Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

God’s Presence Changes Everything!


Fullness of Joy image by Adam Ranck at Flickr

Fullness of Joy by Adam Ranck at Flickr…
https://www.flickr.com/photos/aranck/12436534373
CC License Attribution, Non-commercial

Stress! Anxiety! Who will win the election? Who are my friends and loved ones voting for? Who should a Christian support? Surely, every candidate supports something with which God Himself will find fault, so what’s a Christian to do?

If your answer is PRAY, you are absolutely right, but that is only the beginning. Then, we must question what to pray for. Do we pray for a specific outcome? Do we ask God who to vote for and then hope we hear His answer correctly? Of course, we can pray those things, but there’s still anxiety in them, and God’s word tells us to be anxious for nothing. So, what can we pray that will remove our anxieties when there is so much of our future at stake?

Pray for the presence of God!

I’ll say it again…PRAY FOR THE PRESENCE OF GOD!

Remember the promises that come with praying for God’s presence, and you will see that a prayer for His presence is enough for EVERY situation–including every political outcome. If His presence is in the voting booth, it can guide voters to the best decision. If His presence is in the high places (like the White House and campaign headquarters), it can drive out the spiritual wickedness that dwells in high places. If His presence shows up where there has been deceit, it can spur the revelations that will cause hidden sins to be found out. We need God’s presence to bring balance and truth throughout this nation.

Some of God’s presence promises include…

So, like a little light can drive out darkness, even a little of God’s presence can drive out those things which cause us anxiety, including the turmoil about this election and all that is involved with it. The more of us who pray for God’s presence, the more of His presence will be there–and we then have a great amount of Light to change the atmosphere.

Please, join me not only on election day but always to pray for God’s presence. For elections, pray for God to be in every voting booth, at every polling place, in every government seat and building, in every campaign gathering and headquarters, with every voter, and with every candidate. After elections, and as all the candidates swear their allegiance to our Constitution and the nation, states, and cities they will represent, may the presence of God go with each and every one of them to lead them in their duties and in their personal lives as well.

God’s presence will bring light where there is darkness, truth where there are lies, justice where there is imbalance, and peace where there is strife. There can be no greater prayer for today or for our future than to pray for Him and His presence to be poured out and to fill every aspect of our nation, our world, and our lives.

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November 7, 2016 Posted by | Current Events, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit of the Law


Today, a friend and I discussed the difference in serving God out of obligation and out of love. A religious spirit can make you get everything perfect on the outside, but your works will not be with any heart. It’s more like an arranged marriage. But a spirit of love will gently push you to uphold God’s law because you desire to bless and please the One who has been so good to you.

In today’s Infinite Supply, Chip Brogden speaks about the loving Spirit who created the law…

Infinite Supply Image for November Fifteenth by The School of Christ

Infinite Supply Image for November Fifteenth by The School of Christ
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original article at The School of Christ dot org website.

November 15

The Spirit of the Law

“Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
JOHN 8:4,5

Legally they were on solid ground. But to her accusers, Jesus replied, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And when they all left, being convicted by their own conscience, He said to the woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more” (John 8:12). We must conclude that however good the Law was, it did not represent God’s highest, or God’s best.

Jesus represents the holiness and purity of the Law but emphasized the part that had been too long overlooked: grace and humility. He came to address the deeper issues of the heart, and in so doing, showed us what God really intended from the beginning. He did not destroy the Law, He superseded the Law! Thus He fulfilled the spirit of the Law – even if it sometimes appeared as if He did not follow the letter of the Law.

Source: The Irresistible Kingdom by Chip Brogden

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Of course, the One who created the law would most certainly know best His purposes behind it. As the author says, He supersedes the law. It’s our interpretations and perspectives on it that cause it to be grievous and chaotic. But the Spirit behind the law will lead us in keeping the spirit of the law as He intended–as a clear dividing line between unholy and holy.

Romans 2:29 (NKJV) adds some clarity to the thought…

But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

When we keep the spirit God input into the law by His Holy Spirit, we will seek to please Him instead of men’s ideas of holiness and perfection. We will desire to be holy (separated from sin) because we love God too much to want to be unholy (separated from God). He wants to draw near to us, so He gave us laws to help us learn how to make room in our lives for His presence.

Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, we let Him down and make it hard for Him to find a place for His presence, so He pours out His mercy through the blood of Yeshua. That’s the dividing line now. We choose either outside of His mercy or under His blood because His blood is what makes us holy so He can dwell with us. So The Holy Spirit of The Law is greater than the letter of the law because mercy through the blood of Christ is more powerful than all the works we can do in and of ourselves.

November 16, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Nonfiction, School of Christ | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

The Mere Exposure Effect


Mere Exposure Effect Quote on Purple Tessellated Background by Crystal

Mere Exposure Effect Quote on Purple Tessellated Background by Crystal A Murray
Click the image to visit my album of kaleidoscopes and tessellations at Flickr.
P.S. I wonder if I like tiled & mirrored images because they are multiple exposures of beauty.

Okay, so I’m gonna get a little psychological tonight. I found the definition and explanation about the above-titled effect while I was looking up the definition of the word “exposure,” and I just have to share it. Basically, the more familiar something or someone becomes, the more we begin to accept, and even like, that something or someone. If we are exposed to good somethings and positive someones, that can be a good thing, but if the opposite, not a good outcome. I can see how the effect might even be what causes the “stress bonding” of Stockholm Syndrome. More importantly, what I see in Mere-Exposure Effect is an explanation as to why sin will never be allowed to dwell in the holy presence of Yahveh.

In tonight’s reading from Deuteronomy 23:8 through Deuteronomy 23:24 (verses 7-23 in versions other than the Complete Jewish Bible), Moses will instruct Israel about the things God does not want to be exposed to. He begins, though, with a reminder for them not to hate the Edomites (they are descended from Esau), or the Egyptians because Israel stayed for a time as strangers in their land. The third generations from both of these are even allowed to join the assembly of The Lord, unlike the Ammonites and Moabites who are forbidden forever.

Moses now reminds Israel that when they are at war with an enemy, it is more important than ever to keep the camp clean. If a man becomes unclean because of a nighttime emission, he must leave the camp, bathe, and return at sunset. There should be a latrine area outside the camp, and the tools there should include a shovel to dig a hole and bury any excrement. The necessity for cleanliness is because Yahveh Almighty walks through the community to help defeat the enemies, and they do not want to expose Him to anything disgusting that would drive Him away when they need Him.

I like the next instruction where Moses tells the people that if a slave runs away from his master, they should take him in and treat him kindly, and they should not send him back to his master or mistreat him. I’m always thought that if I were alive during slavery, I would have been part of the Underground Railroad in helping people get away from abusive slave owners. We read all through the Torah about Israel owning slaves, but this tells me that God did not expect them to put up with abuse just because they were slaves.

The passage then goes back to the cleanliness issue, only this time it is about moral cleanliness. God says there must not be prostitution, either heterosexual or homosexual, in Israel or in the house of The Lord. God detests these things.

Moses repeats a previous command, reminding Israel to never charge interest on loans they make to their brothers, and it doesn’t matter if the loan is on money, food, or something else. They can charge interest to strangers, but never the family of Israel. Instead, they should trust that all their increase will come through The Lord, and that He will provide all they need. The act of not charging interest to a brother comes with a promise that God will prosper Israel in all they set out to do in the new land.

Our reading closes with a reminder that promises are not made to be broken, and that it is better not to make a promise at all than to make one and not keep it. If any kind of vow crosses the lips of one who has the ear of The Lord, He says the person who made the promise must take care to perform whatever they have spoken aloud. Trying to take something back once it goes into the atmosphere is more impossible than putting toothpaste back in the tube. God doesn’t want the atmosphere filled with broken vows.

For those who regularly stop by to read this blog, I am happy to be exposing you to words that will hopefully cause you to love God and His word even more. I encourage you to read more for yourself, so you will be drawn to His desires. I also encourage you to spend as much time with Him as possible, so you will be drawn to His presence. And, from the bottom of my heart, I urge you to pray for discernment of all things and people in your life. This goes for me also, and it includes our friendships, our entertainment, what we watch and read and listen to, and those we bring into our lives to teach us. May God open our eyes and help us to discern what should and should not be regular parts of our lives, and may He prevent us from accepting those things He does not want in our lives simply because we’ve become comfortable with them as an effect of mere exposure.

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

Presents to Present before God’s Presence


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

Come Boldly by Flickr User Dr Michael D Evans, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Blessings Ready You for God’s Presence


Above the Earth by Flickr User thoughtquotient.com, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Above the Earth by Flickr User thoughtquotient.com, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

A seed doesn’t grow just because you plant it. It must be planted in ready soil. And, if the seed is to grow to maturity, the soil must be maintained for growth. Maintenance may come in the form of watering, weeding, and/or nutrients, but rarely does something left to itself grow to the best it can be. This is only part of the law of the harvest, and since we are made from earth, it’s important that we understand the part the harvest plays in us.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 9:17 through Leviticus 9:23, we continue the events of the eighth day from the beginning of the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests for Yahveh. They offer a grain offering, and a portion of it goes up in smoke on the altar. Then they bring peace offerings and wave offerings as Moses directs them. And then Aaron comes down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, and he blesses the people. After he blesses the people, Moses and Aaron go back into the Tent of Meeting, come out again, and bless the people once more. AND THEN (my emphasis), God’s glory appeared to all the people.

If God planned to show His glory to the people anyway, why didn’t He just meet them as soon as they had all gathered? If it was because of sin, then why didn’t He meet them as soon as the offerings were completed? I believe this all comes back to the law of the harvest. Just because soil looks ready, doesn’t mean it is. Only those who work with soil for a living would know if it is actually ready for the specific seed to be planted. God knew the order of things that would make His people ready to receive His glory. He knew which offerings should be completed, and which blessings should be spoken over the people, to prepare them for God’s holy presence.

These days, we have preachers who just bless people because that’s what the people want to hear. There are many who never go into a holy place with God to consult Him before dishing out blessings, and they don’t give the blessings for the purpose of God’s presence as much as for the thanks of the people. In what way does telling someone that God is about to bless them with a big house and a new car prepare them to commune with God? I imagine what they called blessings in these Scriptures were something more along the lines of, “The sacrifice has been accepted, and you are purified to receive God.” And after Moses and Aaron came out from meeting with God, they might have said something like, “God has looked upon your hearts and sees your desires for Him, so now He will meet with you.” I mean, truly, can you think of a better blessing than that?

Even under the blood of Christ, there is a plan and a pattern. If there was not one, then we would not even need the written word beyond the story of crucifixion and redemption. The blood of Our Savior is the sin offering, but where are we in the other offerings and sacrifices? I believe WE are to give ourselves as an offering to God to allow Him to prepare us for His presence. We bring sacrifices of confession, humility, repentance, and accountability. We may offer a sacrifice of praise as our wave offering. And in all the sacrifices and praise we give, and in all the blessings we receive, we should strive for those that are holy and acceptable to Yahveh, and for those that prepare us for God’s holy presence in every moment of our lives.

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

Light Painting


Light Painted Face by Flickr User Beo Beyond, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Light Painted Face by Flickr User Beo Beyond, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Believe it or not, there is a whole genre of artistic creation that falls under the heading of “Light-Painting.” You would be amazed at what people can create with cameras and light. There are entire groups at Flickr dedicated to light-painting, though I couldn’t share most of their photos due to copyright restrictions. But, if you’d like to see at least one, take a visit to the “Light Junkies” group by visiting… http://www.flickr.com/groups/lightjunkies/pool/ where you’ll find over 100,000 photos to amaze you. Another type of light-painting is achieved digitally by photo manipulation software. I enjoy the one called “Fractalius” and you can see some of what it creates by visiting the Flickr Fractalius group at http://www.flickr.com/groups/fractalius-photo/pool/ with about 6000 very cool photos.

In today’s reading from Exodus 34:27 through Exodus 34:25, we complete another Torah portion as are invited in to see Moses back on the mountain top with Yahveh, This portion brings another week comes to a close, so Shabbat Shalom to all of you. And, by the way, if you click the link to read the portion yourself, you’ll find links to the recommended readings from the rest of the Old Testament and from the New Testament if you’d like to do more study.

So Moses has gone forty days and nights with nothing to eat or drink. He is totally engulfed in the presence and the words of his Creator. God has Moses write down all the laws and commands that were previously written, and then God inscribes something on the tablets Himself. I was a little confused from the reading if God wrote the title, The Ten Words, or if He actually wrote down what we call “The Ten Commandments.” Either way, imagine being called as a scribe for God, and then having God write with His own hand on the cover of your book. I have a friend who is called as a something of a modern-day scribe, and I can just imagine an indescribable level of excitement if that happened to her. (Yes, Debbie, I’m talking about you. 🙂 ) (Note: click on her name if you’d like to read about Debbie and find information about her books that tell stories of God’s “Miraculous Interventions-tm” in human lives.)

Now Moses comes down from the mountain with the two tablets and doesn’t realize that God has done a little light-painting of His own. Moses face is glowing and sending out rays of light from his skin. At first, people were afraid to approach him, but he called them over, so he could present the tablets of testimony and pass on all the orders God gave him on Mount Sinai. Once he finished speaking to them, it says he put a veil over his face that he would leave on until he went into the tent of meeting to speak again with God.

See, I love the idea of God doing light-painting on His creations. There are times when the glow of the sunshine almost seems to paint the surrounding view and make it glow. On my kaleidoscope set at Flickr, I make the following statement:

I believe God sees the people of His creation in the same way we see a kaleidoscope image: all different yet all beautiful and even more beautiful when light (especially God’s light) shines through them.

God is the ultimate Light Painter, and I will gladly be one of the subjects He uses to show Himself to the world. How about you?

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

Be Kind, Rewind


Be Kind, Rewind by Flickr User Charles Hope, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Be Kind, Rewind by Flickr User Charles Hope, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Be Kind, Rewind, isn’t something most of our younger generation is likely to hear anymore since video cassette tapes have been replaced by DVDs and Blu-ray discs. But there was a time in the not-so-distant past that a random act of kindness was simply to rewind the movie you had just rented before you returned it to the rental store. Audio cassettes were still in use then too, and this reminds me of the time I found an LP record of Queen’s greatest hits for my husband and decided to play it for my nephew. I think he was about 13 or 14 then, but I figured it would be good for him to hear the music his uncle grew up on, and I was pretty sure he would like it. I was right. As soon as it got to the end, he told me he liked it, and he asked me how to rewind it. 😉

In today’s reading from Exodus 34:1 through Exodus 34:9, we have God telling Moses to meet Him on the mountain top, so they can rewind their earlier activity of inscribing God’s laws onto stone tablets. If you can see God as having a sense of humor, you should be able to laugh at the way He speaks to Moses in verse 1… “Adonai said to Moshe, “Cut yourself two tablets of stone like the first ones; and I will inscribe on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.” In future readings, God will make more statements about “the first tablets” and “the ones you broke.” I don’t know if it’s just the way the scribes wrote it, or if God really did say these things to Moses more than once. I think the latter, and I think it was to remind Moses that even he got fed up with how the people acted when there was no one around to watch them.

So Moses climbs the mountain with the two new stones, cut like the first, and goes to meet God as He requested. This meeting was to include ONLY Moses, to the extent that God didn’t even want the animals grazing near the base of the mountain. When Moses gets up there, God descends in the cloud to meet him, and the first thing He does is pronounce His memorial name–Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh (YHVH aka Yahveh, also written in modern language as YHWH aka Yahweh)–just as He had done with Abraham. This is a big deal, and it speaks of just how Yahveh felt about Moses.

Next, God repeats His name again, and this time He frames it with a statement that He, Yahveh, is The Lord who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in grace and truth, showing grace to the thousandth generation. He goes on, I believe as a precursor to the laws He is about to give again, and tells Moses that He is God who forgives offenses, crimes, and sins, yet does not exonerate the guilty but causes the negative effects of the parents’ offenses to be visited on future (even to the third and fourth) generations.

I want to point out here that I’ve heard people make statements about the unfairness of God visiting effects on future generations, but it’s just the law of the harvest in action. If I plant bad seeds, it is not only me that is affected. Everyone who eats the bad plants, or who can’t eat because crops won’t grow, will be affected. The ground can be affected and cause future crops to not grow. And even when people don’t care enough for themselves, they will often change for others, so God was just using the same psychology as social service workers who threaten parents with a loss of their children if they don’t change their own behaviors–such as drinking or drug use. And while negative effects are visited to the third and fourth generations, as God says at the first, His mercy is given to the thousandth generation.

When God finishes speaking, Moses bows his head and prostrates himself before God. Moses then speaks and asks God that if he has indeed found favor in His sight, would He please stay with the people of Israel. He admits that the people are stubborn, but he asks that Yahveh will pardon their offenses and sin, and that He will take them as His possession once again. So, we started with God telling Moses to be kind, rewind, with the tablets, and now we have Moses asking God to be kind and rewind in His forgiveness and favor of Israel.

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

Hide and Seek


Hide and Seek by Flickr User Aftab Uzzaman, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Hide and Seek by Flickr User Aftab Uzzaman, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

What would you do if God gave you the opportunity to actually see Him walking near you? Even though most of us realize that we, ourselves, are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit, we rarely think of God’s actual presence dwelling with us because a spirit doesn’t seem quite the same as a physical being. So, if suddenly He came by and told us we could see Him physically, I think we would all have the mixed emotions of a kitty cat ready to pounce–excited to go forward (seek) but unsure and ready to run at the same time (hide).

In today’s reading from Exodus 33:17 through Exodus 33:23 (the end of the chapter and another super short one), Yahveh is telling Moses that He will do as Moses has asked and continue to walk with Israel. God reminds Moses that He is doing so because Moses has found favor in His sight, and because He knows Moses by name.

So, here’s Moses having this very personal conversation with The Creator of the Universe who is telling him that He knows him by name, but Moses wants more. He asks God to show him His glory. And since God does not get upset with Moses, I’m guessing this continuous seeking is okay with Him. As I’m typing this, I have a purring kitty cat meowing at me and digging at my arm to reach over and pet him each time I stop to type, and even though I must continue, I am actually quite blessed at knowing he wants more of me and my attention. I’m guessing from this that God was blessed by Moses’ seeking more of Him.

God tells Moses He will pass by him. He leads Moses to a rock where He says Moses can stand to watch the event, and then He tells Moses that He will hide him in a cleft of the rock until He has passed by to where Moses can only see Him from behind. He reminds Moses that if no man can see His face and live, so in actuality God is showing mercy to Moses here. Maybe that’s why just before telling Moses about hiding his face, He says He will show favor to whom He will, and He will show mercy to whom He will.

It’s a little difficult to find more of a story in such a short reading, but still, I can find a number of treasures in these words. Standing on the rock is a sure and stable place, while hiding in the rock is like safety from surrounding storms and attacks. God placing His own hand over Moses is a personal and powerful type of protection for him. God speaking His name as He walks by is an assurance of who He is and that He is to be trusted. And I’ve heard an interesting theory that Moses seeing God from behind represents the history that God gave him to record in the first five books of the Bible, aka The Torah that we are studying now. Now it’s your turn to tell me in the comments what the words in this passage mean to you.

Oh, and just because of the Scriptures covered today, I must share this old hymn (Rock of Ages) as sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford…

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

If God is Around, It’s Okay to be Square


Square Peg by Flickr User Simon Greig, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Square Peg by Flickr User Simon Greig, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

As I was looking for pictures of square pegs, it suddenly occurred to me that the only way to get a square peg into a round hole is to make the square smaller. Maybe that’s why people who consider themselves to be “fitter-inners” are often found belittling those they consider to be squares. But if you have to become less of what you are to fit in with someone else’s idea of success, I say, be happy to be a square peg.

In today’s very short reading from Exodus 33:12 through Exodus 33:16, we follow up with God telling Moses that He will no longer travel with the people of Israel because their stiff-necked behaviors might make Him destroy them. Now remember, Moses talks to God face to face as a man talks to a friend, so while most of us would not dare to speak to God the way He is doing, Moses has proven his respect to God and his love for Him, so he gets away with it.

So, in my own paraphrase, here is Moses’ conversation with God…

Moses: You tell me to move on with these people, but you haven’t told me who is going with me as a support system since You aren’t going with us. But then again, You told me that You know my name, and that I have found favor in Your sight, so here’s my suggestion. First of all, if what You say about how You see me is true, then show me Your ways of righteousness and truth. Grant me an understanding of You, so I can continue to find favor in Your sight. And, above all else, I ask You to please keep seeing Israel as Your people.

Yahveh: Don’t worry yourself, Moses. I have decided to go with you after all.

Moses (as if he hasn’t heard what God just said to him): Because if You don’t go with us, I don’t even want to move on. I mean, how else will people know I have favor in Your sight? How else will they know You favor Israel? There is no way unless You go with us. Your presence–that’s the thing that sets us (me and Israel) apart from all the other people on earth.

So, what if the whole world decides that Israel is nothing but a bunch of square pegs with a bunch of square traditions? That’s what’s coming in their future. Is it their adherence to law that sets them apart? No, it’s not. It wasn’t then, and it isn’t now. Rather, it was always God’s presence that made them the people they were. That’s what was proven while Moses and the elders were up on the mountain. God’s presence was up there on the mountain, and the people were just people then. And their humanness led them into sinful behavior, even though they had a leader in Aaron (albeit one who was slacking in his duties), and they had the history with God as their deliverer. They needed God’s presence right there with them to be a truly set apart people in all their ways. And as the people of God go, that has never changed.

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

From a Pillow to an Altar


Sun rays in clouds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When God Stops to Visit


Today’s reading begins Parashah (Portion) Four, which includes Genesis 18:1-22:24. Part 1 of this portion is Genesis 18:1 through Genesis 18:14, and it tells the story of when God stopped by Abraham’s house. It says that when Abraham looked out his door, he saw three men standing under the Oaks of Mamre, and he knew immediately who was on his property. The picture below from Wikemedia Commons, can be found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abrahams_Oak,_1880.jpg.

Abrahams_Oak,_1880.jpg (400×290)

So, here’s Abraham just going about his daily routines, having many of the same needs we all experience on a daily basis, and suddenly he looks outside and sees God. If that happened to you, what would you do? How many people do you suppose would say something like, “Oh, hey God. I’ve been meaning to talk to You. I’ve got this list of things I’ve been needing from You, and, well, since You’re here anyway.” I grieve that many would see it as the magic lamp is here. Let’s rub it.

But not Abraham. He ran–not walked–from his tent door and fell at his feet in humble worship. He asked these visitors to be his guests; to wash their feet, have some food and drink, and to rest before they traveled on. He was beside himself trying to give to them and do FOR them rather than trying to get something FROM them.

This has always meant something special to me. I have asked myself more than once if, when I am in the Presence of the Almighty, am I more concerned about what I can get or what I can giveSo many altar services are all about coming forward to receive something from God. We have services and gatherings centered around gifts and getting. Even Christmas, a time when people claim to be celebrating the birth of our Messiah, is more about getting gifts from each other than giving gifts to the birthday child. And whether it’s in the natural or the spiritual, this taking more than giving breaks my heart. And I wonder, after all God has given us in creation and salvation, does it break His heart too?

See, Abraham knew that the Creator of the Universe didn’t have to bless him as He already had. He knew God didn’t even have to stop to visit. Thankfulness exceeded his desire to request things from Him. His biggest request was that he would find favor in God’s eyes, so that He would stay and visit for a while. In return, God reminded Abraham once more that his wife Sarah would be having a baby soon. This time, it was Sarah who laughed, and I love today’s final verse in response to Sarah’s laughter: Is anything too hard for the Lord? The Amplified Bible adds “or too wonderful.”

I want to go before the throne in thanksgiving and humble adoration proclaiming how great is my God and praising Him that He reigns supreme in my life. I want to praise Him because I know that NOTHING is too hard or too wonderful for Him. And I pray this blesses Him so much that he will want to stop by and visit often.

October 19, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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