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A Tale of Two Mountains


Geography of The Holy Land from The Internet Archive on Flickr--No Known Copyright Issues

Geography of The Holy Land from The Internet Archive on Flickr–No Known Copyright Issues
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You know the old idea of having a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, and then having to choose which one’s voice you will listen to? Well, I think it comes from two mountains in Israel. The two mountain, Gerizim and Ebal are twin mountains on the two sides of the Shechem Valley. Supposedly, they create a natural amphitheater, and you can hear what is said on one mountain from the other, and you can hear from both when you’re in the valley. The valley is located in what is present day Samaria.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 27:11 through Deuteronomy 28:6, we will read of the blessings and the curses shouted over Israel from these two mountain tops. The passage begins with Moses commissioning which six tribes will stand on Mount Gerizim and which six will stand on Mount Ebal. From there, the Levites will shout the curses and blessings of God over the people of Israel.

As the curses are shouted, each is to be followed by a loud Amen from all the people. The curses include…

  • Anyone who makes a carved or metal image, something God detests, and sets it up in secret. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who dishonors his father or mother. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who moves his neighbor’s boundary marker. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who causes a blind person to lose his way on the road. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who interferes with justice for the orphan, foreigner, or widow. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who has sex with his father’s wife, his sister, his mother-in-law, or any kind of animal. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who secretly attacks a fellow member of the community. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person. (People say, “Amen.”) And,
  • Anyone who does not confirm the words of The Torah by putting them into practice. (People say, “Amen.”)

At the chapter change, Moses promises that if the people listen to what God says, observing and obeying all of God’s commands, will receive blessings that include God raising them up above all nations on earth. The following blessings will be given in abundance to whomever does what The Lord says…

  • A blessing in the city, and a blessing in the countryside.
  • A blessing on the fruit of the body, the land, livestock, and young of cattle and flocks.
  • A blessing on the grain basket and the kneading bowl. And,
  • A blessing on going out, and a blessing on coming in.

I find it interesting that God insists on a shout of “Amen” (so be it) on each of the curses but not on the blessings. I think it’s because He wants to freely bless His people, but He doesn’t want to issue curses, so He wants to be sure the people clearly understand what will bring curses upon them. The people themselves will dwell between the mountains of blessings and cursings, which is symbolic of being in the middle of good and evil and having to choose who and what we will serve.

As for me and my house, we will serve The Lord. What kind of choice will you make when you are between two mountains?

September 3, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Battle in Clay


I know some things may seem to just be things, but I am one of those who believes that everything and everyone has a purpose. In today’s reading from Genesis 14, verses 1 through 20, we find a battle among kings. Five kings to four kings to be exact. And if you want to read all their names and such, just click the link since The Complete Jewish Bible has them listed mostly phonetically. Anyway, in this battle of kings, they are fighting in a valley filled with clay pits where many fall in.

When I read of clay in the Scriptures, I always think of the flesh. So, here are a bunch of kings (people with authority–some to do good and some to do evil) fighting not to fall into clay pits (flesh). And I don’t think it’s just chance that this valley is near the Dead Sea. The evil kings have kidnapped Lot, the nephew of Abram who we introduced in yesterday’s reading. Abram calls on those born and trained in his own household to go out to battle with him and rescue that which belongs to him (Lot) who is likely in the valley of pits himself. They succeed and bring back Lot, his possessions, and all the women and children that were taken with him.

Not only is this a battle with which most who serve God and reject the flesh are acquainted, it ends with the kind of victory most of us seek. They get help from like-minded soldiers, and they take back what the enemy has stolen. When it is all said and done, Abram goes to meet the King of Salem (later called Jerusalem), aka King of Peace, and the King, Melchizedek, blesses him. When we get victories over the flesh, we praise God for His mercy and deliverance, and since Melchizedek was a high priest for God, it was a similar action. As part of their meeting, they shared bread and wine, and at the close, Abram gave the first recorded tithe (tenth) I’ve read about.

So next time you feel like you are in a valley of pits, gather some prayer warriors and fight to win. Scripture tells us that we have more who stand on our side than we have who stand against us. It also says that He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world. We can win in our battles if we open our eyes and take care not to fall into the pits of flesh. Oh, and when we win, we can offer our praises to Christ our King of Peace.

And here’s a nice chorus about the subject from the song, He Brought Me Out of the Miry Clay

He brought me out of the miry clay,
He set my feet on the Rock to stay;
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, hallelujah!

Also, if you’d like to read some interesting information about the connection between Melchizedek and Jesus, check out an article from Hebrew for Christians where you can also find more commentary on this Torah portion.

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Only Evil Continually


I mentioned one of today’s verses in a previous post when I talked about it being strife for God to dwell within man because of our flesh. To clarify, it is because of the evil of our flesh using the definition of evil to mean “minus God.” The whole of today’s reading is from Genesis 5:25 through Genesis 6:8, and it tells about the multiplication of mankind which includes the multiplication of evil because of the sheer abundance of flesh.

While I’m not sure what is meant here by the “sons of God” vs. the “daughters of men,” I wonder if God created more men from “scratch” than just Adam. And then in chapter 6, verse 3, God says, “My Spirit will not live in human beings forever, for they too are flesh.” I think it’s talking about the “oil and water” mix of flesh that yields evil and God’s Spirit that yields good.

In verse 5, we find that men are filled with wickedness and that all the imaginings of the hearts of mankind are of evil only. The King James Version states it as that their thoughts were “only evil continually.”

Some years ago, I was told that the truest definition of evil is, as I mentioned above, “minus God.” Another statement I read states that evil is a living thing with all of its molecules flowing in a direction that is opposite God. That makes sense when compared to Genesis 8:21 where it says that men’s thoughts are inclined toward evil from their childhood. The flesh by itself is minus God. So, while wickedness is not the definition of evil, it is caused by evil; by those whose thoughts are always in and on the flesh instead of in and on God.

So in chapter 6, we read that it was a constant state of mind–always thinking of self and never thinking of God. In the new testament, in Luke 17:26-27, we read that in the days when Christ returns, things will be just like they were here in Chapter 6. And the thing is, that doesn’t just mean what we would consider to be wicked men. The idea of men thinking more of themselves than thinking of God happens plenty with “the church” as well. When men pray, worship, preach, etc., just to be noticed, they’re thinking of themselves. When men think more about what they can get from God instead of what they can give to Him, they too are thinking of themselves. And when men worship the creation more than the Creator, well, that’s definitely thinking of self.

I asked someone one time, after they told me about an altar call where almost every person in the congregation went forward, “Would the same number of people move to the altar if the preacher asked how many wanted to give something to God as did when he called to everyone who wanted to receive something special?” The thought that fewer are willing to give than receive grieves me because I feel that God is worth more than a “genie in a magic lamp.” If the last thing we received from God was our salvation, it’s still deliverance from eternal death, and that makes it worth more than anything else–especially considering that it is a gift of God’s love to us.

I desire to worship God for who He is more than for what He does. I believe that will keep my thoughts from resting in the thoughts of the flesh, whether those thoughts lead to wickedness or just self-centeredness. For those who are followers of Christ, I find this perfectly summed up by author Chip Brogden from The School of Christ, in the following statement: “What is greater than the work of the Lord? It is, the Lord of the work.” May we always keep it in this perspective.

October 4, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merciful God from the Beginning


Not only was I out and about after reading today’s portion from Genesis 3:22 through 4:26 (end of chapter 4), I was driving, so I couldn’t do the entry from my phone app as I intended to do on days when I’m running. I just got home and looked at the clock, so time is short, which means I’ll have to keep this short. But I’m determined to make my best effort to write every day.

Yesterday, the Scripture ended with man and woman knowing they were naked and sewing fig leaves together to cover themselves. And then God shed the first blood to cover them completely. It was only after I began studying the Hebrew roots of my faith and falling in love with the old testament that I saw God in a new and merciful light, and this is the first place I saw Him that way. I had always believed in God as the “Big Meanie” in the old testament who got nice when He robed Himself in flesh in the new testament. But now, I see Him wanting to visit with Adam and Eve, and feeling pain because of the sin that has now divided them. Scripture says that for God, associating with the flesh is “strife” ( see Genesis 6:3), and He will not have it that way forever.

So, here is God with the new creation, the ones He called “very good,” and it’s hurting Him to even visit with them. What does He do? He causes Himself a bit more pain by slaying yet another of that which He has created, so the blood can temporarily cover the sin and allow Him to fellowship with them once more. I believe He hurt over killing that animal even more than most animal lovers would hurt. I don’t think it was a small thing for Him with that sacrifice or any sacrifice He demanded later. But it was a necessary sacrifice in order for God to participate in the lives of those He made in His very own image.

As this reading begins, we have God setting up angels to guard the “Tree of Life” to make sure that mankind cannot touch it and eat and live forever. That is a huge act of mercy because had they eaten from that tree after being in the sinful state caused by their eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would have been doomed to live in that terrible state forever. Imagine having a front row seat to all the darkness and evil in the world and having to sit and watch it forever. That would have been their fate if God had not intervened with His mercy. Yahveh God purposely caused the knowledge of evil to shorten their lives, so they would not have to live forever in hopelessness. Not only is that a great mercy from Him, it is still only the beginning of what He would do to give hope and a future to those who love Him. Amazing!

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fall Before the Fall


Today’s reading comes from Genesis 2:4 through Genesis 3:21. As usual, there is so much I could comment on, from God Himself breathing the breath of life into the first man, to the heavenly garden in Eden where mankind could eat fruit planted by His Creator, to man and wife being as one flesh. But I’d like to focus on the verses from 3:1 through 3:6.

So imagine Adam & and his new companion walking along a path and just enjoying the beautiful creation that surrounded them. Somehow, they end up right in front of the one tree of which they are not to partake. A voice comes from a serpent also hanging around this very tree. (Of course, this makes me wonder if all the animals talked since neither the man or woman seemed to have been surprised to be conversing with a snake.) And the first thing the snake does is challenge their Creator on whether He is a good provider. My translation: The serpent asked, “Hey, you people, did God say you could not eat from EVERY tree in the garden?

Wait a minute–ONE tree vs EVERY tree? That lying snake was trying to make the one forbidden tree look like it was of more value than all the other trees put together. The focus was shifted from all they did have to the one little thing they didn’t have. And that’s not a new trick. I think it contributes to much of the depression in today’s world. Sure, I’d love to live a cushy life where all my big desires are covered with plenty to spare. But I have the blessing of remembering times when I’ve had less, so those memories often bring me back to a place of gratefulness. The newly created couple didn’t have that to lean on, so all they could do is imagine that maybe they were missing out on something.

Next, the woman restated the rule of the tree of knowledge. Now, it could be that God said more to them with the first given orders, but if not, I’m wondering why the woman enhanced God’s words and added the part about not touching the tree. Did she fill herself with extreme fear to make sure she stayed on the straight and narrow? Or, maybe the law was spoken to Adam, and in his overly zealous desire to protect his wife from disobedience, he told her that she was not only to avoid eating it but also to avoid touching it. (Kinda like when parents tell their kids things like, “If you keep doing that, it’ll stay that way forever.”) Unfortunately, even strong warnings of never and forever don’t always work, and the fear of discipline in front of the woman was not enough to stop her from listening to the next lie.

So, in verse 4, the serpent flat-out calls God a liar. The husband is standing there, (we see that in verse 6), but he doesn’t seem to be getting defensive about all these lies. I wonder why he wasn’t shouting, “Come on, Honey, let’s get out of here. This little wimp has challenged our Creator on His ability to care for us, and now he’s calling Him a liar! We don’t need to hear anything else that snake has to say.” But they just stood there and listened, and the lying words started sinking in.

Now the woman takes a more deliberate look at the tree and begins a thinking process that has gotten man into trouble ever since. 1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” Now look at the thoughts it says were going through the woman’s mind: When the woman saw the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree to desirable to make one wise (pride of life), she was enticed. She imagined trying to BE like God rather than to SERVE her Creator, and in that, she imitated the very thoughts that got the voice behind the lying serpent thrown out of the Heavenlies in the first place. This was the fall before the fall. Before she even partook of the forbidden fruit, she engaged in evil thoughts and let the flesh win. And because her husband did not challenge the lying voice, she took him down with her.

But I do not want to stop here with hopelessness. It is evident that sin is something born into the flesh from its inception, or she would not have been able to sin in her mind before acting on her thoughts. But knowing this gives us a way to fight when those same thoughts try to bombard our minds. And even better, we are told in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” How was Yahshua (Jesus) tempted on all points? In Luke 4:1-13, we read of “the temptation in the wilderness.” The temptations included the lust of the flesh (turn these stones to bread), the lust of the eyes (look at all the kingdoms I can give you), and the pride of life (cast yourself down and make a show of the angels not letting you fall). He was truly tempted in EVERY way we can be tempted, and thus continually delivers us from what started with a liar at the beginning of creation.

October 1, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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