Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

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

This Time, I Will Praise God


SPOILER ALERT! FIRST, read today’s commentary before you watch the video! This is the video I promised I would look for back when I told you this story was upcoming. It’s by my favorite parody group, ApologetiX, and this is their official video for the song, “Downer of a Sister” which is a parody of the song “Chop Suey” by System of a Down. If you would like to read the lyrics and learn more about this amazing band who writes and sings Christian parodies of songs from a variety of genres, visit this song’s lyrics page on their site at http://apologetix.com/music/song.php?freebie=true%20&song_id=383 Once you watch the video, I would love to hear your thoughts about this song, and other ApologetiX songs you may have listened to, in the comments below. Thanks.

Now, today’s reading comes from Genesis 29:18 through Genesis 30:18, and it continues the story of Jacob’s love for Rachael. Jacob loved Rachael so much that when Laban asked him to work for seven years in order to have her as his wife, he worked happily and said the years were like only a few days. And then the wedding and feast were set in order.

On the wedding night, Laban snuck in Leah because she was the first born, and Jacob did not know until the next morning that he had slept with (and therefore married) the wrong sister. He was angry at Laban, but Laban explained it was just the way they did things. He promised he would give him Rachael at the end of the marriage week if Jacob would promise to stay and work for another seven years. He wanted Rachael enough that he agreed to the request.

When he took Rachael as his wife, he was much more in love with her. Yahveh Almighty saw that Leah was unloved, so he made her fertile and Rachael unable to bear children. Leah bore 4 sons to Jacob before she gave birth no more, and each time she was certain that having the children would cause her husband to love her. She named her first three sons Reuben (see, a son), Simeon (God hears), and Levi (companion). But when she had a fourth son, she turned her praise toward God instead of hoping that her husband would love her, so she named him Judah, meaning praise.

Rachael was still infertile, so she gave her handmaiden to Jacob who bore him two more sons, Dan (he judged) and Naphtali (my wrestling). Leah, unfortunately still struggling to feel loved, then gave her own handmaiden to Jacob who also bore him two sons, Gad (fortune) and Asher (happy).

I truly feel compassion for both of these women. I am sad for Leah in feeling unloved, and having plenty of experiences to push her to feeling that way. I wish, for her sake, that she would have been able to have a relationship with God the way people these days are able to, with His Spirit of Comfort able to dwell within us, but somehow, she did know that it was God who was hearing her needs, and that is why she named her children as she did. I think when she named the last one Judah, she was giving praise directly to God, and maybe that’s why the lineage of our Messiah comes through that one.

I also felt bad for Rachael because of being childless. I know that feeling from my own childlessness. I know there is comfort in having children by proxy, and I love the nephews I was privileged to raise for a few years from the depths of my heart–even when they have hurt me. But I also know that there is a part of me that will always wonder what it would have felt like to have known a maternal bond from conception and birth. And yet, as Leah when she had her fourth child, I can still say, I will praise God.

Oh, and just to keep with the NaNo updating, my word count today is 22,731

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

Feminine Wiles


Protected Beauty by Crystal A Murray

Protected Beauty by Crystal A Murray
With 1 Corinthians 1:18 Encouragement
Click on image for Flickr page and more.

We have a slightly longer reading today from Genesis 26:30 through Genesis 27:27. It begins where yesterday left off with Abimelech spending the night and being blessed by Isaac. They all made a commitment to treating each other with blessings from that point forward, and while they were making the agreement, Isaac’s servants came to report the digging of a new well. Isaac named the well Beersheba, which meant “Well of the Oath.”

The end of Chapter 26 tells us that Esau was now 40 years old, and that he married two women that grieved his parents. Very shortly afterwards, Isaac began to realize that his time on earth was coming to an end, and he knew it was time to pass the blessing of the firstborn to Esau. He asked Esau to go out and hunt for his favorite game and bring it back for him to eat, so he could spend some time with him and give him the blessing that was due him as the firstborn. And, yes, that is the blessing that he gave up for a bowl of stew.

Now, we’re not told if Esau confessed his foolish trade, and we’re never told whether Jacob shared that information with his mother or father, but I’m thinking he at least shared it with Rebekah. And I’m thinking that is why Rebekah decided to use her feminine wiles and have a hand in how the blessings were dispersed. She overheard the plans between Isaac and Esau, so she made secretive plans with Jacob on how to trick his aging father who was almost blind.

In a quick summary, Rebecca had Jacob get some goats from the field, and she prepared them to taste like the game that Esau normally prepared for him. Then, she took the skins from the goats and put them on Jacob’s hands and on his neck. After that, she placed some of Esau’s clothes on him, so he would have the scent of his brother. When Jacob went in to present his father with the food, Isaac thought the voice sounded like Jacob, but through touching his skin and smelling the clothes, Isaac was mostly convinced that he was indeed talking with his eldest son. The rest of the story should be in tomorrow’s reading.

I’m mostly certain that at least some of you readers have had the experience of giving from your heart to someone who was ungrateful and who did not value your gift or gifts. And it’s likely also true that each of you has given to someone who was grateful and made you feel wonderful in your giving. Giving to a grateful receiver is far more enjoyable than giving to a taker or is demanding or thinks he or she deserves what you have to give. Even God makes His salvation to whosoever will because it just feels better to give to someone who humbly receives and values a gift.

I know the plan between Rebekah and Jacob seems a bit unfair to Esau, but I have to wonder if God did not set all this up with allowing Rebecca to hear the plans, with keeping Esau in the field just long enough, and with making sure that the blessings were given to the one whose heart was closest to God. I believe Jacob was closer because of Esau’s lack of respect for the birthright, because of Esau’s marriage that grieved his parents, and because of verse 20 where Jacob, imitating Esau, makes the following statement: Adonai your God made it happen that way. I think this statement shows that Esau did not believe in or respect Yahveh the same as his parents or his brother. And I believe God wanted the birthright blessings that would affect the whole future of Abraham’s descendants to be given to the one who most valued and respected them.  We will learn later just what it meant for Jacob to carry the birthright into the future.

P.S. NaNo words today hit 14,888, but I’m running out of story, so I’ll gladly take prayers for some more creative ideas. Thanks.

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When A Lie is Not A Lie


Stories like the one in today’s reading from Genesis 12:14 through Genesis 13:4 may be one of the reasons why our court system has testifiers agree to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” In this story, Abram has decided that his wife Sarai’s beauty could cost him his life, so he falls back on the fact that she is his half-sister. He has her tell the Egyptians that she is Abram’s sister and conveniently leave out the part about her being married to him. They pay him handsomely for sharing his “sister” with them, and they don’t question it until plagues hit their household. Somehow, I guess the word has already gotten around that you don’t mess with the things of God Almighty because they knew what was causing their plagues, and they immediately released Sarai to Abram and sent them both safely on their way with many blessings.

For me, the idea of telling a half truth, even for a good cause, is difficult. I am honest to a fault, and I have to find a reason and a justification before I can agree to something like what was cooked up between Abram and Sarai. I actually felt bad for the Egyptians and what they had to go through as a result of this half-lie. But as I study it and other Scriptures, I can see that there are times when the “letter of the law” is less important than the “spirit of the law.” For example, if you tell someone that you have plans that don’t include celebrating their birthday because you actually want to surprise that person with a party, in the letter of the law, you’ve told a lie. But in the spirit of the law, you were not leaving out truth for the purpose of hurting someone, so it wasn’t truly a lie. For the Egyptians, if they truly served God Almighty, Abram wouldn’t even have had to fear they would take his life just to take his wife for themselves. If they served the True God, and if they were God-minded and not self-centered pleasure seekers, they would have known to pray about everything rather than just thinking they could take something simply because they desired it.

It’s not always easy to know when to lean on the spirit of the law over the letter, but there are a few other biblical examples of it…

In 1 Samuel 21, King David acts like he is insane.

In Joel 3:10, the weak are to say they are strong.

There’s even a story where a prophet has to get beaten to look like he has been attacked before arriving at a particular city.

All of these things point to the same issue–do not speak lies or truth with the purpose of hurting others. Search your heart and pray before you speak at all times. Commit your ways to God, and from there, He will establish your thoughts, and thereby your words. Walk in the spirit of the law, and you’re less likely to violate the letter of the law unless there is just no other way around it.

October 13, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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