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

Devotional Photo Blog - October 2010

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. 



Working Together

Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 31, 2010

The world's third largest bird, the Cassowary (see the photo above) is flightless and is closely related to the emu, ostrich and kiwi. They live in the rain forest of New Guinea and northeastern Australia. Being around six feet tall, they can weigh up to 100 pounds. Some people call the Cassowary the most dangerous bird on the planet because they can cause serious injury to humans and animals with their sharp dagger-like claws.

Now for some positive facts about the Cassowary – they are called “Gardeners of the Rain Forest” because they eat fruit and deposit intact seeds that propagate the forest with fruit trees. They eat up to 150 different kinds of fruit with about half of those fruit tree species depending entirely on the Cassowary for seed dispersal and survival. 

The photo below shows some of the types of fruit of the Daintree Rain Forest. Thus, they play a vital part in the maintenance of the rain forest ecosystem.



Isn't it amazing how God created plants and animals to work for the benefit of one another! The Cassowary and other birds eat fruit and seeds from trees. Then the birds deposit seeds from the fruit in other areas to help the growth and survival of those tree species.


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In Jesus’ Light
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 30, 2010

The Halloween-themed poem in the photo is currently on the readerboard between our church and busy 140th Avenue. Our church is located at an intersection with lights, which means that often long lines of cars pause there, and I’m hoping that their drivers ponder our signs from time to time.

I don’t know what kind of ghostly shade or demon blight might be bothering the driver of the silver car whipping by just beyond the sign. But I do know that whenever Jesus the Light of the World approached demon-possessed people, those demons started to writhe in fear and torment. Because when Jesus came near, the forces of evil had to retreat. This old gospel song tells about one such event:

From home and friends the evil spirits drove him,
Among the tombs he dwelt in misery;
He cut himself as demon powers possessed him,
Then Jesus came and set the captive free.

When Jesus comes, the tempter's power is broken;
When Jesus comes, the tears are wiped away,
He takes the gloom and fills the life with glory,
For all is changed when Jesus comes to stay.
 --Lyrics by Oswald Smith


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How Very Personal . . . .
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 29, 2010

Every time I stagger in from my mailbox bearing the latest bundle of political mailings, I barely look at them. I just put them on top of the stack of other political mailings from previous days until I have time to rip out just my name and address and shred that, and then I put the rest in recycle.

But a couple of weeks ago this one caught my eye, because stuck to it was an honest-to-goodness post-it with a handwritten message. Notice the firm, masculine printing? It looks for all the world like there's this ordinary guy (who’s so ordinary that he stopped writing cursive at age 14) who is so absolutely devoted to Candidate Mark Whomever that he sat down with a stack of post-its and painstakingly jotted down this message on each one with his own personal ballpoint.

Except that it’s a lie. Suspicious old me turned the post-it upside down and looked carefully at the other side. Sure enough--there were absolutely no depressions in the surface, no evidence that a muscular hand had gouged this particular paper with any real writing instrument. This “personal” note had simply been printed on the sticky-note with a machine.

Far be it from me to compare campaign mailings with the work of the devil--though I’m sure he smiles with evil satisfaction as he examines some of the appalling, deceptive attack ads I’ve seen--but the fact is, the devil is in the business of “personalizing” temptation. I am personally unmoved by the temptation to rob a bank, snort cocaine, or smoke a cigarette. But that doesn’t mean I’m temptation-free, and neither is any other Christian. Each tailored temptation comes with what seems like a personal note to us: “Try this--it’s perfect for you. You’ll like it. And you’ll want more.”

“Be sober, be vigilant,” says the man whom Jesus once temporarilly named “Satan,” “because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith . . . .” (1 Peter 5:8, 9).  James gives us Step One: “Therefore submit to God,” and continues: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you . . . . (James 4:7, 8)


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What to Do with Doubt
Photograph ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Commentary ©1892 by Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, Chapter 12
Thursday, October 28, 2010
        

       Clouds and darkness surround Him.
        Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
        --- Psalms 97:1-2, NLT

        There are secret things that belong to the LORD our God,
        but the revealed things belong to us and our descendants forever…
        --- Deuteronomy 29:29, NLT

Many…are at times troubled with the suggestions of skepticism. There are in the Bible many things which they cannot explain, or even understand... They ask, "How shall I know the right way? If the Bible is indeed the word of God, how can I be freed from these doubts and perplexities?"

God never asks us to believe, without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant. Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt. Our faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith.

The word of God, like the character of its divine Author, presents mysteries…too deep for the human mind to explain, or even fully to comprehend. But we have no reason to doubt God's word because we cannot understand the mysteries of His providence. In the natural world we are constantly surrounded with mysteries that we cannot fathom. …Everywhere are wonders beyond our ken. Should we then be surprised to find that in the spiritual world also there are mysteries that we cannot fathom?

If it were possible for created beings to attain to a full understanding of God and His works, then, having reached this point, there would be for them no further discovery of truth, no growth in knowledge, no further development of mind or heart. God would no longer be supreme; and man, having reached the limit of knowledge and attainment, would cease to advance. Let us thank God that it is not so. God is infinite; in Him are "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."  (Colossians 2:3)  And to all eternity men may be ever searching, ever learning, and yet never exhaust the treasures of His wisdom, His goodness, and His power.

God intends that even in this life the truths of His word shall be ever unfolding to His people. There is only one way in which this knowledge can be obtained. We can attain to an understanding of God's word only through the illumination of that Spirit by which the word was given. "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God;" "for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (1 Corinthians 2:11, 10)  And the Saviour's promise to His followers was, "When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth. . . . For He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you."  (John 16:13, 14)

God desires man to exercise his reasoning powers; and the study of the Bible will strengthen and elevate the mind as no other study can. Yet we are to beware of deifying reason, which is subject to the weakness and infirmity of humanity. If we would not have the Scriptures clouded to our understanding, so that the plainest truths shall not be comprehended, we must have the simplicity and faith of a little child, ready to learn, and beseeching the aid of the Holy Spirit. A sense of the power and wisdom of God, and of our inability to comprehend His greatness, should inspire us with humility, and we should open His word, as we would enter His presence, with holy awe. When we come to the Bible, reason must acknowledge an authority superior to itself, and heart and intellect must bow to the great I AM.

There are many things apparently difficult or obscure, which God will make plain and simple to those who thus seek an understanding of them. But without the guidance of the Holy Spirit we shall be continually liable to wrest the Scriptures or to misinterpret them. There is much reading of the Bible that is without profit and in many cases a positive injury. When the word of God is opened without reverence and without prayer; when the thoughts and affections are not fixed upon God, or in harmony with His will, the mind is clouded with doubts; and in the very study of the Bible, skepticism strengthens. The enemy takes control of the thoughts, and he suggests interpretations that are not correct. Whenever men are not in word and deed seeking to be in harmony with God, then, however learned they may be, they are liable to err in their understanding of Scripture, and it is not safe to trust to their explanations. Those who look to the Scriptures to find discrepancies, have not spiritual insight. With distorted vision they will see many causes for doubt and unbelief in things that are really plain and simple.

In order to arrive at truth, we must have a sincere desire to know the truth and a willingness of heart to obey it. And all who come in this spirit to the study of the Bible will find abundant evidence that it is God's word, and they may gain an understanding of its truths that will make them wise unto salvation.

Christ has said, "If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching." John 7:17, R.V. Instead of questioning and caviling concerning that which you do not understand, give heed to the light that already shines upon you, and you will receive greater light. By the grace of Christ, perform every duty that has been made plain to your understanding, and you will be enabled to understand and perform those of which you are now in doubt.

There is an evidence that is open to all,--the most highly educated, and the most illiterate,--the evidence of experience. God invites us to prove for ourselves the reality of His word, the truth of His promises. He bids us "taste and see that the Lord is good." Psalm 34:8. Instead of depending upon the word of another, we are to taste for ourselves. He declares, "Ask, and ye shall receive." John 16:24. His promises will be fulfilled. They have never failed; they never can fail. And as we draw near to Jesus, and rejoice in the fullness of His love, our doubt and darkness will disappear in the light of His presence.

By faith we may look to the hereafter and grasp the pledge of God…all which has perplexed us in the providences of God will then be made plain, things hard to be understood will then find an explanation; and where our finite minds discovered only confusion and broken purposes, we shall see the most perfect and beautiful harmony.

        Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:
        now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
        --- 1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV

"Do you ask why I believe in Jesus? Because He is to me a divine Saviour. Why do I believe the Bible? Because I have found it to be the voice of God to my soul."

[ Join in the study of the Bible and Steps to Christ, Wed’s 6 PM at the church. ]
[ Photograph of storm clouds over the foothills of Mt. Rainier, WA - September 2010. ]


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Who Wants To Go Swimming?
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
 
This last Sabbath, my son Zach was baptized.  He chose to show his friends, family and God that he wants God to lead his life.  It was a great day and we were blessed with all the family, friends and mentors in his life, to share the day with.  It truly was a great day and one which neither Zach nor the rest of us will ever forget.
 
Jesus came to this earth to set an example of what we need to do, in order to follow in His footsteps.  One of these examples was the act of being Baptised.  Jesus came to earth to set an example of full immersion baptism, the symbol, of dying and burying of our old sins and then rising up as clean and pure.  This new life gives us the opportunity to forget about the past and start fresh with a new perspective and a new lease on life.  We won't be able to be perfect but it will allow us to share our love for God with others, while we follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
 
So how about it....Who wants to go swimming?  If you are interested, let our local "Lifeguard" (Pastor Schurch) know and he'll get you set up with a 'swim class'. :)

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Spiders        
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spiders are mentioned only two or perhaps three times in the Bible.  Each time they are referred to, the writers employed them in a different way.  The author of Proverbs 28 suggests they (some translations use lizards instead) are rather insignificant yet can be found almost anywhere, even in the king’s palace.(verse 28)  That characteristic can be particularly evident on a fall morning, especially after it has rained, when their gossamer webs seem strung from every branch.  These webs are used in three primary ways: to entrap prey, to serve as egg casings, and to disperse young spiders in what are known as balloonings where these  lightweight web sails can carry the young many miles from their place of origin.  It has been calculated that a web long enough to encircle the globe would weigh less than eighteen ounces.
 
Isaiah’s usage of spiders has rather sinister overtones, not unlike the theatrical association they are given with haunted houses.  He links them with the wicked and states their actions can no more cover them than clothing made from a spider’s web.  (Is. 59:5,6)   Bildad, in the book of Job, also seems to place a low value upon the worth and strength of the spider’s web.  “Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless.  What he trusts in is fragile; what he relies on is a spider’s web.  He leans on his web, but it gives way; he clings to it, but it does not hold.” (Job 8:13-15 NIV)  Since the web’s strength is roughly equivalent to the strength of an equal amount of steel, we would do well to look beyond our own creations to find something that is truly trustworthy.  Bildad may have missed some of the most important issues, but at least on this point, his advice seems to be right on.
 
And lest we become too hard on Bildad, we should remember that we too still have a lot to learn.  It was only a few years ago that a student-suggested experiment with spiders was conducted on Skylab in a zero-gravity situation and determined that the lack of gravitational pull did indeed have an impact upon the type of web they built.  Maybe the old-fashioned common sense advice we find in the Bible still has something to say to us today in our technological world.


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Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 25, 2010

I took this picture the summer before last when I was up in British Columbia.  My eight year old nephew and I were driving around checking out a couple of lakes in the hills near Kelowna.  (He was interested in what kind of kayaks were available to rent and I was looking for wildflowers!)  This is a reflection of boat and sky.  The boat has the name Beaver Lake painted on it. 

When we don't look at the real thing (the boat in this case), what we see is a reflection - which can often be distorted.  If we were to look at the boat itself, we would clearly see a boat and we would be able to read the name without difficulty.

We each need to be looking to Jesus for ourselves.  We need to have our own relationship with God to get the clearest picture of Him.  We can't depend on other people to reflect their walk with God because we may be getting a distorted picture.  People are fallible and can let us down; God is infallible and never lets us down. 

This is not to say we shouldn't listen to teaching and preaching or stories by people who talk about what God has done in their lives but we need to have our own prayerful study of God's Word to get the most accurate picture of Him. 

Like the chorus to the old hymn written by Helen H. Lemmel states:
 
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."


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He’s Our Rock
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 24, 2010

While in the outback of the Northern Territory in Australia, we spent time in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The Aboriginal people regard this area as special for cultural and spiritual reasons. Being a World Heritage site, many visitors from around the world come here to see the natural beauty and walk among the spectacular rock formations. The rocks can be brilliant at sunrise and sunset. This photo shows how red the sandstone rock called Uluru or Ayers can be at sunset. Weathering gives the rock its red color. The iron minerals in the rock are weathered by water and oxygen, in a similar way to iron rusting. It is thought that these rock formations were harder than the surrounding material which eroded away. Because of their strength, they remain for people to appreciate and enjoy.

Psalms 18:1-2 talks about God being our “rock”, “I love thee, O Lord my strength. The Lord is my stronghold, my fortress and my champion, my God, my rock where I find safety.” NEB We know songs about God being our “rock”. One being, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee...” He is always there when you need a “rock” for strength. He's waiting.


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Snow in October?
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 23, 2010

Okay, detectives. Here’s a list of facts about the above photo:

1. I snapped this shot this past Thursday in Renton, Washington, on the Highlands, which are maybe a couple of hundred feet above sea level.

2. The temperature outside was probably 66 degrees, and had only fallen to the high 30s the previous night, and this weather pattern has happened for several days.

3. And this isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Every week on my way to a Bible study for the last couple of months, I have seen snow right here.

So, what’s the story? Why is there a snowdrift in a town which hasn’t seen a snowfall since last December?

We get the answer by widening our view so we can see the context:



The only thing I can figure out is that someone at Castle Ice Arena has to drive that little truck over the rink, polishing the ice and vaccuming up what’s not wanted into its little tank. And one day a light bulb must have flashed on over someone’s head. “Hey, let’s dump that extra ‘snow’ beside the highway and park the little truck beside it! That’ll prove to people that Castle Ice Arena is so good at ice-making that we have some left over!”

Any thinking person realizes that getting the larger context is the best way to get at the truth. And it’s true for the Bible as well. I always tell people I study with to discover the “Bible-wide” truth about a teaching. In other words, don’t just choose one text, take it out of the Bible, and assume it’s Scripture’s complete teaching about the topic. Instead, hunt that topic up from Genesis to Revelation, and you’ll get its “Bible-wide” perspective.

A quick example. The seventh-day Sabbath is a teaching that holds up in a Bible-wide perspective. Created on Day Seven of Creation Week, before there was either sin or a Jewish nation, the Sabbath was carved in stone in the heart of the Ten Commandments, kept in the Old Testament, kept by Jesus (Luke 4), kept by His followers even after His death (Luke 23:56, and several passages in Acts), and will be observed in the New Earth (Isaiah 66:23).

Snow? In Renton? In October? Sure--if you understand the context!


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This Little Light of Mine
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 22, 2010

This past Tuesday as I sat in a pastors’ meeting I saw this rather breathtaking sight. A shaft of afternoon sun streamed in through the window and had landed on this pastor’s head. He doesn’t have a lot of hair, and as I reached for my Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot camera I wondered how the camera would deal with the high-contrast challenge.

What you see is exactly what the camera saw--I haven’t retouched this photo in the least. The camera, in its effort to survey the whole scene and average out the light, has made this man’s head glow like that of a heavenly visitor!

It reminded me of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount saying. “You are the light of the world,” He insisted. “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine . . . .” (Matthew 5:14 - 16, NKJV)

It’s very probable that real Christians have no idea--nor won’t until heaven--how much their heavenly influence affects those around them. For now, faithful Christians should assume that people in whichever arena through which they walk know very well Who has their allegiance. These observers’ religious vocabulary might cause them to say anything from “He seems like a very spiritual person” to “She must believe in God.” Because as in the photo above, when darkness is all around, a light shines out dramatically.  (By the way, the above pastor is indeed a whole-hearted Christian whose genial influence has had an effect on many.)

Now let’s get very practical. By that I mean, let’s let Jesus finish His sentence: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

I’ve italicized the “rubber meets the road” part of the above sentence. Letting our Christian lights shine is more than drifting around wearing a smile. It’s doing good works. Not bad works, not shifty works, not deceitful works, not hypocritical works, but good works. What good work can you do for someone today--with your words, your cash, your muscle?


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The Privilege of Prayer
Photograph ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Commentary ©1892 by Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, Chapter 11
Thursday, October 14, 2010

Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend.

Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.

Jesus Himself, while He dwelt among men, was often in prayer. ...His humanity made prayer a necessity and a privilege. He found comfort and joy in communion with His Father. And if the Saviour of men, the Son of God, felt the need of prayer, how much more should feeble, sinful mortals feel the necessity of fervent, constant prayer.

What can the angels of heaven think of poor helpless human beings, who are subject to temptation, when God's heart of infinite love yearns toward them, ready to give them more than they can ask or think, and yet they pray so little and have so little faith?

The darkness of the evil one encloses those who neglect to pray. …Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven's storehouse?

        It is impossible to please God without faith.
        Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that there is a God
        and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.

        Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for.

        You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you will have it.
        But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against,
        so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.

        --- Hebrews 11:6, Matthew 7:7, and Mark 11:24-25, NLT

[Join in the study of the Bible and Steps to Christ, Wed’s 6 PM at the church.]

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Straight and Narrow
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The other weekend we took a walk along the Kirkland waterfront.  One of the trails lead out to the water by way of this raised walkway.  When I stepped back and captured the image, it reminded me of life.  There are plenty of times where it might seem best for us if God made our path straight and narrow, with railings on both sides--thus allowing us not to go too far to the right or too far to the left.  But that's not how life works.  We have to stay connected with God to ensure we are on the correct path and we give Him the opportunity to show us where we need to be.
 
The path also appears to stop abruptly, which is exactly how we feel sometimes in life.  We feel we are going down the right path and then there is a dead end.  Sometimes we blame ourselves but there are times we blame God for leading us down the wrong path.  After a while we realize it wasn't God that lead us down the wrong path, we lead ourselves down the wrong path....and that's not a dead end at all, it's a turn in the road that God has chosen for us.
 
The next time you are on a path, walking along, remember our God is the one that created that path and knows exactly where it leads.  Please God, lead on.


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The God of Large and Small
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
 
Whenever a discussion of the perceived tension between science and religion arises, the first name to be brought up is always that of Galileo Galilei.  Unfortunately, the story is often oversimplified, with a free-thinking Galileo being challenged by the church which opposed all change and was resistant to science in general.  The truth paints a far different picture.  Galileo, like all Italians of the 16th and 17th centuries, was a Christian.  His two daughters became nuns and joined a convent.  One of his friends and admirers became Pope Urban VIII and encouraged him to write papers discussing both the strengths and weaknesses of the heliocentric theory which had been proposed by Copernicus and which Galileo’s worked seemed to support. 
 
The conflict centered around a personal quarrel as much as anything.  Galileo and a Spanish cardinal found themselves at odds and resorted to casting insults disparaging each other.  The political climate continued to worsen for Galileo and he lost much of his clerical support.  To buttress their position, the church leaders cited Psalms 93:1 which stated, “The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.”  To this was added Psalms 96:10 as well as other texts used to give support to the traditional geocentric theory.  The end result was Galileo’s works were condemned and he was put under house arrest.  If nothing else, this incident should offer us caution, to be certain our interpretation of both science and Scripture are correct before we transform them into dogma. 
 
Perhaps we today face another danger.  In searching to understand the far off mysteries of time and space, have we failed to see God’s working close at hand?  Galileo also gave us a gentle reminder about that: “The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.”  By all means, stretch the imagination, push the boundaries of science, but don’t forget who provided for that bunch of grapes as well.

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Show Me the Way
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 18, 2010

I took the above picture while I was hiking the Hurricane Hill trail in Olympic National Park last summer.  This Little River trail was heading off towards the park boundary. 

Sometimes life is like that.  We are heading off in one direction and another trail (opportunity) comes up and goes off in a totally different direction and we are suddenly not sure which path we should be taking. 

This is the time to pray and study God's word (the Bible) to find out which way to go.

Psalm 25:4-5 (New Living Translation)
    Show me the right path, O LORD;
      point out the road for me to follow.
    Lead me by your truth and teach me,
      for you are the God who saves me.
      All day long I put my hope in you.


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Rescued!
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 17, 2010

Many eyes were on the rescue efforts this last week as the 33 Chilean miners were pulled to safety up the 2041 foot shaft. I'm sure they experienced many challenges during the 69 days of being trapped underground. Much knowledge and many skills contributed to the planning of their safe return. Rescued!

My photo shows a car and it's occupants being “rescued” after getting stuck – not in mud- but sand. We were in a caravan of five cars heading out to a trailhead with other hikers (or bushwalkers as called there in Australia). We were in the lead car driven by an expert in such road conditions. We realized we were alone – the other cars were stuck in the sand behind us. With some help, three cars were pushed to safety. The last car, as you can see, was deep in the roots of sand – it couldn't move! After much effort of moving sand and placing sticks for traction, our driver managed to get the car out for the other driver. Rescued!

We all know the words recorded in John 3:16-17 (KJV), where Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Rescued!


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Smart Signs
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 16, 2010

Heading north into Seattle on a sunny day a couple of months ago, I noticed that the department of transportation now has its “smart signs” working. From what I understand, they are part of a complicated system which is designed to prevent traffic bunch-ups so that everyone can travel as smoothly as possible through the Seattle freeway bottlenecks.

The way it works, I gather, is this. All along this freeway are traffic sensors, which detect the speed at which the cars are traveling. So let’s say that several miles ahead, up by the Columbia Center (that’s the bluish-gray tower you can see peeking over the freeway overpass above the white van) the northbound traffic has come to a complete stop.

The sensors sense this, and let the main computer know. The computer says to itself (no doubt in binary code), “Whoops. This means we gotta slow down everybody leading up to the bunch-up so that they won’t come roaring along at 60 mph and have to come to a screeching halt.  Or a screeching crunch.” So the main computer cleverly lowers the numbers on the signs above, and we drivers (if we have common sense--and an eye on our wallets) slow down. And everybody benefits.

In a very limited way, the above signs are something like what God wants to do for us through His Holy Spirit. The prophet Isaiah comforted his readers by telling them that in uncertain spiritual times, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,  ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21, NKJV) The Lord Himself promises, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” (Psalm 32:8) Another Psalm says, “You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory.” (Psalm 73:24)

And this guidance will always agree with--and often comes by way of reading--the Holy Bible. So the next time you open the Scriptures, pray, “Heavenly Father, I am willing to be guided by You today. Please show me Your will.”


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Every Librarian’s Dream . . . .
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 15, 2010

Early last month I saw this delightful window display just inside the doors of a library. The enthusiastic sign says, “Yes! These books are available for checkout!” And the empty bookstands testify to an enthusiastic reading public.

Wouldn’t that be thrilling? (Sigh) Doing a reality check, it’s most likely that I arrived on the scene partway through the display setup. No doubt the librarian had just set up the sign, and had disappeared to collect the books to place on the stands.

When’s the last time you “checked out” one of the books of the Bible? Have you read Ruth recently? Joel? James? First John? I know from very real personal experience that each new time you read a Bible book--especially if it’s one you haven’t focused on for several years--you gain an unbelievable amount of stunning new insights. And you also make the Librarian very happy!


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Hidden Treasure
Photograph and Commentary ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Thursday, October 14, 2010

        As the miner discovers veins of precious metal concealed beneath the surface of the earth, so will he who perseveringly searches the word of God as for hid treasure find truths of the greatest value… (Steps to Christ)

Day 70. The world is watching with baited breath to see what God will do. 33 men trapped 2,300 feet below in the belly of the earth in a field laced with precious threads of gold and copper. Will all of the miners return safely to the surface, to once again see the light of day and to embrace their loved ones? Miracle after miracle has been wrought in their behalf. Will God work again to deliver them all from their captivity?

The headlines have told us their story: "How did Chile's trapped miners survive?", "Fight between God and devil", "One by one, miners taste freedom", "Tears of joy as miners see light", and "Hope wins the day. Food, medicine, and other survival items were transported to the men through narrow, plastic tubes called 'palomas' or in English, doves. To this writer, the greatest item delivered was the gift of 33 miniature Bibles, engraved with each man's name and marked with significant scriptures, specially designed to be transported to the captives by the doves.

        Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
        a workman who has no need to be ashamed,
        rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15, RSV)

To the workman who has not to be ashamed, the similarities between aspects of this crisis and the prophecies and events described in the Bible are many. For the past 10 weeks, in the Thursday devotional entry, I've been providing excerpts from successive chapters of the book, Steps to Christ. I do not think that it is a coincidence that the excerpts for today's entry are from the chapter, "A Knowledge of God":

        God speaks to us in His word… If you would become acquainted with the Saviour, study the Holy Scriptures… Fill the whole heart with the words of God. They are the living water, quenching your burning thirst. They are the living bread from heaven.

        We should not take the testimony of any man as to what the Scriptures teach, but should study the words of God for ourselves… The mind will enlarge if it is employed in tracing out the relation of the subjects of the Bible, comparing scripture with scripture and spiritual things with spiritual.

        One passage studied until its significance is clear to the mind and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained. Keep your Bible with you. As you have opportunity, read it; fix the texts in your memory. Even while you are walking the streets you may read a passage and meditate upon it, thus fixing it in the mind. 

        Some portions of Scripture are indeed too plain to be misunderstood, but there are others whose meaning does not lie on the surface to be seen at a glance. Scripture must be compared with scripture. There must be careful research and prayerful reflection. And such study will be richly repaid. As the miner discovers veins of precious metal concealed beneath the surface of the earth, so will he who perseveringly searches the word of God as for hid treasure find truths of the greatest value, which are concealed from the view of the careless seeker.

        Never should the Bible be studied without prayer. Before opening its pages we should ask for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and it will be given. …Jesus will see us also in the secret places of prayer if we will seek Him for light that we may know what is truth.

        "I buried 40 years of my life down there, and I'm going to live a lot longer to be a new person… I think I have learned a lot of wonderful lessons about taking the good path in life… I was with God, and I was with the devil. They fought, and God won." (Mario Sepulveda Espinace, second Chilean miner to be rescued)

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Excerpts from "A Knowledge of God," chapter 10 of Steps to Christ by E.G.White.
Photograph of sunset at Kalaloch Beach, Olympic Peninsula, WA – November 2009.
[Study the Bible and Steps to Christ, Wed’s 6 PM at the church.]


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Skip!
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I couldn’t resist snapping this cryptic message on a city street in late September. I looked in the direction of the arrow, and it simply pointed north up the street, and I saw nothing that seemed ignore-able by whoever wrote the message, and the print seemed too spare and businesslike to be graffiti.

So I said, “Hey. I’m going to take this as a reminder to go skipping happily down the street.” Sadly, my age, my dignity, and my muscular non-development have pushed skipping far back into my youth, but I did a couple of mental skips.

And why not? “Rejoice,” said Jesus, “even when people persecute you” (Matthew 5:12). “Rejoice!” He said when  He revealed His risen self to His disciples (Matthew 28:9). “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven,” He said in Luke 10:20. “Rejoice with me, for I have found the sheep which was lost!” says the Good Shepherd in Luke 15:6.

The Ethiopian eunuch rejoiced after his baptism (Acts 8:39). The Philippian jailer rejoiced in his salvation after Paul made him acquainted with Jesus (Acts 16:34). And Paul tells us how often to rejoice: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

You and I have a lot to be thankful for, right? Let’s make it a habit to mention several of these to the Lord in our prayers, before we get to the “help me’s.”


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Extra Strength Relief        
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The church, the body of Christ, has many members, and one of the advantages of being part of that body is the support it offers when one of the members is ailing.  But that’s not the point of this blurb, it’s just the setting.  I was bemoaning the pain in my back that kept me from doing things I used to do so easily.  An empathetic listener didn’t just listen--he offered a possible solution that had worked for him. He promised he would obtain a bottle of this excelsior the next time he was in that part of the country since he’d never seen it for sale around here.  True to his word, a package was delivered with the promised remedy enclosed inside.  But there was something else, a card with the following scrawled above his signature: MUST BE APPLIED TO BE USEFUL.
 
Those of you who are part of our congregation could probably guess who my benefactor was, not only from his cryptic message but from his habit of putting into practice his Christian beliefs.  It also seems likely that he recognized the tendency many of us have to complain but do nothing about it, even when solutions are put right in our hands.  Several times the words of the wise man in Proverbs remind us of the need to not only believe, but put what we believe into practice.  “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.”   (Proverbs 22:12 NIV)

So, the question is, do I feel any better having used the “extra strength” liniment?  The answer is a definite “yes”.  But I’m not really sure the improvement has anything to do with the salve.  It may have more to do with the spirit in which the gift was given and the tongue-in-cheek reminder of the importance of application reinforced by seeing that demonstrated. 


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The Guardian
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 11, 2010

I went hiking last Sunday with a couple of friends near Mt Baker.  The weather forecast was for partly cloudy skies.  We took that to mean partly sunny but it wasn't!  Picture Lake was quite picturesque but Mt Shuksan was nowhere to be seen.  We drove on up to Artist's Point and we were suddenly shrouded in heavy fog!  We were hoping it would clear but it didn't and so Mt Baker was a no-show as well.  We couldn't even see the other end of the parking lot!

We were planning to hike a couple of miles (or at least until we hit snow) on the Ptarmigan Ridge trail (the first mile is also part of the Chain Lakes loop).  Our visibility was only 40 feet at best and we could hear (and occasionally passed other people) but we didn't get a good view of our surroundings at all. 

The first part of the trail is through the forest but it soon comes out on and crosses a rocky slope.  It wasn't raining but the flowers and vegetation along the trail were wet.  We couldn't see the bottom of the slope.  My one friend was holding on to her dog's leash and we were all on the trail one minute and the next she was in a slow slide downhill and only her arms above the elbows, her upper body and her head were still above the trail.  My other friend, who was closer to her than I was, made a grab for her arm and we held on to her arms while she found some purchase and pushed herself back up. 

(This picture was taken at the end of August - also on a cloudy day where Mt Baker was hidden - but where we had more visibility than last week!  The trail we took goes horizontally across the slope - about a third of the way down from the top of the picture.)

We did carry on to where the Chain Lakes trail turns off and went on that to where you could look down into a valley.  The visibility improved for a little bit but then started to get worse again so we turned back without further incident.

Don't you find life is like that sometimes?  One minute, things are going along fine and the next thing you are on a slippery slope headed downhill!

It's good to know that we have a God who guards us and protects us night and day and through whatever life throws at us.

Psalm 121 (The Message)
A Pilgrim Song
I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?
   No, my strength comes from God,
      who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

He won't let you stumble,
      your Guardian God won't fall asleep.
   Not on your life! Israel's
      Guardian will never doze or sleep.

God's your Guardian,
      right at your side to protect you—
   Shielding you from sunstroke,
      sheltering you from moonstroke.

GOD guards you from every evil,
      he guards your very life.
   He guards you when you leave and when you return,
      he guards you now, he guards you always.


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A Sign from God

Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, October 10, 2010

God spoke to Noah and his sons and made a covenant with them saying, “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” Genesis 9:13 KJV  Yes, we've all seen rainbows when it rains and the sun shines at the same time, but have you seen a rainbow around the sun?

While hiking in Girraween National Park in Queensland, Australia, I looked up at noontime and saw this most spectacular phenomenon. Of course, I took several photos!  No one in my group, including Australians had seen this before. Since I didn't want to look directly at the sun, I viewed this “rainbow” with the sun hidden behind a huge rock. The sky was bright blue and no clouds were visible. As you can see from my photo, all the colors of the spectrum can be seen in the various rings.

Later, I discovered that halos or sun dogs, as this is called, are usually seen where there are high clouds, which are made of tiny ice crystals. These crystals refract the sunlight like a prism causing a “rainbow” around the sun. This can also appear around the moon.

While in vision, John saw a rainbow around God's throne. Rev 4:3 The first and last books of the Bible talk about rainbows. One is a sign from God, the other is around God.


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Check Your Schedule Here
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, October 9, 2010

Late last month I stopped in at the University of Washington bookstore near the main campus. Normally it’s a rather sleepy place, because the students are in their classes across the street.

However, once in a great while--and this was one of those occasions--I happen to hit the store just as the new term was beginning. And the store was not only filled with students standing in long lines, but everything had been outfitted in ways that made it as easy as possible for the kids to get their supplies.

In the photo above we see what are most likely three freshmen. One stands to the left, talking--not texting but talking --on a cell phone, maybe mournfully requesting more textbook money from Mom and Dad. And the two young men with their backs to us seem to have just arrived from a freshman orientation meeting where they were given backpacks (one guy seems to have inadvertently put his pack on backwards so the Washington “W” doesn’t show). They’re standing in front of a temporary display which allows each to pull up his personal class schedule on a monitor, in order to find out which books and supplies he’ll need. 

I can remember “freshman fear”--that trembly sensation of being about to embark on a vast and important venture without feeling in the least prepared for it. But what brought me step-by-step through this intimidation was constantly checking my schedule and following the teachers’ directions.

That’s something like facing life’s challenges. You and I need to keep checking our heaven-suggested “schedules” in such courses of study as the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5 - 7), the Love Chapter (1 Cor. 13), Salvation (John 3), and the Time of the End (Matt. 24). The “electives” found in other parts of the Bible add perspective and depth to our education as well. If you’d like to follow an online Bible reading plan--in a version of your choice--click here.


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The Clown in the Bible
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, October 1, 2010

If you’re a fairly regular visitor to this Devotional Photo Blog you may have seen another surprising discovery I made in a Bible. (Click on “September 2010” on the menu to the left, then scroll down a few screens to the September 25 entry and you’ll see what I found.)

I actually came across the above Bible in the same thrift store. This happened to be a Catholic Bible, and its other contents--small prayer pamphlets--showed that its former owner was a devout practitioner. But suddenly arriving at “The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to Saint Mark,” I found this clown head grinning at me.

Once the shock had worn off, I found the explanation easy. This is most likely a school craft, its felt pieces carefully glued together several decades ago by a youngster who then carried it home and gave it to Mom. Mom wanted to keep this potentially fragile bit of art very safe, and inserted it here.

That fabric jester seems a bit out of place, doesn’t he? His garish colors and Harpo Marx hairdo seem to clash with the sober black print around him. And that’s because it’s easy to believe that the Bible contains no humor.

But that’s not true. Granted, you won’t find comic one-liners, or limericks, or stories with laborious buildups and snappy punchlines, all designed to evoke the momentary chuckle. But what you do find in the Bible is joy. And even though humor is good for us--after all, “a merry heart does good, like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22)--the deeper and more satisfying emotion of joy makes us feel far better.

Joy is often associated with Jesus--the very word “joy” is connected to Him all through the New Testament. The Bible says that the wise men experienced joy when they saw the Christ Child’s star. A sharecropper was overjoyed to find treasure in a field he was tilling. The first visitors to Jesus’ empty tomb joyfully rushed back to town to spread the news. In heaven, there is more joy over one repentant sinner than over 99 who need no repentance. And the word “joy” is sprinkled throughout almost all the rest of the New Testament books. And in Galatians 5:22, joy comes immediately after love in the list of the Spirit’s fruit.

And Jesus, of course, says it best: “Most assuredly,” He said to His disciples--and to us--“I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” That’s a promise, for those who closely and adoringly follow the world’s champion Promisekeeper.


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The Work and the Life
Photograph ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Commentary ©1892 by Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ
Thursday, October 7, 2010

You may not realize that you are doing any special good, but by your unconscious influence, you may start waves of blessing that will widen and deepen...

Like rays of light from the sun, like the streams of water bursting from a living spring, blessings flow out from God to all His creatures. And wherever the life of God is in the hearts of men, it will flow out to others in love and blessing.   

When the love of Christ is enshrined in the heart, like sweet fragrance it cannot be hidden. Its holy influence will be felt by all with whom we come in contact. The spirit of Christ in the heart is like a spring in the desert, flowing to refresh all and making those who are ready to perish, eager to drink of the water of life.   

Love to Jesus will be manifested in a desire to work as He worked for the blessing and uplifting of humanity. It will lead to love, tenderness, and sympathy toward all the creatures of our heavenly Father's care.   

And the effort to bless others will react in blessings upon ourselves. This was the purpose of God in giving us a part to act in the plan of redemption. He has granted men the privilege of becoming partakers of the divine nature and, in their turn, of diffusing blessings to their fellow men. This is the highest honor, the greatest joy, that it is possible for God to bestow upon men. Those who thus become participants in labors of love are brought nearest to their Creator.   

If you will go to work as Christ designs that His disciples shall, and win souls for Him, you will feel the need of a deeper experience and a greater knowledge in divine things, and will hunger and thirst after righteousness. You will plead with God, and your faith will be strengthened, and your soul will drink deeper drafts at the well of salvation. Encountering opposition and trials will drive you to the Bible and prayer. You will grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ, and will develop a rich experience.   

The apostle says, "Let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God." (1st Corinthians 7:24)  The businessman may conduct his business in a way that will glorify his Master because of his fidelity. If he is a true follower of Christ he will carry his religion into everything that is done and reveal to men the spirit of Christ. The mechanic may be a diligent and faithful representative of Him who toiled in the lowly walks of life among the hills of Galilee. Everyone who names the name of Christ should so work that others, by seeing his good works, may be led to glorify their Creator and Redeemer.   

The humblest and poorest of the disciples of Jesus can be a blessing to others. They may not realize that they are doing any special good, but by their unconscious influence they may start waves of blessing that will widen and deepen, and the blessed results they may never know until the day of final reward. They do not feel or know that they are doing anything great. They are not required to weary themselves with anxiety about success. They have only to go forward quietly, doing faithfully the work that God's providence assigns, and their life will not be in vain. Their own souls will be growing more and more into the likeness of Christ; they are workers together with God in this life and are thus fitting for the higher work and the unshadowed joy of the life to come.   

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Scripture references from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
Excerpts from " The Work and the Life," chapter 9 of Steps to Christ by E.G.White.
Photograph of waves on Ruby Beach, Olympic Peninsula, September  2009.

[Study the Bible and Steps to Christ, Wed’s 6 PM at the church.]


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Sparks
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This last weekend our church had our annual retreat to Rosario.  If you haven't been there, it's near Deception Pass State Park and is the Marine Biology Station for Walla Walla University.  It is 3 days of pure joy.  The weather is always perfect, the fellowship is fantastic and it's right on the water....nothing could be better.  At sunset on Sabbath, we build a fire, have a worship and sing songs.  This image is of the fire and sparks that appeared to lift off like rockets and float into the sky, until they disappeared.  As I was mesmerized by the dancing flames I thought of this song:
 
It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;
That's how it is with God's Love,
Once you've experienced it,
Your spread the love to everyone
You want to pass it on.

What a wondrous time is spring,
When all the tress are budding
The birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming;
That's how it is with God's love,
Once you've experienced it.
You want to sing, it's fresh like spring,
You want to pass it on.

I wish for you my friend
This happiness that I've found;
You can depend on God
It matters not where you're bound,
I'll shout it from the mountain top - PRAISE GOD!
I want the world to know
The Lord of love has come to me
I want to pass it on.

It's an honor to be able to pass on God's love to others and to see it grow.  Remember it only takes a spark....


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A Door With a Window
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The geraniums are still blooming just outside our front door.  The first killing frost has not yet occurred which will change their vibrant colors into a memory.  I can see them without even opening the door, at least in part anyway.  As I try to examine the petals more closely, Paul’s famous passage in the Love Chapter comes to mind about “seeing through a glass darkly”.  Many Christians see nature as God’s Second Book, a way He reveals Himself to man.  Others pass it by with barely a glance, assuming it has nothing significant to say to them.  Perhaps it’s because they are too busy or maybe the message sent is too confusing to be helpful to them.  And confusing it certainly can be.
 
But Job was not one of those who refused to look   He understood the complexities and mysteries hidden in nature, and was even more in awe of his Maker after observing them.  His response in Job 26:14 indicates his humbleness and willingness to learn: “These are but the outer fringes of His works.  We hear only whispers of His power and see only shadows of what He can do.  Who can know how great God is or understand the magnitude of His power.”   What makes his comment even more amazing is that God had not yet even spoken, that’s still several chapters later in the book.  But maybe that’s why God was able to reach him, because Job had already acknowledged his limited perception.  One can never appreciate the magnitude of what he doesn’t know until his feeble efforts to know make him aware of those limitations.  The differences between man and his Maker have apparently placed a door between us, but it’s a door with a window in it.  Just think of the richness we’ll be missing if we don’t bother to take a look outside.


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Authorized

Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, October 4, 2010

I found this locked gate by the visitor's center parking lot at the Seattle's Washington Park Arboretum.  There was a squirrel climbing up the fence and walking along the top of the gate and not paying any attention to the sign which states that you have to be authorized personnel to have access through the gate. 

Jesus tells us that He is the gate.  He came that we may have life and have it more abundantly!  He is the only gate through which we need access.

John 10:1-10 (NIV)
"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

 Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."


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The City of Gold

Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Friday through Sunday, October 1 - 3, 2010

While in Palermo, Sicily, we took a bus to the nearby town of Monreale to see their famous cathedral. Apparently, the builder was inspired by a heavenly vision to build this magnificent cathedral. Completed in 1184, it is considered to be the finest example of Norman architecture in Sicily. One of the interesting adventures in seeing this cathedral was walking on the roof! (This was approved, providing we gave the doorkeeper the correct amount of euros!) My photo above was taken looking down on the beautiful cloisters or gardens. The 228 marble columns are varied with carvings, again depicting Old and New Testament stories. Inside, gold mosaics illustrating many of the Bible stories filled the cathedral. (Photo below)

Even though this cathedral was very beautiful with all of its gold, Revelation 21:15, 18, 21 talks about the angel “carried a gold measuring-rod to measure the city, its wall and its gates....The city was of pure gold, bright as clear glass.... The streets of the city were of pure gold, like translucent glass.” That sounds really magnificent, doesn't it! I want to go there, don't you?

Did you see the devotional blogs the last two weeks where I shared illustrations of Bible stories through art?

 

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