Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Choosing the Tree of Life


In Deuteronomy 30:19, God says to the children of Israel that He gives them a choice between life and death and between blessing and curse. He follows that choice with the encouragement that they should choose life so that they and their descendants can live.

Obviously, if they choose death, they won’t be alive to bear descendants, but I think there’s even more to this. Remember that among the cursed behavior of these people, they were offering their children to the fires of the false god of Molech. Women actually self-aborted to give their babies to this worthless statue because they thought it would benefit them somehow. So, by choosing God’s blessings instead of continuing to live under the curse of serving false gods, their children received a benefit from God Almighty and from life itself.

I am happy tonight that as of today’s election, we have a majority of conservative senators in power. This means, we have a majority of those who support life for the unborn, life for our military, and life for our allies in Israel. Somehow, more people went to the voting booth and chose life, and I believe God is pleased with the USA–at least for today.

Chip Brodgen’s Infinite Supply newsletter is about life today. It’s about The Tree of Life…

Infinite Supply Image Nov Fourth

Infinite Supply Image Nov Fourth
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the article at The School of Christ website.

November 4

The Cross: The Tree of Life

“To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life.”
REVELATION 2:7

Like Adam, we can choose to eat from either tree, but we cannot eat from both. Adam sinned when he fell into the flesh and yielded to his Self-life. He rejected the Tree of Life in favor of something that was “good… pleasant… and desirable” (Genesis 3:6). The Cross does not look like a Tree of Life at all. It is neither good, nor pleasant, nor desirable. It looks like death. Perhaps this is why Adam did not eat from it first.

But God’s End is not death, regardless of appearances: God’s End is Life out of death, which is resurrection. To eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life is to glory in the Cross of Jesus Christ and find Life out of death. It is becoming popular to preach and teach about the Cross these days, but how many are eating of its fruit? Can we really see the Cross as the TREE OF LIFE, and are we eating its fruit? We will know a true disciple of the Lord, not by words, but by fruit, and the Cross is the Tree of Life from which this fruit comes.

Source: Embrace the Cross by Chip Brogden

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So, from the beginning, free will has never meant that we have a right to choose bad behaviors and still end with good results. It has always been simply that we have a choice between life and death, blessing and cursing. I like the point the author makes about not being able to eat from both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge that brought death. When Adam and Eve chose the tree of death, they were blocked out from the Tree of Life. And, even that was God’s mercy. If they ate from the tree that gave life after choosing from the one that gave death, they would have spent eternity in the state of death. But, once we have overcome through the blood of Yeshua, we will have the chance to eat from the tree that assures us eternal life in that state of overcoming.

Right now, with all the offerings on life’s plate, it may seem hard to know which ones to choose each day. So many of them are in gray areas in our minds because the enemy has strong sales tactics. But, if we can separate what we choose to only two subject headings–life and death–it should be easy to simply choose life.

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Bible Study, Nonfiction, School of Christ | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creative In God’s Image


My business cards usually include the line “Writer and Creative Mind.” I have been creative for as long as I can remember, so it’s nothing I’ve worked for or been trained in. I know my creativity is a gift from God, and that I am made in my Father’s creative image. God gives me authority over my gifts, so I can use them for Him or for things which are not pleasing to Him. I can even choose to not use my gifts at all. But, my love for Yahveh drives me to want to create positive and uplifting designs whether that be in writing or in products on my Zazzle page.

Speaking of the latter, I finally plugged in the new night lights I created and ordered last month, and they are my favorite items from Zazzle so far. I’d love to know what my readers think of these two items. Also, do you think customized night lights would make good Christmas gifts for friends and family? If so, tell me which of the 29 I recently created are best, or if you think some other images might work better. The two I ordered are of my Pink and Yellow Fractalized Butterflies with Stars and Yellow Daisies in a Field of Purple.

Now, when thinking of God’s gifts, we often think about the promise of His word that we can do all things through Christ. In addition to that Scripture, we have Yeshua’s claim that we can do nothing without Him. Here’s what Chip Brogden wrote on that subject in today’s Infinite Supply newsletter…

Infinite Supply Image Nov Third

Infinite Supply Image Nov Third
Click the image to open a new tab/window and view the article on the School of Christ dot org website.

November 3

Nothing Without Him

“Without Me you can do nothing.”
JOHN 15:5

Jesus would explain to His disciples that spiritual life hinges upon living in active dependence upon Himself. That is the fundamental lesson to learn because it is the fundamental sin of mankind – the independent path. Jesus says without Him we can do nothing. Nothing! But it is human nature to try and do something in ourselves. We call it freedom and liberty; blazing our own trail; making something happen. But the end result is death and destruction.

The fall of man illustrates a fundamental truth: that whenever Self is allowed to rule in the place of Christ, the result is sin, sorrow, separation and death. Apart from Him we really can do nothing.

Source: The Irresistible Kingdom

by Chip Brogden

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©1997-2013 TheSchoolOfChrist.Org. Permission is granted for non-commercial (free) distribution provided this notice appears.

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Again, the author covers an important topic for all Christians. I love that he says we need an active dependence on our Savior. Salvation isn’t a “set it and forget it” lifestyle change. It’s more like a raging yet contained fire if we’re fully committed to walking in the newness of a life with Yeshua as our Lord and Savior. We should always be learning something new from His word or from the words He speaks in our spirit. We should be acquiring understanding from Him instead of leaning on our own. And, we should be walking and creating as He leads even if we can generate a million ideas “on our own.”

I know when I’m trying to do things on my own. It’s usually a time of great chaos on my life. My ideas will come at me so fast that I don’t know whether to jump, duck, go around, or catch them straight on. I’ll have an abundance of thoughts but nowhere to go with them, or I’ll want to go everywhere at once. That’s the downside of having a creative mind, and I’ll admit to still not being sure I have all my creativity in God’s hands. Thankfully, God is merciful, and He gives me a new chance to try again with each new day.

Are you creative? If not, do you wrestle with your gifts, whatever they may be, trying to drive you to acting first and praying later? Ideas of any kind can pop up and threaten to leave if we don’t act on them right away, so I’m certain I’m not the only one who faces this challenge. Tell me about your challenges, and we can pray for each other.

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Bible Study, Nonfiction, School of Christ, Slice of Life, Zazzle | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Before You Vote on Tuesday


The above video should start at about 10:16 in for a segment of Israel Now News called “Ask the Source.” The host, Josh Reinstein, is interviewing a Pastor Larry Huch about celebrations in Israel at the time of the filming. The part I want to refer you to begins at about minute 13 and continues to minute 19 where the pastor talks about the effect a divided Israel will have on Christians. To summarize briefly…

Larry began a program called The Jerusalem Call to make Christians aware of the biblical and international law showing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We will lose much if Jerusalem is divided. First, Israel is the only place in the middle east with true freedom of religion. Even at holy sites like “The Western Wall,” he says you can find people of multiple religions from all over the world praying there. We will lose that if Jerusalem is divided. In addition, we will lose access to “The Via Dolorosa” (the road Christ walked to Calvary), “The Church of The Holy Sepulchre,” and more. He says we’ll also lose where Yeshua was crucified and where He resurrected.

I highly recommend watching the entire video, and other videos by Israel Now News for informative news from The Holy Land. If you click to view the video at YouTube, you can subscribe to be notified when new videos are added, but there are 152 episodes available now.

So, I titled this in reference to voting simply to remind Christians to check whether the politicians they vote for are supportive of Israel as an ally. Our current establishment is actually causing those who used to be our enemies to rejoice in our new policies. We are supporting those who are enemies both of us and of Israel, and we can be sure God is not happy with it. He said He does not change, and His word (that stands forever) is that He will bless those who bless her and curse those who curse her. We must choose if we will support candidates who bring us blessing or curse.

Now, to switch gears since I promised Infinite Supply for the full month. Here is today’s post…

November 2

All I Have is Yours

“Bring out the best robe and put it on him.”
LUKE 15:22

To put on the Lord Jesus is to be clothed with the very best robe. This robe makes us look better than we really are. But when we are dressed with the best we begin to act differently. Having put on the Lord Jesus, we are clothed with Him and His character replaces our character. His Life is received in exchange for our life. If we cooperate with the Life we will naturally find our behavior is changed.

But what of the elder son? “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours” (Luke15:31). Hallelujah! There is no partiality with God, however much we may think God is being more fair or more generous to some brother or sister. Not so: the robe, the ring, and the shoes only represent the “all,” the fullness of the Father, and “of His fullness we have all received” (John 1:16). The Father says, “All that I have is yours!” Who can dare ask God for a single thing apart from the Son?

Source: Lord of All by Chip Brogden

©1997-2013 TheSchoolOfChrist.Org. Permission is granted for non-commercial (free) distribution provided this notice appears. Share this message with your friends!

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The above is how the author wrote it, but I have linked the Scripture passages to Bible Gateway for easy reading. If you click on the date at the top, you can view the article at School of Christ where you can also leave comments.

I love the idea that putting on Christ is putting on the best and therefore requires us to act our best. I remember those childhood days where my mom would put my sister and I in dresses of velvet and lace, and then she’d top that off with shiny black patent-leather shoes. We knew better than to jump in mud puddles when we wore those clothes. Usually, we sat down, folded our hands, and tried our best to be “little ladies.” Many times, people would put money in our tiny purses to reward us for being so ladylike.

I’m going to try to remember this when I get up in the morning. As I put on my clothes and say Good Morning to my Lord and Savior, I’m going to imagine putting Him on for the day. I will do my best to avoid any spiritual mud puddles and to act Christ-like all day. Since He must increase, and I must decrease, when I put Him on, modeling my best behavior in Him is what matters the most. And one day, as is promised in God’s holy word, I will be rewarded for treating my garment of Christ with the utmost of care.

P.S. I have decided that I will give my characters their due and spend my NaNo month with them instead of creating new characters. May all of you pushing for your 50,000 word goal be abundantly blessed and just keep writing.

 

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Bible Study, Nonfiction, School of Christ, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NaNoWriMo and Glory to God


I have been a subscriber to the Infinite Supply newsletter since 2009, and it has been a source of strength to me more than once. For November, I will share Chip’s posts and add my commentary. He gives reprint permissions as long as I include the copyright (below). I am doing this in case I decide to go forward with writing for National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo) which demands nearly 1700 words per day. It will be more for me since I’m already starting a day late, but I’m not yet certain about my plans. If nothing else, I may at least try to do some work on my original novel every day this month, so that will still need extra time I don’t normally schedule as a daily activity.

From my Infinite Supply Newsletter by Chip Brogden of The School of Christ–November 1st…

Infinite Supply Image Nov First

Infinite Supply Image Nov First;
Click image to open a new tab or window to view post at The School of Christ website.

Today, Chip’s subject is from Matthew 6:13

The Glory is His

“Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen.”

There is a Remnant of called-out ones who have seen the Glory of the Son and WILL seek the interests of God’s Only Begotten One. In a time when men solicit the glory and honor and power from one another, there is a Holy Nation of priests and kings who will give the Son the glory He deserves, declaring, “YOURS IS THE GLORY, we will render to You, and to You alone, the glory due Your Name.”

Source: The Irresistible Kingdom by Chip Brogden

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©1997-2013 TheSchoolOfChrist.Org. Permission is granted for non-commercial (free) distribution
provided this notice appears. Share this message with your friends!

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This is a shorter one, but I love how the author always brings out some deeper nugget of truth from even just a short Bible verse. Of course, if you view the longer books and articles, there is even more depth, so I highly recommend a visit to his site, a subscription to his Infinite Supply newsletter, and whatever free downloads and PDF studies he offers.

As for today’s message, making sure God gets the proper glory can sometimes be difficult. Notice that I said proper glory. Some people brag on themselves and append all the bragging with some sort of “Glory to God” statement that makes it appear they are giving God the glory. Some others never make the work of their hands known for fear they will take away from God’s glory. Where we want to be is in balance between the two, and while wrestling with this human flesh, that’s not always easy.

How do we market ourselves and promote the products of the creative gifts God has given us without saying something positive about ourselves? We can’t. But, if we don’t speak up, or employ others to speak up for us, won’t we be hiding our talents under a bushel? And how do we justify self-promotion with the Scripture from Proverbs 27:2 that says to “Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth, a stranger and not your own lips.”? I believe all those questions are answered by what is going on in our hearts.

Does your heart seek to uplift God and give Him the glory because you know He alone deserves it? Are you so enamored with God’s provisions and blessings on your life that you can’t imagine your life without Him? That you know you wouldn’t even breathe in and out without Him? Do you feel awkward if you promote yourself because you know you walk in obedience to God and only function in His gifts because He is leading you? If you answer yes to these things, then you should be fine. Remember, He judges on our hearts. Other men may believe us or not, and even our own hearts may deceive us, but He knows the truth from the depths of our souls.

And so much for shorter writing by starting with reblogging someone else’s work. 🙂 Well, maybe I wrote a little less. Anyway, I’d love to hear what you think if you visit The School of Christ or subscribe to Chip’s newsletter. Also, I’d love your thoughts on whether I should start a new NaNo novel or work on my Cloudy Days on Sunshine Street novel every day for the month of November. God bless you all as you seek to glorify Him and walk in obedience to His Holy Spirit.

November 2, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Devotion, Nonfiction, School of Christ | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hallow-What?


Halloween Kitten by Flickr Users Bill & Vicki T aka Great Grandpa & Grandma T, CC License = Attribution

Halloween Kitten by Flickr Users Bill & Vicki T aka Great Grandpa & Grandma T, 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.

This is a day of many mixed emotions for me. I love cute little images like the kitty and pumpkin above, kids dressed up in all variety of adorable outfits, and the smile on a child’s face when they score big candy treasure. I have never been one to like the dark side of the day, like witches, vampires, and zombies, but an abundance of superheroes and princesses roaming the streets is adorable.

Many years ago, I was in a “no TV” phase of my life, so reading and a shortwave radio were my main entertainment. I found a book at the library that is out of print but one of the best books I’ve read on the history of Halloween and other American festival days. It’s called Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays, and it’s co-written by the editors of Hallmark Cards, so it’s unbiased and probably more accurate than many such books. It was through this book that I learned, not only the history of “All Hallows Eve” but the history of many traditions for the day as well. It’s not pretty.

The main thing I learned about the day (and no, I won’t call it a “holiday” since that’s a shortened form of “holy day”) concerns the spiritual elements. In spiritual terms, it compares to “hell night” when kids have one last night of partying before trying to buckle down for nine months of school. In this case, spirits have a wild fling before the religious season that begins with All Saints Day aka All Hallows Day. So, the eve before, called All Hallows Eve or Halloween, is a last chance for evil to run amok and get away with it. Sure.

Anyway, people would perform all sorts of rituals to try and appease the spirits to keep themselves free from harm. The rituals may have been partly based in religion, but they were most certainly pushed because of fear. Some rituals included dressing up as that year’s deceased, a feast to appease the spirits, or a parade to lead evil spirits out of town. Where a virgin girl was demanded to appease the spirits, parents would put candles out in pumpkins or gourds to show they had an available daughter.

As God’s own people, we know we have a Power (Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world) that will protect and defend us. No rituals are needed except maybe prayer and fasting as Yeshua said to the disciples in Mark 9:14-29. We are told in James 4:7 that all we have to do is resist the devil and he will flee. Note in the Scripture that it does not say “rebuke the devil” and the resist part comes in only AFTER we have submitted ourselves to God.

Still, even with that authority, Yeshua reminds the disciples not to rejoice because of their authority over evil. Instead, they should rejoice because their names are written in Heaven. That speaks of humility before God and gratefulness for the blood of The Lamb over our repented lives. It’s why I have some trouble with songs that rejoice over the enemy and say things like, “I’m marching through the enemy’s camp to take back what he took from me.” I worry about the arrogance in that. I worry about the dark “Christian metal” bands with names like “Demon Slayer” that sound as if they are arrogantly bragging about their authority over evil.

So, should we celebrate this festive day that coincides with Day of the Dead celebrations around the world? Personally, I don’t like it. I don’t even like that my husband wants to give out candy, but I understand both sides. I understand the joy of making a child smile, so for parents that dress them up and nice neighbors who treat them, it can be fun and festive. For those who do want to play dress up though, if they call themselves Christian, I believe they should avoid anything dark. I would even suggest trying to dress kids (or yourselves) up like Bible characters, so when candy-givers ask what you are, you can share God’s word. 🙂

Whatever people believe and do, I encourage you to study the word of God, and I suggest you find out more about whatever festivals and recreations you take part in. Whatever you do… Do all things as unto The Lord (Colossians 3:23), and Abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). On this holy Sabbath eve and day, I bid you Shabbat Shalom in The Lord, and I leave you with these words from The Amplified Bible

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

November 1, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Bible Study, Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Simple Prayer for a God-Led Day


Moth by My Sister and Flickr User Candiece N, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Moth by My Sister and Flickr User Candiece N, 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 was all set for what I planned to share tonight, so I went to YouTube to look for the video I wanted to attach. When I got there, I found some videos claiming that the teaching I planned to bring to you was incorrect. Yikes! Now, I’m not saying it is incorrect, but I am saying I will do more research before I present it here as any kind of fact. I am not afraid to admit when I am wrong (though I don’t like it, of course), but I do try to research all I can before I pass information on to others. And, while I know there will always be dissenters about any kinds of doctrine or teaching, especially when it comes to Bible teaching, I am driven to examine both sides before making a decision.

After a couple hours of study, I didn’t come to a conclusion. So, I am going to read more by and about both authors, and I am going to pray, and then I will present my findings here. Whether I come to a conclusion or not, I will share both sides, but I want to give myself some time to examine all possibilities before I just jump into believing one thing or another. Too many these days believe in things right off because they sound good, and unfortunately, that even includes me sometimes. I try to be like the biblical Bereans in Acts 17:10-12 who searched the Scriptures daily to verify the words being taught by Paul and Silas. Now I find that even teachings I hear from what I consider to be a trusted source can be a misconception, so I will keep studying until I can be confident in what I share.

Therefore, in addition to encouraging you, my readers and friends, to do the same–study to show yourself approved to God, let me share something I wrote sometime ago. I typed it as a note in my phone that I can look at first thing in the morning to set my day on a right path. I hope to put it on some Zazzle products soon, so others can get it before themselves on a daily basis too. Enjoy!

GOOD MORNING LORD!!!

HERE I AM.
I KNOW YOU HAVE PLANS…
FOR THIS DAY;
FOR MY LIFE;
FOR ME;
FOR ME IN THIS DAY.

MAY I LISTEN TO–AND HEAR–YOUR VOICE.
MAY I SEE, AND KNOW, YOUR WILL.
MAY I FOLLOW YOU, AND
MAY I PRAISE YOU
FOR ALL THAT YOU ARE…
THIS DAY AND FOREVER

IN YOUR HOLY, MEMORIAL NAME, YAHVEH,
AMEN AND HALLELUYAH!

Blessings and God’s Shalom to each and every one of you as you seek more of Yeshua and His Word every day.

~Crystal

October 31, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Nonfiction, Prayer, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Micro vs Macro


Japanese Anemone by Flickr Users Mike and Annabel Beales, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Japanese Anemone by Flickr Users Mike and Annabel Beales, 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.

One of my favorite types of photography is that which they call “macro” because it brings an almost unseen world to life. Macro photography gets as close to a subject as possible while still remaining clear. It allows you to see the eyes on a bug or the tiniest veins in the petal of a flower. Many of the photographers I follow on Flickr take macro photos, and if you do a search for just the word macro, you’ll see the tiny, up-close world I’m talking about.

Maybe it’s the peace that comes with focus required to see things that closely, or maybe I just like observation of detail, but I know it’s a stark contrast to what attracts many others. While I linger to see more things more closely, the world seems to want a super fast view of things from a distance. Commercial advertising on television flashes an array of images at you. Sentences are shortened to fewer words (got milk), and words are shortened to fewer letters or abbreviations (lol). And, no, I’m not laughing in that last line, but it’s an acronym I figure most people know. If you don’t, it stands for “laughing out loud.”

So, I got a new Twitter follower tonight that posts things in micro, which makes sense because Twitter is considered a “micro blog.” He writes micro poetry and micro fiction, and it’s actually quite entertaining. You all know that I’m a long-winded writer, so it might not hurt for me to learn how to say a few things in micro, but I’ll work on that later.

Anyway, this whole micro versus macro thing made me think about the still, small voice of God. Is that considered micro because the Bible calls it small? I don’t know what the writer or his scribe actually meant there, but I consider it more macro than micro. It’s not the fact that it’s small that matters, it that requires closer examination. Just like you have to tune out all the noise in order to hear a person whisper, you must tune out the cacophony of spiritual noise to tune into the voice of Yahveh.

I think we all get the idea that during the days of creation, God’s voice rang out like thunder and made a demand for the world to jump into being. I like the power behind that too, but what if He simply and quietly whispered in a still, small voice? What if that’s all He had to do because there wasn’t a bunch of noise for Him to have to speak over then? So, maybe we were created in quiet peacefulness, and maybe that’s why those of us who seek our Creator seek that peace as a blessing.

I think this new drive of people to see and hear things loud and fast coincides with the distance this world has from The God of Creation. Seeing His beginnings takes time, and understanding them takes even more time. Salvation is not a micro event either. The closer we examine Calvary, the more we realize what Yeshua did for us, and the more we fall in love with Him.

Time is our gift from God to learn whatever we need to make an informed decision about our eternity. We should fill our moments with as much of God as we can, bringing ourselves closer and closer to Him in the process. We can write micro fiction and micro poetry, and we can post micro blogs, but let God and His word be magnified and not diminished in our lives. Amen.

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ApologetiX’s Apologetics


If you’ve read very many of my posts, you’ve probably come across at least one with a video from the group, ApologetiX. Today, I’m going to share with you why I like them so much, and I’m going to share their plea for support and prayers.

First, for those who don’t know, this group of musicians, singers, and writers is a multi-talented band that has been declared a cross between Billy Graham and Weird Al Yankovic. They take songs from different generations and styles, and they change the lyrics to those which uplift Christ. They do their best to imitate the original songs in music and vocals to the extent that you often have to listen carefully to hear the lyric change before you realize it’s a parody.

The lead singer, J. Jackson, has fantastic talent and ability in being able to imitate a variety of voices and vocal styles. He blends those with a touch of humor while trying to write the new lyrics to rhyme with the original ones, so the crossover is smooth and harder to detect. If you attend a concert, you’ll get to see him in a variety of costumes, and he puts on a great performance. But, he doesn’t end with the musical show. An audience of many who would never attend a traditional church will be entertained, but they will also hear some strong words of God both in the songs and after. J shares his personal testimony, encourages people to give God Almighty a chance in their own lives, and then offers an altar call.

I will tell you that I am not normally fan-type of person (dedicated follower), but when I can see sincerity and love for God in action, I can get behind the ministry that presents it. I feel this way about ApologetiX. I love the strong biblical messages in their songs, including the liberal use of Scripture verse locations. I love that each set of lyrics also comes with a history on the writing of the song. If you check their music page, you can click on the lyrics for songs in the left column. In the window that pops up, you’ll see both the lyrics and story behind the song’s writing. By the way, you can also listen to the mp3 music from that page for free if you are a member of the fan club.

From the home page, you’ll also see the recent news and a few past stories. This is where you will see the updates on music, but you’ll also get a glimpse of the heart of the band. If you want to know even more of their hearts, become a fan club member and agree to receive their newsletter. Within a variety of their pages and newsletters, I have become aware of some of the band’s financial needs, so without any prompting from them, I just want to share some ways you can help. Before I do, I just want to share that I have seen them go through years of performances and CDs, and they are always straightforward and honest. If there were ever a group to support, I would wholeheartedly recommend this group who has faced many challenges yet will stop and help stranded motorists as they travel from one concert to another.

So, below are a few links that you can use to either purchase their products or support them in other ways. They use PayPal for a pay portal, so it’s safe and convenient–especially if you’re already a PayPal user.

  1. Get free downloads for any donation amount at http://apologetix.com/store/store.php#MustSeemSilly
  2. If you want to donate online, read the how-to page at http://www.apologetix.com/news/news-details.php?news_id=2696 where you will also find a donation link.
  3. More downloads for donation at http://www.apologetix.com/news/news-details.php?news_id=2706
  4. Limited time Buy One CD Get One Free Offer at http://www.apologetix.com/news/news-details.php?news_id=2774
  5. Instant download of their songbook with lyrics for every song from 1993 to 2013 in an interactive PDF for $20 at http://www.apologetix.com/store/store.php#songbook
  6. Tis the season to get The 12 Downloads of Christmas for $8 at http://www.apologetix.com/store/store.php#christmas
  7. And a letter from a fan that sums up much of what I feel for the group and explains why I would dedicate a full blog post to their support… http://www.apologetix.com/news/news-details.php?news_id=2782

If nothing else, please keep this band and their families in your prayers. They are a ministry like any other, and serving God while spreading the good news is their primary purpose. You can buy their music from places like Amazon (ask me for links and I’ll donate any commission to them) and iTunes, but I’m guessing they get a bit more by purchasing directly from their website. Whatever you do for them, do as unto the Lord, and may God bless you for blessing His children. In the meantime, enjoy the history of their band in the top video and one of the first of their songs I ever heard (Play that Funny Music Right Boy) below…

October 29, 2014 Posted by | Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pray Now, It’s A Lost Art


Prayer, Conversations With God by Flickr User Evan Courtney, CC License = Attribution

Prayer, Conversations With God by Flickr User Evan Courtney, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

There’s nothing like fellowship with like-minded Christian friends. In fellowship tonight, we talked about what it means to have a real relationship with The Lord. Just as I was mentioning that all real relationships involve some heartbreak, my friend Debbie was thinking in her mind about the times she’s been on her face weeping before God. We talked about how that happens, not because we are burdened or crying out for some kind of favor, but because of the brokenness we sometimes feel in God’s presence. When our flesh gets in the same room with the living God, we can break under the awesomeness of His love, and that’s just how it should be.

In a real relationship between real people, we have ups and downs, hard days and easy days, good times and not-so-good times. We have days where we feel so close that we almost feel like we’re actually one in body and mind. We also have days where we feel so distant from each other that we may wonder if the other person knows us at all. We share in all these times because we have made a commitment to be there no matter what, and we will usually find that upon reflection, we’re glad for that commitment. After all the hours, days, weeks and years, those who are truly in love will say it has been worth it all.

Well, it’s the same with God. We have ups and downs, hard days and easy ones, good times and bad times. We have days where we sense that God is walking right alongside us every step of the way, and we have days where, like King David said, it seems the heavens are brassed over. If we truly love God, we will make it through all these times because we are committed to Him just as we are to the humans to whom we have pledged our love.

In the relationship business, commitment is the key to keeping things together, and communication is the key to keeping them together in a pleasant way. With our spouses, and even with our friends, we don’t grow closer by being distant from each other. We fellowship, we share our dreams and hopes, we share our stumbling blocks, and we do our best to help each other walk through both valleys and mountain top events. We always try to talk to each other before we make judgment calls because we give the benefit of the doubt as we trust our partner or friend will do for us.

So, why don’t we do the same thing for God? With God, we often make rush judgments. It’s a blessing. It’s a curse. It’s a punishment. It’s a lesson. It could be any of those things, or it could just be life, but we can’t really know unless we ask God what He thinks. But, if we are not in the habit of talking with God, we may not know His voice as well as we should when it comes time to listen. His word promises that His sheep know His voice and listen, but why does a sheep know its shepherd’s voice? It knows the voice it hears on a regular basis. Here’s how The Message Bible states it in John 10:1-5

“Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”

See, it’s all about being familiar with God’s voice. To do that, we must have communication with Him. We must pray, and we must listen. We must read His word to see what He tells us from there. When we worship Him, we may hear His voice even better because He inhabits the praises of His people. Prayer is not about rubbing the magic lamp just because we need God’s assistance (though He is there for us and willing to be our very present help in times of trouble), it’s conversation. It’s our time to draw nearer to Him, to get to know Him better, and just to spend time in His presence. As the ApologetiX song in the video below says, “Pray now, it’s a lost art….God is listening, you know.”

October 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walk A Mile in My Shoes, Lord


In Mom's Shoes by Flickr User Impulses, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

In Mom’s Shoes by Flickr User Impulses, 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.

Walk a mile in my shoes, Lord,
Then walk another mile or two.
Order my steps and show me the way
To do what You’d have me to do.
Lead me and guide me, walkin’ right here beside me,
So I can be more like You.
Walk a mile in my shoes, Lord,
Then keep walkin’ my whole life through.

Those are the lyrics to a chorus I wrote once while having a conversation with God about His understanding of my life’s trials. They began with the words, “Put yourself in my shoes, Lord,” but I plan to move those words to the verse when I fully develop the song.

I think most of us wonder whether anyone else understands some of what we go through. And even those of us who love God with all our hearts may sometimes wonder if He truly understands. I think poems like the popular Footprints in the Sand come for those kinds of wonderings. And, since there is nothing new under the sun, I would guess people have been turning to God with that question for many centuries.

We can know that God does understand by the fact that He did, in fact, walk miles in human shoes. John 1:1-18 begins and ends with statements that declare Yeshua as both with God and God; both Unique Son and God Himself. Yeshua told His disciples that if they had seen Him, they had also seen The Father. And the verse that convinced me that God was not a child abuser but did love me enough to lay down His own life for me–the greatest love of all, is in John 10:30. Here, Yeshua declares, “I and my Father are one.”

Even with these truths, though, we may wonder if God could possibly understand what it’s like to live in our particular shoes. We look at His life and think maybe we could endure if we were Him. Sure, we could be homeless and sleep on a stone pillow, right? But thinking that was the only way He suffered before Calvary is like Bruce Almighty thinking he had too much to do with being responsible for the prayers of only three city blocks. We haven’t worn His shoes to know His times of rejection and sorrow, like when He looked over Jerusalem and wept for her past and her future. In Matthew 23:37 (NLT) we read…

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

How often, I wonder, has He been there to walk in our shoes, and we haven’t let Him. I speak this for myself as much as anyone. I need to be reminded sometimes that it’s not my job to sit on the throne, and I’m not in control of everything. Still, even as I let go and let God be God and fix things in His own way, I want to know that He understands. And when I slow down and read His word, I find encouragements like the following…

  • This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NLT)
  • Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)
  • What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7 NLT)

With understanding that God does care about me personally, and trust that He will lead in the right direction, I can sing from my heart, “Walk a mile in my shoes, Lord, then keep walkin’ my whole life through.” I hope you can too.

P.S. Just for a little encouragement, here’s a video of the song Give Them All to Jesus

October 27, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction, Poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perilous Times Are Here


Stick Figure in Peril by Flickr User Kenneth Kiffer Fong, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Stick Figure in Peril by Flickr User Kenneth Kiffer Fong, 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.

Because peril is a serious subject, let me start out with some lighter fare. The image above is from a Flickr group called Stick Figures in Peril. People post images of warning signs, and then group members comment on them. For example, on the above image, someone wrote, “Skipping like a girl will get you shot.” It’s a fun group since some of the warning signs are not exactly evident, especially if they’re in languages other than English. Plus, many of the stick figure warnings look less like people, so they will not have gender or age issues, and the comments often make fun of the figures themselves. For example, many will say something like, “Don’t do this, or you’ll end up with a detached head and no hands.” The older images have more comments of course.

As for the serious subject, we have this warning in 2 Timothy 3:1 (KJV): “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” In other Bible versions, the words used instead of perilous include hard, grievous, terrible, distressing, difficult, terrifying, dangerous and trying. Some versions are more detailed and give other descriptions. They say there will be times of stress, much trouble, times of difficulty, and violent periods of time. In The Living Bible (TLB), Paul speaks to Timothy this way…

You may as well know this too, Timothy, that in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian.

And so it will be, and so it is, but what kinds of peril do we most often hear reported or complained about these days? Stepping away from what the Bible calls “perilous” for a moment, let’s think about some troublesome times I’ve heard about just in my lifetime. My grandfather worked three part-time jobs before he came into a career. It was difficult to find full-time work, and even with all the jobs he put in, it was hard for him to feed his family. His family of five shared a small travel trailer on a lot, and their most frequent meal was pinto beans and fried potatoes. (Those years did teach my grandma how to make the best beans and potatoes though, hence my strong desire for those foods now.)

Anyway, those were truly difficult times, but my grandparents persevered until they were able to buy a home. Once they both has jobs, times got much easier for them. They went from a hand-dug pool to a professional pool, and eventually they got a retirement home with riverfront property. But even when times were better, they were frugal and thrifty about most things, like only using the pot belly stove for heat while everyone was awake. I lived with them for some of those days, and only using upstairs heat meant my downstairs bedroom was really cold, but it also meant a few more times out to eat too.

When people complain about being poor in today’s society, it usually means they can’t afford a smart phone with an unlimited plan, a flat screen television, and premium cable. They feel left out if they don’t have a computer and high-speed Internet. Oh, and don’t even think of telling them to be satisfied if they don’t have steak for dinner and a refrigerator full of 2-liters. Where my mom and her siblings would’ve been grateful for hot dogs to go with their beans and potatoes, people are selling their food stamps for cigarettes and then griping if they run out of soda. I’m telling the truth here. And I’m not saying everyone should have to deal with eating from food banks where you get mostly canned mixed vegetables (I still think Veg-All is disgusting) and off-brand mac and cheese. I’m just saying that people complain when they could have it much worse. They could have to work for a living and still struggle for beans and potatoes.

Now, though, let me tell you what the Bible calls perilous times. I’ll share 2 Timothy 3:1-5 from The Message Bible

Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.

The KJV Bible lists the last of verse 4 and first of verse 5 like this…

“…lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”

And doesn’t that explain perfectly why we are where we are in the last days? The real power of God can change everything. Religion is a form of godliness and only changes some things. Ethereal power (angels, miracles, etc.) have their place, but that’s still not the power people deny. The power too many of us are missing now is truth and balance; trusting that God is on His throne, in control, and absolutely knows best even when we don’t understand. We put too many things in our own thoughts and understanding, so we end up with statistics like those shown in a recent article where 63% of active Christians think sex outside of marriage is fine. The article calls them “sexual atheists” and makes very good points.

Yes, perilous times are here in so many ways, but if you know Yahveh as your Lord and Savior, you know from His word that none of this comes as a surprise to Him. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and is just as able to deliver us from these end times as He was to deliver Israel from her enemies of old. He can and will govern our lives and minds if we let Him. We have the power of His Holy Spirit to carry us through. His wisdom from Proverbs 3:5-6 (Amplified Bible) gives us a perfect promise…

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.

October 26, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In The Beginning, God…


The Beginning of Time by Flickr User Trey Ratcliff aka Stuck In Customs, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

The Beginning of Time by Flickr User Trey Ratcliff aka Stuck In Customs, 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.

First, God. Then, God created. That’s the necessary order for the best possible world because without God and His wisdom, creation would be soulless. But God didn’t want soulless creatures that operated like programmed robots, so He created man in His own image. Like God, we have a soul, a spirit, and a body. As it says in Colossians 2:9, For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. And because we are like Him, we can communicate with Him even from our human bodies while living in this temporary world.

Somehow though, today’s world has gotten wrapped up in the pursuit of knowledge instead of operating from the soul God gave us. But, if knowledge and thinking were enough for a good life, we would have no problem sharing our population with androids, and men would not try so desperately to humanize artificial intelligence. We know from the soul God gave us that life requires more, yet we keep trying to shut out that voice of reason as if what brings pleasure in the flesh should have priority. And even when we conquer the flesh, we often prioritize thoughts and feelings over the wisdom of God’s Spirit.

So, here I sit, working on my 402nd post for this blog and desperately wanting to make sure that I write from the leading of God’s Holy Spirit more than my own thoughts and ideas. At the same time, I must trust that because my creativity is also in God’s image, my ideas can come from Him too. I don’t write for readers nearly as much as wanting to write out of obedience and leaving readers in God’s hands. I guess that’s why I might be something of a perfectionist when I write.

Torah season has started again, but I’m not going to do daily updates on portions. I will, however, post a link to the weekly portion in The Complete Jewish Bible at BibleGateway.com for those who want to follow the annual reading schedule. I actually got a week behind, so you can read the full first week’s portion as part of today’s Shabbat (Sabbath) before sundown on Saturday, October 25th. That portion is Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 6:8. The divisions are written in the CJB, and there is a page with the divided readings and links available at Hebcal.com. The name links to the first portion with a list of links to all other portions.

Another great place to learn about the Torah and Hebrew roots of the Christian faith is Hebrew4Christians.com. Save the following links for your year of reading Genesis through Deuteronomy…

Now, speaking of current reading, for this week, the portion is called “Noah” in English and is Genesis 6:9 through Genesis 11:32. With the seven divisions, this can be seen at http://www.hebcal.com/sedrot/noach. And with all that information, I’d say my readers have a chance at a good beginning for their Torah year. I hope you will join me and my husband this year, and please stop in now and then to tell me what you’re getting out of the readings for yourself and your family.

In closing for the day, I want to say that it is because of God’s original plans and designs at the beginning that we get the new beginnings we experience each day. I believe His plans were to make humans in His image for good communications and interactions with Himself, but we sought flesh and soul over His Spirit. Still, even though we pushed Him behind the stuff we have too often made more important than Him, He comes in with mercies that are new every morning. It’s hard to imagine being loved so much that all we have to do is earnestly desire Him and He’s there with open arms no matter what came before, but that’s the truth. And that truth is shown beautifully in the song He Was There All the Time, so enjoy this video. View it at YouTube to find the lyrics in the video description section…

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monosyllabic Challenge


Three Kitty Cats in the Window, Rock Texture, Syllable Text, by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved

Three Kitty Cats in the Window, Rock Texture, Syllable Text, by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved
Click image to open a new tab/window to view my cats and critters album at Flickr.

Monosyllabic is a five-syllable word that defines words of one syllable. Only in the English language, right? But, if you’re like me and like rhythmic poetry like haiku, you might count syllables in words just for fun. For example, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious has 14 syllables, even if it is a made-up word. If you want a real word, there is a word for a lung disease that has 19 syllables, but I’ll let you do that research for yourselves. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, in the urban dictionary, monosyllabic is actually a word that means “lame” or “boring.”

In an effort to keep this post from being lame, I’m going to challenge readers to write a monosyllabic piece. In other words, create a paragraph or story made up of only one-syllable words. You can keep it to yourself, or you can share it in comments for me to read. I prefer the latter. Just to make it fair, I will share a quick one-syllable story, and this one even includes a cat just to match the image above. Here goes…

High noon, when the sun sits at the top of the sky, is too hot to work, but there is so much work to be done. But how can I work when life will not yield its strength to me. I need strength. I need hope. I feel the pain of my loss as it digs a hole in my heart. It makes me weak. I am bound by it, and I can’t do a thing to make it set me free. It haunts me. It taunts me with its knock, knock, knock at my brain.

I watch the cat curl up in a warm spot of sun on the floor, and I wish I were a cat. Not that cat’s lives are filled with ease. I know they are not when I watch them sleep and dream of that cat and mouse chase where they may win or they may lose. But when one has just sensed a great loss, it makes me think it would suit me more to just lie down and sleep.

There are dreams I would like to keep in the depths of my heart, and there are dreams I would like to share. But gone are the dreams I think could come true for me since my new dream is now gone. And it would have worked so well. But, like the cat and mouse game, the thought was there when I went to sleep, but when I woke up, it was gone. So it seems best now to lie in the sun and take a nap like the cat does each day at noon. It could be that as I sleep, my dreams will wake in me once more.

In case you don’t get the hidden subject, I don’t want to leave you thinking this is a negative story. It’s just about those ideas that you think about when you lie down to sleep, or dreams you have in the middle of the night. You are so sure you will remember the idea or dream, so you don’t write it down. And then, when you wake up, it’s all gone. You then hope that it will come back to you the next time you sleep. If it doesn’t, you write a story about it just to have something to feed your muse. 🙂

Now it’s your turn, and I hope you share.

October 24, 2014 Posted by | About Writing, Fiction, Nonfiction | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sometimes, I Need to Play Pollyanna


Sometimes I need to play Pollyanna and to find the good in every situation. It’s not a matter of simple desire, it’s a matter of survival. As a deep feeler, when an abundance of negativity surrounds my days and weeks, I just need to play the glad game. If you haven’t seen the movie or heard the story, click the video above for a clip about Pollyanna’s game. It was something her father taught her before he passed away, and it helped her survive the tragedy of his loss. It wasn’t well-accepted by her bitter aunt and the employees who inevitably picked up on the bitterness that riches could never fix.

Since I became a follower of Yeshua, my glad game is a little different from Pollyanna’s. I still try to find something to be glad about in situations that would otherwise make me sad, but I try to find that reason in Scripture or in a promise from God. Maybe I’ll remind myself that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Or, maybe I’ll just think about how grateful I am to know that Yeshua will never leave or forsake me, so whatever I go through, I will never be alone.

I think King David played the glad game too because he said things like…

  • I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. (Psalm 9:2 NKJV)
  • I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, For You have considered my trouble. (Psalm 31:7a NKJV)
  • Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (Psalm 32:11 NKJV)
  • Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. (Psalm 51:8 NKJV)
  • The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and trust in Him. And all the upright in heart shall glory. (Psalm 64:10 NKJV)
  • But let the righteous be glad; Let them rejoice before God; Yes, let them rejoice exceedingly. (Psalm 68:3 NKJV)
  • Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days! (Psalm 90:14 NKJV)
  • Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness. (Psalm 96:11 NKJV)
  • This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24 NKJV)
  • The Lord has done great things for us, And we are glad. (Psalm 126:3 NKJV)

Maybe believers should just call it The King David Game when we look for reasons to praise God because it sure looks like he had a handle on the idea of being glad in God no matter what. He even wanted his broken bones to rejoice.

The hardest part of playing Pollyanna is when we face tougher and tougher circumstances that threaten to make it impossible to find something good. My personal version of the game is in my challenge at my website, For One Soul. But, even having this message, it’s not always easy. There have been times in my life that were so hard, even my husband said, “And don’t tell me it might be for one soul because I don’t want to hear that now.” King David talks about feeling like the heavens were brassed over and about watering his couch with tears. There are days when all the encouragement in the world doesn’t feel like it’s enough.

A problem that can arise while playing Pollyanna is when it becomes difficult to accept negative truths. We may try to believe the best about someone when they have clearly crossed a line into darkness or deceit. Or, we may tell people that something is okay when it’s not just because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. Me, I only want to give five-star (or whatever is the best) reviews on things because that’s what I hope to get, but that’s not reality. Only God is good enough to always get a top rating every time. But, if I give top ratings to everyone, then people may even have a hard time believing me when I uplift God as best of all.

So, let’s go ahead and play Pollyanna when we need to balance the darkness and pain around us. Find a reason to play the glad game and to rejoice in God, maybe even by looking for where God will make things work for one soul. But, let’s also keep it honest. It’s a lie to say we are whole when we are broken, but it’s the truth to say we are whole in God because we know He is the Potter who will repair us. It’s the truth to say life is hard, but God is good. And when it gets really tough, we can remind ourselves that what we go through here are light and temporary afflictions. Paul even tells us in Romans 8:18 (NKJV)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

With that promise, I think all of us can get away with playing Pollyanna’s glad game a little bit more often. HalleluYah!

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Really Know Your Creator?


God's Handiwork by Flickr User listentothemountains, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

God’s Handiwork by Flickr User listentothemountains, 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.

God is God and we are not. That’s step one. Psalm 46:10, as in the above image, reminds us from The Amplified Bible

Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!

I know He knows me far better than I can ever know Him this side of Heaven, and yet I have a desire to know Him more deeply every day. He is more than just an idea to me, and He’s more than just what I read in Scripture. It’s difficult for me to express the depth of my heart for Yahveh Almighty. I guess it’s a little like trying to tell you about the love I have for my husband. I mean, I can try, but no matter what I say, I can’t convince you to love him the same way I do. I hope that, if you are in love with someone, there’s nothing I can say that would make you feel more love for my mate than for your own. And, if you are in love with God, I hope there’s nothing that anyone can present that would make you love anything more than Him.

I think, above all else that God is looking for in us, it is a sincere heart. If we sincerely love Him, we will automatically be faithful to Him. If we are faithful to Him, we will automatically want to please Him and do what He desires by obeying His commands. It won’t be about trying to be perfect for the sake of some kind of reward. It will be about trying to be as close to perfect as we can get simply because we don’t want to hurt the One we love.

There are many who try to tell us who God is, or what God is, or what God wants from us, but can they really tell us those things? Each of us is different. God is able to become exactly what each of us needs, so if I tell you the attributes He has revealed to draw my heart to Him, it may mean nothing to you. If I battle fear, and God comes in showing Himself to me as the victor over my fears, that will mean everything to me. But, it will mean nothing to confident people who need to know God as a source of gentleness and compassion because their confidence has been built on hardening themselves against pain.

I’ve talked before about the group of young church girls whose behaviors were lacking in godliness. A deacon of the church tried to correct the bad behaviors. They answered him a bit indignantly with the oft-repeated line, “God knows our hearts.” In essence, they told the deacon to mind his own business because if God knew their hearts, nothing else mattered. However, the deacon was undaunted and asked them a question that I hope has come back to them as often as it has come to me. He answered their prideful attitude with, “Yes, but do you know God’s heart.”

In Romans 11:33 (in the Holman Christian Standard Bible) we read…

Oh, the depth of the riches
both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable His judgments
and untraceable His ways!

That’s not an excuse to say He is too hard to get to know. It’s an invitation to get to know Him in a more personal way. His word promises us that if we seek and search for Him with our whole hearts, we will find Him. We can’t judge by what someone else says God is (or isn’t) to them. We can’t base Him on written word alone because we need the guidance of His Holy Spirit for understanding. If we want to know our Creator, we must shut out all the other voices and words and seek Him for ourselves.

The people of the community of Israel saw God from a distance, and they saw smoke and fire. The priests saw Him from a closer place, and they saw feet that stood on a sea of glass. Moses went into the holiest place, and up on the mountain, and he saw the face of a Friend. Do you know your Creator as your Friend? If so, leave a comment. If not, keep on seeking and push into the holy place beyond the veil of your flesh. When you meet Him there, you’ll find a friend–and you’ll never want to leave Him.

October 22, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Freedom of Speech Week!


Speech Balloon by Flickr User Marc Wathieu, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Speech Balloon by Flickr User Marc Wathieu, 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.

Guess what? I know, I already gave the answer in the title. October 20-26th, 2014, is Freedom of Speech Week. Apparently, this is something to celebrate every 3rd week in October. And yet, the news is telling me that there’s a mayor in Texas who is demanding copies of speeches any pastors make to verify that what they say won’t offend anyone. So, maybe the freedom of speech thing only works if what you speak is not offensive? Well, obviously that can’t be the criteria since offensiveness is subjective and based on the thoughts and feelings of whomever listens.

See, the idea of never offending anyone is pure fantasy, as is the idea of never being offended. I want to be allowed the freedom to speak from my heart, so I know that will require my allowing others to speak from their hearts. But I also realize how often that freedom will be abused as long as we live in a world governed by men and not by God. What I share as life and truth from God’s word can be received as offensive criticism by those with no intention of bending to God’s will. To pay back those perceived offenses, men will claim they are harmed and demand news laws to protect them from such harms. The laws then start chipping away at the foundations of our freedoms.

The other side of the coin can be equally severe. Did you know that child porn was at one time covered under freedom of speech and freedom of press laws? I was in my first semester of college when I learned of that, and all I knew to do then was to pray.

So, if I want to be free to speak words from the Holy Bible, does that mean I must give people the right to parade disgusting images in front of my family? It would seem so with all that is becoming uncensored even in “prime time” television. Little kids now have to see displays of homosexuality, feminine products well before they understand such things, and commercials about drugs for herpes. I don’t know if the scantily clad underwear commercials are in family hour time slots or not, but I know I don’t like them paraded in front of my husband either.

Even though I don’t want all that stuff shared as freely as it is, I would probably be a little more understanding if there was some balance. A channel owned by the once family-friendly Disney company (ABC) puts out a disclaimer before showing The 700 Club, but they don’t put out a disclaimer before displaying language, witchcraft, sexuality, etc. Why not? Because they don’t care if they offend people with the ungodly stuff? Or just because we, as Christians, try so hard to be “harmless as doves” that they know we are not as apt to march in protest or hire an attorney to file a civil lawsuit? As frustrating as the imbalance is, I’m thankful that we can at least still see the programming.

We may not be able to control how others will react to our words, but we can do our best to line up everything we say an do in our own lives to the written word of God. That said, I decided to look up some Bible Scriptures on speaking, and I found some interesting instructions in the 10th chapter of the book of Matthew. Compare the following two Scriptures…

Matthew 10:27 (NKJV) (Yeshua speaking) “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.”

Matthew 10:19-20 (NKJV) Yeshua had more words for them. “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

Matthew 10:16 (NKJV) Yeshua gave the disciples a warning. “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

I know I have the verses reverse of how you would read them, but it was reading them in this context that showed me something. God wants us to shout His words from the roof tops. We first need the confidence that no matter what men say about God’s word being offensive, it is His will for us to share it. But, confidence alone is not enough. what we share, when, and with whom we share it must all be led by God’s Holy Spirit.

Just because God anoints us, and we are truly wise and harmless, we have no guarantee that we won’t be delivered to uncomfortable situations or face false accusations of offense. After all, we are still carrying these words of life into a world of wolves that desire darkness and death and that despise the Light. Don’t give up, though. If Christ has set you free, you are free indeed, and you can celebrate that freedom with Him…especially since it’s “Freedom of Speech Week.”

October 21, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Out of Thin Air


Pike's Peak 14,110 Feet by Flickr User carfull...Cowboy State-r, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Pike’s Peak 14,110 Feet by Flickr User carfull…Cowboy State-r, 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.

Tonight, I’m digging out an old article from 2004 and revamping it for my blog. I hope you enjoy the devotion.

From John 4:24, New King James Version, we read…God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

I was on edge during the entire drive.  No: Really!  The car was much closer to the edge of that winding mountain road than I was comfortable with.  So, all the way up to Pike’s Peak, the highest mountain in Colorado, I rode with white knuckles and my fingers gripping the edge of my seat. I’ve never liked being in a car on a mountain road because the edge always seems closer than I want it to, and I worry about someone coming down and both vehicles not being able to fit.

As we neared the peak, I began to feel increasingly irritable.  It became almost uncontrollable and totally unlike my normal personality. Nevertheless, when we reached the summit, my bad attitude was temporarily diverted by something I found to be quite odd.  I noticed that, for some reason, all the trees were suddenly gone, but I didn’t ask anyone why. I just walked around and tried to get some peace in my spirit while enjoying the scenery, including the rock with the words of America The Beautiful etched into it. Apparently, the writer, Katharine Lee Bates, penned the lyrics after a visit there.

I looked across the span of mountain peaks and valleys below us.  There seemed to be a distinct point where the tree growth stopped.  It was as if they had all hit an invisible barrier. I guessed that maybe it was just too cold when it got that high up, and I went into the gift shop to warm myself. I worked on making the visit enjoyable, and I felt better in the gift shop, but I still wanted to get back down off that mountain.

As we twisted and turned along the same mountain road on the way down, I spoke up right when we started seeing trees again. I questioned why the trees just quit growing, and though I didn’t share it, I noticed I was starting to feel a little bit better. I guessed it was just because we were finally headed back to civilization. Anyway, brother-in-law who was driving answered my wonderings about the trees.  He told me they were gone because we had passed the “timberline” or “tree line,” the elevation at which the oxygen level was too thin for any significant growth.

Now the mental wheels began to turn faster than the car’s wheels.  I could see a spiritual parallel to this physical timberline.  I looked down into the valleys and noticed that the greatest growth seemed to happen closer to the bottoms of the mountains than at their tops.  Click.  The wheels began to lock into place. Maybe the “mountaintop experiences” we so often desired of God were elusive for a reason.  Maybe where I thought I would find more God–up high–was actually a parallel to the thinner atmosphere and He just didn’t “hang out” up there as much as I’d imagined.

By the time we got halfway down the mountain and stopped to visit another gift shop, I was feeling worlds better, and I found out why. Lower levels of oxygen can cause hypoxia and what is called Altitude Sickness. At that time, I still had undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea, so I’m certain that didn’t help any either.

Anyway, since God is a Spirit, and Scripture says (in Job 34:14-15) that He is the breath of all mankind, He is basically our oxygen. With or without sleep apnea, all of us need to be where there is more oxygen because the better we breathe, the better we feel. This is true both physically and spiritually. As I processed all this new information, I also realized that the valleys not only had more oxygen, they had more warmth.  Both of these are important factors of God’s presence. In addition to the fact that more oxygen creates more growth, more growth creates more oxygen–just as growing Christians produce more of the presence of God.

It is in the valleys, more than on the mountaintops, where we will find God producing more growth–and growth producing more of God’s presence in our lives.  It’s no wonder King David was able to declare, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me“. Yes, I was glad to get back down from that mountain, but I will always cherish the experience and what I learned from it.  Isn’t it amazing what God can help us pull out of thin air?

Enjoy this video of As the Mountains are Around Jerusalem by the group Lamb

October 20, 2014 Posted by | Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Halloween Sweets; Trick or Treat?


Candy, Candy, and more Candy by Flickr User kristymp, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Candy, Candy, and more Candy by Flickr User kristymp, 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.

It’s almost that time again. Kids of all ages dress like pirates and ghosts to hunt for sweet treasures and scare up tasty treats. As a child, I loved the dress up, and of course, I loved all the candy. Don’t most of us? We’ve got pictures of ourselves or our children with frosting face from one-year birthday cakes and chocolate noses from first Halloweens and Easters. It all seems so fun and harmless until things like diabetes and obesity become the later-in-life prices for childhood indulgences.

So often, it seems we think that because we don’t see an immediate result to a particular behavior, we don’t think the consequence will truly matter. We don’t end up with a sugar imbalance from just one sweet holiday, or even our first few years of them. (Read the article linked under the word “sugar” for some great insight.) But, thinking we have to see instant results is its own kind of trick. We don’t grow a tree the day after we plant a seed either. Years of excuses to indulge in Christmas candy and birthday cake come to haunt so many of us, and even then, the cravings are so strong that it just seems impossible to switch from suckers to celery. After many doses of sugary treats, we have developed a sweet tooth.

So, what do you think Adam and Eve would tell us now when it comes to our wonderings about tricks and treats? I’m guessing they looked at the Tree of Knowledge as harmlessly as a young mother looks at a chocolate bunny filled with high fructose corn syrup. It’s only one bite. What could it hurt? It grows wild. It’s all natural. There was no warning label on the trunk to say, “If you partake of this fruit, you will end up with a sin tooth.” But that’s exactly what happened, and it spread throughout generations up to where we are today.

Our garden couple did realize something had changed almost immediately, but instead of being humble and repenting for their behaviors, their “sin tooth” had already begun to take hold of them. They began tossing around blame like it would undo what they had just done. They blamed each other, they blamed the enemy, and eventually they even blamed God Himself. (The woman “You gave me” fed it to me.)

Adam and Eve didn’t realize what would happen as a result of their indulgence in either the sin or the excuses for it. They couldn’t see a future outside the garden. The death they inherited with their actions took longer then than it does now, but it started none-the-less. Maybe it wasn’t even the fruit or the revelation of good and evil that brought that death, but the craving for sin that it set up in them. Maybe it was just being outside of a place where they could walk with God daily and learn His wisdom and will for their lives. Maybe there is something that grew outside the garden that negatively affects mankind, and all of us who live and eat from the earth consume it to our detriment.

We still don’t really know what brought death to Adam and Eve. We don’t know exactly how much sugar or which of the other additives in the candy we consume can bring physical suffering to kids as they age. We do know that listening to God would have yielded better results, and we do know that listening to some common sense about health will result in kids growing into healthier adults. I’m certainly not condemning others since I have done my share of “spoiling” kids I’ve cared for in my life. But, what if I hadn’t done that? Would some of them be less apt to be depressed or crave alcohol now? What if my caregivers had taught me to love fresh veggies instead of candy? Would I have less trouble with cravings that lead to weight gain? (A sugar fast has led me to cut down on sugar recently, and I’m already feeling better for it.)

If you are in the place to feed or teach a child, I would ask you not to feed or teach in ways that would create either a sweet tooth or a sin tooth. Fill them with praises of The Creator instead of praises of His creations. Guide them a desire for God’s wisdom more than for man’s knowledge. And, teach them to like the good stuff in flesh and spirit before they have grown up enough to indulge in too much of the bad stuff in either. They may feel tricked more than treated now, but they’ll thank you for the treats of better health and a stronger spirit later.

O taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:8 NLV)

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inconceivably Inconceivable


A minister, a Boy Scout, and a scientist were the only passengers on a small plane. The pilot came running back to the cabin and explained that the plane was going to crash, and anyone who wanted to be saved would have to jump. “But,” he added, “there are only three parachutes and four people. I should have one of the parachutes because I have a wife and three small children. The rest of you will have to figure out what to do.” So, he grabbed a parachute and jumped. The scientist jumped up almost immediately and declared that he should have one of the parachutes because of his value to the world. He said, “I am the smartest man in the world and they all need me.” With that, he grabbed one and jumped. The minister turned to the Boy Scout with a sad smile.  “Son,” he said, “you are young and have your whole life in front of you, and I have already lived a rich life. You take the remaining parachute, and I’ll go down with the plane.” Then the Boy Scout said, “It’s okay, Reverend; the smartest man in the world just jumped out with my backpack!”

Inconceivable! How can someone so smart make such a stupid decision, right? But people do it all the time. We’re told in John 1:4-5 (New King James Version)…

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

With the little bit of light it takes to illuminate darkness, it seems inconceivable that darkness would have any choice but to comprehend it. Of course, the word may also mean that darkness could not defeat it based on footnotes, but I can see evidence in this world that those in the dark have no understanding of The Light. To the contrary, we’re told in John 3:19 (The Complete Jewish Bible)…

Now this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light. Why? Because their actions were wicked.

It’s not that they are in too much darkness, and it’s not that they are ignorant. They cannot blame being unable to see for their behaviors if they have been presented the truth and knowingly turned it away. There may be difficulty in finding God’s light, and The Light may seem a bit blinding to them when first introduced to eyes not used to it, but it can be done. There is difficulty in bringing sin into our lives. I coughed and hacked and choked when I tried my first cigarette, but I kept working at it until I didn’t. I desperately wanted to be accepted by the girls who introduced me to smoking, and at that point, I felt it worth the struggle.

Maybe it can be a struggle to get free from the bondage of sin, and maybe it will take some work to choke up the darkness we’ve swallowed before meeting God, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it because sin is bondage, and God is freedom. It’s worth it because sin is a lie, and God is Truth. It’s worth it because living in sin is like living in pitch blackness, but living with God is living in The Light. God offers so much light that the Psalmist said it this way in Psalm 139:11-12 (New Living Translation)…

I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
    but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

If we introduce people to The Gospel, and they choose to remain in darkness, it is not because we have done an improper job of presenting The Light. As you can see from the Psalm, God can turn even darkness into light. No, instead it’s about people who choose to keep their eyes shut tightly against God’s light and hope to claim ignorance in the end. It’s inconceivable to them that their lies won’t work because they are in bondage to them. For those of us who know God and His abundant mercy and grace, we cannot imagine rejecting such love and wonder. To us, rejecting Yeshua and His salvation is inconceivably inconceivable.

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.
(Acts 17:30 NKJV)

 

October 18, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s the International Year of Crystallography


Mohawk Mesolite by Flickr User Mike Beauregard aka subarcticmike, CC License = Attribution

Mohawk Mesolite by Flickr User Mike Beauregard aka subarcticmike, 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.
While you’re there, be sure to look at the album for this image. There are more great crystals there.

I know,you think I’m joking about the title, but I’m not. I don’t know how I missed it, but when I ventured to one of my favorite sites, “Brownie Locks” holidays page, I found the announcement. I don’t know how I’d missed it before. I mean, isn’t it a holiday about the study of me? 😉 Of course, I know better, but I do love anything that sparkles, and that means I’m intrigued by things that crystalize, so this intrigues me. If you want to know more about it, visit About the International Year of Crystallography to read more.

So, in the spirit of all things crystalized, I’m going to do a prismatic post tonight. In other words, I’m going to write on a variety of subjects. For example, today is Simchat Torah which means “Joy of Torah” and it is the time when the annual Torah readings begin again. I was wondering why the readings actually began with Deuteronomy 33 & 34 (Easy to Read version), and I found understanding from a comment posted at Chabad.org (link under Simchat Torah above). The commenter said it shows continuity and the never-ending cycle of the Torah in our lives. I love that because it’s like saying God’s Word is His wedding ring for His bride.

Now I want to talk about special days for October. For writers and readers, we have National Book Month plus National Church Library Month and National Children’s Magazine Month. Of course, for published writers, it’s also National Self-Promotion Month, so get the word out. For those who love to eat, and don’t live on a Kosher only diet, it’s Hog Out Month which coincides with National Pork Month. Oh, and it’s also Pizza Month. No wonder I’ve been craving that.

If you’re into issue awareness, you might already know that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You can visit the Pink Ribbons for Awareness group on Flickr to see some pretty pink images in honor of this month. After you enjoy the images, be sure to stop by The Breast Cancer Site to click the pink banner and help raise funds for research. It only costs you a moment of your time unless you decide to buy something from The Breast Cancer Site store, and then the proceeds go to a great cause. (You can click banners and shop for other great causes while you’re there.)

While we’re talking about awareness, we are just completing Take Your Medicine Americans Week (Oct 10-16), which is interesting since October is also Antidepressant Death Awareness Month. So, take your medicine, but be careful. It’s also Global ADHD Awareness Month, and just so you’re aware, I do have Adult ADD, but I don’t think there’s any hyperactivity except mentally. You may have figured that out from my variety of subjects tonight, and by all the distractions that cause my posts to show up well after midnight. Still, I like what I heard on an old episode of Numbers: I’m not easily distracted, I’m easily fascinated. Maybe that’s why I also noticed that it’s Squirrel Awareness Month and reminded my husband to feed the squirrels that visit our backyard.

Okay, just a few more. If you have a bathroom leak, you should know that October is Toilet Tank Repair Month. I guess plumbers are as busy as the ophthalmologists dealing with those celebrating Home Eye Safety Month or Eye Injury Prevention Month. If you like Science Fiction movies or Jeff Bridges, you’ll be glad to know that it’s International Starman Month. If the movie puts you in the mood for a snack, you’ll also be happy to know it’s National Popcorn Poppin’ Month which may also lead to your awareness of National Dental Health Month. If you top your snack in honor of National Caramel Month, it could get you thinking about National Orthodontic Health Month if you have braces.

For those of my readers who are also writers, I hope you’ve enjoyed this sampling of what you can find out there when looking for writing ideas. There are plenty more ideas at the site above, and there are links to more from there, so add Brownie Locks to your bookmarks. You’ll want to submit articles on these October special days anytime from February to April for those publications that want things six to nine months in advance, so maybe this will give you a head start. For all my readers, I hope I’ve given you something fun to read that makes you want to share my blog. After all, October 12-18th is Getting the World to Beat a Path to Your Door Week.

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living On Minimum Wage with God


Poverty Wage or Fair Payment by Flickr User Jez S, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Poverty Wage or Fair Payment by Flickr User Jez S, 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.

Have you ever tried to live on minimum wage; or below? I have, and it wasn’t fun. Though I don’t have that much now, there was a time when I would have considered anyone who lived like me to be rich. I mean, I can actually go out to eat, and I can order a full meal. At one point of my life though, I couldn’t even think about going out to eat. Later, there was a time when a waitress dubbed me and my family “The Biscuit and Gravy Bunch” because that’s all we ever ordered. It was all we could afford, but it was worth it for the treat of going out and not having to cook or do dishes.

Until a person has had to live at those low levels, they may not realize the stress of such a lifestyle, and unfortunately, that means most who are making the laws have no understanding. But, for all of us who have had to combine multiple families under one roof to bring in enough pay to keep the rent and utilities paid, we know how hard it can be. If we could demand pay equal to the quantity and quality of work we put out, then only those who refuse to do their parts would suffer those low lifestyles. Even the Bible, in Proverbs 23:21, tells us that drowsiness will clothe a man with rags, but it’s sad when hard work can bring rags as well.

Still, there are some problems with the demands for increased wages. One of those problems is that people want an increase in wages even if there is no increase in work ethics or output. Many want to be paid more just for showing up simply because they want a more comfortable lifestyle. When I worked in Arizona, many jobs weren’t required to pay even minimum wage, so even though I worked hard, I lived on about $10 worth of groceries per week. It got me ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese, and lots of potatoes. It may not have been great, but at least I felt I had earned every bite I put in my mouth.

That demand for higher wages regardless of work slips into our spiritual lives as well. As the song says, “Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die.” People don’t want to die to self either, but they want Heaven on earth with God meeting their every need even if they are not truly sold out to Him. Sometimes, He may give them some extras to draw them closer, but if they continually resist His discipline, He will back away. But does that mean people become lost just because they stop listening and obeying as they should?

It is not my place to judge the final place for our souls, but I can share what I feel based on Scripture. First, we must remember that God only disciplines those whom He loves. If we are hearing His voice and being told to change, we should be thankful for it. But, if instead of being thankful we become rebellious, then we can only blame ourselves for the troubles we suffer. Here’s how the New Living Testament speaks of those who refuse to listen to God’s wisdom in Proverbs 1:25-26; 28

You ignored my advice
    and rejected the correction I offered.
So I will laugh when you are in trouble!
    I will mock you when disaster overtakes you—

When they cry for help, I will not answer.
    Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me.

I know that may sound a bit harsh, but it’s just like good parents do when it comes to discipline. We don’t reinforce negative behaviors (like our child running into the street where she can get run over by a car) by rewarding them. God doesn’t either. But this is not about our salvation; this is about our works. Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 about our works (what we build on the foundation of Yeshua) being tried by fire and how that will affect our salvation. Here it is from the Easy to Read Version

But the work that each person does will be clearly seen, because the Day will make it plain. That Day will appear with fire, and the fire will test everyone’s work. If the building they put on the foundation still stands, they will get their reward. But if their building is burned up, they will suffer loss. They will be saved, but it will be like someone escaping from a fire.

Truthfully, though, is that how we really want to live out our eternity? As someone who was just delivered from Hell fire? How is it we would fight against minimum wage here on earth but be satisfied with it for eternity? We have our name in The Lamb’s Book of Life by the price Yeshua paid on Calvary, but we are responsible for our deeds and the rewards they bring both here on earth and in eternity. God has a fair wage scale, and He is ready to shower us with blessings now and forever. When we can have a high salary and all the company benefits and perks, why should we be happy living on minimum wage with God?

October 16, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tag, You’re It


Family Luggage Tags by Flickr User Gabe Taviano, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Family Luggage Tags by Flickr User Gabe Taviano, 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.
Lots of neat craft ideas in this one.

I never liked being it. I mean, I didn’t like not being it either because that meant having to run from it to keep from getting tagged. Still, there’s just something about the rejection of everyone running away from me that was just no fun. It’s okay though because I’m not writing about that kind of tag today. I’m writing about luggage tags.

Have you ever thought about all the things your luggage says about you? It tells the world whether you shop high-end stores or at department stores. If you’re like me, it tells the world you like bright colors. (My pink luggage with white paw prints always gets remarks from fellow travelers.) It tells if you pack light or heavy, and if it’s bulging at the seams, people will know you stuffed in as much as you could, as fast as you could. But even if your luggage itself said nothing about you, your luggage tags would do a lot of talking.

People are more careful now than they used to be when it comes to how much personal information they would put on a luggage tag. However, even without detailed addresses and phone numbers, the many tags on a piece of luggage give everything from the departing station or port to the traveler’s destination and stops along the way. An abundance of tags says the person is likely a frequent traveler, and some leave old stickers on bags to start conversations with others. The world is too big for most of us to see it all, so communing while we commute can be a great virtual travel experience.

So, what if the luggage of our lives came with tags? What would those tags say about us? Just like with real luggage, we probably keep most of our travels and personal information to ourselves. We don’t often want to admit to some of the locations where we’ve spent time unless we find others who have been there. Shared experiences can make us feel safe to tell the truth, which is why self-help groups can do so much good. Sometimes, though, we become willing to share the less glamorous places we’ve been because we hope our testimonies will help others to avoid those places.

Do you have places in your past that are not quite postcard-worthy? Liz Curtis Higgs has inspired and encouraged many women with her Bad Girls of the Bible series because she shares those travel stops that make many people cringe. When she speaks, she shares her own journey through dark places, and she uses her luggage tags, and those of biblical women, to give all of us more hope.

The only reason you might not want to share some of those old stopovers is if your destination hasn’t changed. Even then, sharing your journeys could help you come to a place of repentance when you’re ready. But, if you have changed your luggage tag to a destination of Heaven when your life on earth is finished, don’t be afraid to let others know that you weren’t always headed that way. Even as we walk a new highway, we may find ourselves broken down on the side of the road, and sharing our struggle can be like making a call for a tow truck. That’s one reason why God’s word tells us to confess our faults to each other. I love the way it’s worded in The Amplified Bible

Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].

As I’ve written posts on this blog, I’ve shared a few of the troublesome places I’ve visited because I can also share God’s mercy in bringing me beyond them. Most of them, I’ve shared in comments since some were a bit long for the post, but I will pretty much share all that God has delivered me from. If you want to know more, you just have to ask. The wages of sin is death, but through God, I have been able to change the destination on my luggage to “Eternal Life with Christ.” Now I want to know about you and your destinations–old and new–so, tag, you’re it.

October 14, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pick A Hand


Whose Hands by Flickr User Tambako the Jaguar, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Whose Hands by Flickr User Tambako the Jaguar, 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.
I recommend a visit to this photographer’s page if you like wildlife and stunning nature photos. His work is amazing.

Have you ever hidden a gift in your hand and then put your hands out in front of you or behind your back to let a child guess where the prize might be? It’s a fun game adults like to play with children that adds an element of effort to gift-giving. When we want to give good gifts to children, we might make them play the guessing game with us just to make it a little more fun for both the child and us. It doesn’t matter if it’s our own children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or whoever. Making the gift more like a prize for them ups the value at least a little bit.

If you’ve played that game, you know that you will do just about anything to get the child to select correctly. Maybe you’ll lean your head to the side it’s in. Maybe you’ll wink on that side. Maybe you’ll lift the correct hand just a little higher or lower, or push it out a little farther, just to have a better chance that the child will pick the hand with the gift. We want the child to get the gift, and we don’t want the child to feel like a failure. We want to give the prize so much that if we are using the behind-the-back technique, we will often just change hands if the child guesses incorrectly.

Off and on, I’ve studied about the effects of prayer on God. I had heard, and even repeated, that prayer doesn’t change God, but instead prayer changes us. God is God and is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so we cannot change Him. We wouldn’t want a God that is changeable just by human requests because then we couldn’t trust Him. But, the other day I was seeking God’s instruction on this topic, and the above scenario came into my mind.

As I played the hidden gift game in my mind, but with God as the parent, I realized how much God wants to shower good things upon His children. He loves to give us gifts and prizes, but He wants interaction with us at the same time. His word says that we have not because we ask not, so if prayer is not for the purpose of changing Him, then His desire for us to ask is about that interaction. He also knows that our faith will increase when He answers our requests.

That understanding came about in the last week. My understanding of prayers that request things of God went a little deeper today. I watched an older 700 Club that did an interview with Max Lucado, and he made a statement that truly clarified things for me. He explained that prayer does not change God’s intentions, but it does affect His decisions.

As a parent or caregiver to someone we love, we will have certain intentions and a certain will that underlies all our decisions. We want whatever will protect and benefit those we love and care for. Even though we want to give them good things, if they ask for something that would go against our intentions or will for their best care, we will deny the request. As Christians, if we ask God for something that goes against His intentions or will for our lives, He will most likely deny that request. Asking Him, however, creates that interaction that enables us to discover God’s perfect will and His intentions for our lives.

In Matthew 7:7 (NKJV), we get the reminder to just “ASK” for what we want. If I write the verse in three parts, one sentence on top of another, note the first letter of each sentence…

Ask, and it will be given to you;
Seek, and you will find;
Knock, and it will be opened to you.

Yep, the three first lines remind us to simply ask, or as it says in The Amplified Bible and other versions, “Keep on asking.” Again, in The Amplified Bible, we read Philippians 4:6 that tells us to continue seeking God for our requests. It says…

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

Like the old song says, “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” so we can know that He is able to provide whatever we ask for. Reach up in praise and touch the Hands that hold whatever provision you need. Pick a hand and know that you’ll get the prize. Both hands have the nail scars to prove they’ve earned it for you.

October 13, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wait Control


Wait for the Lord by Flickr User Charlotte90T, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Wait for the Lord by Flickr User Charlotte90T, 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.

Today, my husband asked me to wait on a decision that will affect our future, and my initial reaction was rejection. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it, but I don’t like to wait. And then I read my daily post by Chip Brogden of The School of Christ. His Infinite Supply daily newsletter usually has something in it that I need, and today was no exception. He talks about the disciples fishing without first consulting The Lord, and then obeying at His word and taking in a huge catch. In Chip’s devotion for October 12th, he asks, “Which would you rather have: a whole night of wasted effort on your own, or five minutes of abundance with the Lord?”

I don’t think many of us actually like to wait, but the truth is, life is more about waiting than anything else. When we’re little, we can’t wait to become a teenager, turn sweet 16, become an adult, and all the other steps of growing up. Throughout life, we get excited and can’t wait for things like birthdays, Christmas presents, and vacations. When it’s cold, we can’t wait for spring and summer. On hot summer days, we can’t wait for the cool breezes of fall. If we’re renters, we can’t wait to buy a house. If we have a mortgage, we can’t wait to pay off our house. Cradle to grave, I think more of our lives are spent waiting than just about anything else.

But waiting can be a good thing. It’s all in how we do it. If we actively wait with anticipation, we can find joy in our waiting. There’s a thrill in anticipation that is often better than the feelings we get when we receive the thing being anticipated. It’s like that hopeful place half way through a novel when you really start wondering how it’s going to end. If it’s a well-written work, we’d miss out if we just flipped to the end right then.

Waiting gives us the opportunity to dream and to plan. We can imagine how we would like things to go, and then can do whatever is in our power to push them in that direction. It’s a chance to view the virtual draft of our plans and see if things will actually work. Waiting can be a gift. The words of Psalm 5:3 (from the Amplified Bible) put it this way…

In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare [a prayer, a sacrifice] for You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart].

That time for preparation is a gift that can save a lot of future heartbreak. It gives us time to know what we’re getting into, so we don’t blindly walk into something that turns out to be a huge mistake. The Message Bible describes Luke 14:28-30 this way…

Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: “He started something he couldn’t finish.”

Waiting doesn’t just mean standing around and doing nothing, so we don’t have to worry about being bored just because we should wait. Waiting can be a time of service as we walk humbly before God and seek His perfect will in our lives. I mean, think about what they call those people who bring food to your table at a restaurant: waiters and waitresses. They’re not just called that because they spend time waiting for you to place an order and then waiting for a cook to fix it. They offer plenty of service throughout your visit, and that service often makes the difference in whether you will return.

So, like we’re told in Luke 19:13, we should make use of what God gives us while we are here in this life until He returns for us or for all the earth. But, while we are making use of our lives, we need those moments where we stop and wait. We wait and pray. We wait for marching orders. We wait for a sign to move forward. Like the childhood game of Red Light, Green Light, we make sure we wait long enough to know it’s time to go, and then we watch carefully to know when it’s time to stop. The balance of knowing when and how to wait, and finding the joy of anticipation on the journey, can definitely be called “wait control.”

October 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Rose is A Rose


Lay You Down by Flickr User jinterwas, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Lay You Down by Flickr User jinterwas, 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.

It’s the end of a long but blessed day with interaction between a bunch of writers who love The Creator. That said, since I’m a bit tired tonight, I’m going to cheat a little and just throw in some previously written poetry. If you like poetry, this should make you happy. 🙂 If you don’t like poetry much, I hope you decide to at least explore my prose to see what you may see.

This first poem breaks away from anything I had ever tried before or since. It is called a Pantoum, and I learned it from a prompt at http://www.tweetspeakpoetry.com. (If you like to write poetry, I recommend following this page on Twitter to stay up with their many prompts.) To write this type of poem, read the detailed instructions by clicking the word, though I found a few different ideas for how they should be written by doing a Google search for the subject. In basic, you’ll notice some repeating lines from one stanza to the next (as required), and you’ll notice the last line of the poem is the same as the first. Here’s my effort…

ALOFT THE PETALS
A Pantoum by Crystal A Murray
July 9th, 2013

The rose lay aloft the petals
Strewn across a bed of fur.
She dug in deep to find the mettle
To dive right in and comfort her.

Strewn across the bed of fur,
A welcome invitation beckons
To dive right in and comfort her;
Should she or not her brain reckons.

A welcome invitation beckons,
Come hither to rest yourself just now.
Should she or not her brain reckons,
Would rest come swift or even allow?

Come hither to rest yourself just now,
Relax and close your weary eyes.
Would rest come swift or even allow,
To sleep and dream and touch the skies?

At last she lay upon the bed,
She dug in deep to find the mettle.
She rested there in colors of red,
The rose lay aloft the petals.

And, since we’re talking about roses, here is a video of one of my favorite songs by Linda Ronstadt, Love is a Rose

This next poem is one of my first attempts at non-rhyming poetry. It’s called A Very Good Rose

A VERY GOOD ROSE
By Crystal A. Murray—(c) 1998
 
Each petal perfectly formed
In the shape of a heart,
With a feel of silk and velvet.
What a creation is God’s beautiful flower…
The rose.
 
Its scent so pure and sweet,
So smoothly it unfolds,
Revealing at its heart
The seed that makes it grow.
 
No matter the color,
No matter the size;
Whether a bud or full bloom;
No matter the differences in perfume,
No matter the thorns that pierce the flesh,
Still, everyone loves the rose.
 
God must look upon this precious creation-
This wonder of beauties.
He must breathe in with its scent
And sigh contentedly.
“Such a great accomplishment.”
“It is good!” He says,
 
“And yet”, He says with another sigh,
“This is not my best work.
I know I can do better.”
 
So, did He create a new rose?
With no thorns?
A stronger scent?
Did He create a never-dying flower?
 
No!
In His greatest moment of creation
God simply grabbed…
A handful of dust
And began to mold it.
 
Suddenly, He caught a glimpse of Himself…
A mirror image.
He molded His new creation
To resemble His own image.
He breathed into it
His own breath.
And behold…
 
God’s greatest creation of all time was born!
“It is very good!” He said, and He rested.

And to bring this to an end, let me share one more video from YouTube. This one is the song What A Friend We Have in Jesus, but it is sung to the tune of The Rose as made popular by Bette Midler. Try singing it to this tune yourself. It works wonderfully, and it feels great to sing…

May God richly bless you with His abundant grace and mercy, and may you walk in His presence all your days until you walk into His presence for eternity.

October 11, 2014 Posted by | Devotion, Poetry | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s No Present Like the Thyme


Keeping Thyme by Flickr User Alan aka Kaptain Kobold, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Keeping Thyme by Flickr User Alan aka Kaptain Kobold, 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.

Do you know why the little boy through his alarm clock out the window? He wanted to see how time flies. Do you ever want to see how time flies, or has age and the progression of the world convinced you that it always moves too fast unless you’re waiting on something? There are very few times for me anymore where I wish time would hurry up and move. Most of the time, I just wish it would slow down and wait for me.

While thyme may not make a very good gift or present, especially if you get too much of it on your hands ;-), time does make a great gift. Ask those who know their days or hours are numbered, or ask a person who longs for more moments with someone they’ve lost. God knows how much we need time, and He knows exactly how much time we need. Because we don’t see the future like God does, we don’t know how much time a person needs, and it never seems like enough. Of course, God’s idea from the beginning was for us to be like Him and live eternally. That’s why we long so much for those who have already gone on, and that’s why we fight so hard to keep our lives on this earth. Well, most of us anyway.

It always amazes me when I find out about people who don’t cherish their moments here. I mean, yes, I long for eternity with my Savior because I know nothing on this earth will ever compare, but I also enjoy seeing His Light shine in a dark world. I love to see the conversion and transformation of one who was lost and dying without God. I love to see real miracles that make one or more souls truly aware of God’s presence in our lives. And, I love to be used of God to carry His message and His presence into any situation where He can change a life. At the same time, it’s a very great pain to watch a person reject that message, presence, miracle, or love of God and move forward in the darkness without conversion.

A choir I once sang with performed a song with beautiful lyrics that speak my heart about our moments on this earth. I couldn’t find a video with lyrics, so I’ll type the lyrics and then I’ll attach a video in case you want to hear the tune. I don’t know who the writer is to give credit, but the song is called While There’s Still Time. It picks up on the verse from Romans 13:11 that urges us to pay attention to the time…

(Verse I)
Tomorrow is just on credit,
There’s no guarantee on life.
You could be gone in a moment;
Your time comes tonight.
You also know that Christ is coming,
And if you’re left behind,
How you’d wished for a little bit more time.
(Chorus)
While there’s still time,
Make up your mind.
You can’t be happy living on
The border line.
If you only knew
His plans for you;
You wouldn’t wait,
Or hesitate,
While there’s still time.
(Verse II)
If you’re saved then you’re invited
To spread the news around
To your friends and those you love so much
That time is running out.
Oh just listen to His tender voice,
He’s calling to your heart,
“Draw closer to me child,
While there’s still time.”

And here’s the video…

Time may not matter to God, but it definitely matters to us, and it matters for those we love. It can be easy to be fooled into thinking there is more available than what God has planned. Here’s a little scenario of one reason we might fall for that lie…

The demons were having a big meeting to see if they could stop the great influx of souls that were turning to The Creator. One popped up with the idea to just tell everyone that there is no God. The meeting leader assured everyone that it had been tried, and it worked on a few but was ultimately a failure. Another popped up with the idea to spread the message that there is no devil. Again, the leader commented that it had been tried and failed. The leader asked if anyone had a new idea that had not been tried yet. From far back in the room, a tiny voice whispered, “Just tell them there’s no hurry.”

God’s greatest gift to us is His salvation because it comes through His blood and His love for us. But, in order for us to find that salvation and carry it to others, He has also given each of us a certain gift of time. There is a hurry to value that gift and use it as God intended, for there is no present like the time we have right now.

October 10, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beauty Out of Focus


Close Focus Lens Demo by Flickr User Jody Roberts, CC License = Attribution

Close Focus Lens Demo by Flickr User Jody Roberts, 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.

What does it take for beauty to be beautiful? Perception. Whether it’s a beautiful look, sound, touch, smell, or thought, it must be perceived. We can’t smell with a stuffy nose, hear when we’re deaf, or see when we’re blind, even if those disabilities are temporary. I think we all get out of focus at times, and I think it affects all our senses.

Our lack of perception does not change the quality or beauty of the thing we cannot seem to grasp. That includes trying to see ourselves through God’s eyes, so we can trust His direction for our lives. We fail over and over, and we cannot perceive that God sees us with a love that causes Him to forgive us over and over. We wallow in guilt and feel unworthy, but God wants to swaddle us in His love and help us to understand that His worth is what matters overall.

Imagine if you created something, and you saw it as perfect and wonderful, but someone else came along and kept saying it was horrible. That’s part of the lie the enemy of our souls has tried to create in us since God placed Adam and Eve in the garden. While God gave them every tree except one, the enemy changed their focus and perception to where that one looked greater than everything else they had with God and in the garden. The enemy made them believe they were incomplete without that one provision, and they fell for it–literally.

These days, we have the blood of Christ to cover our imperfections, so God sees us through that. We have God’s written word, so we can understand how He sees us. But, we still have human eyes and human perceptions, so we often see things incorrectly and get ourselves and our lives out of focus. We may focus on a beauty or success that is not beauty or success in God’s eyes, or we may miss a God-given beauty or success completely. When we get out of focus, we end up in chaos and running around as if we are spiritually blind and deaf instead of walking according to God’s path and rhythm.

The lesson of focus has been made abundantly clear to me (no pun intended) through a week of chaos. While I did everything in my power to create a scenario for our authors to present and sell their books, every door I tried to open slammed shut. I wondered if we were missing out on God’s favor, or if we were just under attack. I was missing the mark on both accounts, and I only found my peace in God when I got my perception corrected through prayer.

Here’s what I learned: God called many people to carry His precious good news to the world. He has anointed us to present that message through a variety of methods, and many of those are in the arts. I believe our creativity is a gift from God whether we use it for Him or not. And, because it is a gift from God, it will do its best work when it is done for Him first and for ourselves last. If we get that turned around, we lose perception.

For our writer’s group, we were trying to create an event centered around sales rather than ministry. We thought success meant a lot of people coming to buy our products instead of a lot of people coming to hear a testimony of God’s gifts in our lives. Our perceptions were skewed by the cacophony of voices out there shouting words like marketing and SEO. It doesn’t help that the Christian book market is more than just a niche genre anymore. It holds its own and therefore needs just as much professionalism and proper presentation as any book topic out there. However, if we’re not careful, we can let the marketing become more important than the message.

Well, we learned our lesson, and now instead of wondering how we’re going to handle a bunch of people we can’t sell things to, we’re hoping we can minister to all of them. We did a lot of advertising, but only God knows what souls He is sending and what message He is wanting them to hear. Our job is to be sensitive, so we can perceive His voice and direction. He says in John 10:27 (NLT)… “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” If we keep our perception in Him, we can see and follow His leading, so we will not become blind leaders of blind followers. If we don’t, we may find even His beauty out of focus.

October 9, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Fall Birthday Party for Yeshua


The front of our 2014 Sukkah before all the people gathered in and before food filled the tables. It's a welcoming place for a young couple and their new little baby. Cellphone image by Crystal A Murray. CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

The front of our 2014 Sukkah before all the people gathered in and before food filled the tables. We love this annual celebration and gathering. It’s enclosed and secure, and it could certainly be a welcoming place for a young couple (and soon a new little baby) after their long journey.
Cellphone image by Crystal A Murray. CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click the image to open a new tab/window for a Flickr search of other sukkah images.

You’ve seen the slogan, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” It comes out every December to remind people that Christmas should not be focused on selfish things like gift-giving and wish lists. Still, because most of us have grown up with it being a holiday about gifts, decor, and Santa Claus, it can be difficult to put the focus on the birth of Christ. How much easier would it be if His birthday was actually at a different time that has not yet been so commercialized? Imagine this fictional but possible scenario…

It’s the first holiday of the new Jewish year where the men are called home for worship; the fall festival of Sukkot. Joseph will follow both the Jewish law and Caesar’s law to go to his home town even though his wife is ready to have a baby at any moment. As the couple arrives in Bethlehem, it’s bustling with activity. Caesar seemed to know that this time between two feasts, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, would draw a big enough crowd to make census-taking easier. Miriam (Mary) just admired the many booths built behind every home and business and longed for the day she would have her own home and a place for Joseph to build their sukkah.

“Oh, no, Joseph, I think the baby wants out,” cries Miriam as the donkey stumbles over another rough patch of road.

“Don’t worry, Honey, I’ll find us a place to rest soon,” says Joseph while trying to hide his own level of panic. He knows how important it is to take care of this pregnancy and delivery. The angel told him the baby was Emmanuel; God with Us, and Joseph does not take that lightly. But there doesn’t seem to be any place available for them to stop. Finally, at the last inn at the other end of town, the inn’s proprietor sees the pregnant girl and whispers something to his wife before letting the couple go on their way.

“Listen. We have our sukkah in back, and we were going to stay in there ourselves, so we know it’s suitable for you. Why don’t you just rest in there for the night. The basket is already stocked with bread, so you can eat something if you like,” says Mr. Innkeeper. Meanwhile, Mrs. Innkeeper is quite happy to agree since it means she will have a reason to sleep in her own bed instead of the floor of a tent.

Joseph and Miriam take their place in the booth as the labor begins. We don’t know if there was an available nurse or if the labor was difficult, but we do know that she soon delivered a bouncing baby boy. She knew who He was. Joseph knew who He was. Joseph extended the special blanket he retrieved from their bags. With the baby’s lineage from the tribe of Judah sewn into the fabric, Joseph wrapped the blanket around Yeshua to swaddle the newborn in warmth and comfort.

Weary from travel and delivery, the new family desperately needed rest. “Where will be put the baby?” asked Miriam.

“You know how I sleep, Dear. I’m afraid I might roll over on Him.”

“Joseph, the bread basket!” shouted Miriam as she quickly began to move the loaves to a small corner table. “This will make the perfect cradle for Him.” Joseph agreed. “Happy birthday, Lord,” Miriam whispered as she nestled the baby and His blankets snugly into the makeshift cradle before lying down to rest herself. Did she know, as she curled up to sleep in Joseph’s little town of Bethlehem (meaning “House of Bread”) that she had just placed the Bread of Life into a bread basket? How fitting, huh?

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Fiction, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Multitasking With The Voices in My Head


Hubby Trying to Sleep with The Kitty on His Mind, by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved

Hubby Trying to Sleep with The Kitty on His Mind, by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved
Click the image to visit my Flickr Photo Stream

Are you a multitasker? Do you try to focus on one thing but get distracted by many other things? If so, you’ll probably relate to some of the sleep humor on a board I found at Pinterest. My favorite pin said, “3 out of 4 voices in my head want me sleep. The other wants to know if penguins have knees.” That is so me when I’m trying to go to sleep. I can sit here trying to write my blog and fight a sleep attack, but when I actually lie down to sleep, my brain opens about 100 new tabs. 🙂 Of course, that could also be from having ADD, but being a woman and being a writer fit there somewhere too.

I thought about multitasking today because of all the plans I’m trying to make for the week, some of which are overlapping with each other. Beginning Wednesday evening at sunset, we have the weeklong festival of Sukkot. It’s one of the most exciting feasts of the Lord, and if you search my blog for posts on it, you’ll find many of them. Under the label of WWJD, I can tell you without a doubt that He would (and did) celebrate this feast. And, I don’t believe He only celebrated it because He was Jewish, but I think He was also celebrating His birthday. I’ll tell you more as we go through the week since I won’t be posting Torah portions as I was last year at this time.

In addition to our home festival celebration, my husband and I have been invited to help celebrate and open the Sukkah for our friends at Christian Country Cowboy Church. If you are ever in the Louisville area on the last Friday of the month, I highly recommend a drive out to LaGrange (about 20 miles from downtown Louisville). Parsons Zeb & Joy Son, along with the house band, put on a free country concert that rivals anything you might pay to see. It often includes a great headline act (many who are award-winning artists), and it always includes “Cuzin Gus and The Boys from Sasquatch Holler which is reminiscent of a skit on HeeHaw.

Finally, along with just the regular stuff of life, like laundry, dishes and paying bills, we still have the event for the writer’s group that will be either a huge success or a great big mess depending on the answer we get from the venue. I’m still trusting God to provide the answer we want, but there’s a bit of stress in just waiting for the official answer. And of course, just adding it to the “to do” list of the week adds it’s own time consumption.

I say all of the above to say this: the one time when my multitasking mind bothers me the most is when I want dedicated time in prayer. I mean, I like that prayer is one of the running tasks in almost everything I do, but it is very hard to slow it all down, so I can pray without interruption. Thankfully, we go back to what I’ve said so often about God knowing our human form. I know He knows the depths of my heart even if the voices in my head are speaking too loud for me to hear it.

Nevertheless, it is my challenge to slow down and focus during my times of prayer, and I pray the same for all of you who have the same desire. If you ever struggle with this, post a comment to let me know I’m not alone. If you have ideas that help, I’d love to hear those two. I’ll be glad to add your positive encouragements to the voices in my head.

October 7, 2014 Posted by | Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grandma Tickles and Grandfather Clauses


Welcome Baby Leona by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved

Welcome Baby Leona (with Daddy James, Mommy Autumn, and Little Elie)…by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved
Click on the image to open a new tab/window to the see full size original , and all other images, in my Flickr photo stream.

It was just over four years ago when I took a trip out to Arizona to attend the birth of my first great-niece. The oldest of our nephews, James, was excited to welcome his first daughter into the world. Sadly, his mother said she didn’t want to have anything to do with the new little one and that no one better call her “Grandma.” I countered with the offer to be the grandmother if they wanted since I had raised James for 5 years of his childhood and felt like a mother to him anyway. And then I hopped aboard an Amtrak train and headed west.

The baby’s mother, Autumn, already had one beautiful daughter, Elie Mable. And yes, Mable is spelled right since Autumn wanted it to be an acronym for…Mothers Always Bring Love Everywhere. How precious is that? I got to spend a lot of time with Elie and mommy and James (now called Daddy and taking the role of a most-wonderful daddy at that) got ready for the hospital.

Everyone had agreed on calling me “Grandma Crystal,” and Elie tried her best, but her three-year-old vocabulary just wouldn’t form my name, so she affectionately named me “Grandma Tickles.” The name stuck, and the meaning behind it stuck, so now all three little ones (we’ve now added little miss Wiley Love) have to run and dodge the tickle monster. Plus, I get the privilege of also being a tickle monster to Josh’s beautiful daughter Sinniah. Here’s a panorama of two pictures of my hubby (Uncle Santa) first with Elie, Leona, and Sinniah, and then with Wiley Love…

Uncle Santa David with Elie, Leona, Sinniah, and then with Wiley Love, Images by Candiece Nelson, All Rights Reserved

Uncle Santa David with Elie, Leona, Sinniah, and then with Wiley Love, Images by Candiece Nelson, All Rights Reserved
Click the image to open a new tab/window to see Candie’s full photo stream at Flickr.

So, with this above image, I’m guessing you think my reference to Grandfather Clauses has something to do with hubby, but it doesn’t. That would be “Grandfather Claus.” My reference is about leaning on promises from the past to get us through our present and our future. Right now, I’m not playing Grandma Tickles but rather LCW President. In my writer’s group, the location where we meet has changed policies and challenged an event we have for this coming Saturday, October 11th. We’ve advertised abundantly, so all of us on the planning committee have been a bit stressed since last Friday.

Our friend, Mark, made a statement as we left the home he shares with my spiritual sister, Debbie, after sunset on Yom Kippur, Saturday night. He said something to the effect of, “Maybe they’ll be willing to grandfather you in for just this event if you promise not to do it again.” I think the words were straight from God. When I called administration today, I used that request, and it seemed to make a difference. The woman I talked to wasn’t the decision-maker, but she did say she would take the request to “grandfather us in” to the president of the administration. Now we just wait for favor. Please join us in our prayer.

If there was ever anyone who knew about grandfather clauses, I’d say it’s our Lord God. The setup for blood sacrifice for the salvation of mankind goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. The perfect blood that makes it possible for men–even today–to receive deliverance from the wages of our sin was shed over 2000 years ago.

Yeshua told the Jewish disciples to spread the gospel (good news) beginning at Jerusalem. Paul says in Romans 1:16 that the message is “to the Jew first.” However, because it is not God’s will for any to be lost, the original gospel message opened the door, so the rest of us could be also be saved. It’s still just as effective today, so if you have not yet repented and submitted to the saving power of the blood of Christ, do it now while there’s still time. I guarantee you can still be “grandfathered-in.”

October 6, 2014 Posted by | Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Power of Good Vibrations


Someone shared the above video on Facebook, and it ranks right up there with those cool videos where people mix corn starch and water and put it on a speaker. The corn starch mix looks a lot like the stuff from the Flubber movies, especially when it’s dyed green. Still, the idea of geometric patterns forming just from changing the volume of a musical piece tied into a plate on a piece of metal really caught my attention. I love fractals and kaleidoscopes, so this fits well with my attraction to patterns.

Anyway, the first thing I thought about, as I watched them turn up the decibels and create different designs, was God speaking the world into existence. I can just see Him speaking with His booming voice, and then seeing the vibrations create patterns in the carbon until molecules pull together and create all that we see. Sound is energy, and what we see is energy either turned on or turned off–just like on a computer screen with its ones and zeroes. I find it amazing!

In reading the scientific reasoning behind the designs, the text said that the salt or sand falls into the places where there is no vibration. If we humans were created that way, then our flesh is the design in the cracks of God’s good vibrations, and that may be why there is such a wrestling match between flesh and spirit. We’re told that God knows our frame, so He knows exactly where our wrestling will come in, and He will be there to help us through it. Of course, when our bodies are perfected like His glorified body, they will be in complete submission to His Spirit, so we won’t have that battle any longer. That is something to hope for.

Now, here’s a test of your age. Do you remember which product used the Good Vibrations song by “The Beach Boys” as a jingle for their commercials? It actually took me a little while to confirm it because I got lost in an interesting article about the original song on Wikipedia. Did you know that, in addition to using the infamous Hammond B3 organ in the recording, they also added the musical accompaniment of a theremin? (The song page says they did, but the theremin page says it was a synthesizer.) And, yes, I mean the instrument that had a solo in an episode of The Big Bang Theory when Sheldon played the Star Trek theme on it just to aggravate Leonard. Of course, after Leonard sent him out of the apartment, a depressed Sheldon then played a great rendition of Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen. (See video below.)  Oh, and to answer my first question, it was a soda that used the words, “I’m drinking up good vibrations,” and its name was… (ʞuᴉɹp ǝƃuɐɹO ʇsᴉʞunS).

Well, I think that’s all I will add on this theme for now unless you want to see the full lyrics of the song. I’d love to see some comments from you about the original video, the song, the Big Bang Theory, or anything else you’d like to talk about. All the links have descriptions if you want to hover over them before clicking, and I hope you find some interesting places to visit from here. Oh, and all the links open in a new tab, so you won’t lose your place. God bless you as you seek to walk with Him and the presence of His good vibrations today and always.

October 5, 2014 Posted by | Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Judgment and Transformation


Repent, Then, And Turn to God by Flickr User Sharon of Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Repent, Then, And Turn to God by Flickr User Sharon of Art4TheGlryOfGod, 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

The Hebrew word Yom means “day” in English, and the Hebrew Kippur means “to atone” in English. This is the “Day of Atonement,” and is the precursor to the atonement we now receive through Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ). This day began Friday (Oct 3rd) at sundown and continued through sundown Saturday (Oct 4th). If you want to read the Torah reading that goes with the holiday, read through Leviticus 16.

This day gives us an opportunity to examine ourselves and repent from anything that may separate us from our Creator and Lord. So, what is repentance? I found a great definition that said, “Repentance is the willingness to allow God to judge and transform you.” I love that. It gives me reason to repent on a regular basis.

The word repent is used in some armies to say, “About face.” It literally means, “Go in the opposite direction.” But how can we turn around and walk in a new direction without acknowledging the current direction we’re heading? We need that repentance that allows God to examine our direction if we want to be sure we’re walking according to God’s will. It’s like looking at a satellite map to make sure we’re on the right path. Who better to tell us we’re lost than the One who can see all the way to the end of our road?

Just receiving judgment is not the end of the things. If we used our GPS to see where we were going, but we failed to turn as instructed, we might hear the GPS voice say something like, “At the next intersection, make a u-turn.” If we still don’t turn, we might hear the voice say, “Rerouting,” as the GPS tries to find a new way for us to get to our chosen destination. If we want to get to the right destination, we must reroute, make a u-turn, do an about-face, or in some way repent. Just hearing that we need to change routes will not get us where we want to go.

I think most of us fear judgment because people use it as an excuse to make us feel less than them. People also tend to stop with judgment, and that leaves us feeling hopeless with the permanence of it. However, until the final judgment, what God finds in His examinations of us is not permanent and definitely not hopeless. He doesn’t tell us something like, “So sad, you’re on the wrong path. You might as well give up and stay there.” No, instead He says (in Acts 3:19 NKJV), “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” Be converted could just as easily say, be transformed.

When we repent, it’s like a trip to a diagnostician (doctor who diagnoses troubles). Imagine this doctor finds a cancer that needs to be removed. That’s judgment. You agree to let him do surgery because you trust that he knows better than to just slice it off and leave you bleeding. And you’re right. He medicates and binds up the wound to bring healing and comfort. That’s the beginning of your transformation from sick to healed. It continues until you are fully back to health.

Just like we don’t have only one lesson to learn in life, we don’t repent only one time. We do best if we allow God to judge and transform us as often as possible. Remember, Moses was the only man who talked with God face to face, as a man talks to his friend. And yet, the time came when Moses did not allow God to transform him. He hit the rock to bring forth water instead of being transformed and speaking to the rock. That disobedience and distrust cost him dearly. It didn’t stop God from loving him, and we know he is with God because he was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Yeshua, but he missed blessings God longed to give to him.

So, what about you? Are you willing to come before the cross to allow God to judge and transform you either again or for the first time? Comment below if you would like me to pray for you and with you as you walk through this repentance to your deliverance. Like Paul, I often feel the need to repent multiple times in a day, so I gratefully accept your prayers for me as I seek God for my own judgment and transformation…today and in the future.

And enjoy this video of the song Search Me, Lord by The Heritage Singers. There is one incorrect lyric where it says “holed” instead of “whole,” but the music is great…

October 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

He Leadeth Me…To The End


With Sukkot beginning this coming Wednesday (evening of October 8th, 2014), I knew we were nearing the end of Torah, but I didn’t expect it this quickly. As it turns out, I actually started this week’s portion prematurely. The last two books of Deuteronomy are supposed to be coupled with the beginning of Genesis when Torah readings begin anew during Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah). However, since I didn’t start with the end of Deuteronomy last year, I need to finish it here to be complete.

Sunset tonight is actually the beginning of the high holy day, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). It is a day of fasting and introspection as believers prepare themselves for the upcoming year. In the days of the wilderness tabernacle, it was the day when God would forgive all sin for the year. Because of Yeshua, we now have atonement anytime someone steps under His cleansing blood through repentance. Because repentance is brought forth by self-examination, I think it is a good idea for Christians to take advantage of Yom Kippur to silence some of life’s noise and spend a day seeking God’s Holy Spirit. I plan to write tomorrow night about any discoveries God brings me through my introspection.

So, in today’s reading from Deuteronomy 34:1 through Deuteronomy 34:12 (the whole chapter), we close out the book of Deuteronomy, the books of the Torah, and another week. Shabbat Shalom. Because this Yom Kippur is also falling on a Shabbat (Sabbath) , it is considered a Shabbat of Shabbats and is very special. Please read the chapter yourself, and consider reading the first chapter of the book of Joshua to watch the baton pass from Moses to Joshua the son of Nun.

Moses’ blessing is now complete, the Torah is done, and Moses life is ready to end. Studying straight through like this has given me a more realistic picture of Moses, so my heart actually grieves his passing. I can see why reading through the Torah every year can be a life-changing experience.

The chapter begins with Moses going to Mount Nebo, at the summit of Pisgah which is opposite Jericho. As he stands on the summit, he’s 120 years old but still with youthful strength and perfect eyesight. God shows Moses all the land He promised as an inheritance to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He tells Moses that he may look on all of it with his eyes, but he may not cross the Jordan to enter it. So Moses dies in the land of Moab, and though they were unsure of his actual gravesite, they know God buried him in the valley near Beth-Peor. All Israel mourned and wept over their great leader for thirty days.

When the days of mourning Moses were ended, Joshua the son of Nun stepped up. He had wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him, so the Israelites listened to him and did as the Lord commanded Moses. The last three verses of the chapter are powerful, and I want you to see them for yourselves, so here they are from The Complete Jewish Bible

Since that time there has not arisen in Isra’el a prophet like Moshe, whom Adonai knew face to face. What signs and wonders Adonai sent him to perform in the land of Egypt upon Pharaoh, all his servants and all his land! What might was in his hand! What great terror he evoked before the eyes of all Isra’el!

We know, of course, that Yeshua showed up on the scene many years later, and He made the holy presence of God available to all mankind. When the temple vail tore in half from the top to the bottom, God’s throne became a place where we could come and speak to God face to face as a man speaks to a friend. The blood cleanses us, so we won’t die in God’s presence. But remember that “as a friend” part because it makes an important distinction. We don’t have the invitation to God’s throne to command Him to do things our way, we have it to ask Him in person how we can do things His way.

Moses is one of the patriarchs in what we often call “The Faith Chapter,” the 11th chapter of Hebrews. I looked through some different translations, and I like the wording from the Easy to Read Version (ERV). Here is Hebrews 11:24-28

Moses grew up and became a man. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose not to enjoy the pleasures of sin that last such a short time. Instead, he chose to suffer with God’s people. He did this because he had faith. He thought it was better to suffer for the Messiah than to have all the treasures of Egypt. He was waiting for the reward that God would give him.

Moses left Egypt because he had faith. He was not afraid of the king’s anger. He continued strong as if he could see the God no one can see. Moses prepared the Passover and spread the blood on the doorways of the people of Israel, so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons. Moses did this because he had faith.

Notice it says,”…better to suffer for the Messiah.” Other versions say “for Christ.” Moses could have sang the song in the video above just like we can today. “By His own blood, He leadeth me.” May all of you, my regular and visiting readers, enjoy the song He Leadeth Me as performed by Candi Pearson, and may you all be able to sing along. May we walk with faith like Moses as we trust God to lead us every moment, every day, from the beginning to the end. HalleluYah and Amen!

October 3, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cringing Enemy, Trampling Victor


Trampling Triceratops by Flickr User Alex Morales, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Trampling Triceratops by Flickr User Alex Morales, 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.

If you read the article at “Got Questions dot org” at the link I gave in yesterday’s post, you know that the tribe of Asher had a future that sounds much like our own future. God gave Asher power and strength to take out the enemy’s of Israel that occupied the land of their inheritance. Asher backed down and did not drive out the Canaanites. That left Asher in bondage that God did not intend. As Christians, we often back down while trying to be harmless as doves, and we too can end up in bondage. We let enemies in our gates because we think our Christian example will win them to The Lord.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:27 through Deuteronomy 33:29, we’ll finish the chapter, and we’ll read about the power given to all Israel. I thought the blessing for Asher was to continue, but Moses tricked me and switched gears. 🙂 Anyway, it’s only three verses, so I’ll paste the text here from the Complete Jewish Bible

The God of old is a dwelling-place,
with everlasting arms beneath.
He expelled the enemy before you
and he said, ‘Destroy!’
So Isra’el lives in security;
the fountain of Ya‘akov is alone
in a land of grain and new wine,
where the skies drip with dew.
Happy are you, Isra’el!
“Who is like you, a people saved by Adonai,
your defender helping you
and your sword of triumph?
Your enemies will cringe before you,
but you will trample down their high places.”

Moses sure knows God well. He captures God’s power and authority, but he also captures His parental and protective love. I find comfort just in the words about God’s “everlasting arms” being beneath the dwelling place of Israel. Because Israel is safe with God, and because God made the first strike against the enemy, He enabled Israel to finish the job and destroy all that was left standing against them.

With authority over the enemy, Israel can live securely in places of abundance and pleasure (grain and wine). Israel is happy under the cover of God’s blessings and dwelling in His salvation. God is Israel’s defender, and Moses speaks this blessing to Israel beautifully. He calls Yahveh Israel’s “sword of triumph” and promises God’s authority over Israel’s enemies. Moses says the enemies will cringe before Israel, but Israel will trample the places where they worship false gods (high places).

I almost named this post Crouching Enemy, Trampling Victor because I wondered whether “cringe” was really the right word in the Scripture. However, when I looked it up in other translations, the cringing is right but there’s more to it. In the Amplified Bible, it reads this way…

Your enemies shall come fawning and cringing, and submit feigned obedience to you, and you shall march on their high places.

It appears the fawning and cringing and acting like they’re in obedience is to save their own lives, not to crouch as if ready to pounce. Maybe the enemy here hopes that if they play the game right, God and Israel will let them worship their false gods without interruption. Obviously, they are wrong because God will never allow people to worship that which represents His enemy.

It’s interesting this should be the Scripture portion for today as our family has just had another major upheaval this very day. If you’ve been following me, you’ll remember the nephew that was in a coma due to an overdose on heroin and morphine from snorting a pill called Opana. You know that God did a great miracle and brought him out of it, and he came home with us 8 weeks later. While he was in therapy and all of it was real to him, he was grateful and knew it was God who brought him through. He even mentioned getting saved.

But, the question is, was he grateful or was he “fawning and cringing in feigned obedience” to get all we offered? Having lived with us before, he knew our rules, but today he tried to sneak out early in the morning. He said we had too many rules about his not spending hours on the phone with strange girls he met on dating sites. He didn’t like that we found out he was getting high again. And who was there to help him? Why, the mother who brought him into the world of drugs and demons to begin with.

Yes, I’m talking about the mother who caused so many problems when he was in the hospital. Read the old posts starting on March 13th to catch some of the details. This mother, whose first words to her comatose son were to call him an idiot, has encouraged him to leave a good future for a bad one. The mother of his baby won’t bring his daughter around him if he’s using drugs or living with his own destructive mother, so now he won’t be seeing his daughter. If his mother takes his disability money, he won’t be able to pay his child support, and he’ll do the five years in prison that is currently on diversion. He definitely won’t see his beautiful daughter then.

So, now you’re back up to date on that situation. We’ve been wounded, but through prayer and friends, we are at peace. We are sheltered in God’s everlasting arms, and we know He is the victor & all things work together for the good. We’re sorry this young man could receive a miracle directly from the hands of a loving God and turn it down for freedom to party and get in trouble. Why should we think free rent, food, transportation, and lots of love would be enough for him when the cross was not? But God will trample the places of the false gods that wish to kill, steal, and destroy any good God wants in his (or any) life. We pray he gets away from the enemy’s camp before it happens. If not, he will be one of the cringing enemies in the way of a Trampling Victor.

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

Big Kitties and Pedicures


Here Mousy Mousy Mousy Image on Mousepad at Zazzle by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Here Mousy Mousy Mousy Image on Mousepad at Zazzle by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original product at Zazzle.

Have you ever seen those cute little poodle pedicures? I think they’re especially nice when you see a standard white poodle with hot pink or red nails. Apparently, you can now get something similar for kitty cats when you don’t want them to scratch your furniture. Because most people know you couldn’t hold a cat still enough to apply nail polish, someone came up with colored caps they call “Soft Claws.” I’m guessing I would still have to trim quite a bit from the nail tips first though. You’ll notice the “spikes” on the kitty above. That’s my Midnight kitty modeling for a mouse pad at my Zazzle store.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:22 through Deuteronomy 33:26, we have a few more tribes addressed by Moses in his final blessing to Israel. He speaks greatness to the tribes of Dan, Naphtali, and Asher, though the blessing for Asher is not complete and will continue in tomorrow’s reading. Again, the post is short and filled with lots of little blessings, so I’ll paste the text here from the Complete Jewish Bible

Of Dan he said:

“Dan is a lion cub
leaping forth from Bashan.”

Of Naftali he said:

“You, Naftali, satisfied with favor
and full of blessing from Adonai,
take possession of the sea and the south.”

Of Asher he said:

“May Asher be most blessed of sons,
may he be the favorite among his brothers
and bathe his feet in oil.
May your bolts be of iron and bronze
and your strength last as long as you live.

“Yeshurun, there is no one like God,
riding through the heavens to help you,
riding on the clouds in his majesty.

Dan, the lion cub, speaks of youth. Old lions mostly just roar to scare the prey while young lions capture and subdue. It seems like a short blessing, but it is a blessing filled with promise and power for a long time. Moses blessing to Naphtali seems simple enough in giving them beach-front property, but there’s so much more to it that I didn’t even catch at first. Moses blesses this tribe with enough favor from God to be satisfied. No lacking in His favor, no want to try and earn more favor, just the perfect amount of favor to bring comfort and satisfaction. Oh that we could all know this kind of favor from Yahveh.

Asher gets the bulk of the blessing, and they will not only be blessed by God but by the other tribes. Instead of just a simple foot-washing when they visit their brothers, they’ll receive a pedicure. Now, I’m not sure what they used bolts for, but if they were for houses, they’d have strong ones. If the bolts were for weapons and/or shields, it sounds like Asher was being blessed to be victorious in wartime. What’s interesting in that is how later in Asher’s history, the tribe backed down and failed to drive the Canaanites out of the land. There’s some great info about this tribe in an article at “Got Questions dot org.” It’s called “What Should We Learn from the Tribe of Asher?” Just click the title to visit.

The last three lines are simply a declaration from Moses to Israel. He takes every opportunity to uplift God and let Israel know that God is there to help them. As He says, there is NO ONE like Yahveh, and He who rides on the clouds in majesty comes through the heavens just to help you. That’s a huge blessing that applies to us now just as it did Israel then. We have a God who was willing to leave the comforts of Heaven to robe Himself in flesh and shed His own blood for us. Greater than that, when that earthly temple was destroyed, He Himself raised it up on the third day to give us victory over death and the grave. I like big kitties and pedicures, but victory in Yeshua is truly the greatest blessing any of us can receive. HalleluYah!

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

Treasures in Sand


Glass Flowers by Flickr User Arizona Shona, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Glass Flowers by Flickr User Arizona Shona, 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.

Sand is not just dirt. It is filled with treasure whether by what is buried in it, what can be made with it, or what can be made from it. I love to search the web for creative sand sculptures, and I also love glass work. I find it amazing how blown glass is made from super heated sand and pigments for color. And in case you haven’t seen it, there is some great sand to glass art done by God (with lightning) in the movie Sweet Home Alabama.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:18 through Deuteronomy 33:21, we will read more of Moses blessings on a couple more tribes of Israel. It’s another short set of verses, so I’ll post the text here from the Complete Jewish Bible

Of Z’vulun he said:

“Rejoice, Z’vulun, as you go forth,
and you, Yissakhar, in your tents.
They will summon peoples to the mountain
and there offer righteous sacrifices;
for they will draw from the abundance of the seas
and from the hidden treasures of the sand.”

Of Gad he said:

“Blessed is he who makes Gad so large;
he lies there like a lion,
tearing arm and scalp.
He chose the best for himself
when the princely portion was assigned.
When the leaders of the people came,
he carried out Adonai’s justice
and his rulings concerning Isra’el.”

What do you suppose Moses meant when he spoke to Zebulun of abundance from the seas and hidden treasures of the sand? Was he saying they would be fishermen? Was he telling them they would find buried treasure or become seashell merchants? Whatever they became, we know that God can bring treasure from anything if we walk with Him, and in our world today, we live in the midst of great treasure. So much of what we have used to be something else, and God opened the door to teach men how to use it for their blessing. His gifts to us include glass from sand, pigment from plant life, and clothing from animals and plants.

The blessing to Gad is one of power and makes the tribe princely and like the king of the jungle. But, Moses doesn’t stop there. These princely leaders with the strength of lions are blessed to use their power the right way. They carry out the justice of the Lord, and they enforce God’s rulings over Israel. I guess Gad would be the “PLPD” otherwise known as the “Promised Land Police Department.”

I’m still blessed in seeing what was important to Moses before he went on to his eternity with his Creator and Friend. I love that he first made sure Israel had an understanding of their history and of God’s laws to them. From there, he wrote the song of prophesy which would be against them if they didn’t learn from their history and if they disobeyed God’s laws. Now, though, Moses is giving them great blessings of abundance for their future. Maybe it was because of his face to face conversations with God, but somehow, I think these blessings are about Moses seeing through God’s eyes. Where most men just saw a people not much greater than dirt, Moses knew God had made Israel His own treasure in sand.

P.S. Here’s a clip from Sweet Home Alabama with Melanie in the glass shop. At 12-33 seconds, look at the lightning glass…

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Only the Best for God’s Kids


Simply the Best by Flickr User Ray Larabie, CC License = Attribution

Simply the Best by Flickr User Ray Larabie, 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.

We all want the best of everything in life, but those of us who truly care about others don’t want them to have the worst either. So, most of us either become highly competitive or totally non-competitive. The fact is, life is filled with bests and worsts. There are best-case and worst-case scenarios, there are best-in-show designations, and there are bests in our gardens. We have the best of the times and the worst of times, and we have ratings from best (five-star) to worst (one-star). The middle-of-the-road average is just not acceptable to most of us, so the idea that everyone can have the same thing in a world of bests and worsts is pure fantasy. So, since it won’t work that way, then we should see the value in following a God who wants His children to have only the best.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:13 through Deuteronomy 33:17, we will read Moses’ blessing to the tribe of Joseph. It includes a blessing for the half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh–his children by non-Hebrew wives while he lived in Egypt. It’s short enough that I will go ahead and paste the Scripture here from The Complete Jewish Bible

Of Yosef he said:

“May Adonai bless his land
with the best from the sky, for the dew,
and for what comes from the deep beneath,
with the best of what the sun makes grow,
with the best of what comes up each month,
with the best from the mountains of old,
with the best from the eternal hills,
with the best from the earth and all that fills it,
and the favor of him who lived in the [burning] bush.
May blessing come on the head of Yosef,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers.
His firstborn bull — glory is his;
his horns are those of a wild ox;
With them he will gore the peoples,
all of them, to the ends of the earth.
These are the myriads of Efrayim;
these are the thousands of M’nasheh.”

Simply the best, and only the best, of everything from crops to gold to the favor of God. Now THAT is a blessing! If someone said these things to us these days, we’d be saying something like, “From your mouth to God’s ears,” and we’d hope for it all to come true. That said, I see this as a reason to bless our brothers and sisters in Yeshua as much as possible, and let the greatest blessing we offer be one of a deeper walk with our Creator.

If you’re like me, you might sometimes withhold blessing others with your lips for concern of sounding like you carry the apostate messages of our current generation. We don’t want to speak the blessings of God above the God of the blessings like so many “prosperity preachers,” but prosperity in the perfect will of God is not a sin. God says He gives us the ability to make wealth to bless others, so speaking blessings on our brethren for the sake of lifting the needy and spreading the gospel is a good thing. Speaking it only for selfish gain and benefits is what we must avoid.

Readers, I bless you now with the wisdom of Yahveh Almighty to know when to speak blessings and how to speak them–both toward others and toward yourselves. May you have only the best of what God has to offer in your lives that you may draw closer to Him as you walk through this life with Him. And, may you always remember that when all else seems to fail, if you have God in your life and heart, you have the best already.

P.S. Just for an off-the-path side note: If you grew up on Dukes of Hazzard, you probably remember “Sheriff Roscoe P Coltrane” as one of the quirky characters. Well, the actor who played him, James Best, was born in Kentucky and raised in the cute little town of Corydon, Indiana, where I live now. I also remember him from a number of old episodic shows like Twilight Zone and Bat Masterson. Click here for his Wikipedia page just for the fun of it. 🙂

September 29, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Riding on Daddy’s Shoulders


On Daddy's Shoulders by Flickr User scott.hoag, CC License = Attribution

On Daddy’s Shoulders by Flickr User scott.hoag, 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.

The memories of being small enough to be hoisted up onto someone’s shoulders are vague, but they’re still in my mind. When I see a child on his or her daddy’s shoulders, I associate it with feelings of comfort and security. It’s just like the feeling of waking up just enough to know I was being carried from the back of a car to my own bed. Although my childhood was filled with many traumatic events, those times when I felt protected and comforted offer a balance I need–even now.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:8 through Deuteronomy 33:12, Moses is still offering a final blessing to the tribes of Israel before he dies. Today, he will begin with a blessing to the tribe of Levi. Because Levi is required to execute judgments for Israel, Moses tells them to let the balance of those judgments (the urim and the tumim) rest in the hands of God.

Moses speaks of the past and future of the Levites, and he testifies that they chose the word of God even over family. Because they put God first, they will teach God’s law to all the children of Jacob, and they will offer incense and sacrifices in the temple of The Lord. With this prophesy, Moses also begins to request a blessing for Levi. He asks God to bless Levi’s possessions, to accept the work he does, and to crush his enemies that those who hate him would rise no more.

Next, Moses changes his attention to the tribe of Benjamin, the youngest of all the children of Jacob/Israel. He calls Benjamin “The Lord’s Beloved” and says God protects him day by day. He says Benjamin lives securely between the shoulders of Adonai.

Because God is everywhere, maybe the idea of dwelling between God’s shoulders is exactly what it says, but I lean more toward thinking it’s an analogy for safety and security. It’s that place above the world, hoisted on daddy’s shoulders, where the rider can see better even if he’s little. Yahveh, through His mercy and grace, gives us the privilege to call Him Abba Father. He would most certainly be the kind of daddy that would lift His littlest one up on His protective shoulders.

Another awesome things about the shoulders of God is found in Isaiah 9:6. Here is that verse from the New Living Testament

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Do you see that? The government is on His shoulders. That means His protective laws and boundaries are right there in that place where He, as our Father, puts His children. I’ve said before that if we read this verse in order, we’ll find that He becomes our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, and our Prince of Peace only AFTER our government is on His shoulders. There is a great blessing in obedience to a Loving Father who cares for us. When we follow His word and walk in His presence every day, there’s no better place than riding on Daddy’s shoulders.

September 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moses and His Sunrise Serenade


At every time and in every place
    from the moment the sun rises to the moment the sun sets—
    may the name of the Eternal be high in the hearts of His people. (Psalm 113:3 VOICE)

A serenade seems to be the perfect way to use song for a blessing. It comes from the word “serene” and usually means a song sung in the open air–often from a man to his lover. The big band leader, Glenn Miller, called many of his songs serenades. Having watched the movie, The Glenn Miller Story, and having seen the beautiful love he had for his wife, I’d guess they were likely all tunes he wrote for her. Sunrise Serenade is one of the most famous, and you should recognize the tune on the video above where you will also find beautiful sunrise and sunset images. (By the way, I would highly recommend this movie starring James Stewart and June Allyson.)

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:1 through Deuteronomy 33:7, we begin a new week and a new portion of Torah. Parashah 54 is V’Zot HaBrachah in Hebrew and means “This is the blessing” in English. In this portion, Moses will bless the tribes of Israel before his upcoming death. He begins here by blessing the Lord and speaking of his love, his power, and his holiness. And, since we’re talking about sunrises, Moses makes an interesting statement here in speaking of God as if He is the sun. He says, “Adonai came from Sinai; from Se‘ir he dawned on his people, shone forth from Mount Pa’ran.

I think Moses was a poet at heart since now he speaks again in a poetic form. He speaks of God truly loving His people, and He says God is holding all His holy ones in His hand. He sees them sitting at God’s feet and receiving His instruction. And then Moses begins speaking the blessings to the individual tribes. He speaks of all Israel in Jacob and blesses them with an inheritance and a king. He says the leaders will gather all the people together. He asks God that Reuben would live and not die even though his numbers have become few. And finally, for today’s reading, Moses blesses Y’hudah (Judah) this way…

“Hear, Adonai, the cry of Y’hudah!
Bring him in to his people,
let his own hands defend him;
but you, help him against his enemies.”

We know that Judah received these blessings and brought forth our Messiah from their tribe. God Himself helped Judah against his enemies, especially since those set against that tribe are against the tribe of King David and King Yeshua. God robed Himself in flesh to help fight those enemies with His own blood, so we have victory against those enemies now by simply resisting evil in The Name of Yeshua.

We have so much to be thankful for in all the battles God has won for us since the beginning of time. He has proven His love for us over and over, and He is worthy of the song of our love toward Him. We can serenade our loving God in praise for His mercy and grace in our lives. We can lift Him up in our hearts from sunrise to sunset and every moment in between. May the people who love and follow Yahveh Almighty bless His name in their hearts and with their praise throughout our every moment. Each day when we rise, may we offer Yahveh our own Sunrise Serenade.

September 27, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Such A Trivial Pursuit


Trivia by Flickr User surfzone™ aka Ruben, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Trivia by Flickr User surfzone™ aka Ruben, 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.

Trivia comes from the Latin word trivium and means “The place where three roads meet.” Currently, we define trivia as pieces of information and details that are unimportant or meaningless. Somehow, a place where one must decide which of three roads to take doesn’t seem unimportant or meaningless, so I’m not sure how the root word could lead to the current definition. Decisions on a path to follow are definitely not trivial to me. How about you?

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:44 through Deuteronomy 32:52, we complete another week and another portion of Torah. Shabbat Shalom to all who read along and study with me and with God’s holy word. As we complete this week, we also complete the Song of Moses as God has been dictating to him throughout the entirety of Chapter 32. This song/poem is God’s testimony against the people of Israel who will follow after false gods in the future. When future generations read the writings, they will not be able to say that their ancestors were ignorant of the costs of their actions.

Moses speaks the words to all the people of Israel and to Joshua the son of Nun who is called “Hoshea” here for some reason. When he finishes speaking, he tells the people to take the words to heart. He says they should use them to direct their children to be faithful and obedient to the words of Torah. He tells them, “This is not a trivial matter for you; on the contrary, it is your life!” He says the obedience of God’s word will grant them a long life in the land they are about to inherit on the other side of Jordan.

When Moses finishes speaking to the people, God begins speaking to him. God tells Moses to go up to the top of Mt. Nebo to be gathered to his people in death. He tells Moses that He will be able to look on The Promised Land, but he will not be able to enter it. God explains that it is the same for Moses as it was for his brother, Aaron. Both of them had to die instead of being able to enter the land of promise because their disobedience failed to demonstrate God’s holiness among the people of Israel.

All of the Torah that God gave to Moses shows that God’s word and God’s will are not trivial things. Obedience is not trivial. Holiness is not trivial. The plans that God has made to have a people that would follow Him are not trivial plans, and His plans for an eternity with these people are not trivial. God is a dreamer. His word tells us that our hearts have not even conceived how great God’s plans are for us.

We humans may think we are big dreamers. We may even think we have great imaginations. I know I love many of the imaginative thoughts that occupy my mind. Oh, but what we create in our minds or on this earth cannot be compared to all that God has created and still plans to create. Our biggest ideas are trivial compared to God’s smallest ideas. Isaiah 55:8-9, in The Complete Jewish Bible, puts it this way…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways,” says Adonai.
“As high as the sky is above the earth
are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Sometimes, we may think it’s difficult to keep walking in the ways of The Lord, but His word tells us that it’s the way of the transgressor that’s hard. Matthew 11:30 (CJB) says, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” He knows our battles on this earth, and He wants to help us through them, but He will not bless us if we are not holy and obedient to Him because it can harm us. Like hardened soil that only builds a harder crust from the rain, if God blesses us when our hearts are hard toward Him, it can make it more difficult to reach us later. It is when we break up that hardened (fallow) ground (by repentance) that His blessings can penetrate and grow what He has planted in us.

When we come upon a choice in life, especially a choice of which path to take, let us seek God and His perfect will for us. Seeking God’s path for our lives is important because only He sees the ends of our directions and the results of our decisions. His grace makes a way on to God’s path, and His mercy gives us the strength to keep walking in it. If we seek Him, we will hear His voice. As it says in Isaiah 30:21 (CJB), we will hear a voice that says, “This is the way; stay on it.” This should convince you that seeking and following God’s will is not such a trivial pursuit.

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

A Very Bad Hair Day


Kelly Has Crazy Hair by Flickr User Jonathan McPherskesen, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Kelly Has Crazy Hair by Flickr User Jonathan McPherskesen, 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.

Whether it’s one wild hair, a cow lick, or a head full of unruly locks, we’ve all had days when we just couldn’t get the keratin on top of our heads to cooperate. Models make wild hair look good, but for most of us, a look like we’ve just walked through a tornado isn’t exactly our goal. Of course, the eighties punk look with spikes and rainbows might be an exception, but I’m sure even those who sported that look had bad hair days. I mean, too much hair spray and a low ceiling and one of those wild spikes might just pop right off, right? I don’t know for sure since I’ve never truly been “en vogue” with that or any other cultural style.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:40 through Deuteronomy 32:43, we continue the poetry and lyrics from the Song of Moses, and we find out why it could be scary to have a bad hair day. These verses are back to a shorter section, so I will paste it here from The Complete Jewish Bible

For I lift up my hand to heaven and swear,
“As surely as I am alive forever,
If I sharpen my flashing sword
and set my hand to judgment,
I will render vengeance to my foes,
repay those who hate me.
I will make my arrows drunk with blood,
my sword will devour flesh —
the blood of the slain and the captives,
flesh from the wild-haired heads of the enemy.”

Sing out, you nations, about his people!
For he will avenge the blood of his servants.
He will render vengeance to his adversaries
and make atonement for the land of his people.

This follows up from yesterday where God declared Himself the One and Only God. He is speaking to those who would create or worship false gods, and He is definitely not happy. We see God here as a warrior, and He is arming Himself for a battle against those who hate Him. His picture of the enemy with wild hair shows that He sees them more like animals than people. And, since He could see their hearts, maybe they were more like that.

The next few lines show us that these wild-haired enemies have been making victims of God’s people. If you have ever been a victim, or known a victim, of someone who just seems to have no concept of the value of human life or dignity, you can understand why God would take the warrior stance described here. Even though His own people have not been faithful, He will not stand for their being victimized. He promises He will avenge all the attacks against them.

Something came to me as I read these verses. God did not create people for unkind and uncaring behavior. Every person alive is, at the core, made in the image of God, and God is love, so anything outside of love is not His will. When He looks at us and sees people destroying and dishonoring that image, it hurts Him. Like a protective Father or Big Brother, He is ready to take vengeance both for His image and His children.

I don’t like violence or punishment, but I know it is sometimes a necessity–even from a God of love. We’ve gotten the definition of love mistranslated to mean allowing people to destroy the image of God without any judgment whatsoever. But God’s image is holy, and those who destroy it by hurting others or themselves, need to pay a price as a deterrent. God, in His love and mercy, knows when someone acts out of ignorance and simply needs to be lead in a new direction. He also looks at hearts and knows when He has found a very real and unchangeable darkness in that person’s heart. I don’t believe He destroys anything or anyone that is redeemable, and I am certain He doesn’t destroy anyone just because they’ve had a very bad hair day.

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

When Your Rock Rolls Away


Late Morning at Bonsai Rock by Flickr User Bill Shupp, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Late Morning at Bonsai Rock by Flickr User Bill Shupp, 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.

Life can change in a moment. Something we depend on to be strong for us, there for us, or perform for us may change direction and leave us wondering what happened. Imagine if the disciples had really taken Yeshua at His word and told mountains, or even just big rocks, to move into the sea. How many people would come by and wonder what happened? How many who depended on the mountain for geographical direction would then be lost? The Rock of Our Salvation is an identity that tells us our salvation is sure and true, and we know we can depend on Him to always be there. That’s the usual nature of rocks anyway.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:29 through Deuteronomy 32:39, we continue with the poem aka Song of Moses as dictated from God to Moses as a testimony against rebellious Israel. As this section of the poem begins, we’ve got God speaking of Israel’s lack of wisdom and her destiny. God says that if they were wise, they could figure out that the only way to defeat the enemies in the land they wish to occupy will be if He (their Rock) goes before them. God says the enemy has no rock that is comparable, so the people should know that it is God that gives them victory.

As the poem goes on, God says Israel has a root of Sodom and Gomorrah. He says their grapes are poisonous, their clusters are bitter, and their wine is snake poison. There are Scriptures where grapes and clusters refer to a woman’s upper body, so if they are poison and bitter, maybe it’s a meaning of men rejecting them or women worshiping each others’ bodies. Pray for yourself on this because I haven’t studied it out as of yet. Whatever the meaning behind these statements, it’s not good, and the next stanza speaks of God’s vengeance and wrath to pay Israel back for this wickedness.

The final verses speak of The Lord measuring out both judgment and pity on His people. While He will allow them the troubles they bring on themselves by rejecting Him and serving false gods instead, God will be watching them and caring for them. When they cry out in their troubles, He will tell them to seek the gods they served instead of Him, but then He will stand and proclaim that it is Him they need. Here’s the last verse from The Complete Jewish Bible

See now that I, yes, I, am he;
and there is no god beside me.
I put to death, and I make alive;
I wound, and I heal;
no one saves anyone from my hand!

Those of us who know God already know that salvation is not found anywhere else. Many of us have tried other gods like money, fame, friends, possessions and maybe drugs, alcohol, and the wild life. Those of us who have both lifestyles to compare can tell you that the life Yahveh Almighty offers is far better in every way. It makes it hard to imagine how the children of Israel could not see that, but maybe the difference is in having God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within us and not just within the camp.

God is so desirous of our relationship with Him that He has gone all the way to extreme of giving His life and blood for our salvation. He is The Rock we can depend on and trust; the One who will be there for us both now and for eternity. He was a Rock for Israel, and He is a Rock for us now. We learn in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that The Rock that followed Israel was Messiah.

If you are not serving Him or committed to Him, please consider it. He is trustworthy. If you find things in your life that you thought were strong are now just rocks rolling far away from you, open the door to The Rock who will never roll away.

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

Adoption Plans


Cute Cockatoo at Parrot Mountain by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Cute Cockatoo at Parrot Mountain by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access my full photo stream at Flickr.

The word “adoption” comes from a Latin word that means “choosing.” So, when we adopt a child, we choose the child. When we adopt a pet, we choose to bring it into our lives and care for all its needs. Hubby and I have adopted eight kitties. We are actively working on an adoption of one of our adult nephews because we want him to feel the value of being chosen as a son. And, I would love to adopt the beautiful cockatoo above, but I don’t think the kitties would like that. I mean, you can clearly see that it was asking to come home with me, can’t you?

By the way, if you click on the image and go to my Flickr feed, you’ll see the golden conure that buddied up with me and refused to go back to his perch. I had a wonderful time at this place called “Parrot Mountain” in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and I would love to have adopted all the birds available in the nursery. It’s a Christian-owned sanctuary with Scripture plaques throughout the park and well-cared-for animals. I highly recommend a visit if you are ever nearby.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:19 through Deuteronomy 32:28, we will read of the desire for adoption created by great wrath stirred up in God’s heart. He desired to choose children who wouldn’t reject Him and seek after false gods. But, He didn’t desire that to replace the original children; He desired it to create jealousy in the Seed of Abraham. This part of the poem is too long to cut and paste, so please click the link to read it for yourself.

The poem begins with God telling the children how He would hide His face from them because they were untrustworthy. And then He sets up the adoption plans…

They aroused my jealousy with a non-god
and provoked me with their vanities;
I will arouse their jealousy with a non-people
and provoke them with a vile nation.

Now, I know it’s hard to think of all the people on the earth that were not of Abraham’s seed being a non-people and being vile, but they were. Because they all started out with the same truth and ended with serving false gods, they had become vile. Israel was well on her way to the same end, and this prophesy tells of God’s answer for that. He would extend His mercy to those in ignorance in order to provoke those who knew better.

As the poem continues, God talks of His fiery anger and plans for punishment. God says He will heap disasters on Israel and use all His arrows against them. He says they will be fatigued by hunger, consumed by fever and defeat, and attacked by wild beasts and poison reptiles. Their troubles will be outside and inside with swords that create childless parents and deaths of young and old alike. The last stanza reads like this…

I considered putting an end to them,
erasing their memory from the human race;
but I feared the insolence of their enemy,
feared that their foes would mistakenly think,
“We ourselves accomplished this;
Adonai had nothing to do with it.”

The poem ends with God saying that Israel is a nation without common sense or discernment. I can see a similar situation happening within Christianity as they bring in the apostate spirits of messages that cause people to focus more on themselves than on God. I think we must be careful not to so harshly judge those who rejected God as if we are unable to duplicate that behavior. Any person who puts the flesh and the soul above being led by God’s Holy Spirit can easily end up just like historic Israel.

There was a time in my walk with The Lord that I accepted “replacement theology” as it was preached because I didn’t know any better. When the church used the Scripture from Revelations 2:9 about those who say they are Jews and are not, and then said, “We are the new Jews,” it seemed to make sense. But I was a new believer. Now I know that adoption of those who are grafted into the original root does not dispose of the original seed. I have a heart for Israel, and I have met Jews who’s love for God is more evident than many who proclaim Christianity. I know that God loves those that do not reject Him. I also know He will make a way for them to spend eternity with Him because we have a promise of a day when the two flocks will become one. But, the door that opened for adoption of those of us not naturally born into Abraham’s seed opened up way back in The Song of Moses.

I am thankful for the open door that allows you and me, our families and friends, and many whom we love, to have the right to call God our “Abba, Father.” We have been purchased and grafted in to a holy root by the blood of Yeshua. I believe that even though we see various methods used throughout history in order to draw a people to God, these methods and changes are not surprises or sudden turns by God. I think that God has always wanted all people to come to Him, and that it has never been His will for any to perish. Knowing what is required to dwell in His presence, I believe that–from the beginning, God made adoption plans.

September 23, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spoiled Fat Cats


Big Fat Cat by Flickr User -Tripp- aka trippchicago, CC License = Attribution

Big Fat Cat by Flickr User -Tripp- aka trippchicago, 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.

Okay, I’ll admit it; I’m a cat lover. I own multiple kitties, and I spoil my kitties. I love to hold them and hear them purr, to have them snuggle next to me while I sleep, and to hear them meow at feeding time. I talk to them like they can understand me, and I admire them just for being cats. I will often do whatever it takes to not disturb them, even if it means sitting still under a sleeping cat when I would rather stretch my legs or run to the restroom.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:13 through Deuteronomy 32:18, we continue with the Song of Moses, and the verses are short enough again that I will paste them here from The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)…

He made them ride on the heights of the earth.
They ate the produce of the fields.
He had them suck honey from the rocks
and olive oil from the crags,
curds from the cows and milk from the sheep,
with lamb fat, rams from Bashan and goats,
with the finest wheat flour;
and you drank sparkling wine from the blood of grapes.
But Yeshurun grew fat and kicked
(you grew fat, thick, gross!).
He abandoned God his Maker;
he scorned the Rock, his salvation.
They roused him to jealousy with alien gods,
provoked him with abominations.
They sacrificed to demons, non-gods,
gods that they had never known,
new gods that had come up lately,
which your ancestors had not feared.
You ignored the Rock who fathered you,
you forgot God, who gave you birth.

Moses is still talking about the people of God’s heritage here. He speaks of God’s love toward Israel with passionate emotion. Riding on the heights of the earth, drinking honey from rocks, eating olive oil from crags, eating the finest wheat flour, and drinking sparkling wine all speak of God’s poetic love for Israel in an almost eccentric manner. Remember, these are words God has told Moses to write, so this abundant and amazing love is exactly how God feels toward those He calls His own. He wants to spoil His children and give them the very best of everything!

So, Abba (Father) Yahveh did spoil them. He poured abundant blessing out upon Israel, and then He reminded them to not forget Him when they were taking advantage of all His blessings. But they did forget. God allowed measured troubles to come into their lives, so they would turn to Him and seek Him to fulfill their needs, but when they were comforted again, they would forget again. And then, as the poem says, Yeshurun (Jeshurun is a poetic name for Israel) got too comfortable, too spoiled, and too fat. This prophesy against the house of Jacob has Israel turned to the false gods of the land and abandoning Yahveh, their Maker. As the poem says, they scorned their salvation and provoked God by worshiping false gods and demons.

The last lines show how this broke God’s heart with the personalization God adds in. He says they ignored the Rock who fathered them, and they forgot God who birthed them. The “father” and “birth” terms show the kind of deep love God has for His people as His children. Because He loved them so much, it was a lot easier for them to break His heart when they abandoned Him for gods that did not love them at all–as children or otherwise.

I remember watching one of my “furkids” play one day and thinking how he wasn’t doing anything to try and please me, yet I was pleased and amused with him just being himself. It made me wonder if God looks at people the same way. I think of how happy I get when I pick up or talk with a kitty, and the kitty expresses its happiness by purring. Does God feel as good about our praise as I do about my kitty’s purr-praise?

But for all the enjoyment I get from snuggling and purring, I can get let down when a cat becomes aloof and rejects me. I begin to think of all the times I’ve held my bladder for the sake of not interrupting a cat nap. I think of feeding the cat, watering it, wearing its fur in public places, cleaning up after it, etc. If the cat understood my thoughts, he would hear something like, “After all I’ve done for you, how can you reject me?” I may even say out loud, “Fine! Just be that way!”

It’s no fun to be rejected, and it’s even less fun to be rejected by someone or something we have coddled and spoiled and loved. God is not asking too much when He wants us to remember where all our benefits come from. We may have a paycheck because we have a job, because we went to school, because…because…because. But, God is the One who gave us the ability to learn, and He put all the pieces in place for us to get the job and continue to work. People are quick to blame God for any loss, like an accident that creates a physical disability, but they are slow to thank Him for all the days they are not disabled and are able to work, get out of bed, etc. May we all return to Him with hearts that are grateful for all His benefits, and may we repent for the days when we have acted like spoiled fat cats.

September 22, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Christ Alone


Here in the death of Christ I live.” That’s one of the closing chorus lines for the lyrics in the attached video. It’s a beautiful lyric line founded on the words of Galatians 2:20. Here is that Scripture as written in the New English Translation (NET) Bible…

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We must live our new lives, the ones we walk after repentance for living unto ourselves, in a way that blesses our Creator, so He can dwell within us and bless us. This is His desire, and it has been His desire since the beginning.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:7 through Deuteronomy 32:12, we will continue in Moses’ poem/song, and we will see God’s plans for His children. Again, this is short enough to share, so I will paste the text from The Complete Jewish Bible here…

Remember how the old days were;
think of the years through all the ages.
Ask your father — he will tell you;
your leaders too — they will inform you.
When ‘Elyon gave each nation its heritage,
when he divided the human race,
he assigned the boundaries of peoples
according to Isra’el’s population;
but Adonai’s share was his own people,
Ya‘akov his allotted heritage.
He found his people in desert country,
in a howling, wasted wilderness.
He protected him and cared for him,
guarded him like the pupil of his eye,
like an eagle that stirs up her nest,
hovers over her young,
spreads out her wings, takes them
and carries them as she flies.
Adonai alone led his people;
no alien god was with him.

After asking Israel how they could repay God (who delivered them) with rebellion, now Moses is taking them back to the beginning. I think He wants them to consider both where they came from and where God comes from. He wants them (and us) to know that the whole idea of salvation belongs to The Creator. It is His design to be able to draw close to people who would otherwise not even be allowed in His presence.

I love how this says that when God divided all the people groups on the earth, He wanted His own people, and He chose the house of Jacob/Israel as His heritage. It made me wonder what led up to the heritage, so I looked up when He divided the people at the Tower of Babel, and it was in Genesis 11. Then, I searched for other significant events in Genesis, and I saw an interesting pattern.

With Adam, God put His creation in a garden, separate from the rest of creation. He wanted a one-on-one relationship, but evil got in and made a play. After Adam and his family were sent out from the garden, the amount of men who lived for God thinned out until it seemed most of the world lived as if there was no God at all. And then there was Noah. After the flood, God started again with eight people to spread His truth, and this time, they were not set apart. The enemy got in again, this time using the pride of man. They decided to–literally–build themselves up to the heavens to meet God. Then, when the people at Babel were divided, the ideas of God got divided like the misunderstandings in a game of “Telephone,” and suddenly there were almost as many gods as there were men. And then God found Abraham.

In the midst of the darkness and pride of man, God found a pure heart that actually believed in Him, and He rooted His people from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These men gave a solid foundation to build on for service to the One and Only God Almighty, and it was a foundation the enemy could not so easily attack. So, the enemy put fear in the hearts of unbelieving men to attack them in yet another way. God blessed Jacob, but fearful men made the house of Israel into slaves. And then God found Moses who now writes of that slavery in his song.

Tonight’s poem wraps up with God’s protection and leading of His people. He led them from Abraham; He led them at the time of the poem; and those of us who serve Him now know He still leads His people. He leads His people Himself–no other gods with Him. In Yahveh alone, people will find everything they sought in a tree of knowledge, in a tower of Babel, in making gods of themselves, and in multiple false gods. Now, we have salvation that allows us to be called the children of God and become part of this wonderful heritage because of the newness of life we find in the blood that is… in Christ alone.

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

Moses Starts A Poetry Journal


Poetry and Dreams by Flickr User Cher Amlo, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Poetry and Dreams by Flickr User Cher Amlo, 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 imagine a majority of my readers are writers. I know that many are anyway since I post links to my posts in my writer’s group. For you writers who include poetry among your styles and genres, I’m sure you remember when you first began to gather your poetry into some type of compilation. You may have even started it like a journal with subject matter based on the events of the day. I began my foray into poetry as cathartic exercise in a class of young girls who were invited to use poetry to deal with some issues in teen life. The active writing of poetry made me fall in love with it.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:1 through Deuteronomy 32:6, we begin a new week and a new portion. In this one, Parashah 53 called Ha’azinu in Hebrew and “Hear” in English, Moses begins writing the song that God has asked him to write as a testimony against the rebellion of Israel. Since we don’t have music, we can see the lyrics as poetry. And, while I may not post all of them each day, I do want to post the beginning so you can see the flow. So, here are the first three lines of The Song of Moses from The Complete Jewish Bible

Hear, oh heavens, as I speak!
Listen, earth, to the words from my mouth!
May my teaching fall like rain.
May my speech condense like dew,
like light rain on blades of grass,
or showers on growing plants.

For I will proclaim the name of Adonai.
Come, declare the greatness of our God!
The Rock! His work is perfect,
for all his ways are just.
A trustworthy God who does no wrong,
he is righteous and straight.

He is not corrupt; the defect is in his children,
a crooked and perverted generation.
You foolish people, so lacking in wisdom,
is this how you repay Adonai?
He is your father, who made you his!
It was he who formed and prepared you!

I love how Moses starts this with the poetic blessing on his words; asking that they would fall to the earth like rain, dew, and showers. Then, as soon as he sets up how he wants others to hear his words, he begins to lift up The Lord with wonderful poetic description. He proclaims His name, declares His greatness, and calls Him “The Rock.” Just in that statement, he shows what his own heart is toward his Creator. And then he goes on to say God is perfect, just, trustworthy, and that He can do no wrong.

It’s all so flowing and beautiful, and then we get to the third stanza. There’s a twist in the first line: “God is not corrupt; the defect is in His children.” Boom! The truth that underpins all our lives on this earth. God is perfect and we are not. God is God and we are not. And then Moses asks the question we should all ask ourselves when dealing with our failures: Is this the way to pay back the God who loves you? The God who is a Father that made you His own?

If we can come to the reality that God deserves more than our present behaviors, we can come to a place of repentance, and that’s when life changes for the better. That works from the first time we repent to every time we fall to our knees in repentance before God after that. Remember this…God is more interested in our repentance than in our perfection!

If you battle with your imperfect and defective form, first, remember that God knows your form, and that’s why He paid the price in the blood of Yeshua. Next, humble yourself before God to confess and forsake those defects and imperfections with your whole heart and with the best of your ability. Then, trust God to take them as you rise to walk in the newness of life. Read the praises recorded in the Torah and other places in God’s holy word, and repeat them from your own mouth as you read and learn them. If it helps, consider writing your own thoughts (and maybe poetry) to God to lift Him up in your own words and to chronicle your experiences as a testimony to others with similar events in their own lives. May God bless your words as you write for Him.

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

Mistakes of Titanic Proportions


What Really Sunk the Titanic by Flickr User Russ Seidel, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

What Really Sunk the Titanic by Flickr User Russ Seidel, 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.

Today, I visited “The Titanic.” Well, maybe not The Titanic, but the museum built to make you imagine you are touring the actual ship while viewing some history, pictures, and artifacts. By the time I got to the end of the tour, I was exhausted by the display of pride, class distinction, and other forms of egotism that came together to help create the disaster that shook the world on April 14th, 1912. It wasn’t all bad in that there were many heroes once the situation became catastrophic. For example, there was the preacher who tried to get a man to accept Christ and even gave up his life jacket for the dying sinner just before the 28-degree waters took him under. Oh, but there were so many who seemed to taunt God with rejection of safety procedures, ignoring warning signs, and continually saying how unsinkable the ship was. And we know how that worked out.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 31:25 through Deuteronomy 31:30, we complete another week and another portion of Torah. Shabbat Shalom to all of you. In this passage, we will read of people with a similar attitude to some of those on board the Titanic. If you click on the Scripture link, you’ll see that I’ve started with verse 24 because it leads into the story.

So Moses finishes writing the book of Torah, of all the laws God has instructed him to write for the people. He kept writing until they were completely done, and when he finished, he handed them off to the Levites who carried the Ark of the Covenant. He tells them to put them next to the ark with the covenant inside, so it can be there as a witness against the people.

Now, Moses tells the Levites that he knows how they will behave as soon as he dies. He says the people are stiff-necked and rebellious even while he is there to see them, so it can only get worse when he is gone. Then he tells the Levites to assemble all the leaders and heads of tribes from Israel, so he can tell them the same things. He wants to present them with the truth of their future, so they cannot claim any kind of ignorance. Moses tells them they will do what is evil in the eyes of The Lord and provoke Him with evil deeds. And then he begins to sing them a song of their corruption and their wicked future, and I believe the verses of the song will be the topic of most of our readings for next week.

One woman who was interviewed on the audio tour at the Titanic museum said she was afraid to go on the ship because all the things the people were saying seemed to fly right in the face of God. They were certain it was unsinkable; certain the metal was impenetrable; and certain disaster was impossible after all that was invested in the building and crew of such a special ship. They were proven wrong on all counts, and sadly, had they not decided they were invincible, they would have done as other ships in the same waters and not tried to push through the floating ice. Oh, and the guy who was supposed to watch for icebergs sure wouldn’t have gone to sleep without a replacement while they were going through the hazardous waters.

We know from our own history, and Moses knew from the prophesy God had given him, that Israel had a similar prideful attitude. Somehow, they felt invincible and untouchable. They knew they were special to God, but they didn’t take time to contemplate why. So God decided to show them just how easily a house built on a foundation other than God can crumble. Trusting anyone or anything more than Our God and Creator of the Universe is a big mistake. He breathed the world into existence, and He pulled Israel together to become His special treasure–not because they had anything on their own that made them special, but because He chose them. The moment we think we’ve got it all together to the point where we no longer need God, then like Israel and many aboard the Titanic, we are making a mistake of titanic proportions.

September 19, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When God Writes a Heartbreak Song


Forgiven [ Redeemed [ Restored [ Reborn [ & Set Free by Flickr User ashley.adcox, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Forgiven [ Redeemed [ Restored [ Reborn [ & Set Free by Flickr User ashley.adcox, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image with a wonderful testimony about God helping this girl overcome depression and changing her life, and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

“Sin doesn’t only break God’s laws, it also breaks His heart.” That is one of my favorite quotes on my Pinterest board about truth. It’s like the chorus in that older Ray Boltz hymn (video at bottom) that says,

Does He still
feel the nails
every time I fail?
Can He hear the crowd crucify again?
Am I causing Him pain;
Then I know I’ve got to change.
I just can’t bear the thought of hurting Him.

In today’s reading, we will find God commissioning Moses to write a song for Him. His reason for wanting it written will show His broken heart. I’m going to link to Deuteronomy 31:19 through Deuteronomy 31:23 because that covers the subject completely. However, for some reason, the way the verses are divided had the reader ending yesterday with one line about the song and ending today with half a sentence and at a comma. Still, if you want to see the exact daily portion, look at Deuteronomy 31:20-24.

The reading, including the last sentence from yesterday, begins with God telling Moses and Joshua to write a song and teach it also to the children of Israel. God says He wants Israel to learn it by heart, so it can be a witness from Him and against them when they violate the covenant. He says that when Israel comes to her inheritance and has eaten her fill, grown fat, and turned to other gods while hating Him, the descendants will still be singing the song and not have forgotten it. God tells Moses that He knows how Israel thinks now, and that her thoughts were the same even before He brought forth the promise of the new land.

So Moses writes a song the very same day, and he teaches it to Israel that very day. At the same time, The Lord commissions Joshua, the son of Nun, to be strong and courageous as he brings Israel to The Promised Land. He reminds Joshua once again that He (God) will be with him (Joshua) as he leads the people to their inheritance.

So Moses is not only God’s scribe, he’s also God’s lyricist. Unfortunately, the lyrics God wants Moses to write will carry a painful message to all those who stand against God in spite of how good He has been to them. Most of us want to hear nothing but hope and mercy and love, but there are times when it takes a song for people to truly understand heartbreak. Country music has always been very good at that in the form of what they always called tearjerkers. I’ve always liked those types of songs (think Dolly Parton’s Me and Little Andy, or Red Sovine’s Roses for Mama) even though they provoke sadness. Sometimes, a little sadness can help us look at where we stand; be it in gratefulness or in self-examination.

You know, it’s easy to think of people and their needs when they’re brought before us. It seems the news and other television shows are always interviewing someone who talks about what they or someone else does or doesn’t deserve. Oh, but what would happen if we all began to think of what God does or doesn’t deserve? He deserves our trust. He deserves our devotion. He deserves our praise. But He doesn’t deserve to have a broken heart or to need a song written about it. What do you think God deserves from you?

Here’s the video of Does He Still Feel the Nails (with lyrics)…

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

Talk to The Hand


Heart Line by Flickr User David Goehring, CC License = Attribution

Heart Line by Flickr User David Goehring, 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.

Hands can mean all sorts of things in this life. If you give someone a hand, you help them. If a bunch of people gives someone a hand, they’re usually praising them for some entertaining act or talk. If someone glad hands us, they may be offering a seemingly warm greeting, but they may also be totally insincere. Most hand gestures mean the same in all cultures, like thumbs up being yes or okay and thumbs down being no good. And a hand gesture that has a person putting the palm of their hand toward someone who is talking to them, especially if the hand is between their faces and the person holding up the hand is turning his or her face away, the unspoken statement is usually, “Talk to the hand.” It’s a way of telling people we’re not interested in what they have to say.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 31:14 through Deuteronomy 31:19, we might imagine God giving the palms-out sign to Israel as He prophesies to Moses about their future. In this passage, God calls Moses to the Tent of Meeting and tells him to summon Joshua as well. The cloud descends over the entrance, and God meets there with both Moses and Joshua. He tells Moses that it is about time for him to die and be gathered to his ancestors, and then He prophesies to Moses about what’s going to happen after he passes.

God tells Moses that after he goes to sleep, the people will begin to prostitute themselves to the foreign gods in the land of the inheritance. He says they will abandon Him and break the covenants He has made with them. Their behavior will cause God’s anger to flare up against them, and many calamities will come upon them. When they suddenly realize they have brought their troubles onto themselves, they will blame God and say it’s happening because God is not there with them. Instead, God says He will be hiding from them because of all their evil in worshiping other gods.

This is where I can imagine God saying, “Talk to the hand.” He will turn away and hide His face because of the many times He has warned them to serve and worship only Him. But, because He will never leave or abandon them, His hand is still there with them–even if it is turned palm out. Even in His righteous anger, and in His frustration over their abandonment of Him, I can still see God as being a part of their lives in spite of their repeated rejections. He is longsuffering and merciful beyond anything we can imagine.

If you ever feel you have rejected God one too many times, just remember that you have never left The Potter’s hands, and He can always remake you into a better vessel than before. Don’t run away or give up. Keep returning to Your Creator, The God who loves you forever. Don’t run away; just talk to The Hand.

September 17, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Come Hear and Listen to Learn


If Today You Hear His Voice by Flickr User Sharon of Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

If Today You Hear His Voice by Flickr User Sharon of Art4TheGlryOfGod, 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.

They say God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we speak. I’ve never really liked that saying because I often learn while speaking, especially when I speak something that needs to be corrected. Somehow, that stays with me better. But, that doesn’t mean listening isn’t a skill we should all learn to perfect, and it doesn’t matter how many ears we have. The skill of listening is about process and application far more than it is just the ability to sense sounds.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 31:10 through Deuteronomy 31:13, we will read about the importance of hearing the Torah (word) of God. Again, because the verses are short, I will paste them here from The Complete Jewish Bible

Moshe gave them these orders: “At the end of every seven years, during the festival of Sukkot in the year of sh’mittah, when all Isra’el have come to appear in the presence of Adonai at the place he will choose, you are to read this Torah before all Isra’el, so that they can hear it. Assemble the people — the men, the women, the little ones and the foreigners you have in your towns — so that they can hear, learn, fear Adonai your God and take care to obey all the words of this Torah; and so that their children, who have not known, can hear and learn to fear Adonai your God, for as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Yarden to possess.”

Notes: Moshe = Moses, Festival of Sukkot = Feast of Tabernacles/Booths, Sh’mittah = Freedom (from debt), Torah = Word/Law, Adonai = The Lord/Yahveh, Yarden = Jordan River

So, every seventh “Feast of Tabernacles,” when the children of Israel would build temporary shelters (one is a tent or sukkah, and the plural for tents is “sukkot”) to remind them of their time of wandering without having the word and law of God, they will read the whole law to everyone. They will read to all the seed of Abraham of every age, and to all the foreigners. No one should go without hearing the word of God, so all can have the chance to hear, learn, fear, and obey Him. No one will be able to claim ignorance of God’s law.

What’s interesting is that the Feast of Sukkot is the last of the fall feasts. It comes after Trumpets and Atonement. That means, people don’t hear a full reading of the law until the new year has begun, they have gone through the days of self-examination that precede Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and they have experienced the sacrifice for their sins. Basically, for Christian believers, that means we apply the word of God to our lives after we have become new through repentance and through atonement in The Blood of Yeshua. This gives yet another understanding to not putting new wine into old bottles.

As God calls us to teach others, we need to remember that our best lessons will come directly from our own testimonies. Call people to you to hear what God has done for you, and they will be able to learn what He can do for them. In Revelation 12:11, we learn that the children of God defeat the enemy by the word of their testimony and the blood of The Lamb. While Bible verses are living and powerful, they have much greater effect on those who have become new in Christ. We must be careful to lift God up by sharing what He has done for us far more often than throwing Him at people by using His Word as a condemning sword.

In The Complete Jewish Bible, there are 1620 instances of the word “hear” and another 445 of the word “listen.” If there’s that many more times that people hear but do not listen, maybe it has something to do with who is hearing the word. The smaller portion of instances go to listening because it takes a certain kind of heart to listen, but anyone with ears should be able to hear. It’s time for those of us who know God and have His word hidden in our hearts to make our testimonies known. Our praise and our stand on God’s word in our own lives will work to resist the enemy far more than shouting the written word at people who do not even care. Just remember to take your “vitamins,” that is “Vite ’em in” to your life story to come hear and listen to learn.

My prayer of blessing. May God bless many more of my sisters and brothers with the desire to write their testimonies, either in nonfiction devotions and articles or given through the words of their fictional characters. When you have a story and are not able to write it yourself, may God send you a scribe as He sent to the unlearned men with great testimonies of walking with Yeshua. Amen!

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

Espresso Your Faith


Espresso Expression by Flickr User Rob Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Espresso Expression by Flickr User Rob Murray, 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.

Life is like a cup of coffee. Whether people like it bold and strong, very mild, or full of any variety of flavorings; we drink it in a style that is pleasing to each individual palate. With coffee opinions as varied as coffee beans, there are those who feel that the way they drink their coffee is the only way anyone should drink it. We may not agree, but we can admire their passion, and sometimes we can give their chosen concoction a try. Me, I like a lot of extra flavoring in my coffee, but I also like the punch of an espresso shot to leave that lingering coffee taste in my mouth.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 31:7 through Deuteronomy 31:9, we have just three short verses, but they’re all about the way some people like their coffee: strong and bold. Here’s the text from The Complete Jewish Bible

Next Moshe summoned Y’hoshua and, in the sight of all Isra’el, said to him, “Be strong, be bold, for you are going with this people into the land Adonai swore to their ancestors he would give them. You will be the one causing them to inherit it. But Adonai — it is he who will go ahead of you. He will be with you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you, so don’t be afraid or downhearted.”

Then Moshe wrote down this Torah and gave it to the cohanim, the descendants of Levi who carried the ark with the covenant of Adonai, and to all the leaders of Isra’el.

(Note: Y’hoshua = Joshua; Isra’el = Israel; Adonai = The Lord or Yahveh; Torah = word; and cohanim = priests)

Moses knows the future of Israel based on his past experience and on the prophetic words God has given him. He knows Joshua will need to be strong and bold for a number of reasons. He will need to be…

  • strong to fight the enemy
  • bold to lead the people
  • strong to resist sin
  • bold to stand against false gods
  • strong to encourage the people
  • bold to discourage the enemy
  • strong in his faith to trust God
  • bold in his witness to testify to Israel and others

Joshua will need to think like a cup of espresso in every area of his life. Hot water can only make him stronger, and brewing under pressure will prepare him for things like his future battle at Jericho. But, no matter how strong and bold he is, and even with the word that he is the one helping Israel to inherit their promise, Joshua must never forget to keep it in the boundaries of knowing that God is the One truly leading them. God is the One he must trust to never leave nor abandon him or Israel. Espresso outside the cup wouldn’t be much good (unless you like licking the counter), and Joshua’s boldness outside of God would not have what Israel needs to claim their inheritance.

At the end of the Torah, Scripture picks up in the first chapter of Joshua with more on these commands and encouragements to Joshua. Here’s what it says in verses 5-9 (CJB)…

No one will be able to withstand you as long as you live. Just as I was with Moshe, so I will be with you. I will neither fail you nor abandon you.

“Be strong, be bold; for you will cause this people to inherit the land I swore to their fathers I would give them. Only be strong and very bold in taking care to follow all the Torah which Moshe my servant ordered you to follow; do not turn from it either to the right or to the left; then you will succeed wherever you go. Yes, keep this book of the Torah on your lips, and meditate on it day and night, so that you will take care to act according to everything written in it. Then your undertakings will prosper, and you will succeed. Haven’t I ordered you, ‘Be strong, be bold’? So don’t be afraid or downhearted, because Adonai your God is with you wherever you go.”

Just as it was for Joshua, our strength and boldness are found in God’s word. He tells us to trust Him, to find our strength to do all things in Him, and to lift Him up that He may draw all men to Him. Paul was bold and strong in his proclamation of The Gospel, but even he knew that he needed God to help him stay that way. He asks the Ephesians to pray for him (in Ephesians 6:19) “that whenever I open my mouth, the words will be given to me to be bold in making known the secret of the Good News.” Let us pray for ourselves and for each other that we will always trust God to make us bold, to make us strong, and to help us “espresso our faith.”

PS: Just when I thought I was being so creative in coming up with a cool title for this post, I found a book on Amazon by the same title. It actually looks like a great book, especially for coffee lovers, so I’ve added it to my wish list. If you want to look at it for yourself, it’s at http://www.amazon.com/Espresso-Your-Faith-Rhonda-Rhea-ebook/dp/B00AYJESIM

September 15, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Keep Following the Leader


Follow the Leader by Flickr User Blair Gannon, CC License = Attribution

Follow the Leader by Flickr User Blair Gannon, 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.

Do you remember our childhood games of “Follow the Leader”? I have a vague memory of them, and it seems to me that it was all about trying to keep an eye on the leader in case he or she did something unexpected. It was sort of like playing “Simon Says” only with a “Simon Does” routine that could throw you off if you blinked. The best followers were those that paid perfect attention and stayed in perfect step. I was just klutzy enough to make that difficult.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 31:4 through Deuteronomy 31:6, we have another short reading, so I’ll paste the text directly here…

Adonai will do to them what he did to Sichon and ‘Og, the kings of the Emori, and to their land — he destroyed them. Adonai will defeat them ahead of you, and you are to do to them just as I have ordered you to do. Be strong, be bold, don’t be afraid or frightened of them, for Adonai your God is going with you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Unlike our childhood games, God as a leader makes it clear to Israel exactly what He is going to do and what He expects them to do. There’s no sudden trickery or twists to try and throw them off. There’s no effort to trip them up. God only has their victory in mind. He knows they are not strong enough to battle the enemies and take the land of promise on their own, so He leads them in both direction and battle. He guarantees them a win if they will only follow Him, and He guarantees that He will be with them to the very end.

God knows our form as well. He has promised that He will never leave or forsake us. He knows we cannot fight our enemies on our own, so He promises to go before us and to fight the battle ahead of us. He gives us His armor, and He strengthens us with His strength. And, above all else that we have, we are equipped with His love to lead and guide us in every aspect of life. Just in case you wonder if love is all you need, here are some things love does (from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7)…

  • Love is patient and kind,
  • not jealous, not boastful,
  • not proud, rude or selfish,
  • not easily angered,
  • and it keeps no record of wrongs.
  • Love does not gloat over other people’s sins
  • but takes its delight in the truth.
  • Love always bears up,
  • always trusts,
  • always hopes,
  • always endures.

And, from the beginning of verse 8 in a few different versions, we get Love never fails. We know that God is love, and He has said over and over again that He will never fail us, so we can put His name in front of each item above. We can know that He will be a leader in all these things even as He asks us to follow Him. God is patient and kind. God is not jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish or easily angered. God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not gloat over people’s sins, but He takes delight in truth. God always bears up, always trusts, always hopes, always endures, and…God never fails!

And because God will keep being God no matter what, we know that we can keep following The Leader forever.

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

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