Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church

Daily Photo Parable -  April 2013

Thanks to all the photographers who have kindly accepted my invitation to provide their photos and commentary. Here's the schedule of those whose excellent, thought-provoking and encouraging work you'll be seeing, and when: SUNDAY--Bev Riter; MONDAY--Cheryl Boardman; TUESDAY--Robert Howson; WEDNESDAY--Darren Milam. I handle Thursday, Friday and Sabbath, generally using photos from the point-and-shoot camera I keep on my belt.-- Pastor Maylan Schurch

NOTE: To see previous photos from this current month, simply scroll down. To see previous months' blogs, click the month you want on the menu at the left.

Victoria Crowned Pigeon
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 30, 2013

He would have been a good candidate for Gideon’s army. The analogy isn’t perfect, but bear with me. You remember the story from Judges 6 where this charismatic leader has gathered a good-sized army to combat their traditional rivals, the Midianites. This nation was comprised of descendants from Midian, the son of Abraham and Keturah and lived east of the Jordan River. East that is, except when they were conducting trade, or as often occurred during the time of the Judges, making raids on the Israelites. Earlier on they were referred to as Ishmaelites, as in the story where Joseph was sold into slavery for twenty pieces of silver.

It sometimes seems no problems can be greater than family problems; at least that was what Gideon was tempted to think. With the impending threat of invasion, Gideon did what any other good general would do, he recruited troops. Remember, at this time the single most important factor in considering the strength of the opposition was the number of soldiers at hand. God had different plans so 22,000 men were sent home, more than two thirds of his fighting force.

And it’s at this point we encounter the crossing of the stream story with the accompanying water test. I confess, I’m only mildly impressed with the soldiers who only briefly paused to quench their thirst. What I am impressed with is Gideon’s trust in God, confidence that thrust him into battle with less than a tenth of his original fighting force.

Ancient commanders were impressed with size and numbers just as we are today. The Victoria Crowned Pigeon is the largest member of the pigeon family now that the Dodo has been slaughtered into extinction. This picture was taken at the zoo since I’ve never been to New Guinea which is the native home of this species. What sets pigeons and doves apart from most other species in the world is that they can drink water with their bills still submerged. Other species must elevate their bill and let gravity do its work while pigeons can use suction. While the details of this part of Gideon’s life may be particularly enjoyed by Boy Scouts and other camping types, we should remember they are included, not to teach us about efficient drinking methods or even the eagerness before battle. They are included to teach us about faith, and what one man of faith could accomplish. If we’re right about this, wasn’t it nice of God to share the blessings of victory with three hundred superfluous trumpeters.

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 29, 2013

This gull didn't seem to be having any problem finding something to eat. The hapless crab was gulped down pretty quickly.

As humans, we have a tendency to worry about things and survival tops the list. Jesus tells us how pointless worrying can be and that we need to get our priorities straight. He tells us that our needs will be supplied if we first seek His kingdom and His righteousness.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. -- Matthew 6:25-34 NIV

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 28, 2013

Two Egyptian men standing beside columns in an ancient monument are looking outside. One man has his arm around the other man's shoulder. Friendship. Have you stopped to think of why we need friends? Wikipedia says that friendship is a relationship between two or more people who hold mutual affection for each other. Gained benefits include a mutual understanding, compassion, trust, enjoyment of each other's company and to desire what is best for the other. There are many verses in the Bible about both good and bad friends. You can search out the texts about “bad” friends on your own! Some that include the importance of good friends is to encourage one another (I Thessalonians 5:11), to be concerned for the welfare of others (Philippians 2:20), and to love one another with brotherly affection (Romans 12:10). Jesus is quoted as saying, “This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-14 NEB That is true friendship! (And that is what our Friend, Jesus did for you and me.)

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The Praise of Flowers
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 27, 2013

I’m afraid I’m not someone whose eyes automatically scan the horizon for floral beauty. A collection of blooms must go to special trouble to catch my attention, which is what the above flowers on our church lawn did a little over a week ago.

I was struck again how growing things most often grow up – up to the sky, up to the sun, looking trustingly toward the light. Sadly, human beings rarely lunge upward with equal intensity to their Creator.

What would it look like when we do open ourselves to the Lord? First, we can pause and be amazed at a God with enough energy and creativity to give us the beauty in the above photo – blue sky, sturdy green trees, and multicolored flowers.

Then, since the only way to find reliable truth about Him is through the words He inspired, we need to read widely and prayerfully in our Bibles, which we could consider the nourishing soil for spiritual growth. As we do this, we will find our souls opening naturally to the One who crafted us, and we will trust Him enough to allow Him to cleanse us from what defiles us.

And we’ll be ready for the most joyous “uplook” of all. Listen to Jesus’ words: “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”  Luke 21:27 – 28 NKJV

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Nothing Held Back!
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 26, 2013

Always alert for potential bargains, Shelley and I hurried into this huge chain food store at the news that it was going out of business. We found the shelves quite ravaged, and the discounts were disappointing since they seemed to be based on suspiciously-inflated prices.

We did get a few “deals,” but what I liked most was the sign above. It seems the perfect motto for a devoted Christian, and it reminds me of what was almost certainly my Dad’s favorite song, judging from the number of times I heard him softly sing it:

Nothing between my soul and the Savior,
Naught of this world’s delusive dream;
I have renounced all sinful pleasure;
Jesus is mine, there’s nothing between.

Nothing between my soul and the Savior,

So that His blessed face may be seen;
Nothing preventing the least of His favor,
Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.

Nothing between, like worldly pleasure;

Habits of life, though harmless they seem,
Must not my heart from Him e’er sever;
He is my all, there’s nothing between.

Nothing between, like pride or station;

Self-life or friends shall not intervene;
Though it may cost me much tribulation,
I am resolved; there’s nothing between.

Nothing between, e’en many hard trials,

Though the whole world against me convene;
Watching with prayer and much self-denial,
I’ll triumph at last, with nothing between.

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These People are Neighbors?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 25, 2013

About five blocks away from where Shelley and I live is a placid cul-de-sac we sometimes circle through on our morning walks. At certain seasons of the year, flags appear on these side-by-side homes. Here are their close-ups:

If you’re not from the state of Washington, these emblems likely have no meaning to you. But if you’re local, your eyebrows go up, and you back away a few steps. Because the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State University Cougars are mortal enemies, sort of like the Yankees and the Red Sox.

How does it happen, then, that these quiet lawns bear no sign of trench warfare or exploded grenades? Why has the siding of neither house been scorched by flame throwers?

Probably because neither family takes itself too seriously. True, shortly after the “Apple Cup,” the annual battle between the two teams (I’m not kidding, that’s what it’s called), there may be good-natured hoots of victory from the flag-holders of the winning team, and answering snarls from the losers, but hey, it’s just a game. Nothing to lose a friend over.

One of the most important tasks of being a Christian, it seems to me, is figuring out the difference between what’s passing and what’s permanent--what’s trendy versus what’s true. I have relatives and friends who love to argue politics, but I tell them, “I’ve got only so much blood pressure, and I’m not going to spend any of it on arguing on that subject.”

The best way to keep in touch with  what's eternally important is to make a regular habit of reading your Bible. There are several ways to do this, including what you’ll find at the following link, on another section of our church website. If the plans described there don’t work for you, discover your own. But by all means read these deathless Words!

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Grass and Water
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The above image is a simple one. The image has two primary subjects – can you find them? Of course – grass and water. Nothing extraordinary, nothing amazing or obscure. No, in fact grass and water can be found in almost every part of the world (in one form or another). This shot was taken at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens, in the early morning as the dew clung to the blades of grass and the sun was rising, eventually drying up the dew. Now, I never said I didn’t care for the image, in fact I like it a lot. It reminds me of how chaotic our lives can be, but shouldn’t be. It reminds me to slow down, focus on one or two items at a time, instead of taking in everything at once. Grass and water – that’s it.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses attempts to tell the Children of Israel why they should focus on one thing at a time – God. Moses asks them to remember the 40 years of wandering around the desert – this was to focus you on God. He asks them to remember the laws – in order to keep you focused on God. In Chapter 32, Moses pleads with the Israelites to listen to his teachings, as they are from God, “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As raindrops on the tender herb, And as showers on the grass. For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.”

God provides everything we need. Unfortunately, our human minds (Israelites included) tend to take on too much at once. We try to figure it out on our own, or work through it until we come to a conclusion. Our minds can get all jumbled up, like a big maze (or walking in circles in the desert) – so much clutter. God wants us to focus – grass and water. Simplicity. Focus on one item at a time – starting with Him.

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Lady Amherst Pheasant
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I can still remember with pleasure the enjoyable trips to the bank with my father. This was a time long ago when banks were built to convey a feeling of permanence and stability rather than for convenience. The term “banker’s hours” still had real meaning back then. It wasn’t that I particularly enjoyed the financial transactions, those were my father’s business. Instead, I busied myself walking down the opposite wall where hung a series of pheasant portraits, formally framed befitting their proper station. My challenge was to select the one most deserving of my admiration. While it was difficult to choose among several worthy candidates, I invariably selected the Lady Amherst Pheasant with its long, graceful tail, a native of India and Myanmar.

The bird was named after Sarah, Countess of Amherst, who was a botanist and responsible for introducing several species of plants from the Himalayas back to Europe. Her husband, William Pitt Amherst, was Governor General of Bengal and it was he who brought the first of these birds back to England in the early 1800s. Sadly, they are on the verge of becoming extinct in the British Isles, as only one male remains and laws forbid the importation of introduced species.

Things change. The bank is no more, torn down and replaced by a plastic imitation. Entire species vanish and are no more. Buildings, form, even life itself are transient, only God remains. No wonder the angels sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4:8 NIV)

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Compass Rose
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 22, 2013

I had to do an Internet search to find out what this disk is called. It's called a compass rose and can be seen on maps, atlases and markers. Apparently, it goes back to the time of early nautical navigation and was used to display the cardinal directions: North, South, East and West as well as the primary intercardinal directions (Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and Northwest). Some have secondary intercardinal directions such as North-Northeast.

I don't know about you but I don't like the feeling of being lost. I like to be able to look at a map and pinpoint my exact location. It helps to know where you have come from, where you are now and to be able to see where you need to go to reach your destination.

GPS and Internet maps are pretty amazing but GPS doesn't tell you about all the hazards on the ground (you may remember the story about the people who wound up driving into Mercer Slough while following their GPS!) and Internet maps are not always accurate.

We can find out more about where we came from, where we are now and where we are going (and how to get there) by reading God's word, the Bible. It will keep us headed in the right direction. John 14:1-7 tells us about a discussion Jesus had with His disciples:

Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. So how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father, too. But now you do know him, and you have seen him.” John 14:1-7 NCV

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 21, 2013

An Egyptian woman wearing a black burqa is holding a small child. They are waiting outside a mosque. Her bags are nearby. I don't know what she's waiting for, but perhaps for someone. Do you get impatient at times when you have to wait for other people or events?

Christians have been waiting a long time for the Lord to come – almost two thousand years! Do you sometimes get impatient with God's plan for your life? His plan might be different than what you imagined for yourself. Or with His second coming being on His own time? Waiting is mentioned in the Bible: “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.” Psalms 130:5,6

Patience is one of the virtues of life, viewed as the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian who has accepted the gift of salvation. In Galatians, patience is listed as one of the fruits or harvest of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22,23 NIB) The late Peter Marshall, twice appointed as Chaplain of the United States Senate, is credited with saying, “Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work.”

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Pilot Car—Follow Me
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 20, 2013

This past Wednesday, once I got close enough to this truck towing a tractor on a flatbed, I grabbed for my camera. The reason was the sign hanging just behind the tractor’s seat:

At first glance, it seems rather pompous of the tractor to be claiming to be a pilot car when it is being towed by another vehicle. And why, if someone were simply wanting to transport an individual tractor from one place to another, would they need a pilot car? A pilot car normally leads a line of commuters through an intricate construction zone. I suppose a group of farmworkers traveling to a new field might indeed need a pilot car to keep them all going the same direction.

r maybe the sign was a joke; I can’t say for sure. But the scene reminds me of the role you and I as Christians must play in Jesus’ plan. On many occasions, Jesus insisted that we are to be “pilot cars,” or as He put it in Matthew 5, lights in the world and unhideable cities on a hill.

The key, of course, to being effective guides to the Savior is that we be following close behind Him, and as closely attached to Him as this tractor’s trailer is to the truck ahead. Centuries before tractors, Jesus used another agricultural metaphor – “I am the Vine, you are the branches.” (John 15)

That brings to mind a dear old gospel song:

Jesus, Savior, pilot me

Over life's tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee:
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boisterous waves obey Thy will
When Thou say'st to them, "Be still!"
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
'Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me,
"Fear not, I will pilot thee."
    --Edward Hopper, 1871

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You Just Never Know
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 19, 2013

About three weeks ago while driving, I spotted a lot of ambulance lights up ahead of me, and managed to snap this photo as I passed.

At the left you can see the fluorescent-vested emergency personnel busy at their work. The stretcher doesn’t yet have someone on it, so the accident must just have happened.

But the rest of the landscape contains no hint that anyone is getting ready for an accident to happen. A Pennzoil “10 Minute Oil Change” building urges the motorist to hurry in and let his or her auto be serviced, not so it can stop, but so that it can continue to operate smoothly.

And when I zoom in on the hedge-straddling signpost in the photo, I find the names of other establishments which are life-affirming and which blissfully ignore the transience of mortality. Bonefish Grill, Qdoba and Arby’s insist that you stop by and restore your tissues for the day still ahead of you. And Extended Stay America hopes that you will extend your life long enough to visit them many times.

But life is short. And accidents wouldn’t be accidents if you could see them far enough ahead to avoid them. And, once the velocities and vehicles collide, whether you survive or not is really out of your hands.

You can, of course, survive death. But you need to know how. For an overview, click the link immediately below. 

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The Lavishness of the Lord (Part 2)
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 18, 2013

If you happened to catch Robert Howson’s wonderful Photo Parable of this past Tuesday, you’ll know what I mean when I call this blog “Part 2.” Their messages are the same, except that he gave you a stunning photo of peacock feathers, while I give you something I dug up in my backyard this past Sunday.

As you’ll see by the dirt still clinging to my fingers (and under my thumbnail!) I let myself become a Son of the Soil this past Sunday afternoon. I spent two or three hours trying to deal with a neglected corner of our backyard, and at one point I spotted this delightful little object.

The gardeners among my reading audience will probably be able to tell me what it is, and possibly with a snort of disgust. Because there’s no doubt about it, this little beauty was found among the dandelions, and may even be a dandelion stage itself. But it’s pretty, right?

And – as Robert put it so eloquently on Tuesday – isn’t God positively wasteful with His beauty? Human artists most often paint so that others can see their work. God evidently just loves to create—the ultimate in “art for art’s sake.”

I’m with Robert when he says that this lavishness is an evidence of God’s overwhelming love. Amen? Amen!

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Standing the Test of Time
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In a recent Sabbath School lesson, we discussed the Bible – as inspired scripture and how we believe what’s written on the pages we read today, are what God wants us to be reading now. One of the ways we know this to be true is based on history. History can teach us many things – some mistakes and some triumphs, but either way we can learn. The above image was taken in one of the many streets of Pompeii. As you recall (from History class), Pompeii was an ancient Roman city, near the city of Naples. In 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius erupted and literally buried the entire town in ash and rock. Here is a pillar, part of a porch or roof, nearly 2,000 years later – standing, showing its resilience.

So it is with the scriptures. A collection of books, inspired by God, standing the test of time, over several thousands of years. These writings have withstood many different languages, interpretations, wars, generations, and countless attacks on the very words. God allowed His word, His letters to continually be “brought” along in history – ending up in our very hands in 2013. One other item we discussed in our class was, the writings don’t mean anything unless we study them. Build your relationship with God by reading His letters to us – study them, and ask questions. God will give so much more in return.

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The Lavishness of the Lord
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Lord has a way of giving which goes beyond the expected, beyond the reasonable. If you doubt that, just look around you. Limitless numbers of snowflakes will fall, melt, and forever disappear without a single person delighting in their intricate pattern; each unique in their own right, yet never appreciated. But such is not the case with all of nature. Whether found in Solomon’s palace, or roaming around the edges of your local zoo, or even in their native homeland in South Asia, the long train of upper tail coverts of the peacock cannot go unnoticed. The eye-spots demand almost hypnotic attention and admiration. For those of us accustomed to cost-cutting measures and efficiency reports, such lavishness seems indefensible. Just maybe we could justify the beauty of the peacock, but certainly not the extravagance of the snowflake. But our ways are certainly not God’s ways.

The Message, a modern paraphrase, draws our attention to the lavishness of our Creator God. “Generous to a fault, you lavish your favor on all creatures. Everything God does is right – the trademark on all his works is love.” (Psalm 145:16,17) But God’s generosity is not limited to the beauty found in His creations. The same translation renders Isaiah 55:6,7 this way: “Seek God while he's here to be found, pray to him while he's close at hand. Let the wicked abandon their way of life and the evil their way of thinking. Let them come back to God, who is merciful, come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness.” If we’re ever tempted to doubt God’s willingness to forgive our sins, remember the over-abundance of love He “wasted” on tail feathers and snowflakes just because that’s the way He is, a God of abundant love. That should tell you something about how He feels about you.

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Short of Perfection
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 15, 2013

This pansy looks almost perfect except for the hole in the top petal and what looks to be almost a hole in the petal to the right of it. It's kind of a picture of what happened when sin entered a perfect world.

Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard, and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins. We receive forgiveness through faith in the blood of Jesus’ death. This showed that God always does what is right and fair, as in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And God gave Jesus to show today that he does what is right. God did this so he could judge rightly and so he could make right any person who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26 (NCV)

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Searching for Treasures
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 14, 2013

Looking for treasures, men are excavating an archeological site near the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. Other men push wheelbarrows up and down a barren hill hauling debris away from the site of the dig. A white umbrella helps provide shade in the extreme heat. Even though many pyramids and necropolis of pharaohs have been found, opened and their contents taken, excavations are still being carried out in hope of finding more treasures. The Pharaohs had hoped to stop robbers stealing treasures from their graves by hiding them in this desolate area rather than in a very prominent pyramid. Despite this remote location, some of their burial chambers have been located and the treasures taken. When in Seattle, I'm sure many of you toured the King Tutankhamen exhibit and saw some of the treasures taken from his tomb found in this area.

My granddaughters like “geocaching”, a treasure-hunting game using a GPS or a mobile device to seek containers with “treasures” that have been hidden. They like to see what toys or trinkets they find as they place other items in the hidden box.

In the Old Testament, a treasure was described as something of value that was put away (Gen. 43:23 and Deut. 32:34). In Proverbs 2:4, Solomon speaks of wisdom as a treasure. The wise men brought “treasures” when they followed the star to find Jesus and his mother, Mary (Math. 2:11). Of the many times that treasures are mentioned in the Bible, my favorite is found in Luke 12:34, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” What is your favorite “treasure” text in the Bible?

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The ATM Slip
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 13, 2013

Monday morning I arrived at my bank’s ATM machine just as another man concluded his transaction and hurried away on foot, counting his money. I wish I would’ve gotten a closer look at him – you’ll see why in a moment – but all I remember is that he was wearing sandals and hadn’t parked his car in the bank parking lot.

The ATM slip in the photo above is not mine but his (even though these slips given nothing but the last four digits of both his account number and his card, I have shrewdly whited those out for absolute anonymity). He had evidently punched the button that commanded the machine to give him a receipt of his transaction, but he ended up leaving it dangling in the slot.

I detached it, and decided not to try to race after the man and give it to him, under the theory that if a stranger approaches you with your ATM slip bearing a $10,000 tally, it might make you a bit uneasy.

Even with the modern inflated value of the dollar, the amount seemed huge. In fact, just $4000 more and it would have represented my annual salary as a first-year college English instructor back in the late 70s.

I found myself wondering why he kept so much in his checking account. Had he just gotten paid, and hadn’t yet transferred anything to savings? Did he have no savings account at all, and did this tally represent his entire working capital?

Then I glanced at the amount he had withdrawn – 80 bucks. With an account like that he could’ve at least taken out a couple of hundred, but for some reason he kept it to 80. So whatever we don’t know about them, we do know that at least on this occasion he was temperate in his withdrawal.

Actually, I had stopped by the bank on my way north to Bothell to attend a seminar for pastors and other church leaders. The seminar’s subject was stewardship and financial security. To my surprise, the speaker spent very little time talking about saving and being frugal, and a lot of time talking about how God owns everything and we are simply His “asset managers.”

This point was driven home very effectively, not only because it is solidly biblical, but because it was delivered by seminar presenters who seemed to be practical, down to earth, humble Christians. They wore no heavy gold watches. Their clothing – though neat and appropriate – did not seem to be expensive. They did not boast about having mansions or expensive cars. They did not tell me that if I tithed I would become wealthy.

Instead, they reminded us that we came into this world with nothing, and will leave with nothing. As a card stuck with a magnet for awhile to our refrigerator says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” God owns it all, and—like the merchant in Jesus’ parable who delivered funds to three of his servants and instructed them to invest them—He will hold us to account for how we have used property which has been His all along.

I found this reminder extremely powerful. For one thing, it lifted a weight from my shoulders. A God who gives me wherewithal to invest has a stake in my success, and if I cooperate with Him and study His Investment Manual, I will indeed succeed, especially if I allow Him to define what success should look like.

To study the Bible’s nine best verses about wealth and how we should relate to it, click the link immediately below:


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Different Battles, Same War
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 12, 2013

This past Wednesday morning, while driving on Interstate 5, I came upon a long line of military vehicles occupying the right-hand lane and spaced widely apart, heading northward in the rain.

It had been a long time since I’d seen an army convoy, and I believe it’s the first time I’ve seen them this color. Down through the years everything from jeeps to tanks to personnel carriers have normally been dark green, yet the Hum-Vee and its trailer above are beige with a hint of yellow.

The reason is obvious – up until just recently, American forces had been deployed to countries with healthy forests. But in the past couple of decades the backdrop has been sand. A dark green supply truck motoring through a Middle Eastern desert would present a crisply-outlined target for an enemy gunner.

After I snapped this hasty photo, I got to thinking how, in the great controversy between Christ and Satan, battle techniques and camouflage and thinking may be revised from time to time, but it’s always the same war.

And the struggle isn’t over land but over the character of God. Each of the universe’s inhabitants who survives Satan’s deceptions and moves forward into eternal serenity must be able to answer one question very clearly: What is God like? And that’s because eternity with the right kind of God will be heaven—but with the wrong kind would be hell.

And if you claim Jesus as your Lord, that makes you a soldier. And your Basic Combat Training manual is already in your library – God’s Word. It has all you need. Review it daily.

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It’s What We Do
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 11, 2013

Last Friday I noticed, on a bulletin board in the halls of Puget Sound Adventist Academy, the statement you see above. The photo display featured various chapel speakers, both students and visitors.

These days I hear the “It’s what we do” phrase quite a bit. Normally it’s spoken by someone in response to a compliment. For example, if I stop by an auto parts store and someone not only sell me windshield wipers but also installs them for free, I’ll thank that person for the extra service, and if he thinks of it, he might say, “It’s what we do.” Translation: “This is how I always treat my valued customers. It’s my job.”

I’m not sure exactly why the bulletin-board person tacked that phrase below the chapel photos, but I think it’s a wonderful reminder to high school kids and everyone else that—when it comes to living for Jesus—what we do really matters.

Of course it’s impossible to be saved by “what we do,” because only Jesus’ death on the cross can do that. We are made righteous by faith and not by works. However, Jesus often emphasized that our salvation will bear “fruit”—active evidence that we are saved.

So it does matter “what we do.” At Puget Sound Academy, teens are learning not only math and English and science but service to humankind, for the glory of God.

The relationship between faith and works is found in the discussion of “Religion” in the following link.

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Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On a recent trip to the Phoenix area of Arizona, we were able to venture out to a great arboretum - specifically the Bryce Thompson Arboretum.

The place is great, as it has miles of walking trails, lots of flora and fauna to 'try' and identify. My sister is obsessed with Cardinals and I may show a shot or two of those in future blogs - spoiler alert. For now, we'll have to enjoy this hummingbird. Yes, as a matter of fact I can identify it -- it's the Black-chinned Hummingbird (very similar to the Ruby-throated -- if you like to identify birds). If you have ever tried to capture a shot of a hummingbird, not at a feeder, it's not the easiest thing in the world. In fact, they zip around at 25-30 MPH and if they are in a dive, they can reach 60 MPH). Their wings flap at a rate of 70 times a second and in a dive 200. Looks like that have, and use a ton of energy, as their heart rate is around 1,000 beats a minute.

With all the beauty and splendor of this tiny bird (smallest species of bird on the planet), we know how much creativity and interest God has in all of His creations. In Luke 12:22-24, we can also read how much more interest He has in us:

Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?"

With this message, we can rest assured we can take less emphasis of this world and what happens in it, as we have the hope and truth of the life to come.

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House Sparrow
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

His name generally isn’t included among those familiar Bible characters that find their way into the stories we teach our children. And it isn’t because we don’t know anything about him, for three chapters of the book of Judges are devoted to telling his story. The reason may be that he seems to be of questionable reputation. After all, he was the son of a prostitute and was kicked out of the house at an early age. You could just hear the tongues wagging, affirming the rightness of their judgment as he attracted riffraff around him. But circumstances change and with those changes frequently comes a shift in attitude. That’s what happened in Jephthah’s case as the Ammonites and others made war on Israel. In desperation, the hated outcast suddenly was transformed into the leader who would champion the cause of God and His people.

While we of course don’t have a picture of this judge, we do have a photograph of a species that in many ways parallels the life of Jephthah. The House Sparrow, too, was afflicted with questionable credentials. In fact, it isn’t even a sparrow at all but a weaverbird, having ten primary feathers instead of the nine possessed by sparrows. And just like Jephthah, it tends to have a pugnacious attitude toward others. Not a native American species, it was believed to have originated in the Mediterranean area and from there spread throughout Europe and Asia. It was intentionally brought to America in the early 1850s out of desperation to help check an outbreak of cankerworms, but in this regard, was less successful than its Old Testament counterpart, for it is primarily a vegetarian and was of little help in controlling the pest. Nicolas Pike first introduced them by releasing eight pair from England into Brooklyn, but this proved to be unsuccessful. Following this failure, another group was released several years later and within 40 years they had not only spread across the country but were considered by many to be a pest. The introduced species was erroneously blamed for a variety of unrelated problems, and were even held responsible for the challenge of finding reliable household servants.

Both of their stories conclude with questionable endings. Judges 12 leaves us with the unsettling story of Jephthah’s daughter. And the House Sparrow? Its numbers have decreased in the 20th century, perhaps because its food supply declined as the automobile replaced the horse, which in turn reduced its food supply. And the moral of the story? Perhaps we would do well to refrain from passing judgment upon the social misfits in our society until we can see the whole picture.

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The Lighthouse
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 8, 2013

This is the lighthouse at Point Robinson on Maury Island. It apparently marks the halfway point between Seattle and Tacoma.

Lighthouses help with navigation by pointing out the way, showing people where they are and helping to shed light on hazards to avoid in the darkness. Jesus helps us navigate through life in much the same way as a lighthouse does in the dark. We can read more about this in His instruction book on life - the Bible.

In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him. In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it. John 1:1-51 (NCV)

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Seeing What's Important
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Bev Riter
Sunday, April 7, 2013

We had spent the day in Giza, experiencing the many sites around the ancient pyramids, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to survive. Even though our camel rides were exciting, the splendor of the pyramids was amazing. Scheduled to take the overnight train from Cairo to Luxor, we had a couple of hours before we needed to arrive at the train station. Our guide suggested we go to a cafe and watch the sun set over the pyramids. He led us up three flights of stairs where in the open air we looked out to the ancient sites of Giza. Sipping refreshing cold lemonade, we watched the many camels and horses being led away from the area of the ancient pyramids to go home for the night. It seemed like a long parade. One area of the cafe had a grill covering the opening, as seen in my photo of pyramids at sunset. To see the important thing (the pyramids), one had to look through the grill covering the view.

Sometimes people have a hard time seeing what's important in the Bible. What do you think the Bible says is important for us today? Let's look at the familiar texts of John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Yes, that is what God did for us! What does he ask of us? Well, there's Acts 16:31 that says to believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. The Ten Commandments given to Moses and recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 can be categorized as love to God and love for people. In Mathew 22:36-40 we read when the Pharisee lawyer questioned Jesus with, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.'”

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Calling Card?
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, April 6, 2013

Friday Shelley and I were running some errands, some of which were to prepare for the baptism of 10-year-old Jessica, one of the girls in our congregation.

Shelley hurried into a store, and I stayed in the car to work on my sermon. I always print out the Bible passage I’ll be speaking on, in this case a passage Jessica herself had chosen. I was making notes in my sermon notebook, when through the car’s open window fluttered a little cherry-blossom petal. It landed squarely where you see it.

As I carefully wrestled my camera from its belt-carrier, I thought, “In a way, this could be a little calling-card from God.” Here I was, studying the Bible passage which talks about how Jesus the Good Shepherd searches for lost human sheep, and how unwilling His Father is that any should be lost.

That little blossom is a faded reminder of a glorious Garden which must have contained wonderful varieties of unstunted cherry trees. And in spite of all the disappointment we have caused Him, God still brings the cherry trees to life in the springtime, a symbol of hope for fallen sinners.

Fortunately, Jessie has responded to God’s love, reflected warmly into her heart by her loving family. For five of her ten years she has been begging mom and dad to allow her to be baptized. Like that delicate cherry blossom, she also is a reminder that God reaches down with His love, and through His Holy Spirit helps us lift our eyes to Him.

Want to learn more about God’s love for you? Click the link immediately below:

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A Flash of Color
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, April 5, 2013

Back in early March the weather was pretty drizzly here in the Puget Sound. Returning from a store to my car in a parking lot in Kirkland, I found my eye dazzled by the electric blue of the car on the right. The gold-tinted car in the center is a refreshing change from the black and gray vehicles on the left, but the blue one truly caught the eye.

I’d like to think of that car as being like a true Christian. Maybe the gold car could be someone who is civilized and well behaved and charming – but the blue car is like someone who has decided to follow Jesus, and who has allowed His Holy Spirit to shine out through his or her every action, and therefore acts as what Jesus in Matthew 5 called an eye-catching “light of the world.”

As I write this, it’s April 4, and the media weather people are solemnly warning us about a drizzly weekend ahead. So our sunshiny days will be over for a time. Bible prophecies tell us that, on its own, this gray, discouraging old world isn’t going to improve. That’s why you and I need to sparkle with heavenly light.

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Mommy’s Kisses
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, April 4, 2013

Never having had children, I am intrigued from time to time at the sight of child-rearing aids such as the rack of “Mommy’s Kisses Hot & Cold Gel Packs” you see above. The packages’ subtitle, which you probably can’t read, says, “For Ouchies and Booboos.”

At first glance, the product doesn’t seem to match the promises. Unless the piggy’s face is to be used to kiss ouchies which have happened to baby piggies, and the hippo’s face is to be used to heal a baby hippo’s hurts, which I doubt, then the human baby needs to make something of a leap of faith in order to believe that the approaching penguin head will actually administer mommy’s kiss. Presumably mommy first kisses the gel-pack on the snout, and then transfers the kiss—along with either hot or cold pressure—to the baby.

I grew up on a farm, and therefore tend to view animals with less sentiment than a non-farm-boy. My dad actually did raise pigs for awhile, and their expression was far more cynical and enterprising than the fatuously-smiling porkers above, so I never had a pet pig. Nor a pet Black Angus steer, for those—when fattened—were liable to suddenly disappear only to reappear a week or two later as hamburger packaged in white paper.

However, animals are truly amazing, and in many cases seem to be able to show real affection toward human beings. I have known many people whose pets give them the joy of trusting companionship, thus making them something like a kiss from our heavenly Parent.

Aren’t we privileged to be children of a God whose creativity spilled over in so many ways? Doesn’t this make us trust Him to one day wipe away our tears—maybe with a kiss?

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Rising Up
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I wish I could tell you the exact species of cacti this is, but I can’t. What I can tell you, is I shot this close-up of a gorgeous bloom, at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum outside Apache Junction, Arizona. From the image you can see the delicate petals, the vibrant colors and the sharp thorns - all on the same plant.

God is amazing. He is the Creator. In Genesis, we can recite from heart, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

With all this beauty, sin has to be part of our world. What does God do? Makes beauty out of something that can be viewed as non-beautiful, or even pain. Here stands this cactus, sharp thorns that can poke and cause pain, yet we can look at those same thorns as the protection God has provided it, to ward of anything interested in eating it. And then comes the bloom, intricate, soft, colorful – rising up through the spiny, prickly thorns. Can you see the correlation – I visualize Jesus rising up, back into Heaven, through the fog and haze of a sinful world. Just imagine, what a glorious day it will be when we take our own journey to Heaven – out of this sinful, painful, gloomy world.

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Helmeted Guinea Fowl
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, April 2, 2013

This month, the parables on Tuesday will all be based upon birds which are not native to the United States but have been introduced from elsewhere.

A careful observation of our fellowman may not cause our estimation of humanity to improve all that much. We seem only too often to have a penchant for doing that which is contrary to ours or other’s best good. This self-destructive behavior seems only too common among us. Nor is this lack of common sense limited to man. This was confirmed after watching a Helmeted Guinea Fowl make numerous futile efforts to join the rest of its flock, from which it had been separated, by repeatedly forcing itself through the same stretch of wire fencing. If it had stepped back and looked at the situation with some detachment, it could have solved its problem by merely walking a relatively few yards to the south where the fence ended. But no, such problem solving was apparently beyond its capability. My vote for it as “the dumbest bird” was solidified until I remembered how many times I had tried the same approach to a problem I faced, repeatedly banging my head into the same obstacle without success.

It’s at times like this I need to remember the concept of individualism, that each of us, no matter how dumb we may prove ourselves to be, has a purpose and function. This concept was first coined by the Roman moralist Cicero who, a century before Christ, translated the Greek word “atomen”, a reference to the smallest building block of reality, into our word individualism. The value of individual talents should not be lost upon us today. It would be a poor team if every player had the same physique as the quarterback. It needs linemen too, and in truth, more linemen than quarterbacks.

This all sounds very good and proper to say, but I was still puzzled over what possible worthwhile contribution could these imported guinea fowl could make? I couldn’t get that picture of the fence and the noisy bird out of my mind. It bothered me so much I was forced to go on-line to find an answer and I think I finally found it. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Lyme Disease is on the rise, and guinea fowl can be raised to combat this disorder for they consume hoards of the ticks that transmit this ailment. It may not seem like a high calling to you, but then again, you might have a change of mind if your doctor reported an outbreak in your own backyard.

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Evidence and Faith
Photo and Commentary ©2013 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, April 1, 2013

I saw these trees the other day and you can definitely tell that a beaver has been around; we don't even need to catch the culprit in the act. The evidence is laid out just like a crime scene!

We are told in the Bible that we just need to look around us to see evidence of God:

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:20 (NLT)

Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it. Hebrews 11:1 (NCV)

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