Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

God’s Joy in Giving Us Free Will


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait Control


Wait for the Lord by Flickr User Charlotte90T, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Wait for the Lord by Flickr User Charlotte90T, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, 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.

Today, my husband asked me to wait on a decision that will affect our future, and my initial reaction was rejection. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it, but I don’t like to wait. And then I read my daily post by Chip Brogden of The School of Christ. His Infinite Supply daily newsletter usually has something in it that I need, and today was no exception. He talks about the disciples fishing without first consulting The Lord, and then obeying at His word and taking in a huge catch. In Chip’s devotion for October 12th, he asks, “Which would you rather have: a whole night of wasted effort on your own, or five minutes of abundance with the Lord?”

I don’t think many of us actually like to wait, but the truth is, life is more about waiting than anything else. When we’re little, we can’t wait to become a teenager, turn sweet 16, become an adult, and all the other steps of growing up. Throughout life, we get excited and can’t wait for things like birthdays, Christmas presents, and vacations. When it’s cold, we can’t wait for spring and summer. On hot summer days, we can’t wait for the cool breezes of fall. If we’re renters, we can’t wait to buy a house. If we have a mortgage, we can’t wait to pay off our house. Cradle to grave, I think more of our lives are spent waiting than just about anything else.

But waiting can be a good thing. It’s all in how we do it. If we actively wait with anticipation, we can find joy in our waiting. There’s a thrill in anticipation that is often better than the feelings we get when we receive the thing being anticipated. It’s like that hopeful place half way through a novel when you really start wondering how it’s going to end. If it’s a well-written work, we’d miss out if we just flipped to the end right then.

Waiting gives us the opportunity to dream and to plan. We can imagine how we would like things to go, and then can do whatever is in our power to push them in that direction. It’s a chance to view the virtual draft of our plans and see if things will actually work. Waiting can be a gift. The words of Psalm 5:3 (from the Amplified Bible) put it this way…

In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare [a prayer, a sacrifice] for You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart].

That time for preparation is a gift that can save a lot of future heartbreak. It gives us time to know what we’re getting into, so we don’t blindly walk into something that turns out to be a huge mistake. The Message Bible describes Luke 14:28-30 this way…

Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: “He started something he couldn’t finish.”

Waiting doesn’t just mean standing around and doing nothing, so we don’t have to worry about being bored just because we should wait. Waiting can be a time of service as we walk humbly before God and seek His perfect will in our lives. I mean, think about what they call those people who bring food to your table at a restaurant: waiters and waitresses. They’re not just called that because they spend time waiting for you to place an order and then waiting for a cook to fix it. They offer plenty of service throughout your visit, and that service often makes the difference in whether you will return.

So, like we’re told in Luke 19:13, we should make use of what God gives us while we are here in this life until He returns for us or for all the earth. But, while we are making use of our lives, we need those moments where we stop and wait. We wait and pray. We wait for marching orders. We wait for a sign to move forward. Like the childhood game of Red Light, Green Light, we make sure we wait long enough to know it’s time to go, and then we watch carefully to know when it’s time to stop. The balance of knowing when and how to wait, and finding the joy of anticipation on the journey, can definitely be called “wait control.”

October 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Devotion, Nonfiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Harvest of Joy


David and Crystal's Harvest of Joy--1st Garden, Summer 2014, Dutch Street, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

David and Crystal’s Harvest of Joy–1st Garden, Summer 2014, Dutch Street, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

When I was a child, I helped my grandparents with a few garden plants, but the only one I grew on my own was the peanut plant inside the house. It wasn’t until this year, my fiftieth year of life, that I actually knew the joy of harvesting food from my own garden. I’ve been excited to share it with others, too. Somehow, I get this feeling from growing my food from a seed or small plant that feels like God grew a treasure just for me. And then I look at the seeds and how these wonderful foods provide what we need to regrow them right there inside. The whole thing has really amazed me. It’s hard to tell in the pictures, but the zucchini grew so huge that I cut one in big slices and had a friend grill the slices. Then, I put a slice on a hamburger bun and added all the usual condiments and toppings. I was surprised at how much it tasted like a grilled hamburger.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 26:1 through Deuteronomy 26:11, we begin a new week and a new portion. Parashah 50 is called Ki Tavo in Hebrew and means “When You Come” in English. Moses talks all about the harvests in the new land of Israel’s inheritance, and he tells them what to do with the first fruits of their harvests. Moses tells the Israelites to put their first fruits in a basket and go to the place God has instructed to keep His name (the temple). They will present their basket to the priest who will place it before the altar of God.

After the basket is sitting at the altar, the presenter will recite the history of his ancestors as they came to Egypt few in number and left as a great nation. He will tell about their slavery and how God delivered them with strength and with signs and wonders. He will then lift up a praise that talks of how God has brought them to this new land as he speaks of that being the reason he is able to bring the first fruits of his harvest to the priest and to God. As he places his basket before God, he will bow down on his face and take joy in his harvest. Here’s how verses 10 & 11 read in the New Living Testament…

And now, O Lord, I have brought you the first portion of the harvest you have given me from the ground.’ Then place the produce before the Lord your God, and bow to the ground in worship before him. Afterward you may go and celebrate because of all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. Remember to include the Levites and the foreigners living among you in the celebration.

The Complete Jewish Bible uses “take joy” where the NLT says “go and celebrate,” but both are true. And I love that God has passed along to His people that He wants them to take joy and celebrate the bounty that He has given them. Part of the celebration includes sharing with the priest, sharing with neighbors, and enjoying some of first fruits themselves. God was generous with Israel every step of the way, and He is generous with us each step of the way as well.

While we can bring first fruits to our church representatives now, in the form of tithe, we have another harvest that will bring us even more joy. I don’t know about you, but I never got to share and partake of my tithe, so this harvest is the one that I can see true joy within. Yeshua told the disciples that the fields were white and ripe for harvest, but there were not enough disciples to work the fields. Those ripe fields are still with us, and we are the disciples who are needed for the harvest now. It may seem hard at times to just speak out about God, but if you remember the power of your own testimony of salvation, you can tell it to others and use it to draw them in. When they come in, you will reap a harvest of joy, and you will celebrate.

In the meantime, here’s another old favorite song about that harvest of joy from God’s perspective. The song is originally by Lanny Wolfe, and it is called My House is Full… (Plus, this one has beautiful images behind it)…

August 30, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Wandering Kings–A Fun Story with Christmas Carols and Songs


Merry Christmas, Everyone. Here’s a fun story as my gift to all of you. I wrote it as a challenge for our local writer’s group. I’ve also included it as an attachment at the end in case anyone would like to download and/or print it. Enjoy…

Christmas Graphic

THREE WANDERING KINGS

(by Crystal A Murray)

We three kings knew we had a long journey ahead. We started on a silent night, but it turned out that many joined us along the way. We happened upon Good King Wenceslas, who asked us where we were going. Since we weren’t exactly sure yet (at this point we were just following the yonder star), I just hem-hawed around and finally answered, “Oh…little town of Bethlehem, I reckon.”

We continued on down the road when one of our road mates stopped and said, “Do you hear what I hear?

I answered, “Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel; tell us what you heard.”

And then Melchior spoke up and said, “I didn’t hear anything, but I saw three ships come sailing in as we passed the harbor.”

“If you already saw the ships,” I said, “then it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

“Well then,” said Melchior, “go tell it on the mountain, so everyone will know!”

“But who will tell Grandma?” asked one of our younger travelers.

“We will,” announced a group of teens who had joined us. As they ran out of sight, I heard them singing what sounded like, Hi ho, hi ho, to Grandmother’s house we go. It reminded me so much of my childhood that I could practically see our old homestead decked out with the holly and the ivy, and I could smell the chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Oh those memories of days spent rockin’ around the Christmas tree were so wonderful. I hate that it all had to end when Grandma got run over by a reindeer.

I was almost crying when someone broke into my thoughts. “I think I just heard the silver bells.”

“You mean you heard dinner bells,” I joked because I knew we were all starting to get hungry. Never-the-less, we trudged along until it dawned on us–well, it wasn’t morning yet, so no dawn, but it came upon the midnight clear that the star was leading us to a barn in the middle of a field.

As we approached the barn, someone shouted, “Bring a torch, Jeanette Isabella,” and we all sprang forward to view the baby who had been tucked away in a manger. At that, the little drummer boy who was traveling with us began to play a special tune that sounded more like sleigh bells or jingle bells than a drum. (I don’t know how he did that.) Anyway, it was magical and made me wonder, what child is this that can turn even the sound from a child’s toy into such beautiful orchestration. And that’s when I heard the bells on Christmas day, and then we all exclaimed together, “Oh holy night!” Continue reading

December 25, 2013 Posted by | Fiction, Humor | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Weeping May Endure for a Fortnight


Sunrise by Sean MacEntee CC License = Attribution

Sunrise by Flickr user Sean MacEntee.
Click image to view original and to access this photographer’s full photostream.

For those who love trivia like I do, here’s an FYI for you. A fortnight is two weeks. So, weeping may endure for two weeks, or for two years, or for two generations, but since a thousand years is as a day with God, the important thing to remember is that whenever morning comes, joy will come with it. (See Psalm 30:5 for the exact Scripture.)

For Joseph and his brothers and their father, the weeping went on for a long time. In today’s reading from Genesis 45:19 through Genesis 45:27, Joseph is telling his brothers to load up their carts and donkeys with an abundance of provision for their journey back to Canaan. He also says he wants to make sure that there will be enough provision for their father to have bread as he makes the return journey with them. Of course, while he also gave each of his brothers a new set of clothing, he gave Benjamin seven sets of new clothing and even more provisions. I think he was happy to be reunited with his brother, don’t you? And finally, when he sent them on their way, he reminded them not to quarrel on their way back home. They were brothers after all.

When they arrived back home, the first thing they did was to tell their father that Joseph was alive. Obviously, he was reluctant to believe such good news. He had become accustomed to living in the grief of his son’s death. They told him Joseph was not only alive, but that he was also a ruler in Egypt. Even when they told him all that had transpired during their visit there, Jacob was afraid to believe such good news. The last verse says that it was only when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him back to Egypt that Jacob’s spirit began to revive.

God knows just how much good news means to His children. There is an abundance of Scripture that talks about things of hope and good news. Even the word for spreading the truth of God’s love for us and salvation through Yahshua, gospel, means “Good News.” Since we are in the season of celebration of Christ’s birth, may we remember that the purpose of that birth was to bring the hope (and good news) of salvation to the whole world; to whoever would desire it and seek it. And while weeping of earthly measure may last for a night or longer, we have the hope that joy will come in the morning, and someday, it will last for eternity.

December 10, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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