Crystal Writes A Blog

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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

The Lord of The Dance


Do you know what it takes to get God dancing? The simple answer is…US! God loves His people so much that when we are blessed, He is happy. I mean, for how many years has He been preparing a place for us that where He is we may be also? He wants our company, and He wants our happiness. Why do you think it is not His will for any of us to perish? If He didn’t want our company, He would be happy to let us pay the wages for our sin. But, no, because He has such a longing to spend eternity with us, He paid a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 30:7 through Deuteronomy 30:10, we continue on yesterday’s reading of the prophesies that will come to pass when Israel has experienced both God’s blessings and His curses and it brings her back to herself. When Israel examines herself and returns completely to God, we arrive at today’s passage which begins with a promise from God to put all the curses on her enemies. When Israel returns to listen to God and obey His commands, then God will rain all the curses upon those who have hated and persecuted her.

Now, it really starts getting good. God promises that He will give Israel more than enough for everything she sets out to do: “The fruit of your body, the fruit of your livestock, and the fruit of your land will all do well,” He says. And then the passage declares that The Lord will once again rejoice over His people just as He once rejoiced over their ancestors. Can you see God dancing here?

Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there is a time to dance. What better time to dance and rejoice than when God is rejoicing? The reading goes on to explain the atmosphere that makes God rejoice. The caveat to all the blessings God promises is simply that the people must pay attention to The Lord, God Almighty, and obey the commands written in His word. When they turn to Him with all their hearts and all their beings, He will rejoice with great joy in the privilege to pour out blessings upon His children.

There are a lot of Scriptures that include dancing; mostly for good purposes. Unfortunately, there are references to wrong dancing when people danced before false gods or sacrifices they prepared for false gods, but Miriam and the women of Israel danced before God in celebration of the defeat of Egypt. and David danced before God in praise at the return of The Ark of The Covenant. If our bodies are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit, then if He dances, we will feel that in our spirits.

There is a wonderful new interpretation to the old Footprints poem. It includes God rejoicing with one of His children. Since the author has been found and a copyright attributed, I will link you to the page with the full poem and author info. Just go to… http://www.wowzone.com/prints2.htm

Of course, we can refuse to dance when God moves us, and then we will get to the other new version of Footprints. It’s called “Butt prints in the Sand.” Yes, it’s a bit humorous, but it’s also an important way to take a look at ourselves and the level of trust and obedience we have in Yeshua, so we can follow Him in ways that will make Him rejoice. 2 Corinthians 13:5 puts it this way…

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living the life of trust. Test yourselves. Don’t you realize that Yeshua the Messiah is in you? — unless you fail to pass the test.

So, in summary of the last two days of Torah reading, if we as the grafted-in seed of Abraham receive the prophesy given to Israel, then we have some wonderful promises right along with her. If we examine ourselves, come back to God and His word, learn from all the blessings and curses we’ve experienced, and turn to God to love and obey Him with all our heart and being, we can trust that He will rejoice. When He rejoices, maybe He will dance. And when He dances, maybe we will dance with Him.

And that brings me to one more video, a beautiful Messianic worship song by Paul Wilbur called Dance With Me

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

Pinky Promise


Pinky Promise by Flickr User Ali Holding, CC License = Attribution

Pinky Promise by Flickr User Ali Holding, 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 used to think the whole “pinky promise” or “pinky swear” thing was just for little kids–girls in particular, but lately I’ve been seeing it happen between adults of both genders. Have you ever made a pinky promise to someone? If so, how hard did you try to keep your promise? Keeping promises is an important part of friendship, and unkept promises have ended even long-term relationships. Of course, it depends on the promise and how gravely it was broken, but I doubt I could find a single person who desires that promises made to them go unkept.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 7:12 through Deuteronomy 8:10, we begin a new week and a new portion of Torah. This portion, Parashah 46 is called “‘Ekev” in Hebrew and means “Because” in English. It begins with a statement that basically says, “Because you are keeping your end of the deal, The Lord will keep His end of the deal.” It goes on to express how God will love Israel, increase her numbers, and bless the fruit of her body and of her ground in the land He promised to her ancestors.

Moses is still speaking to encourage Israel before the community crosses over the Jordan, and he tells them of promises that include how this people will be blessed above all other people. Moses tells them there will not be a sterile man or woman among them, and it will be the same for their animals. God will remove all sickness from among them, and they will not suffer any of the diseases they knew from the Egyptians.

For Israel’s part of the promise, they must totally destroy all those who hate them and that The Lord hands over to them. Moses tells them that if they show any pity to them, or if they serve any of their gods, it will become a trap for them. If they look and worry about their numbers, they are not to fear but instead remember all the signs and wonders God performed in delivering them from Egypt.

God promises Israel that He will go over with them to show Himself as a great and fearful God, and He will expel the nations that hate Israel. But, He tells them it will not happen all at once, or the wild animals would become too numerous for Israel, so God will send disasters one after another to destroy them. Moses reminds the people again to burn up and destroy all the false gods and statues of the people, and when they are gone, Israel should not covet the gold and silver left behind because it has a curse on it. He tells them not to bring anything God hates into their homes, or the objects will bring curses with them.

Moses tells Israel to remember everything they’ve learned from forty years in the desert while God humbled them and tested to see if they would obey His laws. He reminds them of their hunger and how God fed them with manna, and he shows them how their feet never got tired or swollen. He tells them to think deeply about these things that they won’t forget. He promises that if they will keep the laws of God that he is passing along to them, they will live long and prosperous lives in the land of promise. The land is filled with fruit and grains, so they will eat abundantly and lack nothing. Israel will eat and be satisfied, and in return, they will bless The Lord who gave them the land.

I think most of us know that promises work both ways. Whether it’s a handshake deal, a wedding vow, or a documented and signed contract, there are always promises to be kept by all people who enter into the relationship. Why, then, does the world seem so upset with the idea that God wants us to keep promises in return for all the promises He has made to us? He tells us He will give us blessings in this life and in eternity. He tells us He will have mercy and grace on us that He will pour out new every morning. He tells us that we do not have to pay Him back for the blood and suffering at Calvary.

Little girls and grown women, plus little boys and grown men, will grasp a pinky, or hold up a pinky, to swear their loyalty to a friendship or to a promise. Neither party desires for the other party to walk away thinking or saying something like, “Great, now that I’ve got what I want, I can just forget about my end of the bargain.” When we go to an altar and ask God for His forgiveness, we are entering into an exchange of promises. He offers salvation freely to those who want to be saved out of (and “out of” if the important part) whatever bondage this life offers, and we offer a promise to repent from doing things our way and do our best to follow Him.

God is so merciful that He gives wonderful gifts and promises even to those who do not offer Him anything in return. He gives life, love, blessings, and wonderful days in spite of our lifestyles where He is not the center of our attention and often where He is left out. He continues to pour out these gifts in spite of people who raise their fists to curse Him when things aren’t going just right yet never raise a hand to praise Him when things go as they want. If you have made a promise to serve God, remember your promises to Him. And next time you lift your hands in praise to Him, imagine Him extending His pinky from Heaven to remind you of how much He believes in and appreciates you and every effort you make to keep your promises to Him. Try it one day soon. I pinky promise you’ll like what you feel.

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What If God Changed His Mind?


God Promises Eternal Life by Flickr User WELS net, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

God Promises Eternal Life by Flickr User WELS net, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
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 many things do we depend on each day that would change if God suddenly decided to change His mind? I mean, what if He decided that too many people were getting hurt to wait until that very last soul finds its way to its Maker? Or, what if He changed His mind about our eternal life and held back because not enough people were considering it more valuable than our lives on earth? Imagine struggling for breath as you wake up to a day of pure darkness, chaos, and the end of all things good. That would be only one scenario in a world without the grace and mercy of Yahveh Almighty. But, thankfully, we can trust in God’s promises because we have seen them fulfilled, and we have Scriptural reminders that God will never change.

  • Psalm 145:13 (NLT)… For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations. The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does.
  • Numbers 23:19 (NLT)… God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
  • James 1:17 (ERV)… Everything good comes from God. Every perfect gift is from him. These good gifts come down from the Father who made all the lights in the sky. But God never changes like the shadows from those lights. He is always the same.
  • Hebrews 13:8 (CJB)… Yeshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever.

In today’s reading from Numbers 30:2 through Numbers 30:17 (in the Complete Jewish Bible) and Numbers 30:1 through Numbers 30:16 (in Amplified and other Bibles), we begin a new week and a new portion. The entire chapter begins Parashah 42, with the Hebrew name Mattot meaning “Tribes.” In this chapter, Moses speaks to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel about the necessity to keep the promises and vows they make.

When a man makes a vow to God, or otherwise obligates himself by swearing an oath, he is to keep his word and do all he promised. When a woman who is still under her father’s rule makes a vow or obligation, if her father keeps silent, she must keep her word. But, if her father is against it, she is free from the promise, and God will forgive her. If a woman makes a vow without thinking, and she is a married woman, she can be free from it if her husband hears it and disapproves. But if he keeps silent, or if she is a widow or divorcee, her promise stays with her, and she must keep her word.

We depend on a lot of promises to go through our days on this earth and into eternity. We depend on our cities to provide the water and utilities we pay them for; the bank to keep the balances of money we have secured with them; and our grocery stores to be stocked with our needs when we walk in to go shopping. What happens when we flip a switch and the light won’t come on, turn a faucet and find no water, or turn a key and a car won’t start? We get frustrated, and we know there’s a problem that needs to be fixed.

What about all the things we depend on that should work but don’t because of broken promises? We have promises that we will be safe in our borders, but then those who are supposed to represent all the people in our country decide that it’s okay to cut our military and leave us vulnerable. We have promises that we should be safe in our cities, but those in positions to spend money break promises to use it wisely, and suddenly we don’t have enough of a police force to adequately protect us. Whether it’s from judges and attorneys that feel sorry for too many criminals and let them back on the streets to wreak havoc, or politicians up to the highest offices that get swayed by special interests, broken promises will bring an end result of chaos instead of peace.

We all know how it feels to have someone or something we depend on fail us, so we should strive to not do that to others. Even though we have God’s grace in the blood of Yeshua to allow us mercy that comes to us new every morning, it is better to not make promises, than to make foolish promises and change our minds when we realize the trap we’ve set for ourselves. I say this to myself as much as anyone because it’s easier to make a promise than to keep it, and I am certain some of my biggest needs for repentance come from broken promises. The book of James, in Chapter 4 and verses 13-17  (in the Easy to Read Version) gives great advice for keeping that from happening. It reads…

Let God Plan Your Life

13 Some of you say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to some city. We will stay there a year, do business, and make money.” Listen, think about this:14 You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Your life is like a fog. You can see it for a short time, but then it goes away. 15 So you should say, “If the Lord wants, we will live and do this or that.” 16 But now you are proud and boast about yourself. All such boasting is wrong. 17 If you fail to do what you know is right, you are sinning.

Thankfully, we know we can depend on the promises of God for both now and eternity. We will never need to ask, “What if God changed His mind?” Let us give Him the same courtesy that if we have promised to love God with all our being, He will never have to give a report that we’ve changed our minds. Amen, and have a wonderful week walking in the blessings and presence of Yahveh.

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

From a Pillow to an Altar


Sun rays in clouds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

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