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God’s Joy in Giving Us Free Will


Joy Looking Down Virtual Alley at Cowboy Church--From Jan 2010 with Edits Aug 2016--Sm 4 WP

Joy Looking Down a Virtual Alley at Cowboy Church
Image by Crystal A Murray, (C) 2010 All Rights Reserved

For this first installment of Serendipitously Sunday, I looked for some great idea to present itself to me. It showed up while I was organizing digital files and found a few things still in first draft stage. Provision by serendipity doesn’t mean there won’t be any editing, right? It’s a little longer than usual, but I hope readers will enjoy it and be blessed by the concepts. May you all have a wonderfully joyful week ahead.

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So, I had it all planned. As soon as my retired hubby left for a day of errands, I was going to use the alone time for doing housework to surprise him when he got home. Alas, before he headed out, he stopped to tell me what he wanted me to do while he was gone. Ack! Now I couldn’t do as I planned because his request ruined my chance to give freely.

How many times have you wanted to be a giving person, and someone stole it away from you? Maybe it came in the form of a required tip percentage on your food bill. Maybe you tried giving to a hungry person, but the beggar demanded money and refused food, so you had to walk away. Maybe you love helping missionaries, but when some preacher says God will curse you if you don’t dig deeper, suddenly it doesn’t feel as good to give anymore. (Unfortunately, pulpit manipulation to give happens more often than you’d think.)

See, free will gives us the right to give from our hearts, and it allows the recipient to receive our gift with all the joy we have to share. I’m certain God created the idea of free will because He wants to receive whatever we give Him as a gift from our hearts and given with full joy.

One of the times I read 2 Corinthians 9:7, I realized it was written more to the recipient than the giver. A good receiver can bring joy to whoever gives him or her a gift. I hadn’t previously associated that with the joy of giving freely, but when I put these two concepts together, I realized something: Though God has authority to control all things, He chooses to leave us with free will because He loves a cheerful giver in all things….not just money.

It is possible to shine God’s light of truth with joy. We don’t have to tell others how their sins deny God if we demonstrate behaviors that uplift God. When we lift Him above all things, He (yes, He, and not us) will draw (not control, push, or force) all men to Himself, and we will receive the joy of another soul accepting Christ as Savior. His word gives a wonderful hymn of praise for salvation in Isaiah 12. Read the whole chapter for encouragement. Verse 3 reads, “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”

Yes, God’s Word has strong criticisms for the disobedient, but they are more often delivered to the religious who know better and still disobey. Those who have not yet been drawn to God must first desire to give Him their hearts before He will change their lives. He will replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh in which He can work. We cannot force that with judgment and condemnation. Our control will kill their free-will desires, and it could prevent God from receiving the cheerful gift He wants.

God takes great joy in giving us free will because we can turn that around and choose to serve Him with joy. We give our hearts to Him joyfully instead of out of necessity. Those of us who already serve Him can learn from His example how to do the same with those who do not yet follow Our Lord. In this, we can be harmless as doves, and in this, we will see more people freely and joyfully give their hearts to God–which, of course, is our intention in the first place.

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August 7, 2016 Posted by | Bible, Devotion, Nonfiction, Serendipitously Sunday | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Old Man Winter Meets Baby New Year


It is now officially winter, so whether we call him Old Man Winter or Jack Frost, he’s here to stay with us for the next three months. Because he always comes to visit less than two weeks before the end of the year, we can be sure the old and new will cross paths with one another.

Our lives are filled with times of crossing old and new, and like the crossing of winter and the new year, the meeting does not always mean the old disappears right away. It is said that it takes 30 days to develop a new habit, so in that 30 days, the old habits slowly die away. Winter takes a little longer. For the old to go away any faster, it takes a miraculous change, and there are many stories of such miraculous changes because of one newborn baby some 2000 years ago. That miracle-bringing newborn is our Savior, Christ the King.

One of my all-time favorite Christmas songs is the one written in 1865 to the English tune of Greensleeves; the carol What Child is This?

The video above uses the entire set of lyrics, some of which are often left out in popular recordings but have so much power that I searched through a number of videos to find one that had them. Here are verse and chorus one…

What Child is this who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

This next verse is sometimes left out, but even when it is included, people often sing the above chorus instead of chorus number two. When you read the words for the second chorus, you’ll understand the beauty and power in words that speak of the price our Savior paid for our eternal souls. I have trouble not crying when I sing this entire verse and chorus.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

See what I mean? I’m the “me” in that 2nd line, and you’re the “you.” He was born, and His cross was borne, for me and you to receive forgiveness of all our sins, so we can live with Him for eternity. Once we receive that blessed salvation, we can lift praise for His mercy and grace. Here’s verse and chorus three…

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

I love the second-to-last line–Joy, joy, for Christ is born! Because He was born, we have a promise that our old lives and sins can be washed away, and we can be cleansed and made whiter than snow. Because of the blood of Yeshua, we are made both whole and new. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

When Old Man Winter meets Baby New Year, may their introduction be an invitation to you to surrender your old life and let Christ make you new. You don’t even have to wait until then because we have the call in Scripture that Now is the day of salvation. Merry Christmas, and may this season bring you the newness and joy of life with our Savior, Christ the King! Amen.

December 21, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Christmas Season, Current Events, Lyrics and Song, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heaven on Earth


We all want a perfect life. We don’t want troubles and trials, sickness and loss, or any of that stuff that brings us grief and heartache. If we could have it, we would gladly take Heaven on Earth. This desire is likely as old as creation’s move from a perfect garden to a world overrun by thorns and thistles. I believe we have this desire to keep our hope alive for a future eternity, and the story of The Savior’s birth that we celebrate during the Christmas season renews it.

Another of my favorite Christmas songs is Oh Holy Night. Since the first time I heard it, I cried at the imaginings of a world filled with darkness and having no hope; not hearing from The Lord through prophets or otherwise for around 400 years.

The first verse tells us the condition of the world on that holy night…

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

That third line, Long lay the world in sin and error pining, says so much. Imagine being in a world where even the church is infiltrated by the government. Our world….if we give in to mayors who demand copies of sermons and laws that demand we live up to government expectations instead of biblical ones. We wait now for a promised Messiah to deliver us from the certain end we are facing if things continue as they are. Servants of God then also waited for deliverance according to promises they had read in the books of the prophets.

The last line, Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth, gives us that first glimmer of hope for the deliverance the Messiah would bring. The end of the first verse continues that hope and can be sung with a more lively beat.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Can you hear it? The beat that would go behind that thrill of hope? That lively beat then leads to the acknowledgment of such powerful mercy and grace that it can bring us to our knees in praise. The song’s author must have felt this as he penned these words…

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born.

The rest of the lyrics from the video are on the YouTube page, and there are even more verses and versions in the history of both the song and the poem. Visit Wikipedia to learn more. Another beautiful story behind the song is available at Beliefnet.

He brought life into a dark world, and He brought hope into a world of hopeless emptiness. His word tells us that He came to break the chains of bondage and set the captive free. Even though we have wars and troubles in this life, we have a hope for our future eternity if we continue to run our race with patience and perseverance. All of this is because of that one Holy night. I’ll close with a final verse and chorus.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O – Ho-ly – Night.

December 20, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Christmas Season, Current Events, Lyrics and Song, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Does Not Need an Alarm Clock


For another post on my favorite Christmas songs, I’m including the lyric video from the Burl Ives’ version of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. This version has a slightly different tune than what we find in many songbooks and by many singers, but it’s the one most familiar to me. I grew up playing the Burl Ives vinyl album called Holly Jolly Christmas for years. If you want to hear other tunes, including a newer one by the Christian group “Casting Crowns,” click the title to view the Wikipedia article.

In reading the history of this song, I’ve found that this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was written after a number of life tragedies. History has it written in either 1867, or in 1863 in the midst of the American Civil War. Whether during or after the war, this poem was likely written when, in addition to personal tragedy that included a war-injured son and recently deceased wife, the writer’s heart was close to breaking.

Put yourself into the life of Mr. Longfellow. Imagine getting up in the morning, struggling to find any hope in your day or in your life. Your home and family no longer feel like the safe places of comfort they once were. Then, just when it seems nothing else can go wrong, war in your own homeland takes away your last place of security and stability. You stand on your front porch wondering what it’s all about when the church bells start ringing just as they did when life was safe and war was not raging. Here’s verse 1…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet, the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

The poet laments how the song goes on when it seems life should not. The Christmas season and its accompanying song are unbroken, the exact opposite of the author’s heart. He writes about this in verse 2…

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was more than the author could take. His pain brought him to one of his lowest points in life. He writes of this low point in verse 3…

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

The air is thick with his hopelessness. Can you feel it? Have you been there in your own life? He sees no possibility of peace on earth or any good will to men as things stand now. Whatever else he was thinking and doing here, I imagine he was also praying. It is only in heartfelt prayer that a man could hear a voice of hope reminding him that God is still on the throne. Here’s my favorite verse, verse 4…

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

God is not dead! He is not even nodding off for a nap, and He doesn’t need an alarm clock of war or tragedy to wake Him. He is and always has been (and always will be) on His throne. His desire is peace on earth and good will to all men. For that desire to come to pass, God knew there had to be a covering for the sins man commits while misusing his free will.

The best use of our free will is to choose God, and that’s God’s hope for all mankind. Unfortunately, we lean too often on our own understanding instead of on His will, His ways, and His everlasting arms, so we need the blood of Yeshua to rescue and deliver us. That salvation through Christ is the best reason of all to celebrate His miraculous birth. God is still on His throne, wide awake and preparing a hopeful future for those who love Him. The wrong shall fail! The right shall prevail! And, one day, we will have true peace on earth and good will to men.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Christmas Season, Current Events, Lyrics and Song, Nonfiction, Poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel


I’ve decided to do some posts on Christmas songs that really touch my heart. I don’t yet know how many I will do. I’ll start with songs from my top-ten list in no particular order. The first song I’ll use is Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel.

The video is a performance of the song by Selah (one of my favorite groups), and it’s a wonderful rendition with the tune from Hatikvah (The Hope) played between the verses. The lyrics are on the video, and I’ll put some of them here as well so I can add commentary. I’m pulling these from the carols.org site, and you can click there to read all five verses.

Verse 1

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

We read of this name, Emmanuel, in Matthew 1:23. Here it is from the King James’ Version…

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

I once heard a story about a man and his wife who opened their door on a snowy evening to see some little white kittens romping in the snow. The wife was on her way to a Christmas Eve service while her husband chose to stay home because he couldn’t understand the importance of Christmas. As she walked farther away, the man tried to call the kittens to the door to come in from the snow. He even poured some warm milk into a bowl, but they still refused to come to him.

Eventually, the frustrated man hollered at the cats, “Don’t you cats know that if you stay out there you’ll freeze to death? How come I can’t make you understand? I guess I’d have to become a cat myself and talk in your language before you’d believe me.”

Just then, the church bells rang in the distance, and the man fell to his knees with understanding.

God knew we would die in our sins without His intervention. He needed to look like us and speak like us for us to believe that He only has our best interest in His mind and heart. He prophesied these things, and then He spoke to Joseph in a dream using the name, Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” Think on these things as you ponder the reason for this season.

Even without believing this to be the exact time of year for His birth, we can celebrate His birth every day, and that includes the days now upon us. What a blessing to have a time of year when God’s love, brotherly love, giving to others, and receiving from others, are all wrapped up in bows and lights and beauty. What a privilege to rejoice in His gifts from all time and for all time. HalleluYah! Now, here are the lyrics from the last two verses of the song.

Verses 4-5

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

When I think of God’s promises to us, His deliverance from hopelessness, and all He has done to draw us close to Him and give us the right to call Him “Abba, Father,” it moves me beyond words. I am nothing in and of myself, and yet He decided I am worth the amount of love it takes to robe Himself in flesh to set an example for my life, and the greater love to lay down His life for me.

If you don’t know Him, or you don’t know Him with this kind of intimacy, seek Him with all your heart and soul and you will find Him. That’s His promise. I pray for your understanding and desire to receive the gift of salvation paid for by sacrifice and blood. He does love you, and He desires to ransom you out of your sin, so you will no longer have to live in bondage to it. Rejoice with me and be free to go and sin no more. Amen.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Christmas Season, Current Events, Lyrics and Song, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jonah Jonah


I don’t think I’ve used this video yet, but it’s one of the first songs I heard by ApologetiX, and as Larry the Cucumber would say, “I laughed; I cried; it moved me, Bob.” Just wait until you hear what they say the whale thought Jonah tasted like. Oh, and listen all the way to the end because they tag a couple funny lines on. If you want the full lyrics, there’s another video at the bottom with no images but all the lyrics.

So what do we know about Jonah–from the song or otherwise? We know he’s a minor prophet with his own book in the Bible. It’s a short book with four chapters that tell us a story of God’s abundant grace and mercy. It opens with God’s request to this Hebrew who is a faithful servant of God until God asks him to minister to the ungodly. He runs and says he’d rather die than to see God have mercy on Nineveh.

As Jonah sleeps on a ship at sea, God stirs up a storm, and even those who don’t serve Him figure out why. They don’t want to throw Jonah overboard because they don’t want his blood on their hands, but they do what they must to calm the storm. Just in case, though, they make an offering to God to repent to Him. In the meantime, it takes three days of Jonah floating in belly acids and darkness to figure out that God is also having mercy on him for his disobedience. He repents to God and declares that salvation belongs to The Lord, and God speaks to the whale to vomit Jonah onto dry land.

This time, Jonah obeys God and preaches to Nineveh. He is okay with it as long as he is berating them for their sin and threatening them with disaster, but when they repent, he gets upset. Imagine that. Imagine preaching “Hell” to someone you’ve seen thoroughly disrespect God and seeing them seemingly get away with their behavior because the price of their sin is taken away. Hopefully, if we have experienced God’s grace in our own lives, we will be happy for those we can help get delivered from eternal damnation.

Jonah should be glad at their repentance, but he isn’t. God, however, is glad to be merciful to people He created, and their repentance is beautiful to Him. In one of Jonah’s tantrums, God tries to explain this to him by comparing the pity Jonah himself showed for a dying plant with God’s love for a dying people. I’m thinking that Jonah never really understood it, but the job he did to bring about repentance of the people of Nineveh mattered enough to be included in the gospels Matthew and Luke and the ministry of Yeshua.

In Matthew 12:41, Yeshua even said to the Pharisees that the people of Nineveh would rise up in condemnation against them because Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah and the Pharisees refused to repent even though Yeshua was the greater prophet.

God hasn’t changed, and His mercy hasn’t changed, so He sent the same message into the midst of people in sin, and He desired the same result. He even upped the ante and provided a perfect sacrifice to give them the best chance ever. The grace and mercy at Calvary were so great, it overflowed from those who rejected it to give whosoever will an opportunity to receive it now.

The Prophet greater than Jonah is still here, and His blood still flows from Calvary. Listen to His heart as He looks over Jerusalem and weeps (in Matthew 23:37)…

 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

The plan that started with Jonah still exists, and Yeshua still has love for Israel. Read all of Romans 11 for the whole story. I like the way it reads in the Contemporary English Version. Here are a couple verses from Romans 11 in the CEV…

  • 1a) Am I saying that God has turned his back on his people? Certainly not!
  • 11) Do I mean that the people of Israel fell, never to get up again? Certainly not! Their failure made it possible for the Gentiles to be saved, and this will make the people of Israel jealous.
  • 15) When Israel rejected God, the rest of the people in the world were able to turn to him. So when God makes friends with Israel, it will be like bringing the dead back to life.
  • 25) I will explain the mystery of what has happened to the people of Israel. Some of them have become stubborn, and they will stay like that until the complete number of you Gentiles has come in.
  • 28a) The people of Israel are treated as God’s enemies, so that the good news can come to you Gentiles. But they are still the chosen ones, and God loves them.
  • 29) God doesn’t take back the gifts he has given or forget about the people he has chosen.

What a promise! God doesn’t forget, He doesn’t change, and He doesn’t stop loving us. He still loves His chosen ones, and He loves those of us grafted into the root of the chosen. I’m thankful for what Jonah started way back then because it opened a door for what is offered through the blood of Yeshua now.

And here’s the Jonah Jonah video with lyrics…

December 6, 2014 Posted by | ApologetiX, Bible, Bible Study, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Less, No More


Starting with a little lightness that doesn’t fit the subject so much as it does the title, here’s an actual tombstone inscription from “Boothill Graveyard” in Tombstone, Arizona…

HERE LIES LESTER MOORE, FOUR SLUGS FROM A 44, NO LES NO MORE

Well, I guess someone was trying to make lemonade from the lemons of losing someone to a gun battle. But what about all the times people ignore the lemonade in life and just focus on all the lemons in it? Isn’t that what we do when we complain about all we do not have in this life instead of being grateful for all we do have? Today’s Infinite Supply newsletter points out the abundance we have in Christ.

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

Infinite Supply Image for November Twenty-Eighth 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 28

Blessed With Every Spiritual Blessing

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.”
EPHESIANS 1:3

Most Christians are taught to approach God and seek these things when they are conscious of some lack. Eventually we must learn that we have everything in Christ already. That thing called “patience” that we are so diligently seeking is not a thing at all, it is Christ. “Victory” is no longer a “thing,” it is a Man.

And so it is with everything else we need. What a difference it makes to realize that He HAS (past tense) blessed us already – not with three or five or twenty blessings – but with EVERY spiritual blessing. However many there may be, we have them all. Where and how has He done this? Thank God, it was done the moment we received Christ and entered into Him as our All in All. God would have us seek Him first, and not His things. To Him there is no “thing,” for they are all summed up into Christ.

Source: Lord of All by Chip Brogden

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The church world is abundant with encouragements to “seek all God has to offer.” We’re told that we can do all things through Christ, ask anything in His name and receive it, and live our best lives with abundant blessings now. Some will even go so far as to point out that if we are not supernaturally blessed (especially in finances), we must be doing something wrong in our walk with God.

The author brings up a wonderful point in the idea of being blessed. If we have Yeshua, we have it all. With Him as our Savior, we have no less than we need, and no other blessing can give us more. Every spiritual blessing means exactly what it says; every spiritual blessing.

Next time you sit down to count your blessings, examine the differences that could be in your life. Imagine your life with your perfect home, perfect car, perfect job, perfect spouse, and no Yeshua. Then imagine your life with the imperfect parts and salvation through our Perfect Messiah. If you have to choose, which one means more?

Like Solomon who asked for wisdom over riches and ended up getting both, if we focus on the right things, we may just receive more than we desire. However, even if we don’t, we can still be satisfied because our focus is on The Lord as our “All in All.” We need no less than Christ and no more than His salvation. If we feel we have all we need and want in Him, everything else will be icing on the cake of life.

November 29, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Nonfiction, School of Christ | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Bounce?


Some things hit the ground and go splat. Some hit and shatter. Some bounce. Obviously, bouncing is the best response because it means that instead of staying down, you will rise back up. The fancy word for this is resiliency. Resilient people can bounce back like cartoon characters who never seem to find a permanent splat even if they have to pump themselves back up. It’s an important characteristic that some have naturally, but which we can also learn.

Yeshua knew the ultimate bounce–from death to life. Today’s Infinite Supply talks about how Yeshua’s resiliency can help us bounce too.

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

Infinite Supply Image for November Twenty-Fourth 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 24

Accomplished Through the Cross

“We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
ROMANS 6:4

The Cross is the means by which God reduces us to Christ, that we may be raised to new Life. What cannot be accomplished in a lifetime of self-effort is easily accomplished in God through the Cross.

We may take many shortcuts along the way and attempt to escape the inevitable, but the day we cease striving and meekly accept the Cross we find everything is done for us.

Source: Embrace the Cross 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 trick Yeshua used to bounce back is found in The Holy Spirit. Yeshua didn’t have to fear dying to His earthly self because He knew He would rise again in both body and spirit. He knew death was not permanent, and He knew His new life was worth more than His old life. He also knew the true value of His death–a new life for all those who trust in Him.

I find that people who don’t know The Lord are typically either hopeless or put their hope into things that are likely to destroy them in the end. If they choose the latter, they may look happy in the midst of their partying, but take it away from them and you’ll see how unhappy they are on the inside. If people put their happiness and security in anything this world has to offer, they are only happy as long as they are comfortable.

To the contrary, people who intimately know Yeshua as their Lord, Savior, and Best Friend have hope in spite of discomforts in their lives. The blood of Christ covers us like “Flubber” and helps us both endure and bounce. Serving and loving God gives us the resiliency to bounce back if only to rebound with enough hope to trust in the eternal life He has prepared for our future.

If you are on your way down and know you won’t bounce, it’s not too late to get covered by the blood of Christ in repentance and baptism. Accept the cross and fall at the feet of the Lord before you fall to the bottom of your life, and you can bounce up to a new life and a new hope. When you die to yourself, you open the door for God to raise you up to the newness of life. There’s nothing more resilient than resurrection. Do you bounce? If not, feel free to write to me and ask for more information.

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Nonfiction, School of Christ | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Drawing Nearer to The Lord


From Psalm 100:4 (NKJV)

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

What a privilege we have to know who our God is and what He has done for us. What a pleasure He has given us to bless us with His presence when we bless Him with our praise. We often attribute the gates and courts with church attendance, but if we see His gate as the narrow gate of salvation, we find even more opportunities to enter with thanksgiving and praise.

In today’s Infinite Supply newsletter, the author speaks of what we find beyond the gate.

Infinite Supply Image for November Eighteenth by The School of Christ

Infinite Supply Image for November Eighteenth 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 18

His Fullness

“Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
EPHESIANS 4:13

It is the FULLNESS of Christ that we are after, the revelation of Christ as He IN FACT IS. For too many Christians the Lord Jesus is “merely” their Savior. Thank God He is our Savior, but there is a depth and a richness bound up into the personage of Christ that goes far, far beyond “mere” salvation. Salvation is the narrow gate – coming into the fullness of Christ is the narrow path. The gate is only the entrance to something larger.

Source: Lord of All by Chip Brogden

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Something larger; something bigger; something more. Most of us want bigger and more, and it is God’s desire to give us bigger and more. If we were satisfied with only a little, we may not desire or pursue a heavenly reward.

I remember some years ago trying to work with a nephew on the idea of the rewards of sobriety. I presented all the great possibilities a sober life could bring, but none of them worked. For every good thing I presented, my nephew told me he was satisfied with something less. Sleeping on a couch in someone else’s home, getting a ride in someone else’s car, never having anything of his own: All of these were acceptable to him. How can anyone argue with that?

Salvation is so much more than just a ticket out of Hell. Being saved is a gate we should all want to walk through, but there is so much more on the other side–both here and in Heaven. I’ve tried to use food as an example, comparing dog food to a steak dinner, but those who simply do not hunger or thirst for righteousness will often reject that too. They want to be saved because they don’t want to go to Hell, but the idea of filling their life with more and more of The Lord holds no appeal. I don’t get that.

The idea of having more of Yeshua and less of me gives me a reason to press on in this life. In his message called Drawing Near, John Bevere talks about Enoch as walking closer and closer to The Lord until he got so close that he just couldn’t stay attached to this earth any longer. I believe that statement is on the audio CD, but I recommend at least reading about the interaction between Adam and Enoch from pages 11-13 which you can read for free at Google Books. (The link will show you 11-12, but keep reading.)

I’ll close with the lyrics to verse three of song Draw Me Nearer by Fanny J. Crosby. It seems to perfectly capture the heart of longing to be in The Lord’s presence. May you find yourself longing to draw nearer to the fullness of Christ each day you dwell on this earth.

Oh, the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune as friend with friend!

November 19, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Nonfiction, School of Christ, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Creative In God’s Image


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

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

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

Infinite Supply Image Nov Third

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

November 3

Nothing Without Him

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

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

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

Source: The Irresistible Kingdom

by Chip Brogden

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

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

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

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

Inconceivably Inconceivable


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

There’s No Present Like the Thyme


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

Keeping Thyme by Flickr User Alan aka Kaptain Kobold, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

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

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

Of course, God’s idea from the beginning was for us to be like Him and live eternally. That’s why we long so much for those who have already gone on, and that’s why we fight so hard to keep our lives on this earth. Well, most of us anyway. It always amazes me when I find out about people who don’t cherish their moments here. I mean, yes, I long for eternity with my Savior because I know nothing on this earth will ever compare, but I also enjoy seeing His Light shine in a dark world.

The changes I see when God’s light shines are worth more than the moments or minutes in which they happen. I love to see the conversion and transformation of one who was lost and dying without God. I love to see real miracles that make one or more souls truly aware of God’s presence in our lives. And, I love to be used by God to carry His message and His presence into any situation where He can change a life. At the same time, it’s quite painful to watch a person reject that message, presence, miracle, or love of God and move forward in the darkness without conversion.

A choir I once sang in performed a song with beautiful lyrics that speak my heart about our moments on this earth. I couldn’t find a video with lyrics, so I’ll type the lyrics and then I’ll attach a video in case you want to hear the tune. I didn’t know who the writer was to give credit when I first posted this, but you’ll see in the comments that I have heard from him. Thank you, Jim E Davis, for being okay with me sharing your beautiful song, While There’s Still Time. It picks up on the verse from Romans 13:11 that urges us to pay attention to the time…

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

And here’s the video…

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

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

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

October 10, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grandma Tickles and Grandfather Clauses


Welcome Baby Leona by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ Alone


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Blessing and A Curse


Time is Too Slow...by Flickr User QuotesEverlasting, CC License = Attribution

Time is Too Slow…by Flickr User QuotesEverlasting, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

How many things on this earth can bring both a blessing and a curse? Time most definitely fits that description. When it runs out too fast, it can send people to their knees as they beg for more. When one has lived a long and prosperous life, he may go to his grave singing praises to God for all his days on earth. Fire is another thing that fits. When it warms us or allows us to cook, it’s a great blessing, but when it burns or causes pain or loss, we may wish it never existed.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 11:26 through Deuteronomy 12:9 (the portion changes at 10, but it’s in the middle of a sentence, so I’ll add verse 10 tomorrow) we begin a new week and a new portion. Parashah 47 is called Re’eh in Hebrew and means “see” in English. It begins with the sentence, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse.” Moses continues with a description of the blessing and the curse and how Israel can receive the one they want.

The blessing, Moses tells them, comes from honoring and keeping all the laws of God that he is giving them before they cross into The Promised Land. The curse comes if they don’t listen, and especially if they turn aside to follow other gods. The blessing is to be kept on Mount Gerizim, and the curse on Mount Ebal. Both mountains are west of the Jordan River, where the sun sets in the land of the Canaanites. I find it interesting that they are both in the new land of promise, and both are in close proximity to each other.

Moses tells Israel to be watchful to keep the ordinances of God, and then he tells them of the laws concerning how they are to deal with the people in the land they are getting ready to take possession of. He tells them they are to destroy every place, whether high on a mountain or under a tree, where the nations before them have worshipped other gods. He also tells them to break down and crush their altars, graven images, and pillars that are built to other gods, and he tells them to burn all the poles they set up to honor the false gods. He tells them to totally exterminate the names of the false gods from the new land.

After telling them to destroy all that is against God, Moses tells the people to make sure not to treat Yahveh Almighty that way, but instead, they are to come to the place where He designates for His Name, and there they will worship Him. He will choose the place, and they are to seek it out. When they find it, they are to bring all their sacrifices and offerings there. And then Moses tells them something that sort of shocked me. He tells them that life will be very different for them on the other side of the Jordan River because they will no longer be able to live doing things their own way as each sees fit. While I thought they were already under the law, apparently they were not. Moses tells them that they weren’t yet required to change things because they had not yet arrived at the rest and inheritance God promised them.

I can see a correlation in these proclamations from Moses to Israel. In life, before we begin serving God, we are not under the same set of directions as we are once we have entered into His rest. Those who are not yet serving Him are not expected to honor His word the same as those of us who have claimed Him as our Lord, but that doesn’t take them off the hook for their sin. The wages of sin are death. This makes it clear why we should present reasons for people to leave their lives of sin and live for God. We can’t condemn them for living opposite a word they do not yet trust, but we can’t let them feel okay and comfortable living in opposition to God either.

Brenda, a friend and fellow writer, says it well when she explains why all people on earth are not the children of God. She points out how ridiculous it would be to invite a stranger into your home just because the person says he or she is family. You need proof. God wants evidence that people truly want to be in His family too. I imagine that some of the people God and Israel are driving out of the new land are nice people. They might have been the sort of people the media would now do stories about, telling the world how we must be kind to them because they are humans and have rights like the rest of us. But God Almighty was looking at their hearts and how they were sold out to false gods.

The word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword as it divides the false from the truth. God loves all people and desires to see all people saved, but that doesn’t mean that He’s suddenly okay with people rejecting Him–whether they do it on their own or in His holy name. His mercy does not make allowance to keep sinning, it makes allowance to repent before it’s too late.

God’s mercy is a blessing, but for those who refuse to even try to seek Him, that mercy will become a curse when they miss out on it because of their rejection of the gift. Scripture tells us in Acts 17:30-31 (English Standard Version) that there were times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent before the Day of Judgment in Christ. Even those already living in the land of promise had to make a decision about whom to serve. Even those of us already claiming to live according to God’s promised blessings must choose Him each day. Salvation is more than accepting God one time and then forgetting our promise, it’s about refusing to reject Him for the rest of eternity. Let God’s mercy be a blessing and not a curse to you by keeping your heart wrapped up in His gifts every day.

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

Accidentally On Purpose


Accidental Sunset by Flickr User Garry Wilmore, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Accidental Sunset by Flickr User Garry Wilmore, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Accidents aren’t always bad things. In the image above, the photographer was trying to set up for a sunset he planned to capture in a few moments when he accidentally hit the shutter and snapped the picture. Once he looked at it and realized how good it was (except for the lens flare in the middle), he shared the unedited masterpiece on purpose. When I finally gave my heart to The Lord, it was sort of an accident that I’m glad to say has become a purposeful walk in His presence for 31 years as of today. I was bribed to visit the church, and I only knelt down because that’s what everyone else was doing, so I accidentally got myself into a position to be prayed for by a group of women who gathered around me because they thought I was repenting. That accident quieted me enough to hear the voice of God, so He could speak to my heart.

In today’s reading from Numbers 35:9 through Numbers 35:34 (the end of the chapter), we read about accidental events that lead people to cities of refuge. I spoke of the cities yesterday but only of their existence, not their purpose. Today, God speaks to Moses to detail what people are able to live within the borders of those cities. Because in God’s law the next of kin can rightfully kill a person who has killed his or her relative, a location of safety needed to be set up for those who killed someone accidentally.

This portion of the reading gives examples of accidental killings such as shoving someone without being angry or throwing something that accidentally hits the person, and the end result is death. It also lists purposeful things that cannot be claimed as accidents, such as hitting someone with a piece of iron or a large rock. Even a person who strikes another with his own hand, if the hit is in anger and it results in death, the person is considered a murderer and eligible to be put to death.

If it is determined that a person killed someone accidentally, the killer is permitted to live in a city of refuge either until a trial or until the death of the high priest. If the killer comes out of the city before either of these events, he takes his own life in his hands because he makes himself subject to the next of kin avenger. If it cannot be determined that the death was purposeful, it will be considered an accident because in order to accuse someone of murder, there must be two or more witnesses. The testimony of one witness is not sufficient enough to put someone to death.

As the reading closes, God also warns people that if a person has actually committed a murder, no one is to take a bribe from them to say it was an accident and allow them to live in a city of refuge. The killer must be put to death. Also, no one must receive a bribe to allow a person to leave the city of refuge before the death of the priest. These things that would allow a killer to go free in any way cannot be permitted because blood defiles the land. A price must be paid for it, and it cannot be allowed to defile the land because the presence of Yahveh lives in the land with His people, Israel.

The statements about an avenging next of kin being required to balance the scales by killing the murderer tells me that God absolutely requires balance in all things. The chaos in our present society is due to the lack of that balance. We have killers and liars that get away with their crimes. We have people who represent justice who will change their rulings for the right amount of money. And, we have a whole lot of people with the mindset that if the excuse is good enough, or the procedure of apprehension and conviction doesn’t dot every “i” and cross every “t,” the person who committed the crime should go free. Yikes! Fortunately, when the law operates as it should, witness testimony is still considered the strongest proof just as it is here.

Let me mention here that while we have an “accuser of the brethren” that seeks to testify against children of God and try to get them condemned to Hell, we also have God’s justice system that requires two witnesses. I believe the other witness would have to be the accused. In other words, just because the adversary wishes for you to perish, if you stand against the accusations and curses, you stand strong in Christ. No one will be lost just because the enemy desires his soul. A person will have to give up his soul by refusing to repent and place his sins under the blood of Yeshua. At the judgment seat, those two witnesses (satan and the accused) will testify, so no one will be able to claim it’s an accident if his name is not in The Lamb’s Book of Life.

Today is the day of salvation. If you have never truly repented for the sin you were born into in this flesh, walk now into the city of refuge that was built for you on the foundation of God’s mercy. It is not His will for any to perish, so He provides a way for you to escape the death sentence that is the penalty for sin. It was no accident that Christ went to the cross for “whosoever will,” and it is no accident if you are reading this post and have not yet committed your life to God. Let all the accidents of your life–loss, pain, suffering, depression, unfairness, or whatever has plagued you in this life–be a catalyst for purpose, and may you turn today and walk forever in the mercy and grace of Yeshua HaMashiach. Amen.

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

The Right of Redemption


Redemption Poster by Flickr User Sapphire Dream Photography, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Redemption Poster by Flickr User Sapphire Dream Photography, 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.

When you purchase an item, especially when it’s something from a salesman in your home, you usually have what is called a “right of rescission” where you have a chance to change your mind. It is often used when getting a loan as well, and most of the time, it is a “cooling off” period of about 3 days. It gives buyers a way out of their “buyer’s remorse” when they feel they’ve made a bad purchase decision.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 25:19 through Leviticus 25:24, we read about the opposite of rescission. It begins with God answering a question He was sure the people would ask about how they would eat during the years their fields were in Sabbath rest. He tells them He will bless the sixth year to make it produce for three years. That would make sure it provided for them in the 6th year when they both planted and harvested, in the 7th year when they ate from the harvest of the 6th year, and in the 8th year when they planted but still had to eat of the old harvest while waiting for the time of the new harvest.

After speaking to them of harvest, God reminds them again that their land does not belong to them, but it belongs to Him, and they are foreigners and temporary residents on the land. He explains that this is also the reason they cannot permanently sell their land but must always include the right of redemption.

When God made us, He gave us our temples to live in as temporary residents just as He put Israel in the Promised Land. Though He gave us free will, He reserved for us the right of redemption. Like the land He owned, He has already bought and paid for our souls and redeemed us for Himself. By paying for our sins before we ever asked, He has gone way too far to change His mind and rescind the contract, so once we accept His salvation, we can trust that God will not try to undo the contract.

The definition of redemption comes from the Latin word redimere and Old English redeem, and it means to “buy back.” The right of redemption we have in Christ to buy us back from our sins is not a contract He entered into lightly. After all, He paid the price with His own blood and life. We know He won’t have any buyer’s remorse because He knows exactly what He’s getting into when He makes us His own. Therefore, we should make sure we don’t end up with a case of seller’s remorse by taking care to not enter into our covenant with Him as if it’s a minor thing.

In fact, the covenant He wrote for us in His own blood is a major thing. But, oh what a pleasure to know that God first showed His love for us by redeeming us while we were yet sinners, and that He continues to show His love for us with mercy that is new every morning. And there is coming a day when He will claim His right of redemption over us once more, when we are redeemed from this temporary home to live in eternity with Him.

And with that, here’s a video of another older song I love to listen to and to sing. It’s called “Temporary Home” by The Heritage Singers…

April 28, 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

I Follow Him–A Poem


The content of this poem I wrote many years ago says a lot about everything I’ve written to this point, especially about the covenant made by God in the post for October 17th. I felt this was an appropriate time to share it.

I FOLLOW HIM
By Crystal A Murray – (C)2005

I follow Him…

…Around the corridors of Heaven, where beings created for worshipping Him fall at His feet. He sighs, and I hear Him say, “How I long for a friend with whom I can commune, and who will worship Me and desire to commune with me–because he loves Me.” A few heavy sighs later, I see His breath flowing into His new friend. He smiles and says, “It is very good.”

I follow Him…

…through a garden, where He walks and talks with man and woman. I see His despair on the day He can’t find them because a veil of sin now separates Him from His new creation. I watch as, in pain and desperation, He slays an animal to cover their nakedness and then uses the animal’s blood to temporarily pierce sin’s veil, so He may commune once more with His friends. I hear Him lament that all communication with mankind will now be strife for Him because of sin, but He loves them, and He will not give it up. He will never leave nor forsake them.

I follow Him…

…to His drawing board and see His plans for a temple in Heaven and its counterpart on earth. I also see plans for an ark; a covenant; splitting a sea; how blood sacrifice should work and why it doesn’t; and a way to bring Perfect Blood before the Heavenly altar and permanently destroy the veil of sin.

I follow Him…

…to Bethlehem on a star-lit night; to a carpenter’s shop; to a temple service; to a wedding in Cana and a pool in Bethesda.

I follow Him…

…now to another garden. In this one, called Gethsemane, His flesh and Spirit wrestle. I hear Him pray for my salvation–and yours. The flesh bleeds, but the Spirit prevails. I watch as His betrayer kisses Him … and then flees with Perfect Blood on his lips.

I follow Him…

…to the judgment hall and the whipping post.

I follow Him…

…to the death stake: where Perfect Blood stains the ground … the Centurion’s sword … and the hands of His killers. I see a tomb where His body lays still while His Spirit descends into Hell to take the keys of death and forever deliver His creation–His friends–from bondage. As He returns to His tomb, I watch as His Spirit awakens His body with the dawning of a 3rd-day’s sun.

I follow Him…

…as He comforts those who grieve at His tomb, makes Himself known to disciples walking a lonely road to Emmaus, and fills the nets of forlorn fishermen. I hear Him tell of a Comforter. Soon, I watch as He ascends in a cloud back to Heaven, where He goes to prepare a place for me–and for all who love Him. I see that, even today, He works in Heaven’s Holy Temple as our High Priest continuously offering His Perfect Blood to atone for our sins.*

I follow Him…

…because I love Him and desire to commune with Him. He makes a way because He loves me and desires to commune with me. And someday, with the sounds of a trumpet and a shout, He will split the skies and call His people to come home. And then…

…I will follow Him for eternity!

*Hebrews 6:19-20

October 18, 2013 Posted by | Devotion, Poetry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Above The Earth


Something came to me about the readings for the last three days, and I want to bring it up before I jump into today. In Genesis 6:8, Noah found grace in the eyes of God. In Genesis 6:9, Noah was righteous & wholehearted, and he walked with God. In Genesis 6:18, God told Noah He would establish a covenant with him. In Genesis 6:22, Noah did all that was commanded of him. In Genesis 7:1, God says to Noah, “I have seen that you alone in this generation are righteous before me.” In Genesis 7:5, Noah did all that God ordered him to do. Can you see a pattern here?

Remember, this was before any of the levitical laws were given, so what do you suppose made Noah find grace in the eyes of the Lord? And that brings us to our reading for today from Genesis 7:17 through Genesis 8:14. Verse 17 tells us that the ark was lifted up above the earth. And that’s where I want to focus.

Noah, whose name actually means “rest,” had a spirit that was above (not obedient to) the flesh. He was, like the ark that he built, lifted up “above the earth” if you think of earth as representing flesh since that’s what we are made from. None of the Scriptures I found say anything about his wife, sons, or sons’ wives being holy, obedient, or finding grace in the eyes of Yahveh.

So, we can sum it all up this way: A man called Rest (and remember our Savior Jesus is The Rest wherein the weary may rest) was righteous. He built a vessel (like our Savior robed Himself in flesh) that would be lifted above the earth (like Christ was lifted up on Calvary and lifted above sin) to save those he loved from complete destruction. Now go back and read the story of Noah as if you’re reading the story of salvation, and ask yourself yesterday’s question…will you get in the ark?

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All That God Commands


The title for this post comes from the last verse of this reading from Genesis 6:9 through Genesis 6:22, “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.” (This verse from the Amplified Bible.)

I just spent an evening and a full day at a training seminar to learn about prayer and healing and ministering to others. I have about 25 pages of notes, and I saw some amazing things in the Power of God. Since I have walked as a follower of God, I can testify to multiple miracles, including one that is medically verified. And yet, I look at these chronicles of Noah, and I wonder, if it were me in his place, would I do ALL that God commanded me to do?

If we all told the truth, I’m sure we would all admit that it would be a struggle to exceed the boundaries of the natural things God wants us to do and take a jaunt into the supernatural. If we can’t see it or feel it, can it really be true? Then again, we can’t see love, but we somehow trust it is true. We can’t see salvation, but we know it is true, and often trust someone who says they’ve become saved just on their word. And salvation, the regeneration of the human soul, is the greatest miracle of all. Of course salvation wasn’t even part of the culture back then–except for Noah. The world had never yet seen a drop of rain, so just believing that God was going to destroy the earth with water was a stretch, but he did it. But then, to build a boat on dry land, build it the size required and believe it would float, and then trust that the animals from all over the earth would just find their way there and walk right in? Wow! Most of the world would have called, and probably did call, Noah a crazy man. But he obeyed in spite of their accusations.

Growing up, we had a record, and yes I mean a vinyl LP album, called “Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow…Right!” I can’t tell you how many times we listened to it, but it was funny pretty much every time. The part we listened to most was the three skits where God calls on Noah to build an ark. Noah asks questions like, “Am I on Candid Camera?” and “Who is this really?” And while the story is written as a comedy, so much of it rings of truth when thinking about how humans react to that which is supernatural in God. To hear it for yourself, listen to this recording at God Tube… http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=WL7YYLNX and let me know if it’s your first time hearing it, or if it brings back some great memories for you.

And after you listen to Bill Cosby, and/or read today’s Scriptures, ask yourself whether you would act like Bill’s Noah, or the Noah in the Bible who, rather than doing things his own way, did ALL that God commanded of him. No wonder he found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

October 5, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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