He is the center of my universe, so I just can’t help it. The days when stress tries to pull my thoughts and words away from Him are my hardest days. Oh, but those days when I think about Him, sing about Him and to Him, and take moments (many moments) to tell others about Him; those are my best days.

Mr. Ed (or actually his voice actor) spoke from a script. Well, so do I. My script is Scripture, and it tells me to talk about God every chance I get. My Heavenly Father loves to be remembered and praised, and He has done more than enough to be worthy of that. He wants all of us thinking about Him and talking about Him from morning to night.

Just imagine if we focused our talk directly on The Creator instead of on His creations. We talk about Him more than we talk about His people. We praise Him more than we praise His miracles or great works. We uplift what He has already done more than we beg Him to do more for us. We humble ourselves and desire Him as we talk of how pleasant it is to keep His word in our hearts, thoughts, and actions. We cherish His presence. He has promised that if He is lifted up above the earth (first on the cross, now above all our ways here on earth), He will draw all men to Himself. If all men were to turn to Him instead of false gods or doing things their own way, I don’t think even horses could talk too much about the wonderful ways our world would change.

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

This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You


Our Great Niece, Elie, in Tombstone (AZ) Jail by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved

Our Great Niece, Elie, in Tombstone (AZ) Jail by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access my full photo stream at Flickr.

Did your parents ever tell you that whatever punishment they were about to give was going to hurt them more than it hurt you? I know mine did, and I never believed them until I had to play the parent role. Whether the punishment was to sit in the corner, or something bigger like taking away a favorite toy or object, having to dish out any kind of pain to someone we care about causes us immense sadness even when we know it’s for the good of the one receiving it. Even with the above photo showing my great niece in a fake jail, seeing the sadness on her face is painful even knowing she was doing as she was told and making a sad face for the picture. There’s just something inside of us that does not like to cause pain to others–especially when those others are people we love.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 3:23 through Deuteronomy 4:4, we begin a new week and a new Torah portion. Our week’s Parashah is number 45 titled Va’etchanan in Hebrew and meaning “I Pleaded” in English. We begin with Moses pleading with God about His decision to keep Moses out of The Promised Land. Moses begins with praise, telling God how he is just now learning how truly great He is and how mighty his works are. He asks God to please let him cross the Jordan River and see the wonderful country and Lebanon.

Moses then tells the people how angry God is with him because of them, and he says God will not listen to his pleas. Instead, God tells Moses to be quiet about it and not talk to Him anymore on the subject. He tells Moses to go up to Mount Pisgah and when he gets there, he will need to make sure he can see north, south, east and west. God promises Moses he can look with his eyes, but he absolutely will not be allowed to cross the Jordan.

God tells Moses to encourage Joshua as the new leader of Israel because he will lead them into the new land. Moses explains this and goes on to remind them to listen to all the laws and rulings he is teaching them because the laws will enable Israel to live long and to take possession of the land promised to their ancestors. He tells them not to add anything to what he is saying, and not to subtract anything from what he has told them, and then he reminds them of what God did at Ba’al Peor and how God destroyed all who followed the false god, Ba’al Peor. But God spared all those who chose to follow only Him, and Moses reminded them how every single one of them who followed The Lord was still alive and ready to enter the promise.

Somehow, without the Scripture actually saying it, it seems I could hear the pain in God’s words to Moses about no longer bringing up his desire to cross over. Even though it says God was angry, it was more like, “Enough, Moses. This is hurting me more than it is hurting you. I want you to cross over, but I must keep my word because I am The Lord and I change not. Now get up to the mountain where you can see everything, and don’t bring this up to me anymore because it hurts me too much to discuss it.” And the fact that Moses joined Yeshua and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration would appear to line up with the fact that Moses did go to Heaven even if he didn’t get to go into The Promised Land.

I imagine that even now, in order to show us mercy and keep us from being lost in our sins, when God has to send us some kind of painful “wake-up call,” it still hurts Him to do it. Because no sin can enter the Heavenly realm, He must push us toward a place of repentance where we will let go of our sins and willingly cast them under the blood of Yeshua. It’s not about how big or little the sins are, and it’s not about how many good deeds we do in this life to try and make up for any evil we have done, it’s about turning away from the ways of the flesh that seem right to a man and totally surrendering to the will of God. When we do that, we become dead to self and all things become new, so we can enter Heaven washed and clean. Then, God will say, “Well done, my true and faithful servant. It was worth the pain and suffering I had to bring to be able to spend eternity with you dwelling in the fullness of my presence and joy.”

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

Vinnie, Vidal, and Vickie


Veni Vidi Vici by Flickr User Boldly Wanderlust, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Veni Vidi Vici by Flickr User Boldly Wanderlust, 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.

Vinnie the travel-planner did a good job at getting from point A to point B, but he often left before he took time to really see anything. He went away almost as fast as he came to any destination. He was the kind of person for whom they write things like stop and smell the roses.

Vidal the photographer, however, was quite the opposite. He stopped, saw, looked at, admired, and smelled…and smelled…and smelled the roses. He liked to linger over things of beauty, and he was never ready when Vinnie set off to yet another new location. So, Vidal got Vinnie to stop just a little longer, and Vinnie kept Vidal moving at an energetic pace.

Vinnie and Vidal needed each other, but they also needed Vickie the tour guide because she was the one who made sure they took care of whatever business they originally set out to accomplish. Vickie helped both of her traveling companions conquer their “to do” lists. Together, the three of them came, saw, and conquered a magazine full of journalistic endeavors.

The End.

I had to come up with a quick fiction story to head us off because today’s reading from Numbers 34:16 through Numbers 34:29 only gives us a couple of sentences of action and then a list of the names of tribal leaders that Moses put in charge of taking possession of the land and of dividing the inheritance among the people. Eleazar the high priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, were the primary leaders. After that, each tribe had a specific leader appointed to go, see, and conquer the land of Canaan for Israel.

So, there’s not some deep spiritual lesson in a list of leaders, but in the fact that we need leaders, and we need each other, for any important task is always a good lesson to remember. Even the Latin victory chant would sound incomplete if we only said, “Vici!” (We conquered!) Most of us are so accustomed to the claim of Veni, Vidi, Vici (we came, we saw, we conquered) that we know what it means even if we don’t really knowing what it means. The image above comes from a restaurant by that name, so they gambled on most guests knowing enough to trust it would be a winning cuisine.

Many of the images I found while searching for that phrase were of people standing in some type of dominant or winning position. They stood on mountain tops and in front of tall buildings to show their successes in travel or physical endurance. Because we’re reading the Bible from this point in history, we know Israel will be successful, so we may not even think of the internal battles they had to overcome to get to their victory. But God was there with them then, and He is here with us now, so that we can boldly say, “The Lord is my Helper,” and when we reach our points of success with Him by our side, we too can shout, “Veni, Vidi, Vici.”

July 15, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Immigration and Border Security


Horse Patrol on Texas border by Flickr User U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP Photography), CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Horse Patrol on Texas border by Flickr User U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP Photography), CC License = Attribution, 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.

As a little girl of maybe two or three, I would reach for a forbidden item, draw back my hand, slap it with my other hand, and firmly tell myself, “No.” From the stories I’ve been told, this bit of cuteness was a result of early childhood training from my Aunt Shirley. When I was born, she told people she would not “child proof” her home because she felt it was more important to train me how to behave in her home than to change her home to adapt to my behavior. It worked then, and it works now. I’m a firm believer in treating the homes and property of others with the utmost respect, and I think it’s important to teach everyone to care for those things that do not belong to them as if they’re made of fine china.

So this whole thing of illegal immigration has me confused as to why people would think it’s okay to come into our home and treat it with disrespect. We have laws for a reason. We have immigration and border laws for protection of not only the current occupants, but of any who would legally and respectfully become legal occupants. But with so many in this country not setting an example of respect and value, I suppose it’s pretty difficult to expect a stranger to show respect either.

In today’s reading from Numbers 33:50 through Numbers 34:15, we read about God’s preparation for the immigration of the community of Israel into the land of Canaan. The first thing to remember is that we live on this earth that God owns and has caused to reproduce for us, and too often we forget Him as we indulge in its benefits. The Canaanites lived as if there was no God, and instead they worshiped false gods and idols. Because of their disrespect, God had no problem taking what was rightfully His and willing it to His children. He said in other passages that even the earth itself would vomit out that type of disrespect.

As Israel prepares to take over the land, God has a set of plans to help them live there securely. God tells Moses to tell the people, the first requirement is to expel all the people currently living there. Next, Israel must destroy all the stone figures, metal statues, and high places built for false gods. God warns them that if they don’t drive out all the inhabitants, whoever is left will become like thorns in their eyes and stings in their sides as they harass them in the land where they are living. Beyond this, God says He will do to Israel what He has sworn to do to the Canaanites. There is no choice. The land must be cleansed.

The rest of the reading gives exact details about the borders of the land that is to belong to them and how they will divide it up. I don’t know biblical or current geography well enough to know what that means they should own now, but I’m certain they don’t have all that God willed to them. But there is something I noticed in the description. I read how one border runs along Egypt and another along the Jordan River, and I thought how like the Christian life that is. Egypt represents sin and slavery. Since we live in the flesh, we have a border along sin and the fleshly desires that kept us in bondage before Christ set us free. The Jordan often represents death, and that is also a border as we walk through this life never knowing exactly when we will be required to cross over. It’s up to us to protect our borders to keep sin out and to avoid crossing into death before our time.

We must remember that this world is not our home. It is a temporary dwelling place provided to us by Our Creator, and we need to respect this life even though it’s not permanent. While we’re here though, God’s word says to occupy it with life until He returns, so we need to protect our borders from the illegal immigration of evil spirits that would try to put us back in bondage. We have border fencing because God says His walls are called salvation. And, since His gates are called praise, we simply need to keep the fencing secure by remembering and uplifting God for all He does for us. Because He dwells within the praises of His people, we will have perfect border security.

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

Your Sin Will Find You Out


Everybody knows it will find you by Flickr User Jason Kuffer, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Everybody knows it will find you by Flickr User Jason Kuffer, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, 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.

A man decided to take a day off from work on September 11th, 2001, and meet his secret lover at a local hotel across town. In the meantime, a wife sees a news broadcast and hears the sirens, and she immediately fears for her husband’s safety. So, the fearful wife calls her husband who could be dead or in grave danger, but her husband answers the phone like nothing is wrong because he is not at work. When she asks if he is okay and starts asking about others he works with, the man chats about his coworkers like there are no problems because, in his morning tryst, he has missed the goings on in downtown Manhattan. He speaks about the office as if he is there, and that’s when the wife figures out that he’s not telling the truth.

Did the guy freak out once the wife told him what was going on? Did the wife divorce him once she figured out he was a lying cheater? I don’t know. Maybe the guy realized where he could’ve been if he wasn’t cheating and decided that God was giving him a second chance to do the right thing. Either way, when he left for his rendezvous, he would never have thought his sin would find him out in such a big and costly way. When people get caught in the moment a truth is revealed, they rarely react as if they expected it to happen. Whether it’s a bottle in the floor of the car at the scene of an accident, or lipstick on the collar, most cases of sin do eventually get discovered, and they are often discovered in embarrassing and public ways.

In today’s reading from Numbers 32:20 through Numbers 32:42 (the end of the chapter), we conclude another week and another Torah portion. This follows yesterday’s promise by the tribes of Gad and Reuben to fight for all of Israel while choosing to claim an inheritance of land outside The Promised Land where their brothers would be in Canaan. Moses comes back to them with an answer that if they will indeed fight for Israel as they have promised, God will authorize them to live in the land on the east side of the Jordan River, in Gilead, instead of Canaan with their brothers.

The authorization comes with a strong dose of warning, though. Moses tells the men that while God will allow what they have proposed, if they do not keep their word, God is watching and their sins will find them out. After the warning, Moses tells them to go ahead and build cities for their families and stables for their sheep, but then to go and do what they have said they would do.

The descendants of Gad and Reuben promise that every man who can fight will be armed and ready for war and will go over with Israel to battle as Moses has directed, so Moses takes the same word to Eleazar the high priest. Moses tells him that if the men go over to fight, they are to possess the land they desire, but if they refuse to fight, they are to take an inheritance in Canaan. And then Moses gave the land to the tribes requesting it plus to the half-tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph. And the tribes built cities in the lands where they had defeated enemy kings with God’s help.

I find it interesting that God gave the warning about their sins finding them out, and yet Moses made sure to say they would still have an inheritance even if they did not keep their word. God may not totally wipe us out just because we break a promise, but we may not get exactly what we were hoping for if we don’t keep the words we have given in exchange for our desires. If we tell God that we will do anything if He will just give us that dream job, then when He asks us to share our testimony with the meanest coworker there, we should keep our word if we want to keep our job in the way we want it. If not, maybe we won’t lose the job, but we may find things getting uncomfortable there, or we may get a new boss, or any number of things.

When we sin in secret and think we are getting away with it, or when we think our sins are no big deal, we need to know that God is watching and keeping a record. He says we will give an account for every idle word. And, yes, our sins will find us out, but that can be the greatest day of our lives if we use God’s findings to drive us to repent and change our ways, so our sins can be placed under the blood of Yeshua, and we can be free.

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Devil Went Down to Jordan


This title is from one of my favorite parodies by ApologetiX. Yeah, I know, I probably say that about almost all their videos I share, but they really are one of my favorite bands. I mean, where else can you hear the tunes you grew up with, Bible messages, praises to God, and have an altar call all in the same concert? I really respect their ministry, and my love for their music is just icing on the cake.

Today’s reading comes from Numbers 32:1 through Numbers 32:19, and begins with the descendants of Reuben and Gad speaking with Moses and Eleazar about their great quantities of livestock. They gather the community leaders together to present a proposition to them about the land The Lord conquered on the side of the Jordan River across from that which God has promised to Israel. They have noticed the land is perfect for all their cattle, so they are asking if it would be okay if they just took that land instead of having to cross over.

Moses gets pretty frustrated with these guys and begins to tell them the stories of their forefathers and why they wandered in the desert for forty years instead of inheriting their promise. He explains that what the men are asking right now is akin to the sins of their fathers that stirred up the anger of The Lord. He also explains how it is not right for them to just want their own provision and comfort in a land where the enemy has already been defeated only to let the rest of the tribes go across Jordan and have to fight for the land in which they will dwell.

The sons of Gad and Reuben get the message and present an alternate idea. They say they will go ahead and build stalls for their cattle and fortified cities for their women and children since they are not part of the armies anyway. All the fighting men will then join their brothers on the other side of the Jordan River and help them fight for their promise. They say they will not only march at the front of their armies, but they will continue to fight until the rest of Israel has taken possession of their inheritance. They claim, however, that their inheritance has fallen on the east side of the river.

At my first read-through of this, I couldn’t figure out why Moses would have gotten so angry at these men for wanting to stay across the river from their brothers. I was thinking it wasn’t very nice of them to want to split themselves off, but at the same time, if it made sense for their cattle, and it was an area they had fought for, I thought maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. It took me reading again to realize the problem wasn’t with the land as much as it was with the fact that their brothers helped them to fight for the land they now wanted. How dare they leave their brothers to fight alone just because they were now comfortable?

I guess it would be like being saved and only staying in touch with your church family and other Christians and leaving the lost to find their own way. Oh wait, too many people actually do that don’t they? I believe we call them “rabbit hole Christians” because they just go from one Christian rabbit hole to the next with no stops (in the “world”) in between. But we overcome the enemy by the word of our testimony because our testimony is what can win others to Our Savior. Don’t forget that your example in Yeshua (WWYD) is that He shared meals with tax collectors (known for their dishonesty) and sinners. Be willing to fight for the souls of others, and don’t let the devil walk into your “Jordan” (promise on this earth) and convince you to sit comfortably while the rest of the world goes to Hell.

P.S. I’m not certain how all the lands fall today, but I found an interesting site that talks of the boundaries of the promised land from God’s promise to today. Take a look at http://www.differentspirit.org/articles/boundaries.php and comment what you think about the Scripture reference from Joel at the bottom of the page. I think it means God is not very happy with those currently in charge of our country.

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

I Spy Games


Spies by Flickr User Hope Abrams, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Spies by Flickr User Hope Abrams, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, 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.

I spy with my little eye, something giant. Traveling is the most fun when you have people to travel with, and even more fun when you play travel games together. When hubby and I traveled with the boys, we played games like “I Spy,” “A to Z” where you have to find something beginning with all the letters in the alphabet, and any variety of word association games. Hubby and I still like to play the one where each person says the next thing that comes to mind from the previous person’s word or statement, and we don’t even wait for long trips to be an excuse to play.

In today’s reading from Numbers 13:21 through Numbers 14:7, we’ve got the leaders from yesterday’s reading actually in The Land of Canaan to spy it out for God’s people to move in. They ran their recon mission from the wilderness of Zin to the entrance of Hamath, and then up into the south desert of Hebron. When they got there, they saw the wonderful fruit of the land of Eshcol (meaning “cluster”), and they cut a cluster of grapes so large it had to be carried on the shoulders of two men.

But then they spied the inhabitants of the land. Of course, giant fruit means giant people to eat it, right? They saw the sons of Anak who were likely descended from Nephilim (giants that were said to be half angels and half men), and they suddenly felt like grasshoppers by comparison. But God only sent them there to look at things, not to compare themselves until they saw themselves as too small to make a difference. Hmm, I wonder if I have ever done that? 🙂

Now they get back to Moses, and they begin to tell him of their journey. “It’s just like you said, Moses. It flows with milk and honey. And, wow, check out this fruit. But…” Ah, the “but” sentence. How often do we use it to excuse away a wonderful gift God has prepared for our lives? “But, what if I can’t succeed?” “But what if they don’t like me?” “But what if someone gets mad?” Of course, there’s a big difference in questioning things because you’re using wisdom to count the cost and questioning things because you’re scared to receive something promised to you by Your Creator.

Most people find it easier to see the glass as half empty, so when the travelers came back from their spy game with scary stories of giants and fortified cities, the children of Israel suddenly lost all hope in the promises of God. The people of the camp wept all night long because of their hopelessness. As if the fear of the unknown isn’t enough of a battle, to top it off with a good dose of discouragement made it just that much worse. Well, for most of them anyway.

Joshua and Caleb refused to agree with the other ten members of the jury. They chose to believe the word of God, and Caleb tried to quiet the people with encouragements. He said, “We ought to go up immediately and take possession of it; there is no question that we can conquer it.” But the people wouldn’t listen. Instead, they listened to the negative reports and began complaining to Moses that they wished they had stayed in Egypt. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the people, and Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes and said to the whole community, “The land we passed through in order to spy it out is an outstandingly good land!

God’s word tells us that God has only good plans for us, and that He will do far more than we can even ask or think, but if you’re like me, you struggle with knowing exactly what it is that He has promised. I trust God that His perfect will is better than whatever blessings I can conceive, but there are some that believe it is a lack of faith to just let go and let God. Truthfully, I have no problem claiming the promises of God if I am sure they are from Him, but my struggle is with the knowing. I’d love to believe that no one who serves God will ever have to deal with sickness or trouble, but that doesn’t line up with even what His own disciples went through. So I will make my requests to God with the humility of knowing that He has already done more for me than I deserve or can repay. I spy with my little eye that His word promises me an eternity where God will wipe away ever tear from my eye, and where pain, death, and sorrow will be no more, and that makes this race of life worth running to the end.

June 1, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scout it Out


Scout Sniper by Flickr User DVIDSHUB, CC License = Attribution

Scout Sniper by Flickr User DVIDSHUB, 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.

Many years ago, I was a “Girl Scout,” but I wasn’t in it long enough to figure out why we were called scouts. Maybe it had something to do with preparedness. Hubby always says he could not be a scout in the military because he doesn’t pay enough attention to little details. Me, I might pay too much attention to the little things. In a recent TV western I watched about Bat Masterson (the man who became a legend in his own time), a scout made all the difference in catching the bad guys who got ambushed after the scout had passed, so it’s a pretty important position to hold.

In today’s reading from Numbers 13:1 through Numbers 13:20, we begin a new portion, Parashah 37, This one is called Shlach L’kha in Hebrew and means “Send on Your Behalf,” It tells of the men whom God is gathering from the ancestral tribes to go before the rest of the people to scout out the land of Canaan. Moses chooses leading men from among the people of Israel, one from each tribe (listed in the link), and sends them out from the Paran Desert.

Many of the names listed should sound familiar, including Joshua and Caleb, but until this reading, I was unaware that Moses renamed Joshua from Hosea. As I understand it from teaching I’ve received so far, his original name means “salvation,” and his new name means “God’s salvation.” What a name to give someone who is about to scout out the promises of God for a whole nation of people.

So Moses sends the men on their recon mission, and he tells them to take notice of things like the people who live there, if there are just a few or a lot of people, and if the people are strong or weak. He also tells them to take notice of the land. He says to see if the land is good or bad, fertile or unfertile, whether it has many cities or just a few, and whether the cities are open or fortified. As a last order, Moses tells the men to be bold enough to bring back some of the fruit from the land, and he sends them out right after the first grapes have begun to ripen.

I’ve heard a lot of messages about this story, and usually they have been about it being a lack of faith to send scouts ahead to claim a land that God has already promised. But in reading it more closely, the scouting of it is God’s idea. I believe it is all about proper prior preparation, and it is actually an act of faith to find out what movements and tools will be needed to claim God’s promises. God does not expect us to walk by ignorant faith when we have His wisdom to guide us and light our way. Luke 14:28 (CJB) puts it this way…

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Don’t you sit down and estimate the cost, to see if you have enough capital to complete it?”

And we read in Psalm 127:1 of the Common English Bible (CEB)

Unless it is the Lord who builds the house,
    the builders’ work is pointless.
Unless it is the Lord who protects the city,
    the guard on duty is pointless.

God is not only the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), but we’re also promised in Philippians 1:6 that He who began a great work within us is sure to finish it within us. That means that even our scouting and recon missions can be done in faith because we know that He is the One who started it all, promised it all, and will finish it all. Truly, He is the Alpha and Omega in and of all things.

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

Israel Gets Roomies


Handshake Warning by Flickr User Guillaume Brialon, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Handshake Warning by Flickr User Guillaume Brialon, 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 remember the days of renting a room in someone’s house because it was too expensive to get my own place. There are always drawbacks to that set up, like a lack of privacy, a bit less freedom, and a shared bathroom. But there are also benefits, not the least of which is how much less it usually costs than trying to keep up even a small apartment on your own. One place I rented, however, was almost perfect. The owner was a strong woman with unbending house rules. She assigned kitchen shelf space, refrigerator space, and quiet times, and she made sure all renters knew that she was in charge of the thermostat. We had three very different people types (an atheist in her fifties, a Catholic organist in her eighties, and me–a Pentecostal in her twenties), but we all got along perfectly because of the house rules.

In today’s reading from Exodus 24:10 through Exodus 24:26, Israel is getting ready to move toward the “Promised Land” and God lays down the rules. The first thing He does, though, is to remind them of who He is and of what He will do through them if they observe His commands. See, like the homeowner in my rental situation, God has already worked with and seen a variety of living situations–including those in the future since He can see through all times, He knows what works, and He knows what doesn’t work. So He tells Israel that He is going to do awesome things through them, and all they have to do is trust Him to know what works.

The first thing God knows will not work is a land filled with people who worship false gods. In their idol worship and lifestyles void of The True God of Creation, they have no value of human life, and they worship gods made of stone and metal that have no power. Yahveh promises to drive all these people out, so they won’t be a snare to them within their own borders. He tells Israel the kind of people they are, and He warns them not to imitate them in any way. In a paraphrase, God says, “Don’t even go to dinner with these people. If you do, you’ll end up eating stuff they sacrificed to idols, then your sons will marry their daughters, and then their daughters will get your sons to prostitute themselves before their idols the way they themselves do.”

God is a jealous God, and He knows He is the only One who is truly looking after Israel’s best interests. He also knows that Israel is made up of human inhabitants, and that by trying to befriend these people who worship false gods, Israel risks many things in addition to stirring up God’s jealousy. If the people of Israel get too close to the people of the land, they may feel sorry for them and refuse to do their part in pushing them out of the land God wants to consecrate for Himself and His people. And, if there are any people who might change their ways, how will they see that there is a different way to become, and a True God to serve, if the people imitate them instead of standing strong in their obedience to Yahveh?

So, after some stern warnings of “do nots” for Israel to remember with their temporary roommates, God reminds Israel of what He wants them to do. Oh, but He does issue one last (and huge) do not first. He tells Israel not to build any metal gods, so now they have no excuse to ever again create and worship a golden calf.

Now, onto the “to do” list, which mostly includes keeping the feast days He has created because they all represent Him in some way, and they will help Israel to remember what is important. The first of these feasts is The Feast of Unleavened Bread. It will remind them of their deliverance from Egypt. We now know it also represents deliverance from sin which is why leavening is to be cut out because leaven represents sin and pride.

Between the feast reminders, God reminds the people that the first born will always belong to Him. Each one is to be redeemed with a sacrifice, and no one is to come to God empty-handed. I think this is God’s way of saying that He is first, and He created all things, so whatever is first is special as a reminder of these things. The sacrifice is our way of giving Him thanks for being our Creator and Leader. And then He reminds them to keep the festival of Sabbath, which is held on the last day of the week. He wants them to keep it even during planting and harvesting, because like there is always a first, there is also always a last. And in this I believe that God uses Sabbath to remind us that just as He is our first, He is also the last. In the New Testament, He says He is our rest, and He also says He is the Alpha and the Omega.

The last verse of today’s reading reminds Israel to bring the best of their first fruits as an offering to God. We should always bring our best to God, and we should always bring what we have to Him before offering it to the thankless world around us. Whatever we have belongs to Him first anyway, and only He promises to do awesome things through us by bringing His gifts back to their source. If Israel will live by God’s rules, and not be swayed by the ways of their new roommates, they have a promising and prosperous future ahead of them. And because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so do we.

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

From a Pillow to an Altar


Sun rays in clouds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Promised Land Stake Out


Today’s section runs from Genesis 23:17 through Genesis 24:9 and begins with the purchase of land for Sarah’s burial. Apparently, burying his wife has reminded Abraham of his own mortality. He calls in his longest term (aka most faithful) servant and makes a request from him about the future of Isaac. I’m guessing Abraham has been praying about a wife for him because he tells the servant what steps to take and assures him that an angel will go before him to bless him in his efforts.

The servant takes an oath (signified by placing his hand under Abraham’s thigh, but I haven’t yet learned what that practice means) that he will do all Abraham asks. Mainly, Abraham wants to make sure that his son does not marry into the foreigners of the land where they dwell as strangers, but he also does not want his son to go back and live in their homeland. He is dependant on this faithful servant to go to Abraham’s birth land and find a wife to bring back to him.

If I were to tell the story in a modern way to make it easier for myself, I would say that Abraham is like a life-long American missionary that has been told to claim a particular land for God. That missionary might have a son that is marrying age, so he has someone go back to the states to find an American wife for his son. He doesn’t want his son to go back to America yet himself because they still have much work to do, and he wants his son to stay until the word of God to them has been fulfilled. Abraham said it this way in Chapter 24, verses 6 & 7, “See to it that you don’t bring my son back there. Adonai, the God of heaven — who took me away from my father’s house and away from the land I was born in, who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘I will give this land to your descendants’–he will send his angel ahead of you; and you are to bring a wife for my son from there.”

I imagine Abraham was still trusting God to fulfill the promise of giving that land to his descendants, so his descendant had to stay there until that was done. And maybe Abraham was even a little concerned that if Isaac went to visit another land, he might be enamored by something new and want to stay there rather than continue to stake out the place of promise. And I think this is a good thing for us to remember as well. Sometimes, it may seem like a long period of waiting to receive something God has promised us, but if we continue to have faith, trust God, and stake out the promise, it will be just as God has promised it will be. Bless God for ALL His promises and blessings!

October 27, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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