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

Daily Photo Parable -  June 2014

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; THURSDAY--the Russell Jurgensen family. I handle 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.

My God Shall Supply All Your Needs
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 30, 2014

I was walking out on a fishing pier the other day and came across this young boy (probably around five) who had just caught a fish.  I asked him what kind of fish it was. 

He was keeping it in a black bucket and the sun was shining and reflecting off the water so he had to catch it by feel.  When he finally got a grip on it (it was a slippery and very active fish), he held it out so that his dad could identify it for him.  It was a smelt and he let me take a picture of it (with permission from his dad).  I carried on to the end of the pier and by the time I got back to him, he had two smelts and a herring.  

This picture reminded me of one of Jesus' miracles.  You may remember the story about the young boy's lunch which consisted of five loaves and two fish.  I heard that it is the only one of Jesus' miracles that is recorded in all four gospels. 

After this, Jesus crossed over the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. And a huge crowd, many of them pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the annual Passover celebration, were following him wherever he went, to watch him heal the sick. So when Jesus went up into the hills and sat down with his disciples around him, he soon saw a great multitude of people climbing the hill, looking for him.

Turning to Philip he asked, “Philip, where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” (He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.)

Philip replied, “It would take a fortune to begin to do it!”

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a youngster here with five barley loaves and a couple of fish! But what good is that with all this mob?”

“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus ordered. And all of them—the approximate count of the men only was five thousand—sat down on the grassy slopes. Then Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks to God and passed them out to the people. Afterwards he did the same with the fish. And everyone ate until full!

“Now gather the scraps,” Jesus told his disciples, “so that nothing is wasted.” And twelve baskets were filled with the leftovers!

When the people realized what a great miracle had happened, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!”
John 6: 1-14 TLB

The story describes the magnitude of the crowd and the tiny little lunch that somehow provided enough sustenance to feed everyone.  You will notice that there was more food left over than they had when they started out.  This story shows how abundantly God can supply our needs.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 
Philippians 4:19-20 KJV

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Miracle of Raising Lazarus to Life
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bethany (now called Al-Azariyeh) is a small town on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives, a couple of miles from Jerusalem. The photo above shows the attractive entryway to the church dedicated to Lazarus. Our guide told us that ancient Bethany was a village for the outcast, poor and sick (including lepers) unable to remain in nearby Jerusalem. When going to Jerusalem, pilgrims avoided passing through “contaminated” Bethany in order to remain “clean” for their visit to the temple. Jesus, however, became friends with several people in Bethany, even staying in their homes.

We visited a 2,000 year-old dwelling thought to be the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. The nearby cave in the photo just above  is thought to be the tomb of Lazarus. Since the cemetery would have been located outside the town, some people think the village was actually higher on the hill, but the present village formed around his tomb.

As told in John 11:1-44, Jesus brings dead Lazarus back to life. He had been dead in a tomb for four days before Jesus arrived in Bethany. Jesus said to take the stone away from the entrance of the cave. Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Wrapped in strips of linen, the dead man stood up and came out of the tomb, as depicted in the photo just below.


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Ascent to Silence
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 28, 2014

Just about a month ago I’d taken one of our cars to North Seattle to my faithful Honda repair shop for major scheduled service. As is my custom, I hopped a bus south to the University of Washington and went to the Odegaard Undergraduate Library to put in some study on my sermon.

I hadn’t been inside the library for a year, since it had been under renovation for many months. When I walked in the front door I saw what you see in the photo above. A large staircase leads up to the second level, and once you get there you can take another staircase to the top level.

Each level you go higher is a quieter one. The main floor is abuzz with conversation and study groups. The second floor (I think) is mostly filled with computer stations. The third floor is the “Quiet Study Area,” and as you can see by the reflection at the top of the photo, it is entirely encased in glass to keep out the noise from below.

As I watched the students ascending those steps, I thought about how important it is for me to “ascend to silence” at least once a day, and spend time prayerfully reading God’s Word. Up on Odegaard’s third level you can concentrate on whatever subject you’re studying, and have the best chance of “ace-ing” the upcoming test on it.

And in your silent time with God you can gain something far more important—a deeper understanding of His character, and a better ability to reflect it. Join me in resolving to do this each day!

Incidentally, the Odegaard library’s architects received an award for its design. Check out the link below.

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100% Pure!
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 27, 2014

Earlier this month while walking through a large shopping mall I saw the sign above. I’m assuming that “100% Pure” may actually be the name of a company, and that—ideally by the end of June—the sign’s prediction will have been fulfilled.

Okay . . . curiosity just got the best of me. I wasn’t going to actually look up the company online, but I gave in. It turns out that what we have here is a cosmetics company, and that they assert that their products match the firm’s name. I have no way know knowing whether their definition of purity, or their claim of its percentage in their goods, would agree with mine.

But I do know that, approaching this planet in the not-too-distant future, is Someone who is indeed purity itself. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest earthly friends, mentions this—and also reminisces about how Jesus used this personal holiness for us, and how this impels us toward righteous living.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.  1 Peter 2:21 – 25 NKJV 

For five more Bible texts on how to become righteous, click the link just below:

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Your Oil Shall Be Sure
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, June 26, 2014

I was surprised to discover one of the little paper cups in this Reese's Peanut Butter Cups package seemed a little thicker than normal.   I felt a bit like a magician as I peeled off one paper cup after another to come up with a total of ten paper cups from one package!

Aside from giving a good laugh, it reminded me of God's real miracles in the Bible to provide for people's needs.
  Tells of the story where the widow took care of Elijah and her flour and oil did not go dry.
 Tells the story of Jesus feeding five thousand and they picked up 12 baskets of left over food.

Sometimes our situations can look kind of hopeless, but let's remember to look to the Lord who can multiply and take things to the next power.   Who knows how we will be surprised. 

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Life (Part 3)
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When we live on a sinful, corrupt planet, life is not always the way it was intended.  In the image above, you see the majestic Bald Eagle peering down from a high branch in the Deception Pass State Park.  As you will also notice, the eagle has caught (and is enjoying) his lunch – salmon.  It’s tough. One aspect, the beautifully created Bald Eagle.  On the other hand we have the lifeless fish.

When God created the Garden of Eden, He planned on having all creatures living in harmony.  Then sin happened.  We can read in Revelation 21 (1-4), the account of the old, sinful world, being transformed into the ‘New Jerusalem’ – restored, into the way God had originally intended:

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

How about that – ‘…no more death, no more sorrow…’. To be able to see the eagles of the air who will have no need to swoop down, gather and consume the fish – that will be a joyous day indeed.  I look forward to the days without death and sorrow – and, obviously, not just for the sake of the fish.

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The question has often been asked, “How different is different?  How separate is separate?”  It’s not an easy question to answer and individuals with different agendas will often respond with widely varying answers.  Clearly the Bible says we are to be distinct, to have a “look” which will not be confused with that of the world.  “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”  (2 Corinthians 6:17 NIV)

Some have interpreted this to mean we should have nothing to do with those who don’t believe as we do, but clearly this isn’t what Christ Himself did, so that doesn’t seem to be the right answer.  Others have put their belief into practice by wearing clothes from a bygone era and relying on horse and buggy for transportation.  While we may admire their devotion, many of us feel they may have missed the underlying intent of this passage.

Let’s take a look at a desert species that appears to have a similar challenge.  The Pyrrhuloxia has been frequently confused with a female Northern Cardinal, and there are certainly some similarities.  It has even been referred to as the Desert Cardinal.  Yet its very name points out characteristics which separate it from its more familiar relative.  The name comes from the Greek where “pyrr” refers to its reddish color.  We see the same root in the term “pyrotechnics” as a reference to fireworks.  The second part of its name, “loxia” refers to its curved beak, a characteristic which helps distinguish it from the cardinal.

Lifestyle issues are where the idea of distinctiveness is most frequently debated.  The Pyrrhuloxia lives where it is hot, sometimes very hot.  Along with its neighbors, the Cactus Wren and Loggerhead Shrike, the Pyrrhuloxia has been observed perched on a terrace of a home where the air conditioned breeze coming out of a house offered some relief from the 118 degree temperature.  Does this mean the bird was denying its true identity and compromising with the world in which it lives?  In my way of thinking, it does not.

As stated before, this is not a simple issue.  It may be that where we run into trouble is when we start deciding for others how they should interpret the passage.  It stands to reason that the closer we come to Christ, those things which are abhorrent to Him will also become offensive to us.  Our challenge should then be to grow closer to Him, rather than canonizing a list of that which should be avoided.

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Be Still
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman

Monday, June 23, 2014

In my last photo parable, I talked about seeing a garden full of irises.  Peonies have also been blooming this spring and are also very beautiful.  

We (the human race) started out in a garden and I find gardens to be peaceful (I don't have a garden so the work aspect is not really an issue for me) and good places for contemplation (not to mention photography).  If your garden reminds you too much of work, go visit a public garden - like the Bellevue Botanical Garden or the Bellevue Demonstration Garden.

Life can be stressful and busy and sometimes we just need to step away and be quiet.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.

Psalm 46:10

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Miracle of Water Made into Wine
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Throughout Israel, we saw many old pottery pieces with some dating to or before the time of Jesus. I took the first photo (above) at a museum in the old town of Jaffa (Joppa) which, according to the Bible was founded by Noah's son, Japheth. Archaeologists have dated pottery remains found there back to the 20th century BC, establishing Jaffa as one of the world's oldest ports.

The photo immediately above shows pottery at Qumran, near the Dead Sea where 190 scrolls were discovered, preserved for 2000 years. From 150 BC to AD 68, this remote site was the home of a community of Essenes. Containers at the time of Jesus held about 20 to 30 gallons of water.

In Deuteronomy 8:8, fruit of the vine is listed as one of the seven blessed species of fruit found in the land of Israel. Today, one can see many vineyards throughout the countryside. Before Jesus began His ministry, he attended a wedding in Cana, in Galilee with His mother Mary and some of His disciples. Mary told Jesus that the wine was gone. Even though He told His mother that His hour had not come, He told the servants to fill the six water jars with water, which they did. Next, He told them to draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet. The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine and asked why the best wine was served last! This was the first sign in which He revealed His glory. John 2:1-11

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Coming Soon—Help Wanted!
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch

Sabbath, June 21, 2014

If you go eight blocks east of the church I pastor, then nearly eight blocks north, you’ll find the renovated Asian restaurant in the photo above. A week ago, when I last walked by it, the restaurant’s new name was in place (out of the photo), and just above the entrance—in the standard attention-getting colors of red and yellow—was the phrase “Coming Soon!”

And do you see the square white sign in the window to the right--“Help Wanted”? The eatery’s owners want to make sure that, on the day they open for business, there’ll be not only customers but enough cooks and wait staff so that all those customers will have such a wonderful experience that they’ll hurry back with friends in tow.

Have you picked up where I’m going with this? I know Someone else who’s coming soon—and the same Bible that tells me this also says that He has hung out a “Help Wanted” sign too. “And this gospel of the kingdom,” He says, “will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14, NKJV)  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,” He said--in Matthew's final verses--just before His departure to heaven, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

For a short Bible study on witnessing, click the link immediately below:

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Verified Peace of Mind?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch

Friday, June 20, 2014

A couple of days ago I caught sight of this trademarked phrase on the back window of a car. I’ve deliberately cropped out the name of the company whose slogan it was.

I was a bit startled to discover that anyone could trademark a phrase like that. For one thing, a peek at the front page of my local newspaper proves that there’s not a whole lot of real, verifiable peace of mind to be had.

For another thing, I know Someone (with a capital “S”) who can guarantee deep, settled peace no matter what type of turmoil you’re struggling through. He says as much in John 14:27 (NKJV):

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

For seven more Bible verses about true peace, click the link just below:

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Shake It Off
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, June 19, 2014

A few weeks ago we went hiking to Twin Falls along the South Fork Snoqualmie River. The trail goes next to the river so we let our dog, Taffy, go swimming. She always likes to play in the water and when she comes out, if you don't watch out you're probably going to get wet. Dogs are surprisingly effective at shaking off water.

It is important to be able to shake off the insults and annoyances we run into. A day will get frustrating very fast, but if we can learn to shake those frustrations off, life will be much more peaceful.

Ecclesiastes 7:20: "Also do not take to heart everything people say...."

Proverbs 11:12: "....But a man of understanding holds his peace."

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Life (Part 2)
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Last Wednesday I shared with you our wonderful God and how He gives life to everything.  Everyday, we should be thankful and respectful for the life that is given to us and that we can see around us.

Not only does God give life, He also enjoys the details.  Take this fern (found in my yard) for example.  Did God create a green leaf, round off the corners and call it good?  No, He delicately crafted an interact display of creativity.  The single leaves, coming off the stock, with their serrated edges, the spores underneath, ready to continue the life giving process. Beautiful, unique life.

Life in the Garden shows the first signs of God's creativity and ultimate plan for us, Genesis 2:9, "And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

God is good.  God is Life.

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Yellow Wood Sorrel
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Following the wisdom offered by Winnie-the-Pooh which stated, “Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them,” let’s take a closer look at Yellow Wood Sorrel which is considered a noxious weed by many.  Found growing close to the ground in many gardens, this flower, and others in the Oxalis group store up reserve energy in their tubers which makes them quite resistant to traditional weed control efforts. It is also known locally as false shamrock and sourgrass.  The later name comes from the sour taste found in both leaves and stems created by oxalic acid which is also present in spinach, broccoli, grapefruit, and rhubarb.

Native Americans have long been known to incorporate it in their diet.  The Kiowa tribe chewed it to alleviate thirst and the Potawatomi cooked it with sugar to make a dessert, not unlike the way we use rhubarb.  The Algonquin considered it to be an aphrodisiac while the Cherokee consumed it to cure mouth sores and sore throats.  The Iroquois ate it to help with cramps, fever, and nausea and, while not as far back, I can remember eating it from the garden simply because it tasted good. Members of this family frequently exhibit nyctinasty, where their leaves curl up at night and reopen during daylight hours to aid in photosynthesis.  When touched, mature seed capsules will open explosively, sending seeds up to twelve feet away.

Even this humble “weed” has its proper place and can be beneficial, just like all of humanity.  Job, when responding to the counsel offered by his friends, exhibited this proper attitude of humility:  “You and I are the same in God’s sight, both of us were formed from clay.  So you have no reason to fear me;” (Job 33:6-7 GNT)   Not a bad posture to take, whether a king or peasant, flower or weed. 

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Splendor and Beauty
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 16, 2014

I was up visiting my parents recently and we stopped on the side of the road to talk to this lady who had her front yard full of blooming irises.  She said she had 120 different kinds and she was fine with me taking some pictures.

She knew the names of each variety and she enjoyed meeting all of the people who stopped to enjoy her garden.

The color combinations were just amazing.  These beautiful flowers were true works of art; the work of the Master Artist surpasses anything we humans can dream up.

I give thanks to GOD with everything I’ve got—
Wherever good people gather, and in the congregation.
GOD’s works are so great, worth
A lifetime of study—endless enjoyment!
Splendor and beauty mark his craft;
His generosity never gives out.
His miracles are his memorial—
This GOD of Grace, this GOD of Love.
Psalm 111:1-4 (The Message)

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Miracle of Catching Fish
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 15, 2014

While in a boat on the Sea of Galilee (also known as Lake Kinneret) we saw several fishermen in small boats like the one in my photo above. Their nets were bundled, waiting to be set out in the water to catch fish. At 696 below sea level and fed by the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee is Israel's chief source of water. Since biblical times it has been known for its abundance of fish.

Due to a great drought in 1986, an ancient boat was found in mud on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (below).

Based on pottery and nails in the boat along with radiocarbon dating and construction techniques, the boat has been dated to the first century AD, at the time of Jesus. Remains of this boat are in my second photo. Apparently this type of boat was used on the Sea of Galilee for fishing and transportation across the lake at that time. And it is likely this is the type of boat used by Jesus and His disciples.

In Luke 5:3-10, the Bible describes a miracle involving catching fish on the Sea of Galilee. The fishermen had come to shore and were washing their nets when Jesus got on the boat belonging to Simon and continued to teach the people. When He had finished talking He asked Simon to go into deeper water and put his nets down for a catch. Simon said they had fished all night and had not caught anything, but would let the nets down as Jesus said. They caught so many fish their nets began to split! Another boat came to help collect the fish that almost sunk both boats. Simon and his partners, James and John, Zebedee's sons were amazed with what happened. They followed Jesus to become “fishers of men”.

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Decoding Your Dog
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 14, 2014

Shelley and I have such a pet-unfriendly schedule at this point (working late, evening meetings, and so on) that it would frankly be animal cruelty to inflict our ownership on—for example—a dog. Yet we regard canines with a fond and tolerant eye. And in what must set some kind of a record for coincidences, it was on June 11 that I snapped both of these photos.

The first is of a book I spotted in a Barnes and Noble store, from the cover of which a somewhat inscrutable dog of a breed I do not know stares at me as though defying me to decode him. The second photo, taken later the same day while I was driving along a multi-lane road, shows a collie-type of dog, head thrust out of the window, earnestly sniffing the breezes. (As all other passenger dogs seem to do, this one abandoned this window a second or two after this photo, and ran across the back seat to the other window, also left halfway down by the understanding owner, and stuck his head out that window and sniffed those breezes, as though hoping for an entirely different set of scents.)

I’m not exactly sure why one might need to decode one’s dog, but I would suggest that a good place to start might be to spend some time decoding that dog’s Creator. (Cultures who haven’t sought to understand a creative Deity have ended up actually worshipping animals, and in some cases re-creating their deities into humans with animal heads, and vice versa.)

I believe that understanding that God is Creator, and also understanding that sin has brought not only death but predation to the planet, will give us an important understanding into God’s empathetic intelligence, and His willingness to bring His planet back under His control.

For some Bible texts which talk about God’s Creation, click the link immediately below:

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Ever Wonder Y?
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 13, 2014

Wednesday night after prayer meeting, Shelley and I stopped in at the QFC about a half-mile south of the church and picked up some groceries. It was she who alertly noticed the perfect “Y” which had somehow become imprinted on this mango.

Ever wonder “Y” God made mangoes? A macroevolutionist, of course, would sigh patiently and tell you that no, God didn’t make mangoes, mangoes just sort of evolved. I don’t know which came first, the mango or the seed, but somehow that big seed got into the mango, and all that luscious pulp grew around that seed, and a tough yet sliceable protective skin covered the pulp to preserve it until someone ate it. And somehow, if that seed were planted, a whole bunch of new mangoes would grow.

Ever wonder “Y” God made humanity with the capacity for developing writing systems, and with the ability to conjure up an alphabet-letter from marks on a fruit? The macroevolutionist, loosening his necktie, will say—with perhaps a trifle less patience—that no, God did not make humanity. Humanity, through some indescribable and certainly untestable magic, just sort of gurgled its way up from . . . from what?

Ever wonder “Y” whole shoals of otherwise highly intelligent people will fight tooth and claw to maintain the myth, rather than consider the following hypothesis and give it a philosophical half-a-chance? “Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves . . . .” (Psalm 100:3 NKJV)

For a thoughtful analysis of evolution from a Biblical standpoint, click the link immediately below:

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Guiding Signs
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Russell Jurgensen
Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sometimes on the trail it is comforting to get some direction and reassurance from signs.  In this particular spot it can be hard to know a trail is even there.   Some thoughtful person decided to put up this sign to point the way to the South Tiger Mountain summit.  I think it may have been someone from an equestrian association that often maintains the trail.

The Bible gives us information on things we might not even know is there.  The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan is not immediately visible, but the Bible tells us about it and gives us a safe path to follow.

Isaiah 14:12-14 describes Satan falling from heaven.

Genesis 3 tells about Satan tempting mankind.

The Bible tells us we are not alone.  Heb 1:14 says, "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?"

God gives us many promises to be with us.  I like John 10:10 where Jesus says, " The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

It is comforting to know the way to life when often this world seems to hide it with troubles.  Hang in there and keep looking to the Lord for guidance.

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Life  (Part 1)
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

When you think of "life", what do you think of?  Do you think of your own life? The life, we will spend on earth?  A baby? A  butterfly? Regardless of what you automatically think of, when it comes to 'life', we know we get it from God.

The shot above was captured, while walking along the Snohomish river. This bush was buzzing with the bees, collecting the pollen.  God gives life to the plant to produce the flowers, to produce the pollen, for the bees (life was given to) to collect it and return to their home, continuing the circle life.

In Genesis 1:30, we read "Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so."

Everything. Not just some, or this or and that one. Everything.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, thank God for life.

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Double-crested Cormorant              
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Some people will swallow just about anything.  They seem to lack the tools for critical thinking and the results might be funny if they weren’t so sad.  That’s the attitude many have toward Christianity which they suggest fails to offer any tangible proof.  And it’s true; there are those in the Christian community who are open to deception.  A scam based upon a faulty interpretation of Moses’ promise to the tribe of Asher found in Deuteronomy 33 separated church members from hundreds of thousands of dollars, believing oil was to be found in that territory.  But far more is at stake than financial loss.  Eternal life hangs in the balance.

Writers in both the Old and New Testaments stress the importance of making sure we believe in that which is truly trustworthy.  Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 say, “Test everything.  Hold on to the good.” And John echoes this idea in 1 John 4:1 stressing we should give special attention to spiritual matters. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  So how do you test an idea which may not be based upon empirical evidence?  It’s a fair question, but fortunately an answer is provided.  “The teachings of the Lord are perfect.  They renew the soul.  The testimony of the Lord is dependable.  It makes gullible people wise.” (God’s Word Translation)

So, what should we swallow and what should we reject?  The answer for humans would certainly be different than the answer for this Double-crested Cormorant.  While it may not be appetizing to us, the cormorant seemed all too happy, after much effort, to swallow his dinner whole, head first.  If we put as much effort into testing our beliefs as he did positioning his meal, we’ll probably be able to make a clear distinction as to what is true and what is not. 

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New Life 
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 9, 2014

I really like spring.  There are all the signs of new life after a cold winter: birds returning to start new families, new grass shoots, new leaves and buds about to burst into wonderful flowers. 

This photo is of the bud of an Oriental poppy.  I'm sure you've driven by yards or parks and have seen them popping open this time of year.  They come in multiple colors, including white, pink, mauve, orange and a scarlet red. 

The Bible talks about us being spiritually dead (this kind of reminds me of winter) and then it tells us how we have been given a new life with Christ (which reminds me of spring and all the promise it holds).

But God’s mercy is great, and he loved us very much. Though we were spiritually dead because of the things we did against God, he gave us new life with Christ. You have been saved by God’s grace. And he raised us up with Christ and gave us a seat with him in the heavens. He did this for those in Christ Jesus so that for all future time he could show the very great riches of his grace by being kind to us in Christ Jesus. I mean that you have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it. God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.
Ephesians 2:4-10 (NCV)

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Magnificent Horses
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 8, 2014

While in the Patagonian pampas of Argentina and Chile, we saw many horses as well as cows and sheep on estancias or ranches – sometimes along the roadway and at other times while visiting the estancias. My second photo (below) shows an Argentine gaucho (cowboy) crossing to another field with his dogs to check his herds and hunt rabbits.

The gauchos, with their distinctive hats that look something like berets, were friendly as we stopped to greet and photograph them. Below, gauchos are herding cattle on a narrow road we were traveling on, so we pulled off to let them pass.

Having grown up with horses, I think they are magnificent animals.

In Bible times, horses were used during battle both for pulling chariots and for riding. Solomon strengthened his hold by acquiring horses. According to 2 Chronicles 1:14-17, they brought horses for him from Egypt and other countries. I Kings 4:26 says that Solomon had 40,000 chariot horses and 12,000 cavalry horses! That's a lot of horses!

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500-year Diary
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, June 7, 2014

This past Thursday, on my way to meet with a young man whom I’ll be baptizing this Sabbath, I paid a quick visit to a Half-Price Books store. I was startled to see the above volume on display.

I remember my sisters’ clasp-bound five-year diaries which they kept firmly locked when not pouring their hearts’ inmost secrets onto the pages. Five years is an impressively long time to keep a diary, but 500 years?

Then I saw the “Doctor Who” label at the bottom, and since I knew almost nothing about him though I’d heard the name for years, I did some Wikipedia looking. It turns out that Doctor Who is a hugely successful and long-running British science fiction program, where the doctor (played over the years by something like 11 different men) travels through time, saving civilizations from disaster. So if he’s able to travel through time, a 500-year diary might not only be possible but necessary, to keep track of where and when he had been.

I don’t know whether inhabitants of God’s future happy eternity will feel the need to keep as obsessive track of the passage of time as mortals currently do. Maybe our memory capacity will be so immense that we won’t even need recording devices--or 500-year diaries.

However, I want to be able to find out for myself. Don’t you? Have you made your flight reservation? Better do it now. You just never know . . . .

Click the link below for a series of Bible texts which review salvation.

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A Bite Out of Time
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, June 6, 2014

This past Monday while strolling on a sidewalk, I noticed this piece of bread with a bite out of the lower left corner. (Sherlock Holmes would have squinted shrewdly at this bread-slice and deduced from the tiny arc of the bite that a very small child had sampled the bread and promptly discarded it.)

As soon as I laid eyes on that slice, I saw two other interesting features. First, it’s shaped like the Ten Commandments. Second, the bite is out of the lower left corner, where some artists traditionally put the Sabbath commandment in their depictions of the Decalogue.

Nobody now living knows exactly what the stone tables looked like. For one thing, the Bible says there were two slabs, not one.  But when you think about recent Christian practice, hasn’t the biggest “bite” been taken out of Commandment Four—which God said to "remember," and which contains more words and more detail than any other commandment, and which reminds the reader of how God created, blessed, and sanctified the Seventh Day, and even rested on it?

If James 2:10 is correct, and of course it is, when it says, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all,” that means that anybody who disobeys the Sabbath commandment while claiming to keep the other nine has really broken the entire set—and are like the little kid who, after one bite, tosses the rest of the slice.

“Food” for thought, right?

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Caleb Jurgensen
Thursday, June 5, 2014

We sometimes leave our back door open so that our dog can easily go in and out, but usually only if someone is there. One time we had forgotten that the door was unlatched and came down to find my 12 year old pet pygmy goat, Elephant, very happily munching on some papers he had pulled out of a bookcase. He had also left a pile of goat pebbles on the vinyl near the door. Goats generally won't go anywhere you tell them to, and he was having a great time in the house, so we had to coax him out with some bread.

The Bible doesn't really have many good things to say about goats. In the Old Testament, they are always being used for sacrifices. In Matthew 25:41-46, The Son of Man separates the sheep from the goats, praises the sheep for the good things they have done, and sends the goats "into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." I guess sheep work better for making parables, but in my experience (disclaimer: I haven't had a pet sheep) goats are smarter (ours could open those flip-slide barrel-bolt latches and grain barrels), more curious and independent, hardier, more loving, and even have more chromosomes.

But finally we find a few nicer passages referencing goats: 
Psalm 104:18: "The high mountains belong to the wild goats...."
Proverbs 27:27: "You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family ....."
Song of Songs 4:1: "....Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead."

Here it shows that goats have some leadership ability:
Jeremiah 50:8: “Flee out of Babylon; leave the land of the Babylonians, and be like the goats that lead the flock."

But I think this verse about the New Earth is the best one:
Isaiah 11:6: "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them."

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Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
In nature, lots of animals use some sort of camouflage or concealment to hide from their enemies.  This little guy (I didn't have the time to dig up his Latin name, but if you know it, you can insert it here____________) was told by one of his/her parents to stay put.  Hide from anything that could harm him.  He chose the tall grass, roughly about 4 inches high.  The color wasn’t hiding him but the grass (as he was a little one) and his stillness kept him safe. 

Occasionally it's good to hide, of course, but Jesus spent little or no time talking about concealing your allediance to God. Instead, He told us to let our light sine, and to remember that we are a city set on a hill, which cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14 - 16). Psalm 40:9 - 10 echoes this "go public" call.
I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O LORD, You Yourself know.
I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your loving kindness and Your truth
From the great assembly.
Do we hide in the grass, or do we stand tall and declare our faithfulness to our God?  Do we look to camouflage ourselves from the danger, or are willing to be persecuted and not conceal our love for our Father?

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If It Walks Like a Duck
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Most of us have heard the old proverb that says, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”.  We like this type of home-spun wisdom because it makes sense, it doesn’t confuse the subject with technical terminology which may cloud the issue.  If, however, we altered the saying and restated it in the form of a question, I wonder if our answer would still be the same.  Let’s try it.  If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but doesn’t look like a duck, is it still a duck?  Consider this  example.  The bird shown above is a Red-winged Blackbird, perhaps the most numerous land bird in the United States.  But this particular bird is unlike any shown in the bird books.  The reason for that is because it is leucistic.  Various authorities on the subject differ in distinguishing between albinism and leucism but one writer suggests leucistic birds have pigmentation in the body parts resulting in dark eyes, yet lack melanin in the feathers resulting in abnormally white plumage.

A novice, upon seeing this bird, might assume it was an escapee from the zoo or a far off island, but its behavior, song, and other physical features clearly identify it as a Red-wing.  For three years in a row this unique individual returned to a park near our place and carried on life as a normal blackbird, much to the delight of individuals looking for this distinctive bird.

Now, a transition from the physical to the spiritual realm. Matthew 7 contains some fearful words uttered by Christ; fearful because the subject is not a duck, or even a blackbird, but individuals who look much like you and me.  And fearful because of His pronouncement:  “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me you evildoers.”  (verses 22,23 NIV)  From all outward appearances, they possess all the “field marks” of a true believer, yet the One who made them recognizes the fraud.  So, if a person walks like a Christian, talks like a Christian, and looks like a Christian, is he really a Christian?  It appears that is a question best left to our Maker.

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He is Mightier
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, June 2, 2014

Have you ever walked through the surf and felt the strength of the waves as they broke on the shore and then felt the tug of the water as they receded?  You may have seen warning signs about unpredictable waves and surges of water.    You may have heard about rip tides and tidal waves.

I think we've all seen videos and photos of the power of the ocean in a raging storm or the damage done by a tsunami.  Calm and peaceful seas can turn dangerous in no time.   Whole fleets of ships have gone down during powerful storms.

Psalm 93 talks about how mighty a storm can be but notes that God, who is from the "everlasting past," is mightier than any ocean. 

The LORD is king! He is robed in majesty.
    Indeed, the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength.
The world stands firm
    and cannot be shaken.
Your throne, O LORD, has stood from time immemorial.
    You yourself are from the everlasting past.
The floods have risen up, O LORD.
    The floods have roared like thunder;
    the floods have lifted their pounding waves.
But mightier than the violent raging of the seas,
    mightier than the breakers on the shore—
    the LORD above is mightier than these!
 Your royal laws cannot be changed.
    Your reign, O LORD, is holy forever and ever.  Psalm 93:1-5 (NLT)

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Blustery Cape Horn
Photo and Commentary ©2014 by Bev Riter
Sunday, June 1, 2014

The captain of our Expedition Cruise Via Australis couldn't guarantee a landing at Cape Horn, the most southerly piece of land on earth apart from Antarctica. Cape Horn is the northern boundary of the Drake Passage where the waters are particularly hazardous due to strong winds, large waves, strong currents and icebergs. Crew members went ashore via zodiacs (motorized dinghies), while we waited on board with our warmest clothes and life jackets on. 
The current weather conditions determined the possibility of landing on Horn Island. Because of the rough water, we were given special instructions about how to get on and off the zodiacs. Once on the island, we walked up the 160 steep steps to gentler steps until we reached the albatross monument as shown in the photo above. The monument looked small from a distance, but was large once we got there. 


Next, the path took us to the chapel and the lighthouse, where an individual family lives for a year at a time. Because of the blustery wind and rain, we didn't remain on the top of the cape very long. 

When ready to board the zodiac, we were instructed to jump onto it when the waves pushed it close to shore, with one foot on the top ledge and then the other foot at the bottom. 
When it was my turn to board, the guide said “now”, but an unexpected huge wave pushed the zodiac away. If I would have jumped when he said to, I would have fallen into the icy water! (I didn't want the guides in wetsuits to have to retrieve me!) I didn't follow the instructions of the guide.
Sometimes, it's better to use our best judgment and God-given intelligence rather than following instructions or doing the same as others. The Costa Concordia ship and the South Korean ferry disasters are examples of when unwise orders were given and people lost their lives by following those orders. This is something like Jesus not wanting to go along with what others were doing at the temple in Jerusalem. He felt is was wrong for people to sell cattle, sheep and doves there as well as changing money, making the temple like a marketplace. (John 2:13-22) He spoke against the practice of those activities in the temple, which the priests had allowed or maybe even encouraged. Think before you act!


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