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…

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

Amazing Grace for Grace


In the second chapter of Acts, those who heard the gospel message asked, “What must we do to be saved?” All who truly hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness will eventually ask that question, and we will receive the answer that we must repent. Later, however, we may look back on that repentance and remember how difficult it was. That may lead us to feel like we have worked for our salvation. That’s where Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus and reminded them that salvation had nothing to do with works they had done. In Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV) we read…

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

In today’s Infinite Supply newsletter, author Chip Brogden talks about the grace that brought us our salvation.

Infinite Supply Image for November Nineteenth by The School of Christ

Infinite Supply Image for November Nineteenth 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 19

Grace is a Man

“All of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”
1 PETER 5:5

The single requirement for grace is humility. But what is grace? Grace is more than just a theological term used to describe how we are saved. Grace is the power of God at work in my life to do what cannot be done in my own strength. Grace is energizing and proactive. When I have reached the end of myself then Grace Himself takes over and does what I am unable to do. In the first place, what I cannot do is save myself, and so I trust in the Grace of God, Jesus Christ, to save me. But Grace will not only bring me through the Gate; He will bring me down the Path. Grace does not just get me started in the right direction, but goes along with me every step of the way. For Grace is a Man!

Source: Embrace the Cross by Chip Brogden

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John 1:16-17 (NKJV) says even more to support Chip’s statement that Grace is a Man…

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Because God desires to spend eternity with us, He extends His grace to us to receive Yeshua. We don’t have to do anything to receive it other than to repent because Christ stands exactly opposite our sin. We must turn toward Him and away from our sins. When we become humble before the cross, God gives us grace to receive His message and desire to serve Him; We literally have His amazing grace for Grace.

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear,
The hour I first believed.

November 20, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Nonfiction, School of Christ | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tag, You’re It


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

Family Luggage Tags by Flickr User Gabe Taviano, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.
Lots of neat craft ideas in this one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judgment and Transformation


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

Repent, Then, And Turn to God by Flickr User Sharon of Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surgery for a Stiff Neck


Neck Surgery Staples by Crystal A Murray as Flickr User CrystalWriter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Neck Surgery Staples by Crystal A Murray as Flickr User CrystalWriter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access my full photo stream at Flickr. This image is one of my most viewed because so many people look for images of surgery before having their own. I’ve seen far worse though. 🙂

It seemed to come out of the blue. I went to lift my head off the pillow, and I couldn’t do it because of the pain. I figured I must have slept wrong or let a draft get to it. After three months of non-stop pain, I gave in and went to the doctor. Much testing revealed a severely ruptured disk and the recommendation of surgery. I tried every other avenue first, including prayer and chiropractic treatments, but since I kept getting worse, I set date to have it fixed.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 9:4 through Deuteronomy 9:29 (the end of the chapter), we read about people with a stiff neck that didn’t have the option of traditional surgery. The first thing Moses tells them here is not to think they get to go into the land of promise because of their good works or righteousness. To the contrary, he tells them that they are only going in because of God’s love for them and His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They also get to go in because of the extreme wickedness of the nations that now live there; nations that God is driving out to make room for His people.

Moses calls the people “a stiffnecked people” and goes on to give them examples of why they have earned that title. He tells them of his time on the mountain with God, and how they were on the brink of annihilation if not for his intercession on their behalf. He talks of staying on the mountain for 40 days and nights without food or drink, laying down before The Lord just to plead for their lives.

Moses continues the story and tells them how he emerged with the two stone tablets containing all the words of the covenant God made with Israel (sounds like a bit more than just The Ten Commandments), and how he arrived to find the people worshiping a golden calf instead of Yahveh. He was so upset with them that he crushed their calf into dust and sprinkled it into the water supply. Here he had been excited and ready to share this blessed covenant, written by the finger of God Himself, and instead he found the people restlessly worshiping a false god that could not see or hear, let alone make a covenant with them.

After Moses recounts more incidents of testing and rebellion on the part of Israel, he talks of going back to the mountain to plead for the lives of the people. He says that even though they never trusted The Lord and always rebelled against Him, he begged God to spare them because they were His own inheritance. He tells them of how he reminded God of all He had done for the people so far and of what their enemies would say if God did not spare them. And because Moses reminded God of the value of His inheritance, God spared the people who were there that day to cross over into a new land.

After forty years, I would think people had heard these stories multiple times. Is it really possible to tell a history often enough and with enough passion for people to figure out its importance? I mean, after all they had seen and heard, shouldn’t the people have been convinced by then? But apparently they were not. Moses was still saying they were stiffnecked, and apparently the many “neck surgeries” he and God had tried on them were not yet successful.

My post-surgical picture above is from my second surgery.  The first may have been successful if I was not so stiffnecked in being a people-pleaser. I went back to work too soon because my boss was complaining about the quality of work from my replacement, and while there, I fell and snapped away the fusion before it had fully set. The second surgery, though more detailed and with a lot more metal in place, has never been quite right, so I’m now stuck in pain and numbness unless and until God decides to heal me His way.

Even now, as I shake my hand after so much typing just to make it feel better, I am frustrated with my constant stiff neck and the irritation in the associated muscles and nerves. When I hear the crackles from turning my head, I become aggravated with myself for putting myself in a situation that took away my chance to heal correctly.

I imagine God was frustrated in having to deal with people to whom He gave so many opportunities for change. They could have repented and let God’s love do surgery on their rebellious hearts, but they just kept going back to the ways that got them in trouble time and again. As I’ve read through the Torah this year and seen new groups of people doing the same stuff, making the same accusations against God and Moses, and getting into the same situations over and over, I’ve often said, “Not again!.” But, yes, it happened again and again with them, and in reality, it happens again and again with us.

Maybe neck surgeries aren’t really that successful because surgery always creates scar tissue. The scarring then puts pressure where the ruptured disk once put it, so though not as bad, there’s still nerve irritation. Maybe enough surgeries to remove the scarring could eventually thin it out though. And the same goes with our repentance before The Lord. I think if we put our stubbornness and rebellion at the foot of the cross often enough, we could eventually cut away the fleshly reactions of going back to doing things our own way. Then again, the most successful surgery might be the one that separates us from this flesh for eternity and gives us our new bodies that are like Yeshua’s glorified body. Somehow, I don’t think He ever has to worry about a stiff neck.

August 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Days of Wine and Rose-Colored Glasses


Hand Painted Wine Glasses by Flickr User Southern Lady's Vintage, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Hand Painted Wine Glasses by Flickr User Southern Lady’s Vintage, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Wine and roses are considered romantic, and someone who views the world through rose-colored glasses is said to see things too romantically and not realistically enough. So, if we pair rose-colored glasses with wine, we get a good-looking false reality. But false or not, it’s usually more comfortable there, so we rarely want to stop and examine our lives to see where we are headed, or if there is anything we should change. We are so interested in the headlong pursuit of happiness that we will stop to smell the roses (because they represent the romance of beauty and comfort), but we rarely stop to pray.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 23:23 through Leviticus 23:32, we read about the preparation and celebration of the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, which means “Day of Atonement.” Our reading starts nine days before this high holy day, on the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei). We’re not told yet that this is Rosh Hashanah, meaning “Head of the year,” but only that it is a day of complete rest for remembering, and its start is signaled by a blast of the shofar (ram’s horn).

Rosh Hashanah, or as we often see on US calendars, “Jewish New Year,” is the beginning of a 10-day period of remembering and self-examination. These days, called “The Days of Awe,” are a time when people take off their rose-colored glasses and look for things in their lives that require repentance and forgiveness. They spend those first nine days with a focus on cleansing their hearts, forgiving each other, asking forgiveness from their neighbors, and trying to become blameless before the “Sabbath of Sabbaths” when they will wait to see if God has accepted the offerings of the high priest and forgiven the sins of the people.

On the tenth day of the month, God tells Israel to deny themselves and bring an offering to Him. This would be the realist of the days of reality; a day where fear and hope are equal partners. If a person does not deny himself (go without his desires, comforts, pleasures, etc.) on this day, he will be cut off from his people, so this is not the type of feast where you will find celebration. Instead, this is the day where all must bring forth real fruit of real repentance. It is a sabbath of complete rest, self-denial, and last ditch self-examination to strive for as much holiness as possible.

Like our salvation in Yeshua gives us at the time of our repentance, this ten-day period is a time when people have the opportunity to start over with a clean slate before God. It’s the time when the children of Israel would leave their gifts on the altar, and make amends with anyone they had given reason to hold an accusation against them. It didn’t mean they could do whatever they wanted for the rest of the year, but if they had wasted their days with not thinking about God and instead gotten lost in a stupor of wine and rose-colored glasses, this was their chance to stop the wild ride and try to make things right.

A current tradition for celebration of Yom Kippur is to wear all white to represent purity. For those of us who have been washed in the blood that makes us “white as snow,” we can have these days of self-examination every day. For each new day we deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Yeshua, we get the opportunity to exchange our rose-colored glasses for crimson-colored glasses that allow us to see ourselves through the eyes of Our Loving Creator and Savior. And that’s a romance that will carry us throughout eternity.

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

Tried and Failed


Fail Reel by Flickr User Nicko Gibson, CC License = Attribution

Fail Reel by Flickr User Nicko Gibson, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

In the movie reel of my life (somehow, I really think God has one of these), I know I have tried and failed thousands of times. I have made promises that still go unkept, whether because I’ve forgotten or for some other reason. I’ve had all the best intentions, all the best plans, and all the best efforts, and still I have failed. I fail because I am human. We fail because we are human. God understands because He made us. He says in Psalm 103:14 that He knows our form.

As I read through today’s reading from Leviticus 4:27 through Leviticus 5:10, I looked at all the answers God gave for what to do in case of failure during the times of the tabernacle and priests. Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, I don’t think He would have us discard any of it. As a matter of fact, The New Testament does not say that the old law is done away with. Rather, it says that it was fulfilled so we are no longer under the curse of it. What was the curse? It was that if we failed in one point, we failed in all of it.

I woke up one morning having an awake dream–maybe a vision. I saw a steel ring with bits of it missing and the word law in the middle of it. As I watched it, another steel ring came into view. This one had the word love written in the middle, and it had no missing pieces. As the vision continued, the ring of love settled into the ring of law and filled in all the missing parts. God’s law of love became the law and absorbed all the emptiness that keeping the works of the law could not fill in. I have never forgotten it.

But as for why all these commands were there to begin with….I believe God laid them out because He never wanted His people under a curse. He knew His children, and He knew they would fail, but He wanted to put every possibility of provision out there to make a way out of the bondage that comes with sin and failure. It’s like a mother, one many would call over-protective, giving her child an abundance of “just in case” scenarios to make sure the child is protected no matter what.

“Okay, honey, don’t answer the door; make sure the deadbolt is locked; the doorknob is locked; the chain lock is pulled; the intruder alarm is set; and your phone is charged in case you need to call us. I put the number where we’ll be on the refrigerator, but I also gave it to the neighbors on both sides in case you have to run out of the house to get away from a bad guy. Oh, and Aunt Sally will call you at 8 to check on you, and then Uncle Mike will call you at 9. Make sure you answer or they’ll call me to report you might be in trouble. Etc., etc., and, and, and.”

Does this seem like too much? God provided 613 total commandments to the Levitical priesthood. We have commandments in today’s reading that include when to sacrifice a goat, when to sacrifice a sheep, when it must be a female offering, and when a dove or pigeon can be used. He even provided for the unplanned sins, including those committed by making a promise (whether to do evil or good) and not keeping it. God has always wanted to make sure that we have ways out of our sins if we have a heart that is willing to step out of them through repentance.

And that is the most important part of it all… repentance. Whether it was following the Levitical commands back then, or stepping under the cleansing of Christ’s blood now, repentance is what makes the difference. Now, as then, a person must see his sin and failures as bondage (if nothing more than the bondage of being separated from his Loving Creator), and he must want to be set free. It’s not about finding reasons or excuses, and it’s not about trying to find some way to continue in sin. The blood–all the way back to the garden–has always been about repentance and being set free.

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Missing the Mark


Missed the Target by Flickr User Tom, Switzerland, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Missed the Target by Flickr User Tom, Switzerland, 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.

Been there, done that, have the stains on my shirt to prove it. And boy, how frustrating it is when you are hungry or thirsty, and you really want to get that bite in your mouth, or that drink down your throat, and you miss the mark and spill something down the front of you. And it is equally frustrating when we want to please God but somehow, even with our best desires and efforts, we make a mess out of things.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 4:1 through Leviticus 4:26, we get to see how God even created provision for His children should they fail Him unintentionally. In many Hebrew prayers, there is a line of thanksgiving for the laws (Hebrew mitzvot) of God. This shows that the foundations contain pleasure in serving God according to His perfect will. Rather than make excuse for why they could not serve Him, they looked for ways to do it better. So, when they inadvertently failed, they wanted to be set free from that.

God has a system worked out of exactly what sacrifices are acceptable for offerings given in case of failure and the process required depending on who failed. If it was one of the anointed priests that failed, the process was a bit different than if it was one member of the community. It was yet a different method of action for repentance when the whole community shared in the failure.

The one thing about this reading that grabbed me harder than other parts was what happened if one of the anointed priests failed. The Word says that it brought guilt on all the people. Imagine if the one you were following as your anointed leader was required to repent and offer a sacrifice worthy of repentance to keep his or her sins off of you. Would it change who you choose to look up to for your leadership?

Remember that in the book of Jude (especially verses 3-4) we are warned about those that sneak into the church without us being aware of them (other than Scriptural warnings) and teach something less than adherence to God’s word. Even though the blood of Christ sets us free from being yoked under bondage if these people do not repent, I believe we are still required to go in with eyes wide open and be aware of false teaching and sinful leadership. I believe God still requires those in leadership positions to treat their positions with the highest reverence and responsibility, knowing that what they teach, and what they do behind closed doors, will affect their followers in some way. Think Jim Jones, and note what came upon all who followed him.

Today, I’m thankful for a provision in Christ’s blood that will help me when I miss the mark. I desire to do the right thing, just like I desire to get the food to my mouth when I’m hungry, but I still fail. And I know there are those in leadership who desire to do the right thing and fail, but the ones who truly adhere to God’s calling will bring fruits of repentance and not just words of sorrow for being caught. That is why I’m picky about whose words I follow–online and off. I know God sees my heart and judges me on my desire, and I know He sees the heart of all who try to serve Him and fail. Above all, He sees the blood of Christ when we fail but then repent and place ourselves under it. Halleluyah!

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

Graveyard Shift


Night Watchman by Flickr User Brian Hawkins, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Night Watchman by Flickr User Brian Hawkins, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab to access original image and user’s photo stream at Flickr

I was just talking to my husband today about how much I used to like to work the graveyard shift. I worked in the travel store of a truck stop off Interstate 40, so it was like day in the middle of the night there. It was lit up, it was noisy with talk and diesel engines running outside, and if families were traveling late, the sleepy kid chatter was even fun to listen to. I loved the busyness that kept me going through the night, and I loved getting off work just in time to see beautiful desert sunrises. During the warmest months, I’d get my grocery shopping done and then go swimming in the pool at my mobile home park before anyone else was even awake yet. I think that’s why I’m still a bit of a night person.

Imagine my joy when I first read about Yahveh being a night watchman. In today’s reading from Exodus 12:29 through Exodus 12:51, the end of the chapter, we begin reading with the midnight strike against the first-born of Egypt. In that sense, God was also working the graveyard shift, and the cry of grief that arose from every house in the land was loud and horrendous. Every home was touched by death. Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron in the middle of the night, and I guess he knew better than to keep his promise that the next time Moses saw his face would be his death. Instead, Pharaoh told Moses to get the people, the animals, and everything they planned to take and just get out of the land. The Egyptians pressed Pharaoh to push them out quickly for fear they would all end up dead.

I hate that the stuff in the above verse had to happen, but I also know that people had a chance to do things God’s way and chose against it. From creation forward, wayward branches of people broke off and chose to serve false gods for their own selfish desires, But God Almighty is the only one that truly reigns over the earth, and He is the only One we should serve.

As the story continues, the people took their unleavened dough and packed it up to head out of Egypt in a hurry. They traveled from Rameses to Succoth, and a mixed multitude went with them. It appears that it was there where they baked matzah for the rest of the journey. It had been 430 years to the day since Israel first moved into Egypt.

I love how verse 42 reads from The Complete Jewish Bible: This was a night when Adonai kept vigil to bring them out of the land of Egypt, and this same night continues to be a night when Adonai keeps vigil for all the people of Isra’el through all their generations. It made me cry the first time I read it, and it still stirs me to think that the God of Creation chooses to keep watch over His people on the night of the their deliverance. I believe this is why the altar experience is so moving because I believe God still keeps vigil over people when they are delivered from sin and death.

The last of the reading goes on to explain how Passover is to be kept for all the generations, including how to treat the foreigner who lives in your home. The foreigner must become circumcised to celebrate, just as we must become circumcised in heart, choosing to do things God’s way instead of our own, in order to partake of all He has for us. Oh, but it is so worth it.

January 9, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wrestling With God and Prevailing Against Sin


As we continue into today’s reading from Genesis 32:14 through Genesis 32:30, we read the rest of Jacob’s plan for meeting with Esau and trying to appease his anger. He chooses a bunch of animals and then puts them into groups heading toward Esau. He tells the men who head up each group of animals to tell Esau that they are a gift for him and that Jacob is nearby in the next group. Jacob’s intention is to watch and then move backward a group at a time until he is sure Esau will accept him without killing him. At the same time, he sends his two wives, two slave girls, and his eleven children across a stream with his possessions.

With the gifts in front of him and his family across the stream, Jacob is alone for the night. Suddenly there was a man wrestling with him. Jacob refused to give up and continued to wrestle until morning. Scripture says that when it appeared the man would not prevail against Jacob, He touched him in his hip socket so that his hip was dislocated as he wrestled. And then Jacob said the words that gave away that he knew exactly who he was wrestling with. The man had asked Jacob to let him go because it was morning, but Jacob said to Him, “I won’t let You go until You bless me.”

Now, I love what God does here. He asks Jacob what his name is. Remember way back when Jacob was born, when Jacob stole the birthright, and when Jacob deceived his father? In all those things, Jacob lived up to the meaning of his name; supplanter. He tried to come out first, he stole the birthright, and he falsely gained his father’s blessing. Esau even pointed out how the name was fitting for him. Now God is asking Jacob to admit that he is as his name, one who steals what he wants–one who wrestles for his blessings. Like the first of the “12 Steps” in Alcoholics Anonymous (and related programs), God is telling Jacob that He will not bless him until he admits who and what he is. It works the same in repentance when we finally admit that we are sinners in need of God’s salvation. And I am certain I am not the only one who has wrestled to get to that point, but it is worth the wrestling if you fight until you subdue the flesh and press through to obtain God’s blessing. Paul mentions in Philippians 3 that he is pressing on and forward to a goal of something that lies ahead of what he has now. It’s a finish line where everyone who crosses, and not just the first one, is a winner.

So, after he said his name was Jacob, everything changed for him. After we admit we are in need of God (and not just at our first repentance but each time we wrestle with something that we need to let go of), everything can change for us as well. AFTER Jacob confessed the absence of God in his efforts and admitted that he was trying to do everything on his own, THEN God not only blessed him, but his blessing came with a name change. God changed the name of Jacob (supplanter) to the name of Israel (wrestled/contended with God). He put His title, EL, right into Jacob’s new name. Jacob was no longer one who had to steal positions and possessions or birthrights and blessings. He was now one who was blessed of God because He sought God’s blessing face to face.

November 17, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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