Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

2014 in review


2014 is almost over, and I’ve slowed down a bit as the year winds down. I guess we all need to take a bit of a break now and then, and mine came in with some physical issues that wore me out for a few weeks. Now, I wonder if my body was preparing for the emotional hit I received just two days ago when I found out my mother has inoperable late-stage pancreatic cancer. Prayer gives me amazing comfort, and I can’t imagine walking through a time like this without the grace of God and the strength of praying friends. When we’re out of control, there’s so much comfort in knowing that God is on His throne and that He cares.

With planning and upcoming travel, I don’t know how often I’ll be posting, but I promise I won’t forget about the blog or about my precious and valued readers. Thank you for every day, and every lesson, you have walked (and will walk) with me in this wisp of life here on earth. Now, here’s a 2014 review prepared for me by WordPress…

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

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,900 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 32 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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December 30, 2014 Posted by | Current Events, Nonfiction, Prayer, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Effective Efforts


Christmas Crochet Clock Face by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved

Christmas Crochet Clock Face by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved Click the image to open a new tab/window to visit my CafePress Christmas store.

I’ve made a strong effort with this blog since August of 2013. I think I’ve been trying to make up for the years I had it and barely wrote. But I need to make a change. There have been times where I have spent so long trying to come up with just the right topic, that I couldn’t post in a timely manner. If I want a good picture to go with it, that takes even more time.

Am I quitting? No way. I will still make an effort to get something posted every day, but it’s going to become more “slice of life” stuff with some good lessons mixed in as I learn them from a variety of sources. Maybe I’ll throw in a haiku or other type of poem now and then. Sometimes, I’ll post my photography or creative images. I just don’t want people surprised if all of a sudden there’s not deep Bible study on every single post.

Tonight and last night, I’ve been thinking about time and my use of it, hence the clock face above which is a blend of my creativity and a representation of time itself. I’m thinking about the efforts I put into the minutes and hours of my day. For example, I actually started this post early enough tonight to get done before midnight, but some unexpected issues came up that made it impossible to post as planned. I guess God is reminding me that time is in HIS hands and not my own. (By the way, if you click the image, it will take you to my Christmas shop at CafePress. It’s mostly coffee cups, but I do have this clock face on an actual clock there.)

Anyway, as my title says, I want the efforts I make in this life to be effective. What does it mean to be effective? To me it will mean that the things I do have some type of lasting value. I am bombarded by things I want to do, things I need to do, and things I should do. I have to prioritize them based on those that have the greatest value now and later. I want to watch the nice G-Rated Christmas movies by Hallmark while they’re in season. Some of them have life lessons that inspire me long after their viewing. Also, I need to send Hanukkah and Christmas cards. I take longer because I like to write personal notes in them to let people know they are more than just names on a list. And, I should get out and do some shopping before it’s too late.

Here’s some more. Want: I want to either call or Facebook message all the family and friends that have current events going on in their lives. Maybe they’re having birthdays, maybe anniversaries, maybe fighting illnesses, maybe suffering loss, or maybe they’ve just released new writing I want to read. Need: I need to plan for our upcoming Christmas dinner for our writer’s group. That includes making updates on our website and contacting everyone on the e-mail list. Should: These are the things on my want list, like reading the works of writer friends, but with a bit more oomph and importance.

What about you? Do you struggle with all the stuff you want to do with your gift of creativity and all the stuff you need to do to keep life up and running? I want to make more products for my Zazzle store, not because I make much there, but because I’m energized by being creative. I need to watch the lessons I’ve purchased on using my Scrivener software, so my purchase is valuable and so I can share information with others in my writer’s group. Helping others energizes me too.

Under both creativity and helpfulness, it has been requested that I compile my posts on Torah reading for those who want to read it in print all in one place. I want to do it, but it will be some work because of things like Bible version permissions. I’ll have to change some of what I wrote to go with the King James’ Version of the Bible or get permission to use the full text from the Complete Jewish Bible. If you’ve been reading my blog long enough, do you think I should do a book on those posts? If so, would you read it? Should I seek permissions to keep the text from the CJB? Please comment below just to help me hone my “to do” list and get the important and effective efforts pushed closer to the top. Thanks.

December 10, 2014 Posted by | Creativity, Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Can Be A Wonderful Life


Still from It's A Wonderful Life by Flickr User Insomnia Cured Here, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Still from It’s A Wonderful Life by Flickr User Insomnia Cured Here, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I spent this evening in a dinner theater with friends. We watched a well-performed musical version of It’s a Wonderful Life, which is always a nice reminder of rethinking our perspectives at this time of year. I am always brought to tears when George learns just how much people will be there for him after all he has given up in being there for them through the years.

The thing I notice about the story is that George Bailey is extremely generous with his time and money, but he’s a bit stingy with his emotions. He gives in the same way Jonah ministered to the people of Nineveh (yesterday’s post)–grudgingly. He has so many dreams he wants to carry out, and every time he thinks he’s on his way to one or the other, some tragedy strikes or something comes up to change his plans. An abundance of these events with George “giving in” to whatever call is on his life leads him to feeling suicidal.

What changes for George in the end to give him more hope? Nothing externally. His attitude changes before he finds out that his friends and neighbors are ready to be there for him and meet his needs the way he’s always done for them. His grudging giving was still giving, so it didn’t hurt his relationships in the long run, but he likely missed out on some joy through the years. A stack of days without joy can certainly lead to the dark day where George meets the angel named Clarence. (Who, by the way, gets his wings when the bell in the above image rings.)

Attitude makes all the difference in the world. As said by Charles Swindoll, “Life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it.” (Click the word “attitude” to see the whole message in context.) How we respond to difficulties in life does not change how difficult they are to us, but it changes how much damage they’ll be allowed to do to our spirits. We’re not guaranteed happiness, but joy is a fruit of the Spirit of God, so circumstances can’t take it away. God’s spirit of joy is there to strengthen us to face our difficulties if we will let it.

Chip Brogden brings up a good point in today’s Infinite Supply newsletter when he points out that God sees every sparrow that falls, but He doesn’t stop them from falling. He may not take the difficulties or storms away from us, but He Himself will be our very present help in times of trouble; a shelter during our stormy times. As a matter of fact, here’s how King David spoke of God’s sheltering Spirit in Psalm 61:3-4 (NKJV)

For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah

If we respond with an attitude of expectation for that help, comfort, and shelter, we will find the strength of God’s joy right when we need it. Then, no matter what happens to us, it can be a wonderful life.

P.S. If you click the movie title above, it will take you to a special on the DVD set. As of this writing, it’s $7.99 instead of $24.99 for the two-disc set that includes both black & white and color plus some bonus features.

December 7, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Nonfiction, Slice of Life, TV and Movies | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Runaway Train


I love this song, and I really like to travel on trains. I like the little ones in amusement parks, and I like the big Amtrak trains that cross the country. I love the clickety-clack sounds, the views, the well-dressed staff, the observation car, and so much more. The video above has some great train footage in addition to the song Life’s Railway to Heaven sung by Johnny Cash. I hope you enjoy it. Me; I like trains so much that if I didn’t have to drive about 2 hours to get to a train station, I would likely travel as often as I could get away–even if it was only for a day trip.

You know, I’ve heard that travel on trains can be less safe than commercial airlines, but that’s not something that causes me even as much anxiety as getting on the road in a car. I think it has something to do with the safe feeling of being on a straight track that can only go where it is directed. The only dangers come when the train leaves the track or something crosses the track at the wrong time or place. Of course, the engineer makes most of the difference in whether the train does what it has been built to do.

So, what would happen if the engineer just decided to jump off the train and let it run on its own? Okay, and what if all the staff, including the brakeman, jumped off? Yep, we’d likely have a runaway train. Would it be any fun then?

I know I am beyond the month of sharing the Infinite Supply newsletters by The School of Christ dot org, but the one shared today is one of my favorites. In about 6 years, I’ve probably seen the devotion at least 3 or 4 times, and it resonates with me each and every time. Plus, it goes so well with my point about our need for The Engineer to be on our train. Here’s the main text from the devotion entitled “To Be With Him”…

You are called to be with Jesus. That is your calling. That is the primary thing, the highest ministry. Going forth to preach or do anything else is of secondary importance. We should be with Jesus; after that, He might send us forth to preach. But before Jesus said, “Go into all the world” He said, “Be with Me.”  (John 17:24)

The call of the Lord is not more important than the Lord of the call. The work of the Lord must not replace the Lord of the work. No amount of ministering FOR the Lord will make up for a lack of ministering TO the Lord. And knowing the Word of God does not necessarily mean that we know the God of the Word.

Source: The Church in the Wilderness by Chip Brogden ©1997-2013 TheSchoolOfChrist.Org.

I underlined the last sentence in the first paragraph. I love that it says that before Yeshua sent anyone out into any ministry, He first called them to be with Him. To be with Jesus/Yeshua is to have Him on board your train of life to make sure you don’t end up without an Engineer. Wherever we go, we need Him running the show. Without Him, life will be chaos and violence (like we see all around us), and we will be a wild runaway train.

I’ll end with one more video that adds to the idea of needing The Lord in our lives. This one is by Don Francisco, and the first line of the chorus says, “If you’re not livin’ by the word of God, you’re flyin’ by the seat of your pants.” Enjoy!

December 5, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Lyrics and Song, Nonfiction, School of Christ | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rearrange Your Path


Following the Light by Flickr User Nathaniel Eldridge, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Following the Light by Flickr User Nathaniel Eldridge, 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.

Have you ever gotten lost? Have you been so lost that it felt like you were going in circles, stuck in an endless loop of hopeless twists and turns that never get you where you wanted to go? I’ve been there on foot, and I’ve been there in a vehicle–at night, in a bad neighborhood. Getting lost is no fun. Being lost from God is no fun either, but God in His mercy allows us to rearrange our paths. As author Allison Gappa Bottke puts it, God Allows U-Turns.

If your path is filled with the chaos of uncharted turns and bumps and misdirections that keep ending you in places of frustration and hopelessness, make a change and rearrange. (I just couldn’t help but to make that rhyme. 🙂 ) To illustrate some rearrangement, I’m going to rearrange some verses from Proverbs Chapter 4. Using the New King James’ Version, I’ll list them in no particular order as bullet points. See what the verses in the following order might tell you about your own path of life.

  • Ponder the path of your feet.
  • Let your eyes look straight ahead
  • Do not turn to the right or the left.
  • Remove your foot from evil.
  • Do not enter the path of the wicked.
  • Do not walk in the way of evil.
    Avoid it, do not travel on it;
    Turn away from it and pass on.
  • The way of the wicked is like darkness;
    They do not know what makes them stumble.
  • But the path of the just is like the shining sun,
    That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.

And from Isaiah 30:21

  • Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
    “This is the way, walk in it,”

There’s plenty more in Proverbs 4, so I recommend reading all of it. As a matter of fact, I find a lot of inspiration in the idea of reading the entire chapter of Proverbs on whatever day of the month it is. So, since this post was started on December 4th, I took a visit to Proverbs 4, and all those verses about paths are what jumped out at me. With a little rearrangement, I love the wisdom and promise that’s presented.

To continue with the message about your path, here’s a little bit from some of lessons I’ve gleaned as I’ve walked before Yahveh Almighty.

Many paths will visualize before you on your life’s journey, but only one path will lead you where you want to be in the end. It begins with a narrow gate, so no one but you can fit to walk through it. You don’t get through on the coat tails of a preacher or a parent; or even a friend or loved one. You get through it by using a key of mercy and grace provided when you walk through the blood of your Savior, Yeshua.

Once you’ve chosen to walk through the narrow gate, you’ll be on a straight path. It’s not as narrow as the gate, so you’ll have friends to encourage you and walk with you. Fellowship with them and make it a joyful walk. God will light that path for you, and His Holy Spirit is always there to comfort you on your journey. Trust Him to guide you. Seek His wisdom and understanding because the way that seems right to man doesn’t have the promise of God’s way. Look carefully, watch your step, train your eyes on the prize, and listen for that still, small voice that tells you the way to walk.

And here’s one bit of caution… Take heed of anyone who tries to lead you off the path onto another path. God’s path is always the straight one. Because God’s path is straight, even if it looks like it’s a long way off, the end should always be a clear vision ahead of you. Without that vision, you can be turned away and perish, so keep your eyes trained on the goal, and keep pressing forward. Don’t give up, and you’ll cross the finish line and receive your reward.

If you are on a path that doesn’t have a promise of eternal life at the end, ponder your steps and seek God. If you are still breathing in and out, it’s not too late to rearrange your path and follow God.

December 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Nonfiction, Proverbs & Wisdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not One Who Kneels


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

No Share in God’s Glory w/o the Cross by Flickr User Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new words might read something like…

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

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

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

The Ferguson Golden Rule


Agape by Flickr User Marcelino Rapayla Jr., Creative Commons License = Attribution

Agape by Flickr User Marcelino Rapayla Jr., Creative Commons 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.

I’m not sure when it became en vogue to pay people back as we feel they deserve, but it is a horrible twisting of God’s real “golden rule.” Injustice should not breed injustice, especially when the first act has not been proven. What has been proven is that people are excusing bad behaviors as balancing justice. Individuals are burning businesses of people who have done them no wrong, and journalists are publishing private information of the innocent family of a perceived wrong-doer.

And what if we all, including the police, did what rioters are doing in the name of justice? What if, every time an African-American gang member shot a white police officer, the rest of the white police officers burnt down the houses of all the gang members and their families? Without any color or race in play, what if police routinely attacked innocent civilians coast to coast as a method of payback for the deaths of their brothers in blue? Would any consider that to be justice?

What does Scripture tell us that God considers justice or right behavior? Here are a few verses from the New Living Testament

Matthew 22:39b–Love your neighbor as yourself.

Matthew 5:44-45aBut I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.

Ephesians 4:31-32Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Two wrongs have never made a right. I believe Yeshua told people to forget the old “eye for an eye” instructions for more than just His mercy. I believe it was because people misused and abused God’s instruction, and they used payback for personal reasons instead of under God’s direction.

If we try hard enough, any one of us could find a reason to hate, or at least dislike, any other of us. I have known people who wished evil on others just because of what state they were born in or what team they favored. This idea that we should hate someone because of the job they do, the race they were born into, their financial status, or whatever, is senseless. Those who incite the hatred in others are just as guilty as those who start the fires because they ignite the matches that ignite the matches.

Here’s what I want to know: Where are those who are using this situation to teach their children why they should never put themselves in bad positions by getting involved in criminal activities? Foolishness is born into the heart of a child, and only the rod of correction will drive it from them. Children aren’t necessarily innocent just because they’re children, and by the time they’re teens, they are old enough to take responsibility for their own behaviors. There’s no personal responsibility for them or their “defenders” in trying to refocus the attention on how the police dealt with the criminal instead of reminding youth that crime doesn’t pay.

This new “Golden Rule” as promoted by events like the Ferguson riots, and older versions of the same, is neither golden nor a good rule to live by. It’s all about division even if it disguises itself as unifying people because it’s only unifying for the purpose of being set against others.

The spirit of division began in the garden when Adam blamed God for the woman who helped him sin, and Eve blamed the serpent for offering the sin. In truth, Eve was responsible for listening to the temptation, and Adam was responsible for choosing to obey a voice other than that of his Creator. It continues to this day in dividing race, gender, status, etc. It won’t stop as long as sin reigns in us, but that doesn’t mean any of us has to live by its rule. Will you be one to choose God’s word and rules over man’s?

December 2, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Current Events, Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Tall is God?


At 4 feet, 10 inches (4′ 10 & 3/4″ when I was younger–LOL), I’ve compared my height to a lot of people. I like that I can make even short people feel a bit taller. I remember when I worked in a truck stop travel store. The cash register was on a platform, but it wasn’t obvious, so when I stepped down from it to make coffee by request, it shocked the driver standing there waiting for his coffee. He said it looked like I had just fallen down into a hole.

Unless I’m trying to retrieve something from a tall shelf, I’m happy with being short, and sometimes it can even be fun. But, if everything in my life was way above my head, then I might desire to measure up to those who can reach all things easily. Spiritually, however, it’s a very different story. I don’t know that I can ever grow enough, so I want to keep growing and learning as long as I’m in this life. Today’s Infinite Supply newsletter talks about our need to set a goal to measure up to a stature greater than ourselves.

Infinite Supply Image for November Thirtieth by The School of Christ

Infinite Supply Image for November Thirtieth 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 30

The Purpose of Ministry

“He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 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 4:11-13

Each of these ministry functions fulfill different roles, but their purpose is the same, and that is, to bring ALL of us into that same fullness, that same spiritual maturity, that same experiential knowing, which the elders themselves enjoy. Thus, He gives SOME, till we ALL… SOME, till we ALL… SOME, till we ALL. Do you see this? And He will continue to give SOME till we ALL. Once He has ALL then the work is complete and these ministries will no longer be needed. Until then they ARE needed, and they are critical to God’s Purpose.

Source: The Church in the Wilderness by Chip Brogden

» Like this? Post your comments…

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I think this is a great post for my last day of sharing Chip Brogden’s newsletters with readers. Before I go on, I want to encourage readers to subscribe to these newsletters for yourselves. I’ve been on the list since 2009, and even those posts I’ve read more than once have encouraged or taught me great things more than once. To get deeper, purchase the books he takes these studies from, or go to the site and get involved with the discussions.

On this topic, I love the point Chip makes about God giving some to each of the ministries above with the purpose that we will all become complete in Him. Our completion comes with learning how tall Yeshua is, so we can measure up to His stature. When all of us have become perfect and can measure up to The Lord, we will no longer need others to minister to us. For now, we need teaching, guidance, examples, perspective, and accountability. Not one of us has it all together on his or her own, even if we are teachers ourselves.

Our purpose in serving God is not to become better at being human, but to become more and more like Christ. We are promised that we will see Him one day, and on that day we will see Him as He is. At that time, we also have the promise that our bodies will become like His glorious body. How tall is God? We don’t know right now, but we know He is taller than us, so we might as well keep growing.

December 1, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Bible Study, Nonfiction, School of Christ, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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