Crystal Writes A Blog

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Futuristic Science Fiction


I Can See the End But It Hasn't Happened Yet by Flickr User Paul Anglada, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

I Can See the End But It Hasn’t Happened Yet by Flickr User Paul Anglada, 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.

If you could know your future, would you want to? Would you want to know exactly what person you were going to marry, when you would get married, how many kids you would have, whether or not you would work in your dream career, etc., all before it happened? We all worry about our future (even though we’re not supposed to be anxious about anything), but somehow, I think knowing everything ahead of time would make it boring. We build our strength in our struggles to make the future come out the way we hope.

In today’s reading from Numbers 22:2 through Numbers 22:12, we begin a new week and a new portion. We are now on Parashah 40, titled Balak after the main person in the beginning of the story. Balak, the son of Zippor, is the king of Moab, and he’s been watching the battles between Israel and the Amorites. Now, the Amorites had already defeated Moab in previous wars, so when Balak saw Israel defeat them, he got real afraid real fast. Now, he’s running to the leaders of Midian and trying to provoke them with fear by telling them the Israelites will eat up everything in their land the way the oxen eat up a field of grass.

So Balak decides to get out a message to this guy he knows who apparently lives in the land of his people, the Moabites. He tells the elders to take money and to take the message that a people has come out of Egypt who cover the earth, and now they have moved in right next door to him. He sends this message to a guy named Balaam who is a teller of the future and who has favor with God, so that whoever he blesses is blessed, and whoever he curses is cursed.

Balak tries to put the same fears that he feels into Balaam. He tells him to curse the people because he says there are too many for him to fight, and he says that if the guy will curse them, maybe he will be able to drive them off. Balaam asks the men to stay the night and wait for an answer. He says he can’t promise he will do it because he has to talk to God first and see what He has to say about the situation. By the way Balaam asks God about it, I’m thinking he doesn’t know who the people of Israel are, but when he asks God about it, God tells him not to go with Balak’s servants and not to curse the people because they are a blessed people.

Balak let fictional fears of the future control him instead of turning to the real God for help. He turned to a man who knew the real God, but he didn’t seek God for himself. Had he done that, God would have told him about that blessed people and how a future Moabitess (Ruth) would be in the bloodline of their (and our) Messiah. He would have had reason to care for the people and offer praise to God instead of fearing the people and hoping to manipulate God.

Too many people live as Balak did. They don’t want to see The Ten Commandments on the courthouse walls, or The Holy Bible on the school bookshelf. They fear what these things might mean instead of seeking God to find out what they do mean. They miss out on the peace we have by serving a God we know watches over and cares for us. We don’t know the future either, but we trust the One who created it. We know His plans for our future are only good and include an eternity in His presence. As the hymn says…

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

It’s not science fiction to trust our future to a God so big He can watch over all the world at once and yet count every hair on each person’s head. He will walk with us each and every day of our lives straight into eternity, and that’s all the future we need to know.

Enjoy this version of the song I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Alison Krauss (includes lyrics)…

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

Grace that Teaches Hearts to Fear


Fractalized Cross & Skyline by Flickr User David Gunter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Fractalized Cross & Skyline by Flickr User David Gunter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image (minus text & frame) and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

The second verse of the song, Amazing Grace, says…

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

In today’s reading from Exodus 20:15 through Exodus 20:23 (verses 18-26 in translations other than CJB), we see the people trembling at God’s presence on Mt. Sinai. The people are so afraid, they ask Moses to go talk to God alone and leave them out of it. But Moses tells them not to fear and explains that God only brings them fear to make them afraid to sin.

I guess we could compare this to all the dramatic stories parents tell their kids to keep them in line. You don’t really want the child to think there’s a scary snake in your closet that will attack and bite if the child opens the door; you just don’t want the child to peek in and see his Christmas presents before he unwraps them. The difference with God is that He can teach fear with truth instead of making up scary stories, but His purpose is still the same.

God’s word says the fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom (see Psalm 111:10). His laws can bring fear but only because of the price of breaking them. Even if we resist doing God’s will because we want things our own way, we fear disobeying because we don’t want to pay the cost. But God is okay with that because our fear protects us from living with the wages of sin. If we are afraid to rob a bank, we won’t have to risk the price of being shot in the act–or caught and imprisoned. That’s why 1 John 5:3 says (in paraphrase) that loving God means keeping His commandments, but keeping His commandments is not grievous or burdensome.

In the final paragraph of this week’s portion, God has Moses remind the people that because they have seen how He can come down and speak with them from Heaven, they have no need to create gods of silver and gold and worship them as if they are Yahveh. He tells them that if they wish to build an altar to Him, they should create it out of the earth. He does not want it created with tools because that would defile it by changing it from its natural state. And He does not want them to build steps to go up to it because it would make the people indecently uncovered.

Yahveh does not want the people (or us) building things and lifting them up as if they have power. That’s what they learned from those who worship false gods. Our God is personal and does not need a statue or cathedral to represent His majesty. And when it comes to earth, which I believe represents people, God wants our hearts as His altar. And I don’t believe He wants any of us to use some “cookie cutter” tools on ourselves in an effort to look like a better sacrifice. He wants us to yield whoever we are to His laws and His will to avoid the penalties of sin, but He knew even as He spoke to these people that The Perfect Sacrifice was on its way and would keep us from paying the ultimate price for sin–that being eternal death. The grace of God’s law creates fear that sets us free from having to fear death.

January 24, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If You Can Read This, You’re Too Close


Tailgating Costs Lives by Flickr User Max aka landotter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Tailgating Costs Lives by Flickr User Max aka landotter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open new tab to access original image and user’s photo stream at Flickr.

So I’m one of those who gets really frustrated by tailgaters. I’ve even thought of creating a bumper sticker that says, “Consider doing a random act of kindness; get off my tail.” And I really like the matter-of-fact statement on the back-end of the truck in the picture. It’s too bad Pharaoh didn’t have this truck as a warning too. Maybe he would have realized the danger of his tailgating mistake before it was too late.

In today’s reading from Exodus 14:9 through Exodus 14:14 (yep, it’s very short today), we see all the horses and chariots of Egypt pursing the children of Israel. Pharaoh’s cavalry and army overtakes Israel as they are camped by the sea, and when the people see them, they begin to cry out against Moses. “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt? Did you have to bring us out to the desert to die? We told you to leave us alone, so why didn’t you just let us stay slaves?”

Arghh! If I was Moses, I think I would have been so frustrated, I might have asked if they wanted a little cheese with that whine. After all, they were the ones who cried out when they were in slavery, and they were the ones who asked God to save them. God heard their cry, and the first thing He had Moses say to them was that He was sending Moses as a response to that cry. But now they’re accusing Moses as if it was all his idea and as if they had no part in the decision-making process.

But I understand, they are in great fear. Suddenly their hope at freedom has been deferred, and they have become heartsick. They think everything they’ve endured will end in death, so they’re thinking it might have been easier to keep their mouths shut and stay slaves. But God knew Pharaoh’s heart, and He knew things would have continuously gotten worse for His children, so He stepped in to save them. And Moses does not seem to be frustrated. Rather, he encourages them to stop being so fearful. He tells them to remain steady in their trust that Yahveh IS going to save them. He goes so far as to tell them that God is going to take care of things that very day, and that while they see the Egyptians now, it will be the last they see of them.

The last verse today has Moses telling the people that God will do the battle for them, so they can all calm down. Or, for other encouraging words, Moses could have used the keep calm, and carry on meme. Theirs would have been, “Keep calm, and let God carry on.”

January 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ready or Not (Ready)


Ready or Not by Flickr User Greg Westfall, CC License = Attribution

Ready or Not by Flickr User Greg Westfall, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab to access original image and user’s photo stream on Flickr.

So, if you’re one of those who stays up late, you might be wondering why you didn’t see the blog before midnight. First, I was out at a wonderful planning meeting for the next year in our Christian writer’s group, Louisville Christian Writers. Well, the meeting didn’t go that long, but it was followed by the kind of fellowship that makes you wonder why everyone doesn’t get how great it is to be a Christian. But then, it’s those times when we visit with friends who cherish the presence of God the way we do that help us get through those times that make it a bit harder to be a Christian.

Anyway, I’m going to change the time of this to show a post by 11:59pm on January 11th, just so it will archive correctly. But so it doesn’t look like a lie, here’s my confession. After getting home at 5 til midnight, I forgot for about 20 minutes. Then I was like “EEK, I forgot!” and quickly plugged in and started my laptop only to have it get part way and refuse to totally boot about three times. I finally got it going, and since then I have struggled with the picture to go with it. I wanted to use something about being battle ready, but no pics or videos really fit what today’s reading from Exodus 13:17 through Exodus 14:8 was really saying.

As our newest portion begins (Parashah 16, Hebrew B’shallach meaning After he had let go), God is leading the newly delivered Israelites away from the land of the Philistines because He thinks they may see war and turn around to go back to Egypt. Combining this with a few verses later where the Scripture says the people of Israel went up from Egypt fully armed, and then the last verse of today’s reading that says they went out boldly, I was thinking, “Boy, there are a lot of messages just in this.” But the one that really strikes me is that when God saves and delivers us, He gives us a full armor and His Spirit gives us the tools we need for boldness. Many people even start out going boldly to others to share what they have gained and from what they’ve been set free. Still, when we see things get tough, signs of war like God knew the Israelites would see in the land of the Philistines, do we consider going back into bondage just so we won’t have to fight?

As the reading progresses, we have Moses keeping his promise to carry the bones of Joseph, and we are told of the pillars of cloud and fire that follow Israel by day and by night to guide and protect them. And then God tells Israel to repent–literally. He tells them to turn around and backtrack, to go the opposite way they were traveling. But God does it for a purpose. He wants Pharaoh to think the children of Israel are lost and wandering in the desert so Pharaoh will come after them. And He plans to use that against Pharaoh and his armies to show Egypt that He, Yahveh, is truly the Lord.

Pharaoh fell for the trap and began to question why they were so stupid as to let their slaves go. Actually, it says Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart. Yeah, I guess as soon as they had to make their own cup of coffee, they were reconsidering the loss of all those obedient and subservient people. So Pharaoh prepared 600 of his chariots and his people plus all the other chariots in Egypt along with their commanders. And God made Pharaoh hard-hearted so he pursued Israel.

And so we come to an end with Israel leaving Egypt boldly but God knowing their hearts might shrink if they see war, so we can’t be sure if they were ready. And then we see Pharaoh following after Israel, also boldly, but for stupid reasons. And we know Pharaoh isn’t ready for what is to come, but he doesn’t know that yet. Ready or not, God’s got a plan, and He’s got a place within it for whosoever will make themselves ready to follow Him. Will that be you?

January 11, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From a Promise to a Messiah


With all the shorter readings earlier in the week, today’s reading from Genesis 19:21 through Genesis 21:4 was a bit longer. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on in the story until I got to verse 37 of the first chapter in the reading. But let me start with the background.

The angels have granted that Lot would not have to run to the hills where he was afraid to go and have allowed him to go to a small city called Zoar. But, after Lot got there with his daughters (minus his wife because she turned back toward the destruction and became a pillar of salt), he became afraid that somehow people might know that he had favor to escape God’s judgment and would try to kill him. He ran for the hills he tried to avoid.

While he was hiding there, his daughters decided that, since all their brothers were now incinerated, it was their job to carry on the family name. They got their father completely drunk, and both of them went to him to become pregnant without him knowing about it. This has never been my favorite story. I don’t like that kind of drunkenness, and I think it’s pretty gross for the daughters to even make that kind of decision. But then I learned something particularly interesting in verse 37. It says, “The older bore a son, and named him Moab [of a father]; he is the father of the Moabites to this day.”

So, why does it matter that the oldest daughter is the mother of the Moabites? Well, do you remember the sweet story of Ruth and Naomi? Ruth was a Moabitess. She had married one of Naomi’s sons and after becoming widowed, she chose to stay with her mother-in-law. This is where we get that oft-repeated “where you go, I will go” statement made between friends. But Ruth also told Naomi, “Your God will be my God.” And this is where it gets good.

In Matthew 1:5, in the New Testament account of the genealogy of Jesus, you’ll find Ruth in the lineage of our Messiah, Jesus. So, we start with Abraham whose belief is counted to him for such righteousness that God even has mercy on a nephew who lived in the midst of a vile city. Then, after Lot runs and his daughters engage in incest with him, a child from that unholy union produces a lineage that includes a daughter who goes from curse to blessing and finds herself carrying the grandfather of King David. It is a beautiful and amazing story of mercy and redemption, and it encourages me that even from destruction, fear, and debased situations, God can bring His Perfect Light out from the midst of darkness. Wow!

October 22, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Good Gifts Go Bad


The last half of today’s reading from Genesis 11:1-32 is the genealogy of Shem, the oldest son of Noah. But before we get to that point, we get to hear a story about good gifts being used for the wrong purposes. The key verse here is Genesis 11:4 where it says, “Then they said, ‘Come, let’s build ourselves a city with a tower that has its top reaching up into heaven, so that we can make a name for ourselves and not be scattered all over the earth.’ ” The rest of the story is the familiar tale of “The Tower of Babel” (aka “The Tower of Confusion”) where God confused their languages, so they could no longer work together to create things for their own name.

In this story, God has given men the whole earth and all they need to create a life for themselves. He has given them language to communicate with each other. He has given them bricks and mortar to build shelters for themselves. He was their Ultimate Provider then just as He is our Ultimate Provider now. But they forgot that even when they had to work for something, It was God who created the ability to work and the products to work with or from.

With all those gifts, including the gift of unity that was so strong even God said it could make nothing impossible for those who worked together, where do you hear any words of praise echoed to God, or any thoughts of working with His will or plans? You don’t. Instead, these men took God’s provisions as their own, built with them according to their own will, and then used them to make a name for themselves as if it were all their own from start to finish. They forgot that God is the Author and Finisher. They failed to realize that unless The Lord builds the house, all labor is in vain. (See Psalm 127:1.) They allowed the fear of being scattered to overtake them rather than asking God where He would have them to go. They let all the good gifts of God end up being used for selfish, prideful, fearful, and other bad reasons.

Today, there are many gifted people doing the same with the gifts God has given them. They become haughty and act as if the world cannot live without their gift of entertainment or prophecy. If something they have to offer is that important, it’s even more important that they keep it in line with God’s perfect will. Even our faith must be an act of obedience, so if we’re obeying our Creator, where do we get bragging rights? I pray frequently that God will keep me in check when someone positively comments on something I have done–be it singing and writing or helping and encouraging. I know I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me, and I also know I can do nothing apart from Him. I know that, even when I am doing His will and accomplishing things through Him, it is only by His grace. According to His word, even my desire to serve Him is from Him. Philippians 2:13 in the Easy-To-Read version states it this way: Yes, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases him, and he gives you the power to do it. So, there is nothing to boast in except Him. May we always keep that perspective that none of the wonderful gifts He pours out on us will go bad.

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Proverbs 1 – When Wisdom Comes Calling


From https://www.youversion.com/bible/1/pro.1.kjv (Using KJV for quotes because it’s public domain)…

23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
24 Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;
25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;
27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.
28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:
29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord:
30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.
31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.
32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.
33 But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

GOD’S WAY JUST WORKS–IT REALLY DOES

The Message Bible calls the Proverbs “A Manual for Living.” And it can be that for anyone who is willing to apply it. Wisdom in this book is in the feminine which is also the way much of Scripture related to the Holy Spirit is written. You could say it’s the “mothering” side of Our Creator. While Daddy is making the rules, Mom is explaining to us why it is in our best interest to follow them. It’s a picture of the wholeness of God’s love for us if ever I’ve seen one.

So what about those harsh-sounding warnings of laughter in the face of our trials? I used to think that was so cruel to even think God would laugh at me and mock when my fear came upon me. It was even worse to think He would not be there for me when I called upon Him. But through much study, I’ve found this is referring to the spirit of wisdom. In a brief thought, it is simply saying, “Because you didn’t listen to wisdom to keep yourself out of a big mess, you’re gonna be laying there crying, ‘I don’t know what to do, now,’ and you won’t be able to find the right answer.”

God’s mercy is new every morning, and He gets us out of a lot of self-inflicted bondage, but He’s not in the business of going around plucking us out of every entanglement we get ourselves into. If we’ve learned the fire is hot and we stick a hand in it anyway, He’s not going to stop it from burning us. If we knew from the wisdom in the depths of our souls that getting involved with the good-looker that has caught our attention, and then we end up brokenhearted like others who followed the same trail before we did, Wisdom will say, “What made you think that the same thing would not happen to you?”

So, today, let’s heed what this passage brings to us. Let’s put God in the proper place in our lives, on His throne and above us as Lord of our whole lives, and then listen when He speaks. Whether He speaks through our hearts, through His written word, or through others He brings on our paths to lead us, let’s have the fear (respect) that will cause us to listen to His wisdom like a child listens to his nurturing mother. When we do that, we have the promise that ends this chapter. As Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, “First pay attention to me, and then relax. Now you can take it easy—you’re in good hands.”

January 2, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Proverbs & Wisdom | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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