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

Daily Photo Parable - February 2012

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.




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How Many Kids?

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
 
The other day, I was sitting behind the above ‘monster truck’ at a red light.  I quickly grabbed my phone to snap this shot of the license plate holder. 



As you can see, by this specially designed holder, the owner of the truck is a proud parent--and more importantly, not afraid of loving many many children. 

 
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love my kids….both of them.  I would do anything for them (some days I feel like I do everything for them already!).  That said I am glad I have 2.  I am not saying, if we had had a third child I would love them less – just saying I am glad we had two (2).  There are lots of families in this world that are really happy they had more than two – and my hat goes off to them. 
 
Along time ago, God planned on having a really big family.  He didn’t plan on stopping at one, or two or even nine – He was going really big.  Not only did God plan on having a big family, He had a plan that would protect His family – enough to sacrifice for -- John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Thank you God for being a loving Father….to ALL.

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Northern Gannet
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A large seabird of the Northern Hemisphere, the Northern Gannet spends its life hunting for fish.   The deeper the fish are swimming, the higher its dive must begin.  This means its dive will sometimes start 90 feet above the water and descend 50 feet below the surface.  Even a casual glance at the bird reveals sculptured lines which enable it to do so successfully.  But there are numerous other features which allow them to hunt productively. 
 
The tip of its upper mandible is slightly curved downward, thus protecting the mouth from being forced open as a result of impact with the water.  Its nasal passages are closed externally.  If this were not so, diving from such heights could force water into the lungs.  Living in a briny environment, it must have some means of ridding itself of excess salt.  This is done by excreting the excess salt through tubes which open into the roof of the mouth.  Two other modifications are provided to deal with the impact of such a high dive.  First, the skull has special reinforcement which cushions the impact, and secondly, it has air-filled cellular tissues under the skin of the neck and breast which automatically fill with air before the gannet dives. 
 
The Lord has seen fit to equip not only the Northern Gannet, but also the people who make up His church.  The Greek word katartismos is the term used for equip.  Literally it means “to set things in order,” “to prepare,” and “to form and shape”.  This last meaning most closely fits the adaptations employed by this diving bird.  But it might also be applied to the way He equips us to represent Him with the spiritual gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11and 12.  The Clear Word Translation renders verse 12 this way: “These are just a few of the many gifts God has given us to equip the church to carry out its mission.”  True to His nature, God never asks us to serve Him in a way that He has not already made provisions for, by giving us the very gifts we need.


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Light Unto My Path
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, February 27, 2012

I was in Westport, WA, a few weeks ago.  If you've never been there, this is where you can find the Grays Harbor Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse (107 feet) in Washington state.  I was reading that the current light can be seen 19 miles out to sea.

Like the ships out on the ocean, we also need to be able to see the reference points along life's way.  The best way of doing that is by reading God's Word (the Bible). 

Psalm 119:105   Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  KJV


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The Real Thing
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, February 26, 2012

If you quickly look at my photo you'll probably see a Great Blue Heron walking in a garden. A closer inspection will reveal name tags by some of the plants. Even further, a keen eye might pick up the fact that the heron isn't alive, but just placed in this garden at the Garden and Flower Show for display! Sometimes it hard to tell what is real and what is not.

Throughout the ages, false christs and false prophets have deceived many people. Some people question if Jesus Christ really existed even though most of our world has considered Jesus a real person and great leader. What evidence is there for His existence? Evidence in archeology supports the Gospel accounts of His life. Early non-Christian accounts such as Jewish and Roman historians referred to Jesus as a real person who lived a wise and virtuous life. Early Christian accounts such as non-biblical writings confirm details about Jesus, including His crucifixion and resurrection. Early New Testament manuscripts are consided solid evidence for Jesus' existence, with the Gospels being the primary accounts of His life and words. He made a great historical impact considering He had just a three-year period of ministry. Yes, Jesus was (and is) real! He's the Jesus of the Bible! He's Jesus, our God and Savior!


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“We Accept”?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, February 25, 2012

A few weeks back I drove by this building and was startled to see that it was no longer the bustling convenience store it had once been. Now it’s an empty shell with bars on the windows and doors, chained and padlocked to keep people out.

Yet despite this obvious disinterest in visitors, the store’s “We Accept” sign—now minus the names of the credit cards it once permitted—is still bolted to the top of the bars.

Have you ever dropped in on a congregation which didn’t have bars on its doors yet was populated by people whose hearts seemed distinctly un-accepting? Years ago, Shelley and I visited a church at the other end of the state, and as we walked down its main hallway, people approaching us looked the other way. Only one person spoke to us all morning, and afterward we agreed that this had been such a chilly experience that if we’d just moved to that town and had been hunting for a church, that place definitely wouldn’t have become our spiritual home.

I’m fortunate to pastor a congregation which has foyer greeters who like people, and who follow the rule, “If you’re happy, notify your face!” But every once in awhile I tell our congregation, “Remember, we’ve got to re-invent ourselves every week. This Sabbath we may have been the friendliest church in the neighborhood, but next Sabbath we have to start all over and do it again. Because every week there’s at least one person who’s never been here before.”

Wherever you go to church this week—and you’re welcome to come to ours—why not make it a point to get acquainted with three or four people you don’t know that well? Your friendly smile, and your long, attentive silence as you listen to them talk, might revive their souls like watered flowers.


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The Narrow Bed
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, February 24, 2012

While on a quick shopping-for-the-church trip to Costco earlier this month I was puzzled by this unusual device. A couple of blinks later I figured it out – it’s a bed's headboard and footboard fitted close together, so that the store doesn't have to use up a lot of space for a bed and mattress (and also doesn't have to fend off little kids who like to jump on beds!).

Lengthened to full size, this would be a truly impressive bed, maybe something Shakespeare might have slept in. It's easy to picture this bed resting on the oak beams of a castle chamber, a fire roaring in a nearby fireplace, and a knight's coat of mail hung on a wooden wall-peg.

But without the mattress, it’s useless—just a puzzling structure of polished wood. If there’s no “rest potential,” what good is it?

As I stare at that photo, I think of Day Seven of Creation Week, when God presented a perfect Adam and a perfect Eve (still untainted by sin’s wearisome ravages) with a day of rest. Later God spoke aloud and at length about that day, and then recorded it with His stone-scoring finger, right in the very center of the rest of the Ten Commandments. Jesus kept that day, and His disciples kept that day even after His death.

Back then, that day had a wide and wonderful mattress, 24 hours long. People who used it the way God designed it found that each weekend it restored their bodies to health and their minds to sanity. True, a humorless group of killjoys scattered nuts and bolts and nails on that mattress’s surface, making it annoying and burdensome, but that wasn’t God’s fault.

But suddenly somebody got hold of that bedframe and hauled it across the midnight meridian and into the next day. And what’s more, they ditched the mattress. What’s left looks pretty. But where’s the rest? Where’s the sanity-restoration? Where’s the precious slice of Eden which was supposed to be a memorial of God’s Creation and re-creation?

Question: Who gets to tell you which day is the Lord’s day?

Answer: The Lord Himself. And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:28 NKJV


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Beautiful Words, Wonderful Words
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, February 23, 2012

I grew up in an era – and in a area – where the King James Bible was used for public worship and private reading. Kids of my generation learned King James English by osmosis, and even though I enjoy several more recent translations, the King James just has that venerable, authoritative "ring" to it.

And at least as delectable as the KJV’s language was its packaging. The above photo is a scan of what was probably printed originally by Oxford or Cambridge University, I don't know the name of the font, but I've never seen a typeface which better fits the King James Bible. Here’s a closeup:

Doesn’t that just look true?

As you probably know, however, there is such a thing as “bibliolatry,” which is an excessive reverence for everything about the Bible except its clear, in-context meaning. An example of this would be someone who thinks owning a Bible is good luck, or someone who purchases the most expensive binding because he or she likes the smell of the leather. Or someone who just loves the typeface. (Are you listening, Maylan?)

I do confess that I have to fight off a bit of bibliolatry as I drool over the above printed words, and I know that more recent translations – which have benefited by many more ancient manuscripts than were available to the King James's translators – say things more accurately and clearly. But I'll still keep paging through this beautiful print, as well as other Bibles I have, including the printed-out Scriptures I used for sermon study.

Having a bit of trouble "getting into" God's Word? Make it is easy as possible for yourself. If English isn't your first language, don't take on the appalling task of learning "King James." Find a Bible in your own tongue, or choose a more contemporary, easy to read English version. Whatever it takes.


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Homecoming

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
 
In a recent trip to Victoria, B.C. I snapped this shot of a statue and tribute to the men and women serving around the world (specifically within Canada) and their return home to their families.  First of all I need to say, we ALL owe a tribute and our thanks to the men and women serving in the military around the world protecting our freedom.  One of my best friends is a pilot in the Air Force and his wife (a doctor in the Air Force) is currently serving in Afghanistan -- I can't thank them enough for their service and sacrifice they give to me (and others) on a daily basis -- THANK YOU!
 
The second (and the most important) part of why I chose this image is the TRUE homecoming.  If we can stop to imagine the elation of a family being reunited to their loved ones during a time of war -- kids away from their mom or dad for the past 6 months, a wife away from her husband for a 12 month tour, a father away from his daughter for 9 months with, "emails only", the list and agony can go on and on.  Now visualize the end of time, where we have been separated from our Heavenly Father for hundreds of years.  The joy, the excitement, the amazement.  What will that "homecoming" be like?
 
In John 14, Jesus gives us promise "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
 
Make sure you prepare yourself for the great Homecoming!

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Common Goldeneye
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, February 21, 2012

For some of us it’s a challenge knowing how accommodating God wants us to be.  We remember Paul’s words to the believers at Corinth where he stated:  “I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some.”  (I Corinthians 9:22 NIV)  We understand that differing peoples come from different cultures with different ways of expressing themselves.  Does that mean I should abandon my culturally engrained mores which have been used to establish what I believe to be appropriate behavior?  In this passage anyway, Paul seems to be saying yes. 
 
Let’s look to nature for a less contentious example of accommodation, one to which we can all give our support.  The Common Goldeneye is sometimes classified as a “sea duck” rather than a dabbler like the Mallard.  Sea ducks, or diving ducks, have their legs placed further back on their bodies which enables them to swim better under water.  But this in turn means they must paddle along the water to become airborne, unlike the dabbling ducks which can spring directly into the air.  While they may winter in coastal bays, they nest near open lakes where nesting cavities are available in nearby trees.  Here, while looking for food, they may overturn loose stones looking for crayfish or caddis fly larvae. Winter cold causes many of these lakes to freeze over, forcing a move to open water.  But here’s where accommodation comes into play.  Those goldeneye which nest near Yellowstone National Park have found they can winter over in some of the rivers near the park, even though the ambient temperature is well below freezing due to the hot springs and geysers keeping the water free from ice.  What most of us would consider deadly has become a blessing in disguise. 
 
I’m not sure this tells me how much accommodation I should make, but it does tell me it would be wise to look at the big picture, the biggest my limitations will allow, before drawing too many lines in the sand.  I may find what I thought to be a detriment is actually something of worth.


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Living in the Light
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, February 20, 2012

I took this photograph in Mt. Rainier National Park a few years ago.  I'm pretty sure the park doesn't look like this right now; it's not quite the right season!  I did, however, think it was a good illustration of coming out of the darkness and into the light.

1 John 1:5-8 NCV (New Century Version)
Here is the message we have heard from Christ and now announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. So if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue living in darkness, we are liars and do not follow the truth.  But if we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. Then the blood of Jesus, God's Son, cleanses us from every sin.

If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins, because we can trust God to do what is right. He will cleanse us from all the wrongs we have done.  If we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and we do not accept God's teaching.


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Honoring Our Leaders
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tomorrow's holiday, Presidents' Day, honors the life and work of George Washington, our first president. It also commemorates our other past presidents, especially Abraham Lincoln. Before Washington's two terms of office, 1789-1797, he played important roles in the military. During the American Revolution he served as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, winning victory over the British in 1783. Washington is often viewed as the father of our country, with some people thinking he was our best politician. (Maybe that's because he didn't represent a political party!) Many places have been named after him, including our own Washington State. As you probably know and can see in my photo, his image is on the one-dollar bill as well as the quarter-dollar coin. Washington fought for our country – for our freedom.

There's another Leader that has fought for our freedom – His name is God, our Father. We can read about this fight in Deuteronomy 20:4, “For the Lord your God is He that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” When Joshua was old, he called for all Israel and their leaders, saying, “And ye have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the Lord your God is He that hath fought for you.” Joshua 23:3 Yes, God the Father fought for each of us and Jesus Christ gave His life for us – for our freedom.


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All the Pieces
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, February 18, 2012

This past Monday, during a break between a personnel meeting and a school board meeting, I snapped this photo of a poster someone had mounted in the hallway of Puget Sound Adventist Academy. It reminds me of this old gospel song my Dad used to sing thoughtfully while at work on the farm:

Nothing between my soul and my 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 my soul and my Savior,

Naught of this world’s delusive dream;
I have renounced all sinful pleasure;
Jesus is mine, there’s nothing between.

Nothing between, like worldly pleasure;
Habits of life, though harmless they seem,
Must not my heart from Him ever sever;
He is my all, there’s nothing between.

Nothing between, like pride or station;
Self 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, there’s nothing between.
    --Charles A. Tindley


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With Courage Fine
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, February 17, 2012

Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”


And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” 

        --Mark 15:33 – 39 NKJV


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Sleeping God?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, February 16, 2012

At the risk of stirring up a furor like those which surround Virgin-Mary-style sightings (chuckle), I offer the following.

This past Tuesday afternoon, around twilight, I was heading east on Interstate 90 toward Issaquah, on my way home. I don’t live in Issaquah but in Renton, but anytime after 2:30 in the afternoon, if I want to go south from Bellevue, I find it extremely prudent to skip I-405 and instead to go to Issaquah and take Highway 900.

Anyway, as I was still on I-90, I spotted the eerie cloud formation above. Here’s a closer look:

 

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always hunted for interesting images in clouds. This one looked for all the world like a bearded man, face pointing up, mouth open in a snore, sound asleep.

Still can’t see him? Try this:

 

As I looked at that cloud-bank, a phrase came to my mind: “A Sleeping God.” It’s as though, weary from the wars of the world, God is catching a few winks before climbing back on the throne again.

Bible-believing (and –reading) Christians know, of course, that Psalm 121:3 says that “He who keeps you will not slumber,” and the next verse says that He neither slumbers nor sleeps. (And not only does God not sleep, but He almost certainly doesn’t have a long white beard.)

Yet it’s tempting, while watching horrifying news events unfold both far away and in our own back yards, to wonder whether the King of the Universe might be getting a bit feeble, or at any rate inattentive.

Again, Bible-reading-and-believing Christians know the answer to this one too. The crucial issue in the universe isn’t “Will I be saved?” but “What is God like? Is He fair? Does He truly give people free choice? And will He allow those choices to play out?”

The answers to the last three questions are yes, yes and yes. And the answer to the unstated question—will He sometimes intervene?—is yes as well. And does He do this intelligently?

Revelation 20:4 shows us a maddeningly quick snapshot which indicates that during the millennium more than just God or His Son will be doing the judging. Evidently God and His Son will do the primary judging, but the books will then be opened for anyone to evaluate those judgments. This ties right in with Romans 3:4, where Paul—quoting the Old Testament—says,  “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: ‘That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.’”

So no, that’s not God snoring in the Issaquah cloud-bank. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good,” says Proverbs 15:3. And even more encouraging, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” (Psalm 34:15)

So the next time you hear about global or local injustice, take it to the Lord. And if it’s something you can help handle with your time or your vote, you can become the hand of God.


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Water of Life

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
 
God is a lot of things.  God is everything.  In nature we can see, hear and feel God.  Last summer we had the chance to get east of the mountains and spent the weekend on the Yakima river.  It’s beautiful.  The sun seems to be out all the time, the water is just part of the landscape and the vast difference of the ‘west side’ is remarkable.
 
God is referenced as the Water of Life, or the Living Water.  I like this, as I love being around water and taking images of water.  If we think how essential water is to our daily lives, it makes even more sense of the reference. To be healthy, we need a minimum of 64 ounces of water every day.  Since that is the H20, we drink, what’s the amount of “God” water we should be taking in, all day long? I say, the more the better.
 
Every morning, afternoon and evening - drink-up!

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Northern Bluet
 

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It’s strange how our minds work, how we come to cherish certain objects or emblems as signs of love.  For instance, how did chocolate or roses become so closely associated with February 14?  If we go back even further, how did a heart come to be recognized as an almost universal sign of love?  It takes a real stretch of the imagination to picture our physical organ in any way resembling this symbol, then another leap of faith to equate the way we feel with that four chambered pump which keeps us alive.  I’m also fairly confident that Hallmark didn’t invent this symbol, only capitalized on it for their own purposes.  Having said all that, these challenges in no way lessen our own response when we receive this emblem from someone we care about. 
 
People who are in love see the world differently than those who merely exist.  Maria, in West Side Story, intoned about this transformation when she sang, “and what was just a world is a star.”  In the same way, those who are in love with God see signs of His love everywhere.  His writing may be in a different dialect than we are accustomed to using, yet the more we look, the more we will see evidences of His love. 
 
It may just be coincidental, but nature sometimes seems to condescend into speaking a language we can’t neglect.  The Northern Bluets, shown above and involved in procreating the species, may not be in love, but it’s hard to miss its symbolism to us.  But perhaps the strangest symbol of love is one composed of two sticks, crudely bound together into the form of a cross.  Thank God for that symbol.  Thank Him even more for the love that created it.


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The Ultimate Valentine
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, February 13, 2012

Someone sent me this in an e-mail this week.  I really like it and I think it is appropriate as Valentine's Day approaches.

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."
                              --John 3:16


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Hearts and Love
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, February 12, 2012

Some of you may have also gone to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle this last week and seen the beautiful landscape and flower displays. If you look closely in my photo of one of the displayed orchids, you'll see petals forming the shape of hearts.

For some reason, it is common to see hearts at this time of year!  Candy hearts, paper hearts, hearts on cups, hearts on clothing--you name it! Yes, the heart is used as a symbol of love. This stylized heart shape vaguely resembles the human heart. The red color suggests blood and strong emotion.

The heart is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible in various contexts often representing a person's will, desire, nature and motivation. In Mathew 22:37-40, Jesus said: “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 greatest commandment. And the second is like it, Thou shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”


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Look Below . . .
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, February 11, 2012

The Seattle area boasts several Half-price Book stores, and each one also has a huge supply of CDs, DVDs, videos and even LP records. I got a kick out of the unintended second meaning of this helpful sign. Whoever laboriously punched those words onto that label-machine tape sought to convey the information that directly under this display one could find music from all over the world. But the second meaning hints that a lot of today’s popular music originates in the hellish regions!

Evidently God has put the enjoyment of music into pretty much every heart, yet it's no secret that a good portion of any era's popular music emphatically celebrates Luciferian selfishness and sin. I can remember church people solemnly considering each new crop of Beatle songs and wondering whether or not they were subliminally preaching drug use. (Sometimes they were!)

I like music – in fact, this very Sabbath morning I will have played the guitar for the Junior Department of my church – but I don't listen to it. This is just a personal preference, and you need not adopt it for yourself, but back in my 20s there was a time when I was addicted to popular music. I have this nagging fear that if I were to constantly listen to music with lyrics, even Christian music, I might find my thinking-abilities narrowed, in the same way that people who listen to one flavor of talk-radio have their ideas reshaped. (I have seen that happen. Please don't get me started on that topic.)

I did, however, learn a good lesson about contemporary secular music. It was in 1992, on a trip to – of all places – Pskov, Russia. I’d gone along on a Christian evangelistic team to be piano player and general helper. The TV in my hotel room had little punch-buttons on the front like the radio buttons in old American cars. Each button brought you to a different channel.

Most of the channels were Russian-speaking, but one played what seemed to be British MTV, which featured popular music videos. One night -- contrary to my usual practice – I just sat and watched the songs go by. And I discovered that you can't simply dump every modern song into the same "this is of the devil" trash-bin.

Those music videos were all over the map. In one, a group of four male singers from the Caribbean sang very, very frankly about sex. “Of the devil,” I growled. But another video was humorously surrealistic, and ended by somebody in a strange costume entering a small shed, and the shed falling over a cliff. In a third song, a singer stood against a backdrop of city buildings singing thoughtfully about how sad it was that the trees were all gone.

I still don't like to listen to music with lyrics – it's a personal thing – but I understand the power of song, and I thank God for serious, humble Christian musicians who seek to spread the gospel in this way, bringing us inspiration from above, and not desperation from below.

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Best-loved Humor
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, February 10, 2012

If I have time, whenever I'm near a Goodwill or other thrift store, I do a reconnaissance-sweep through the used-books’ religion section. On such a mission a little over a week ago I discovered this large volume, Best-loved Humor of the LDS People.

As I glanced through it, I found my heart warming. In the above photo, the print along the edge of the cover is probably too small to read, but it suggests some ways to use the stories in this book – "Talks, lessons, family home evenings . . .” 

If any religion puts out a book on humor, there are bound to be corny stories, and this book contains a heavy dose of cornies and groaners. But some of the anecdotes reflecte what happens in any gathering of religious people. One tells about a large Mormon meeting where, from the front, the leader urged people to squeeze to the center of their pews to make room for latecomers. Later, he said, "Some of the people inched over, but others just wiggled and didn't move."

Being able to laugh at yourself doesn't, of course, make your ideas biblically true. But the minute any denomination goes all solemn, that denomination—no matter how scripturally defensible its positions—is headed toward fanaticism. And that’s even worse than being wrong, because someone who lacks humor often also lacks the humility to recognize his or her own weaknesses. Even though several of the stories Jesus told were probably giggle-inducers, like the camel through the eye of a needle or the candlelight obscured by a bushel-basket, the picture we have of the Pharisees is of grim-jawed men who never laughed at jokes, and often didn’t “get it” when the joke was on them.

Proverbs 17:22 insists that humor is related to good health: “A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” There’s healthy humor and unhealthy humor, of course, but from nearly 30 years of pastoring I can tell you that people who don't mind chuckling at their own foolishness are very enjoyable to be with.

Let me close with a couple of my favorite jokes. The first could be included in a book (as yet unwritten--why doesn't someone write this?) called Best-loved Humor of the SDA People : “Adventists are the only group who don’t eat animals, and feed haystacks to people.” (You’d probably have to be Adventist to understand this. A “haystack” is a sort of build-your-own meal where you travel down a serving line and put beans on your plate, then chips, then lettuce, then salsa, and so on, until you have a glorious edible mound.)

The other favorite joke is more easily accessible: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away—if you aim it straight and throw it hard.” 

Corny, right? Right.


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The Holdout
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, February 9, 2012

Just a few days ago – Sunday to be exact – Shelley and I were out walking on one of those splendidly sunny days we had over the weekend. Long gone were the heavy, paralyzing snows of a few weeks back. But suddenly, in a restaurant parking lot, we came upon this stubborn ridge of ice, crouching like a slug.

As you can see by the water trail, there's a bit of grudging melting going on. But even though this mini-glacier is covered in dirt, this "holdout" slab of ice is a grim reminder of winter's woes.

The Bible is full of spiritual holdouts – people who, even though they were blessed by God and in some cases lived virtually in the presence of God Himself, turned a cold shoulder to Him.

The list is embarrassingly long, and is headed by Lucifer himself. Then comes the Pharaoh of the Exodus, then many of the former Israelite slaves who had seen God's miracles, then 10 of the 12 Canaan spies, then King Saul, then most of the kings of Israel and Judah, then several priests and Pharisees, and then Judas.

In each case there seems to have been a deliberate refusal to humbly open the heart and the mind to what God is truly capable of. Instead, those selfish hearts became frozen with faithlessness.

Because, all along, ever since Genesis chapter 3, the heart has been the real problem. In the book of Deuteronomy, even though God has Moses repeat and summarize many of His laws, God still pinpoints the true problem. “Oh, that they had such a heart in them,” He sighs to Moses, “that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:20, NKJV)

Notice that God didn't say, "Oh, that they had such willpower in them," but “Oh, that they had such a heart.” The good news is that in Hebrews 10:16 God tells how this heart problem can be solved. It can be solved not by doing away with the law, but – “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,”

Do you sometimes feel like something of a holdout when it comes to surrendering yourself to God? Then pray for that Hebrews 10:16 promise to be fulfilled in your own heart.


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Ways to Health?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I spotted this sign a little over a week ago--the white bar is where I deleted the sign's phone number--and did a double-take. I mean, the average reader, programmed by a lengthy and occasionally expensive education, has been led to believe that bulleted items on a publicly printed list will be of the same general type. So when one reads “Auto Accidents,” one assumes that the next two items will also be calamities which the creators of the sign claim to be able to deal with.

Yet the next two are not calamities but are--in the view of the occupants of “Suite C”--ways to health: "Acupuncture” and “Naturopathy.” 

But seasoned Christians, knowing their Bibles, are able to understand that even trauma and trouble can be ways to healing. It wasn’t until Saul of Tarsus was struck down and temporarily blinded by a light from heaven—a light which may have permanently impaired his eyesight—that he discovered how wrong he’d been to persecute Christians.

We know that later he was constantly bothered by an affliction he called “a thorn in the flesh” (which may have been the above-mentioned poor eyesight). Watch  how he comes to terms with this:

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8 – 10 NKJV)

So yes, maybe an auto accident can indeed be a way to spiritual healing. However, what you and I need to do is to take warning from Saul/Paul’s example and instead pray, “Lord, please make me so humble and teachable that You won’t need to get my attention with anything dramatic!”


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The Fort
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

 

Suburban America offers limited opportunity for young boys to erect forts and defend the neighborhood from would be detractors. But all this changed recently when a cold-snap produced an abundance of newly fallen snow, just right for the construction of such fortifications.  Concerted effort was needed to complete the stronghold, but it was worth it.  There it stood, a construction even Nanook of the North would be proud to own, even if a can of spray paint was needed to convey the proper finishing touches.
 
Scripture contains several passages which would seem to fit such a setting.  Both the prophets Nahum and Ezekiel use language charged with military import, language which any red-blooded fort builder would find appropriate.  “Man the fort! Watch the road!  Strengthen your flanks!  Fortify your power mightily.”  (Nahum 2:1 NKJV)  “And lay siege against it, and build a fort against it, and cast a mount against it; set the camp also against it, and set battering rams against it round about.”  (Ezekiel 4:2 KJV) 
 
Each of these examples is different, with differing enemies and circumstances.  In two of the cases, the danger was very real, while in the third, only imaginary.  In one, the fortification would soon vanish, lasting only slightly longer than the snow piled up on the side of the road by cars passing by.  But I’m glad for their fort.  It reminded me how much fun a cold winter day could generate, and how much I need protection that will last past a change in the weather. 


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Through a Glass Darkly
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, February 6, 2012

This photograph was taken at Seattle's Volunteer Park Conservatory.  This was not quite the photo I intended.  The problem was that  I went there in the winter when it was quite cold outside.  The temperature in the conservatory is kept quite warm because of the plants and some sections are warmer than others.   The section where the orchids are kept is also quite humid.  When I brought my cold camera into the warm conservatory, the lens fogged up.  This is the result.

1 Corinthians 13:12 tells us:

It is the same with us. Now we see a dim reflection, as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part, but then I will know fully, as God has known me.  New Century Version (NCV)

I'm looking forward to that day when we will have perfect vision and knowledge.


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Finding God
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Bev Riter
Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Matterhorn, on the border between Switzerland and Italy, is one of the Alps' highest peaks--and I think most spectacular. This is a very beautiful area that takes my breath away. Not only does the high altitude with less oxygen take more effort, but the beauty is awesome! With clouds always swirling in and around the peak, it's a treat to see the mountain clearly against the bright blue sky. As we were hiking from another high peak down to Zermatt, this view of the mighty Matterhorn outlined with evergreen trees appeared through the whirling clouds. All movement seemed to stop. I stopped to look and listen (and photograph). I saw the majesty of the mountain. I felt the majesty of God.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10

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Search for Meaning
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, February 4, 2012

This past Monday I took my car to my trusted Honda repair man in North Seattle, and hopped a bus to the University District while it was being worked on. In the lobby of the University Bookstore is a bulletin board which featured this poster.

It was the big print which had caught my eye – "Search for Meaning" and "Saturday, February 4." I thought to myself with a grin, "Of course. No-brainer. This coming Sabbath morning I will deliver a 30-minute sermon from the Bible, and I will try to put forth its meaning to those who might be searching."

But of course this poster isn't about my sermon. Across the bottom is a photo of the poet Mary Oliver and a Jesuit priest named James Martin, and in a box to Martin's right it says "Over 40 Authors." So evidently this will be some kind of meaning-search in which a lot of eminent, thoughtful folks discuss important ideas.

A growing number of people, however, are discovering that indeed, the seventh-day Sabbath, when properly understood, is where wisdom begins. That's because the Sabbath is the memorial of Creation, a sort of weekly "world's birthday" celebration, in which we wrench our eyes away from the human and contemplate the divine. And in God’s presence is exactly where any sort of meaning should be sought. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,” Proverbs 9:10 insists, “and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

Why not try a bit of Sabbath worship, if you’re not currently in the habit? Come to my church if you’re nearby, or find another Seventh-day Adventist church nearer you. What you’ll find in that church are ordinary human beings, but ordinary human beings who have decided to take God at His word when He says:

If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 58:13 – 14 NKJV)


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The Path to Learning
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, February 3, 2012

What you're looking at in the above photo is the entrance to the campus library at Northwestern University, a Christian college located just north of our two Adventist schools in Kirkland, Washington. I snapped this shot on Tuesday while I was on the campus.

Can you spot what has happened over the years? As students have walked toward the library's doors, they have ignored the smooth, tastefully-poured sidewalk, and instead have beaten a more direct path toward this hall of learning.

I can imagine the snorts and snarls of the head groundskeeper as he or she first saw this happening. But more philosophical minds probably thought, "Well, hey. At least the kids are coming here to study." And gradually this new "side walk" has become an accepted route. Is that an actual sprinkle of gravel I see on the first part of the path?

As I look at this scene, it reminds me of two different ways of approaching the Bible. One is through the carefully-crafted presuppositions and long-entrenched traditions of this or that denomination, which imply, "Our theology books, our church councils, our trained leaders are your safest routes toward what we consider to be truth."

And then there's the unpaved path made by those who are so hungry for God's Word that they ignore the cast-in-concrete ideas and simply open the Book and read it for themselves. I personally do my best to stay on the unpaved but increasingly well-beaten path as I work on my sermons and the Bible class I teach.

I would suggest you do the same. Make it as easy as possible to ingest some portion of the Bible each day. Get a large print version for bedside reading. Download several Bibles onto your smart phone or your tablet computer. Your Christian bookstore will have the Bible on audio CD.

And never read or listen to the Bible without first praying to its Author and Inspirer, "Lord, please help me to understand You and Your plans better as I read today." A lot of people feel like “Bible illiterates”—but we’re all in that camp. So the Lord inspired an anonymous Psalmist to sing us this promse: “The entrance of Your Word gives light; it give understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130)

Want to read a few texts in which the Bible talks about itself? You'll pick up several hints about how to better appreciate it. Click the following link:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/bible


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Squeeze Us In

Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Maylan Schurch
Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wednesday morning I happened to pass a large church which had posted this message on its reader board, and I just had to turn around and get a picture. Super Bowl, of course, is this coming Sunday, and this tongue-in-cheek sentence was designed to give a nudge to the consciences of those who passed by.

God's holy Sabbath has taken quite a beating over the years, and somewhere along the way, with zero Bible support, Saturday was discarded in favor of Sunday. And an entire “day of rest and gladness” has been trimmed down to a couple of hours Sunday morning—but only if a “big game” doesn't intervene.

As I say, I know that the above message is meant to be humorous. But there’s a grim side too. Seven days a week, for 24 hours of each of those days, God pours out His gifts—atmosphere, synapses, little babies who smile, sky-wide sunsets, glorious grapes, gravity which never switches off, a sun whose mass pulls us around in a steady orbit even as it warms us. When lavishing His resources upon us, God has never flipped a desk-calendar and murmured, “Well, I can squeeze you in two weeks from Tuesday at 5.”

So why—when at the center of His stone-scored commandments He asks of us the Friday night to Saturday night hours—do we first do a little dip-and-dodge with the calendar, and then decide whether or not we can “squeeze Him in”? Turns the stomach, right?

The good news is that the Sabbath, kept the way God intended, is a “delight.” Check out the true Bible truth at this link:

http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/sabbath


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Love Your Enemies?
Photo and Commentary ©2012 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, February 1, 2012

You may be asking yourself, how does the image above and the title connect?  Good question.  First of all, the image above is of a Great Blue Heron* (asterisk denotes that I could be wrong, but it appears to be a juvenile Great Blue Heron).  I captured this image near the Skagit River. Now, what's it doing on a blog with a title like this? 

Well, it's a long story, but a certain heron (not this particular one) and I don't get along.  In fact you could actually call it an enemy of mine.  A few years back, one of these birds decided to make breakfast, lunch and dinner of my Koi, in our front yard.  I “get it” that nature is nature, and that the heron likes fish, and that he/she may not have cared nor known that these particular fish were mine, that I bought them, I fed them, I dug out their pond by hand with a shovel.  Regardless, the heron was not on my 'friend' list.

 
In Matthew 5, Jesus spoke about what we should do with our enemies.  We can read this, in verses 43-48,
 
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."
 
I certainly have a long way to go before I am anywhere close to being perfect but that shouldn't keep me from trying to be better.  Let's allow God to help us all be better.



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