Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Not One Who Kneels


No Share in God's Glory Without the Cross by Flickr User Sharon of Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

No Share in God’s Glory w/o the Cross by Flickr User 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.

Have you ever read the lyrics to all the verses from Frank Sinatra’s classic hit My Way? In case you haven’t, here are the words for verse three…

For what is a man what has he got
If not himself then he has not
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Notice the words of the fourth line. For all the confidence-building and encouragement the song is supposed to inspire in those who may feel a lack of personal empowerment, it lacks real power. Real power, like so many things, begins with an acknowledgement of who and where we are and what we need to move forward. Think of the Twelve Steps in multiple anonymous programs. They all start with the first step and the words “I admitted I was powerless.”

What has changed in the modern church world? There’s more preaching about power than powerlessness. There’s more push to gain and be the head and not the tail than of losing ourselves to make Christ the Lord and head of our lives. There’s too many messages about what God can do for us, and not enough messages about the blessing of giving our all for a God who already gave it all for us.

I think the problem is from a lack of blood flow (aka Calvary). We want to go right from sinner to saint without stopping to kneel at the cross first. We tell people that with a few minutes at an altar, or a simple confession of Christ, they are saved. It’s like hiring someone for a job without checking any qualifications or doing any training. What will an untrained person do when he faces a struggle for which he is not prepared? What will a new Christian do with temptation if he has not left all his sinful desires under the blood of Yeshua and made a decision that all sacrifice is worth it for his loving Creator?

We’ve got the proverbial cart before the horse when we introduce someone to Heaven and future hope before we teach them how to live for Christ on earth right now. And if we try to teach an unrepented soul how to live a new lifestyle before he has died to the old one, we’re doing it again. When we plant a seed in the earth, the seed dies before it sprouts to new life. How do we claim a new life until we have died to our old life? As Scripture says, we can’t put new wine into old bottles or they will burst.

Do we trust that what God has to offer is better than anything anyone on earth can offer us? If not, we can never die out to doing things our own way. If we don’t die out to our way and our old ideas and skewed understanding, we can never rise up to walk in the newness of life. If we want God’s glory, we must give up our personal glory and be willing to kneel before our Eternal Creator. We must choose to fall in repentance at the cross of Yeshua and let His blood wash over and cleanse us, and then we must take up our cross daily and follow Him. Once we do that, we can rewrite the words above to line up with the Scripture from Mark 8:36-37 (NKJV)

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

The new words might read something like…

For what is a man what has he got
Without The Lord then he has naught
To think God’s words and to Him yield
And be a man who repents and kneels
His sins will go under the flow
When he’s walking God’s way

And if you want to hear another person’s version of the whole song, sung to the tune of the original, here’s a video I found at YouTube…

December 3, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Bible Study, Lyrics and Song, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Revelation Revelation


While many in our current culture are satisfied to just live a moment to moment existence, there are some who seek a deeper life. Those who want more may seek it in almost any area of “great power” because they know it requires more than simple humanity. Some will seek the power in nature, some in witchcraft or magic, some in knowledge, and some in mind-altering chemicals. A few will seek it directly from God, but this is often the minority.

Why would the God who created the whole universe be the last place people want to go for more power? Is it because they don’t feel they can get it from Him? I don’t think so. I think it’s because of the cost involved. Too many people want power without the price, so they buy into something that promises that to them–even if it’s a lie.

Today’s Infinite Supply newsletter gives us the key to finding real revelation in truth.

Infinite Supply Image for November Twenty-Fifth by The School of Christ

Infinite Supply Image for November Twenty-Fifth 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 25

The Key to All Revelation

“In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
COLOSSIANS 2:3

It is not that God desires to give us revelation into the many things, but for us to have the Revelation of Jesus Christ. By apprehending Him we will subsequently gain insight in those “things.”

To seek revelation into the “things” apart from the Revelation of Christ fails to give Christ the preeminence. We dare not circumvent the knowledge of Him in the pursuit of “things,” even spiritual things, for they are all summed up into Him.

Source: Lord of All by Chip Brogden

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The author mentions seeking revelation in “things” apart from Christ, and he includes spiritual things. Unfortunately, that desire to have “magic” and “power” without the cost has even taken hold in Christianity. It’s right up there with wanting to go to Heaven but not wanting to die.

However, like it says in one of the currently running television series, “All magic comes with a price.” That series also points out that “love is the greatest magic of all.” The unspoken message here is that even love comes with a price. The difference, of course, is that with love, it’s worth the cost. True love doesn’t even count the cost because it’s focused on the reward just as Christ focused on us instead of the nails at Calvary.

Revelation in The Lord means receiving knowledge and wisdom directly from Him. We seek it from Him because we know it is pure truth. We seek it from Him because we want to draw closer to Him. If we seek it simply for power or authority, or for any reason other than walking in God’s will because we want to please Him, we’re at risk of seeking magic instead of revelation. The Scripture used above is clear when read in the Amplified Bible

In Him all the treasures of [divine] wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God) and [all the riches of spiritual] knowledge and enlightenment are stored up and lie hidden.

And, in Matthew 6:33 (KJV), we have the promise and inspiration we’ve been singing about since Sunday School if we spent any time in church as children…

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

I’ve always heard this as compared to seeking physical things (like riches and provisions) from God, but it also works in seeking power, authority, and revelation. If we seek Yeshua and His righteousness, all that is Him and is from Him will be revealed to us as we walk in His marvelous light. That’s the right way to receive revelation because, like Solomon sought wisdom and received both wisdom and riches, we seek God and receive all he has to offer with Him.

November 26, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Nonfiction, School of Christ | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let The Weak Say They Are Strong


No one wants to feel weak because weak equals powerless and powerlessness usually equals fear. It seems we’re bombarded daily with reminders of how powerless we are. We vote one way and the outcome is opposite. What used to be religious freedom, like businesses having the right to refuse services, is being whittled away. We can’t control gas prices, government decisions, pesticides and preservatives in our foods, or what’s being taught in public school classrooms. And just when we think we can control our own health, some new virus or other threat is discovered and we’re all warned to be on the lookout.

But there is a way to have power even when we must deal with weakness. Today’s Infinite Supply newsletter has an encouraging message by author Chip Brogden.

Infinite Supply Image for November Twenty-Third by The School of Christ

Infinite Supply Image for November Twenty-Third 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 23

Power Through Weakness

“God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”
1 CORINTHIANS 1:27 ESV

The Wisdom of God teaches us differently. This Wisdom tells us that the weak things are chosen to overcome the strong things, and power works concurrently with weakness.

God desires to give you power, but that power only comes through weakness. Any power not obtained through weakness is illegitimate, no matter how spiritual it appears. The only legitimate power is granted to those who have been made weak. Power is birthed in weakness. Many exude a certain “power,” but there is not the corresponding weakness. Hence, the power only gives them an occasion for boasting. To remedy this, God has ordained that all who would have His power must first be weakened and made empty – we refer to this as being “broken.” The purpose of weakness and suffering is to open the way for His Power. The instrument God uses to weaken us is the Cross. Therefore, the Cross is power through weakness.

Source: Embrace the Cross by Chip Brogden

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The cross is the one way I think we can imagine and accept weakness because the cross comes with promise instead of powerlessness. We’re told in 1 Corinthians 1:25 (ERV) that God’s strength is dependable because…

Even the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom. Even the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

When we repent and lay ourselves in surrender at the foot of the cross, we have God’s wisdom and strength. Ask those who serve God in love for their testimony, and you’ll likely find it filled with surrenders that begin face-down and end face-up. We often fall beneath the loads of life, but when we land at the cross and in the arms of The Lord, He lifts us up higher than we can imagine. King David, in Psalm 3:3 (AMP) said of God…

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

He lifts our heads. He turns our faces toward Him. If you serve Him in love, look back on your own testimonies, and you’ll find these promises to be true. We can trust His strength and that it will come through for us even when we’re battle-weary because He assures us He will never leave or forsake us. And because His strength is so much greater than our own, even when we are weak, if we have The Lord, we can say we are strong.

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Nonfiction, School of Christ | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Humble Beneath the Heavens


We’re told in Psalm 128:2 that when we eat the fruit of the labor of our own hands, we will be happy. The problem happens when people go beyond happy and become arrogant. While God has created the world according to “the law of the harvest,” we must remember that He is still “The Lord of the Harvest.” He allows us to have the fruit of our labors as a blessing, not just because we deserve it.

In today’s Infinite Supply newsletter by Chip Brogden of “The School of Christ,” we get a reminder that God still rules in the kingdoms of men.

Infinite Supply Image for November Fourteenth by The School of Christ

Infinite Supply Image for November Fourteenth 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 14

The Most High Rules

“The Most High rules in the kingdoms of men.”
DANIEL 4:17

Christ is increasing and filling all things. Have you seen this? If you have, then embrace it, submit to it, cooperate with it, be in harmony with it, order your life around it, demonstrate it to the world around you, and pray for its fulfillment.

Get aligned with something and Someone higher and greater than yourself. For when you see God’s Purpose, and you adjust your life according to that Purpose, and you consistently pray for the fulfillment of that Purpose, then His Purpose cannot be stopped; His Will cannot be frustrated; His Kingdom cannot be defeated. Heaven singles you out and Hell trembles with fear. You just became undefeatable! You just joined the Remnant.

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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The full context of the Scripture referenced by the author is where Daniel interprets two visions of King Nebuchadnezzar where God issues a warning to him about his future. We can see from the king’s personal statement near the beginning of the chapter (Daniel, Chapter 4) that he still doesn’t understand who God really is. He tells the reader, in verse 8, the following…

“His name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the Spirit of the Holy God.”

So, he knows that the Creator God is holy, but he doesn’t yet know Him as his own. Daniel warns him that he can repent and stop sinning, and maybe then God will remove the future curse from him, but Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t get it. To the contrary, by verse 30, he says…

“Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”

I have built”? “My mighty power”? “For my majesty”? Those things make it pretty clear why the curses from the visions had to come to pass. The king ended up having the mind of a wild animal and crawling around in a wet field until his hair and nails over-grew. By the time it was over, the king knew who God was. In verse 34, he declared something quite different from verse 30…

And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever.

What he first claimed as the result of his own power, he realized was only the result of God’s power–even over a king and kingdom. As God told him in the vision, “The Most High rules in the kingdoms of men.” Even when we work for it and earn it, or even when we receive it as an inheritance or a gift, our position on this earth is never above God and never without God. When we understand that, we will be humble beneath the Heavens instead of feeling the need to exalt ourselves, and our humility will bring us more power. As Chip says, if we align ourselves with God and His purpose, we become part of the remnant of the undefeatable.

November 15, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Bible Study, Nonfiction, School of Christ | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

The Sacrifice of Holy Praise


Altar of Incense by Flickr User Michael Arcand, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Altar of Incense by Flickr User Michael Arcand, 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.

I have always loved to sing, and more than that, I have always loved to sing songs that I could feel in my heart. When I stand with a congregation to sing praise songs to God, I look for the deepest meaning I can find in the song, and I try my best to sing it to Him directly. It’s a struggle for me to sing something I cannot feel. I have often stood crying when it seemed the music around me was just cluttered noise. Sometimes I would cry because I felt the presence of God by seeking God in the midst of whatever was going on around me, and sometimes I would cry because I was hurting over the shallowness I felt in what should have been the holiest time of our fellowship together.

Long before King David and the Book of Psalms he filled with praises toward Yahveh Almighty, God taught men how He wanted praise to be delivered to Him. In today’s reading from Exodus 30:1 through Exodus 30:10 we learn about the Altar of Incense which represents praise. Beyond offering a regular sacrifice twice each day, God also commanded the priests to offer fragrant incense twice each day. He gave instructions for an altar that would be used specifically for this purpose.

The most important instruction about the Altar of Incense is where God said to locate it. He said to put it in front of the curtain by the Ark of the Covenant. Remember that the priest, and only the high priest, could go into the Holy of Holies, and then only once per year. Many layers of drapery separated that area from the rest of the tabernacle. But, while men could not go beyond the curtain, the smoke that ascended from the incense would be able to penetrate the material to reach the ark that represented God’s presence.

Because this smoke went directly into God’s presence, God was very specific about what to burn on the altar and how to burn it. Unholy things cannot dwell in God’s presence, so anything not created by God’s exact instructions was considered “strange fire,” and should never be put on God’s altar. He said to offer no grain offerings on it and to pour no drink offerings on it. In addition, God told Aaron to put the blood of atonement on it once per year to keep it holy because, according to God, that altar was especially holy to Him. Imagine, something that represents praise being called “especially holy” to God then and throughout all the generations of His people.

Since we are now able to come boldly before the throne of God and into His presence, it might be easy to forget just how holy praise is to Him. We sometimes sing songs because they sound good or because a certain singer or band does a good job with their performance. I know how hard it is to lead music and remember that it’s not about performance at the same time. But I also know the experience of how I’ve heard my own voice, as if it wasn’t even coming out of me, somehow sound better than any practice or performance because my heart went to a place of true worship as I sang.

While we often start services with praise because we want to change the atmosphere by ushering in the presence of God, I love the times where we sing to change ourselves and usher our own spirits into His glorious presence. Since the smoke of incense rises, and since incense represents praise entering God’s presence, I feel like praise is a way to rise up out of our flesh and actually send a part of ourselves into the holy presence of our Holy Creator. Sometimes, it may even take a sacrifice–a break away from our own thoughts and ways–but to me, there is no greater joy than to lead my heart into a place of worship that God can receive as a holy and acceptable offering to Him. And on that note, enjoy this video with lyrics of the song Heart of Worship by Matt Redman.

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

Total Torah Recall


Oil Kaleidoscope View by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Oil Kaleidoscope View by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
I love the light and colors that are displayed when I’m able to capture an image from inside my oil-cell kaleidoscope. This one has not been shared to Flickr yet.

Shabbat Shalom, everyone. I’m writing from the road tonight because I’m pretty sure we won’t make it back home before midnight. I will edit later for links and such though. Edit: I was right. It’s almost 3am, and I’m just trying to do a quick edit before I go to sleep. I changed images since the one I uploaded with my phone somehow took the whole page width, but I’m sticking with something filled with light since the Torah (T-OR-AH) is filled with light. (OR is Hebrew for light.)

When I planned this series of blog posts, I wasn’t thinking of sharing the Torah content as much as just sharing how something from the reading affected me. Then, the natural teacher side of me kicked in, and I started trying to summarize the text to help readers gain understanding of God’s holy and wonderful word. I hope you are all blessed by my efforts however long or short.

Today’s reading covers Exodus 23:26 through Exodus 24:18 (the end of the chapter and the end of the week’s portion). It’s a wrap up of the rulings God has been giving Moses, and in this one, God calls the total rulings His Torah. Refer to my first post on this subject for meaning behind the word Torah, but in brief, it is God’s word, and it contains God’s light and truth.

Having read much earlier today, I don’t remember the particulars so much, but the part that stuck out for me was on reading what Moses and the seventy elders of Israel got to see. While most of the camp of Israel was only able to see God as fire on top of the mountain, Moses, Aaron, a couple other leaders, and the seventy elders were invited higher up and were able to see an image of God Himself. As they looked, they saw His feet standing on a piece of transparent crystal that looked like the sky.

I cried as I read the description and imagined being able to gaze upon such a wondrous site. I can’t put into words how very much I am in love with My Creator. And I can only imagine how it will feel to look in His loving face one day and to know I have an eternity to thank Him for all He has done for me.

There’s an old song by The Oakridge Boys called When I Sing for Him. It talks about how good it feels to sing praises to God, and then the music crescendos, and the singer belts out, “When I sing for Him in person, HalleluYah; when I move to my new home, HalleluYah; oh the angels will be singing, HalleluYah Amen; when I sing….for….Him!” As a singer, I can imagine standing on that stage in front of God, looking at Him standing on the sky-blue piece of crystal, and hearing the words, “Well done, my true and faithful servant.” It’s too precious to me to even describe.

Have a blessed Sabbath, and when you can find a quiet place and time, take a few minutes to imagine yourself singing in person to your Creator and Savior who loves you. I promise, it will bring you a special touch if joy and peace. In the meantime, enjoy this video of the song I mention above. Only in watching it can you truly see how powerful it is.

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

Prepare to Meet Your Maker


Golden Fractal Lightning by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Golden Fractal Lightning by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Made in multiple image programs. Click to view full size in new tab/window.

If a person who has been known to be mean for years suddenly starts turning nicer with age, many will say they know their time is short and they’re trying to get ready to meet their Maker. And then there’s the old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. Somehow, whether it’s age, illness, or some other reason that brings a person closer to thinking about his or her own mortality, when people think they are near death, they often start thinking about being prepared to meet God.

In today’s reading from Exodus 19:7 through Exodus 19:19, God tells Moses that, in three days, He is coming down to talk to Israel and Moses is to get them ready to meet Him. Of course, this is following God’s recent words to them (through Moses) that they are His special treasure and chosen people, so I imagine the thought of meeting Him wasn’t nearly as frightening as it would be for someone who has always lived life as if God didn’t exist.

For Israel to be ready, God wanted them to wash their clothes and make their way to the base of the mountain. They were told to be careful to stay at the foot of the mountain, not to touch the mountain, to refrain from touching any women, and to wait for the sound of the shofar (ram’s horn that sounds like a trumpet) before coming up onto the mountain. If they violated these things before the third day when God said He would descend in a cloud, they were told they would die.

On the morning of the third day, there was thunder and lightning as a thick cloud descended on the mountain. When the shofar blasted, it was so loud that it made all the camp of Israel tremble. God came down upon the mountain in fire, and the smoke ascended up from the mountain like smoke from a furnace. Between the smoke and the shofar which blasted louder and louder, the whole mountain shook violently. And then Moses spoke, and God answered him, and the people were able to hear them as God promised they would. He planned this, so the people could trust in Moses from then on.

As I read this passage, I thought about the term God of Thunder, so I looked it up. It has been used for song titles, video games, and numerous gods throughout history. I’m certain I’m not the only one who has heard that thunder was either God or the angels going bowling. But the thing that sets Yahveh apart from all the other power-wielding gods is that, while they are gods of thunder (and other ethereal phenomena), Yahveh is the God over all of it. He created the thunder and the lightning, and He controls the thunder and the lightning. It is His idea that the lightning also brings nitrogen to help things grow and adds ozone to protect us from harmful rays of the sun. He is THE TRUE GOD OF THUNDER both now and forevermore.

And all of this made me think of the verses from Matthew 8:24-27, while Yahshua was out on the boat with His disciples…

24 Then, without warning, a furious storm arose on the lake, so that waves were sweeping over the boat. But Yeshua was sleeping. 25 So they came and roused him, saying, “Sir! Help! We’re about to die!” 26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? So little trust you have!” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and there was a dead calm.27 The men were astounded. They asked, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”

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

Greater Than; Less Than; No Equal


Equals Sign by Flickr user Colin Jagoe, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Equals Sign by Flickr user Colin Jagoe, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab with access to the original image and the user’s photo stream at Flickr.

Here are a few questions to think about… 1. What is the opposite of light? 2. What is the opposite of good? 3. What is the opposite of love? More than likely, your answers are dark, evil (or bad), and hate. Now, a new question… What is the opposite of God? If your answer is satan, guess again. I’ll tell you the answer by the end of this post, but you may get it out of today’s reading from Exodus 7:8 through Exodus 8:10 (8:6 in Complete Jewish Bible since there are more verses in chapter 7).

Our reading begins with God speaking to Aaron and Moses about what miracles to perform in front of Pharaoh. They do as Yahveh commanded, but Pharaoh is unimpressed because he is able to call out magicians to perform the same “trick” with turning a stick into a serpent. Well, except for the fact that Aaron’s serpent ate up all the magicians’ serpents. Still, Pharaoh stayed hard-hearted as Yahveh told them he would be. Even in the face of the miraculous, Pharaoh could not see God as greater than him nor himself as less than God. It’s the same fatal mistake made by the angel Lucifer when he thought he was equal to God.

The next miraculous work performed by Aaron and Moses turns all water in Egypt to blood. The water in the river turns to blood, kills all the fish, and makes the river stink with their death. Even water in jars and buckets turns to blood. The whole land of Egypt is filled with blood, but Pharaoh is so hard-hearted that he actually has his magicians perform the same feat. Now why didn’t he have his magicians make him some pure water to drink? I guess hard-heartedness comes bundled with idiocy or something.

Never-the-less, even after seven days of drinking blood, when Moses and Aaron ask Pharaoh to let the people go to worship, he still refuses to let them, so the men warn Pharaoh of the coming plague of frogs. At God’s word, frogs come up from all over the place and swarm the land and homes of all Egypt. And, again, Pharaoh has his magicians do exactly the same thing. Political logic is just illogical. Demonstrating power just for power’s sake has no wisdom. This is why it is so important to make sure that we who believe in the miraculous do not worship the miracles themselves, nor should we worship those whom God uses to perform His great works. Worship should be saved for Yahveh Almighty and Him alone. Not the miracles, but the God OF the miracles. See the wisdom here?

Finally, Pharaoh gets it enough to realize that he needs Moses to intercede with God for the frogs to be taken out of the land. He promises that if Moses will intercede, he will allow the people to go worship. Moses tells him that he will not only intercede, but he will allow Pharaoh to choose the time. Pharaoh requests the frogs be taken from all but the river by the next day. And I love Moses’ answer to Pharaoh’s request: Moshe said, “It will be as you have said, and from this you will learn that Adonai our God has no equal.”

And just in case you haven’t quite grasped my point from the question at the top, the answer to what is the opposite of God is NOTHING. In order for satan (ha satan meaning “the adversary”) to be the opposite of God, he would need to be as purely evil as God is good; as purely hate as God is love. But God has no equal even in the opposite sense. God is greater than all, and absolutely nothing or no one is greater than–or equal–to Him. And yet, He cares enough for us to create for us, walk with us, talk with us, listen to us, lay down His own life for us, and prepare an eternity for us. Hallelu-Yah!!

December 31, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

De Do Do Do De Da Da Da


I haven’t had to speak very many times, and I’ve been told far more often that I should speak because God has given me so many wonderful testimonies that bless others, but I think I know how Moses felt in today’s reading from Exodus 3:16 through Exodus 4:17. Even when others tell you that your speaking is great, you feel like you just stood up in front of everyone and babbled like a baby–or spoke nonsense like the title of the 1980’s Police song I used above. But I am getting ahead of myself.

In yesterday’s reading, Moses discovered the burning bush and the voice speaking from it. Today, we hear more of that conversation. First, God tells Moses that he is to gather the leaders of Israel to tell them that God has heard their groanings and that He plans something better for them. He promises that Israel’s leaders will pay attention. Then God tells Moses to go to the Egyptian leaders and request a three-day leave of absence to go into the desert to worship Yahveh. He goes on to tell Moses that the king of Egypt will not do the right thing until he is forced to do so by the wonders of God, but that he will eventually let the people go.

Moses first excuse to God was that the Egyptians would not listen to him or believe that he was speaking for Yahveh, so God asks the question of him, “What’s that in your hand?” Moses tells him it’s just a staff, and God turns it into a snake which He then tells Moses to grab as He turns it back into a staff.

Now, I want to break away for just a moment here to share a little inspiration. I started a writing project back in 2006 called “Good Morning Christian Writer” that was to contain devotions written specifically for Christian writers. Each devotion contained a story and a related writing exercise. Yes, I still plan to get back to the project which was sidelined by two neck surgeries and all else that comes with putting something on the back burner. Anyway, one of the submissions was from a woman who used that question from God to Moses as related to Christian writers and their writing instruments. From the moment I read it, that has been an inspiration to me, and I just want to pass on to all of you who are writers to ask yourself the same question. When you do, remember that God can turn a staff into a snake and back again, so instead of looking at what is in your hand (be it pen, pencil, computer, a talent, money, etc.), look at how God can use whatever you hold.

Even after witnessing God’s wonder, Moses was still a bit concerned about people believing him, so God had him stick his hand in his coat. When he pulled it out, it was leprous. Then he had him put it back in again, and when he pulled it out, it was healed. So once Moses was sure they would believe the words were from God, he challenged God as to whether he was the right messenger for such a task. He told God that he talked slow and basically that he got tongue-tied. And that’s what the song in the above video is all about. It’s called You Aint Been Nothin’ Yet, and it’s a parody of You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet. It poses the possibility that Moses stuttered, so he says to God, “I ain’t b-b-b-been n-n-n-nothin’ yet.” It’s a cute one.

But God didn’t think Moses excuse was cute, and He got a bit angry. He asked him who made his mouth and who gave men the ability to speak. Never-the-less, since Moses’ brother was just on his way to meet him, God told him that Aaron could speak for him. He said Aaron would be like his mouth, and he would be like Aaron’s God. He then tells him to go and to take the staff because he would need it.

I’ll close with a note that the last part speaks to me both in God’s message to Moses that He is the one who enables man to speak, and in that He provided a speaker already on his way because He knew ahead of time that Moses would doubt himself. We don’t know when Aaron came on the scene, but I’m guessing he was an older brother that was born before the Hebrews were forced to give up their baby boys. The fact that he was alive and that Moses knew him even after being mostly raised in an Egyptian palace and then moving to Midian tells me that God planned for the two of them to minister together. He knows plans we cannot even imagine, but in our humanity, we still question God just like Moses did. I guess that’s why Paul said he had to die (repent) daily, but it’s also why God’s Word says that His mercies are new every morning. Hallelu-Yah!

P.S. Merry Christmas once again–and don’t forget to read the story I posted yesterday where I used the titles of Christmas carols and songs to create a humorous tale.

December 25, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Power Outage


And I’ll bet you guys think this is the title for my latest post, huh? Well, actually this is just a placeholder while I wait for the power to come back on. I don’t want to have to go out driving in the storms to get a good enough signal to write my full post. So, hopefully I’ll have power soon. Blessings until then. ~Crystal

Okay, so power is back on, but I’m leaving the title the same because the reading is short, and there’s not much in it–especially about the power of God. Of course, when I look for it, I can find the power of God in most everything since I know I don’t even breathe in or out without Him. In that sense, there’s no power outage in this story or in any story. I mean, I almost burst into tears in my first computer class back in 2001. It was just a brief overview of an A+ course, but when the guy said that everything we see on the screen is just a series of ones and zeroes representing power turned on or off, I could suddenly see God working on His creation in binary arithmetic and saying, “Power on–Let there be light.” It may seem silly to some, but it amazes me to see God in everything.

So, today’s short reading is from Genesis 25:1 through Genesis 25:11, and it briefly tells the story of Abraham when he married Keturah. I would guess that this marriage was after Sarah died, but I find some questioning in my mind on this subject. See, Keturah bore Abraham six sons. But remember how Abraham laughed about having pleasure when he was old? So, did all his youthful strength come back to him after he created Isaac? Beyond that, it talks about the children of his concubines. Maybe there’s more history elsewhere, but I’m just wondering if Abraham had all these children after Isaac, or if they were just unmentioned before. The telling does say that Abraham gave all his riches to Isaac and sent the other children to the east with grants.

By the last verse, we read that after Abraham passed away (and was buried by his sons Isaac and Ishmael in the same tomb as Sarah), God greatly blessed Isaac. I’ve heard many messages about God’s blessings being given through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel whose story we have yet to read. Now, I’m wondering exactly what blessings/grants were given to all these other sons. I’m thinking of mighty armies and prosperous lands throughout the earth, and I’m remembering that God told Abraham that the whole earth would be blessed through him.

It’s funny how I can read this stuff each year and have thoughts on it as I read, but then when I decide to write the commentary, I see so much I never noticed before. Even when what I see creates a bunch of questions to which I may or may not get answers, I love that my heart is always stirred by the written Word of God. And now, I guess it’s like I said above, even if I’m not seeing specific readings about the power of God, there really never is a power outage.

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Power of Faith


THE POWER OF FAITH – Revision One

By Crystal A. Murray 05-16-12

 (This is a revision of the line-numbered article as linked to in my first post. The revisions are extensive, so please consider reading it even if you have already perused the first post or the article as I wrote it for my Scribd documents. Thanks.)


This study on the power of faith is a result of studies I conducted while walking through my personal valley of decision some years ago. I began to study after seeking God’s wisdom about the current “movements” in the churches about things considered as being in the realm of God’s Spirit. What many called “revivals” were cropping up all over, and they were lauded by all kinds of Christian media. It seemed to be real and to have proven results, so I sought God as to whether I needed to visit one of these “faith healers” about a desperate physical need in my life.

I had always wondered about the depth and value of my faith, and whether it was truly enough to “move mountains” in my life. I battled with episodes of guilt for not having enough faith, such as when I did not receive a miracle healing to conceive children. At other times, it seemed my faith was huge—especially when I prayed for others, and people would come to me requesting me to pray for them because they thought my faith was so much better than their own. I sought God to ask that my faith would always be within His perfect will for my life.

For many years, voices have echoed inspirations to “act in faith,” or to “believe to receive,” or “name it to claim it.” They told me to come boldly before the throne of God and to remind Him of His promises in Scripture, and to proclaim as my own whatever I am asking for in faith. I’ve been told that I would only receive what I believed and even reminded to “fake it until you make it” to encourage myself in faith. As part of the revival movement that started all this, I was even advised that a way to strengthen faith is to exercise it. The suggested exercise as being taught by many at the time was to command one of my own fingers to grow, return to its original size, grow again, return again, etc. People were getting results with this, but I had to wonder if the results were actually from God.

After being introduced to these kinds of powers, and to other teachings I felt might border too closely to mysticism, I felt it necessary to seek God and His wisdom from the depths of my heart. I asked Him to show me, by causing my finger to grow, if this was of Him. No fingers grew, though I knew I had faith since I had experienced this exact phenomenon when I watched my leg grow nearly two inches.

An important factor in the leg growth situation is that the growth came after God specifically directed me to believe in Him for a miraculous healing in my back that day. The growth has since been medically verified, so I had no reason not to believe God could do this type of thing, but only needed to know if He would and if it was His will.

When my finger did not grow, I had to believe it was God’s way of showing me that “practicing” faith was not something He was directing me to do. Still, people who were seeing results from this practice warned me that if I didn’t have enough faith when I asked for healing, I would end up getting worse instead of better. This did not sound like the God I knew from Scripture or the God I knew from my personal testimony of His love toward me. I knew He had plenty of power to share, but I never wanted to think of Him like some kind of “genie in a lamp” type of god.

The more I sought to understand these things, the more I continued to hear about the wave of miracles that was spreading wildly through the churches. The biggest of these “shows” was coming out of Lakeland, Florida, with a man named Todd Bentley. I had no desire to find fault with these events, especially since it would have been in my best interest physically to find them as true and to seek healing through the miraculous rather than through surgical means. However, God was about to open my eyes to things I never expected to find. I won’t cover it all in this article, but I will cover the main points of Scriptures I found about faith as God walked me through them.

My first answer came with just one section of Scripture. From two verses, I understood how people like Todd Bentley, (and other last days’ seducers and apostates as warned of in Scripture), could perform the miraculous, even if it was not of God. However, even knowing this wisdom came from God, I felt it necessary to continue studying to make certain I had more than one Scripture on which to base my understanding. The following Scriptures and commentary are a result of that study.

(All Scriptures used are KJV. Scriptures are bolded with Jesus’ words in red.)

First, the Scripture that tells how people can work miracles and yet not be of God:

(Matthew 7:22-23)

Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?” And then will I profess unto them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

But wait, didn’t they just say they prophesied, and cast out devils, and did wonderful works of God? Furthermore, didn’t they say they did all these things in Jesus’ Name? So how can He then say to them that He never knew them? The answer is in the word “knew” which is translated from the same referral to intimate knowledge as when Adam “knew” Eve and she bore him a son. Jesus was saying that He never planted His seed within them. They were worshiping the miracles rather than the Giver of the miracles; the creation more than the Creator; the power more than the All Powerful. Because they had faith, and because—as I will show later—faith works, those referred to in this Scripture (people we will likely see in the “last days”) were able to do good works in the right name, but their hearts were wrapped up in the works of the Lord rather than in the Lord of the work, so their righteousness became as filthy rags. The remedy to this is found in the next verse, a command from Jesus to His disciples.

(Mark 11:22)
And Jesus answering saith unto them, “Have faith in God.”

Have faith in God and not in ourselves or a man. This is the beginning of an admonition to the disciples after they asked Jesus about the power He had over the fig tree. He is making sure they understand that it’s not just about power or faith in general, because (or verily)…

(Mark 11:23)
For verily I say unto you, “That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”

Understand that faith in and of itself is so powerful that even if a man asks for an impossible thing like moving a mountain into the sea, faith will cause it to happen. God created faith with infinite possibilities–even the possibility to go against His perfect will if believers do not connect their will and their faith directly to Him. In reality, I don’t imagine God would want men running around changing nature and the ecosystem as He has created it, but because of the power of faith, they most certainly could do so.

(Mark 11:24)
Therefore I say unto you, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Therefore, or because of how great the power is that is found in faith, when you have a desire, make sure you pray and THEN believe. Notice Jesus did not say, “if you pray” but rather “when you pray” because it was important for the disciples not to use the power of faith incorrectly. Those things desired should be asked in prayer to God, not just spoken like a man talking to a mountain. This goes back to Jesus’ very first statement, “Have faith in God.” He was giving them a command and then informing them of how to act on it. First, make sure the faith is in God, and then check your desires against that faith by taking it to God in prayer, and then you can have confident belief in it because you know it is His true will for you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here’s another look at the same scenario by a different writer:

(Luke 17:5-6)
And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.”

The mustard seed here is used as an answer to the disciples’ request for Jesus to “increase their faith.” He says, basically, that the amount of their faith had nothing to do with the works they could do. He used something small to drive home that even if it was a tiny bit of faith, they could do great things with it. It wasn’t about the size of the faith but the source of the faith. Jesus was telling them they didn’t need to ask for an increase in faith but rather a change in the use and purpose of their faith. The purpose was to use it in obedience to His command to have all their faith in God. The next part follows this reminder with a story that would seem to be unconnected.

(Luke 17:7-10)
“But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, ‘Go and sit down to meat?’ And will not rather say unto him, ‘Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?’ Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.’ “

So why would Jesus follow the admonition about faith with the story about the servant doing what was commanded of him? Because, He was reminding them that having faith was a command. It was not something He was praising them for having, and it was not something they should praise themselves for having. They needed to be obedient and humble so that even when they operated in a power great enough to move a mountain they would say, “No big deal. We just did our duty.”

And let me add here that I am extremely uncomfortable with hearing someone say, “He’s a great man of faith” or “She’s a mighty woman of faith.” I believe this goes exactly against what Jesus was saying here about our obedience not making us anything more than unprofitable servants. When we use faith in Jesus, we are simply doing what He has commanded us to do. We are even reminded in Philippians 2:13 that God is the one who gives us the desire to serve Him, so we can’t even brag if we have a desire for faith, let alone if we carry it out. If He wants to see us more highly, that’s fine, but we should see ourselves as nothing more than obedient servants…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And here is a longer example from Matthew:

(Matthew 17:14-21)
And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.”

Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.” And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, “Why could not we cast him out?”

And Jesus said unto them, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

In this example, we can see Jesus again telling the disciples that faith is so powerful, even a little bit can cause a mountain to be cast into the sea. And yet, He reminds them that demons only respond to that which is in the power of God. He goes on to say that He understands they may not be able to have that true and focused type of faith in God required to fight the enemy unless they subdue their flesh through prayer and fasting. This drives home that it’s more than just practicing faith over body parts, or proclaiming what we want to believe. It must be wholly wrapped up in God and His perfect will to be the kind of faith that pleases Him and yields the right results.

Furthermore, to have any kind of power in the spirit realm, we need even more to be sure we are working with God’s power and not our own “faith” which may not be motivated by obedience or love toward God. In Acts 19:13-16, the seven sons of Sceva had faith enough to get the attention of demons, (they were vagabond Jews so they knew the difference in God and the enemy,) but because they had no true relationship with God, and because they were not directed by God to cast out demons, they were overcome and wounded.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And here’s one more example after the disciples watched Jesus curse the fig tree…

(Mat 21:20-22)
And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, “How soon is the fig tree withered away!” Jesus answered and said unto them, “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

Again, Jesus tells them if they have pure faith, they will not only be able to have power over the fruit of a tree but even greater things. And again, He follows it with the reminder that belief is not enough and that all things should be asked in prayer.

Important note here: Prayer is not the time to speak our beliefs, it is the time to make certain our beliefs are in God’s perfect will for us. Once we have that answer, we can go on to confident belief, which is the meat or evidence of things not seen until they come to pass. Jesus is giving the disciples an exact diagram here of how to have faith. And it works the same for us. Pray first and pray always. Or, as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, pray without ceasing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And this one does well in wrapping it all up for me.

(Rom 12:2-3)
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

I believe it is first saying we should make sure our motives are correct, so we will do God’s will and not our own. We do not want to be like the world in trying to feel better about ourselves by judging someone else—especially not concerning something like faith that is a gift God gives to all of us. This thing we do where we pat people on the back because they appear to have “great faith” or condemn people because they don’t have enough faith is too much like the servants of flesh that unwisely compare themselves among themselves.

My idea of how Jesus might tell a parable that would explain the power of faith:

“There once was a man who wanted to see a demonstration of the power of God, so he prayed about it and asked God to use him. God handed him a cup of water and sent him to the desert with the command to splash it on a man he would find there. When he splashed it on the man, what do you suppose happened? ”

The disciples correctly answered, “The man got wet and it cooled him off.”

“Right,” said Jesus. “The water had the power to get the man wet and cool him off at the same time. If you have faith in God, you too can take a cup of water and splash it on any person or object and it will get that person or object wet. Even a little water will still cause whatever it touches to get wet. But always pray before you splash so you won’t be tempted to revel in it when a hot and dry man praises you for cooling him off.”

My commentary: 

Since faith has power even apart from God, in the same sense that water gets someone wet even if God is not the one splashing it on, we must remember to think clearly about our use of it. In other words, if God gave us a cup of water, and we used it to get someone wet, would we brag about how they got wet because we were the ones that splashed it?  If he gave me a smaller cup of water and you a larger cup of water, should you brag that you were able to get more people wet than I was? Would that change the properties of the water having the ability to wet things, or would it change who gave the water these properties?

We should never think, just because we obey God’s command and use what God has given us to perform something, that we are more highly valued than anyone else, or even that we have any greater power in God. Unlike what was done to Todd Bentley, our actions in faith do not deserve a special robe and ring, and a declaration from other “mighty men of the faith” that we have some special anointing. That is simply pride that goes before destruction, like the embarrassing truth that came out about Mr. Bentley cheating on his wife with one of the members of the ministry team.

The fact is, just like God made water with the properties to get things wet, He made faith and made it to yield power. The power of faith, like the wetness of water, will work whether or not it is God’s perfect will for us to “splash” it around. We are not special because we are able to use the gift of God’s faith, but by God’s grace we are able (and even commanded) to operate in His gifts–even in this mortal flesh. We should praise God for His grace to trust us with such power, but even when we rejoice in that, we must remember Jesus words to the disciples in the 20th verse of Luke 10: “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”

Final Notes: The remaining verses in Romans 12 list many gifts in the body of Christ and remind us that we are to use them as a duty, just as Jesus reminded the men when He talked about the servant. By having an obedient and humble spirit, we can remain joined as a body, yielding to our callings, preferring others above ourselves, instant in prayer, not influenced by “high” things, and compassionate. These things culminate with not being overcome by evil, (or subdued by empty worthlessness), but rather taking victory over worthless things by sticking to the right, the good, and the beneficial things. Have faith in God, not because of the power of faith but because of the power of God.

May 16, 2012 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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