Crystal Writes A Blog

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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

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

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

   

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