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

Devotional Photo Blog - September 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, THURSDAY--Beth-Anne Harvey. 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. 



Growing Up Into Christ 
Photograph ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Commentary ©1892 by Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ 
Thursday, September 30, 2010

They shall be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord,
that He might be glorified.  (Isaiah 61:3)

In the matchless gift of His Son, God has encircled the whole world with an atmosphere of grace as real as the air which circulates around the globe. All who choose to breathe this life-giving atmosphere will live and grow up to the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus. As the flower turns to the sun, that the bright beams may aid in perfecting its beauty and symmetry, so should we turn to the Sun of Righteousness, that heaven's light may shine upon us, that our character may be developed into the likeness of Christ.   

Jesus teaches the same thing when He says,

        Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself,         
except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me 
        …without Me ye can do nothing. (John 15:4, 5)

You are just as dependent upon Christ, in order to live a holy life, as is the branch upon the parent stock for growth and fruitfulness. Apart from Him you have no life. You have no power to resist temptation or to grow in grace and holiness. Abiding in Him, you may flourish. Drawing your life from Him, you will not wither nor be fruitless. You will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.   

Many have an idea that they must do some part of the work alone. They have trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, but now they seek by their own efforts to live aright. But every such effort must fail. Jesus says, "Without Me ye can do nothing." Our growth in grace, our joy, our usefulness,--all depend upon our union with Christ. It is by communion with Him, daily, hourly,--by abiding in Him, --that we are to grow in grace. He is not only the Author, but the Finisher of our faith. It is Christ first and last and always. He is to be with us, not only at the beginning and the end of our course, but at every step of the way. David says, "I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved."  (Psalm 16:8)  

Do you ask, "How am I to abide in Christ?" In the same way as you received Him at first. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him." "The just shall live by faith." (Colossians 2:6; Hebrews 10:38)  You gave yourself to God, to be His wholly, to serve and obey Him, and you took Christ as your Saviour. You could not yourself atone for your sins or change your heart; but having given yourself to God, you believe that He for Christ's sake did all this for you. By faith you became Christ's, and by faith you are to grow up in Him--by giving and taking. You are to give all,--your heart, your will, your service,--give yourself to Him to obey all His requirements; and you must take all,--Christ, the fullness of all blessing, to abide in your heart, to be your strength, your righteousness, your everlasting helper,--to give you power to obey.   

Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, "Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee." This is a daily matter. Each morning consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate. Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ.   

 

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Scripture references from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Excerpts from "Growing Up Into Christ," chapter 8 of Steps to Christ by E.G.White.

Photograph of trees in sunlight on the path to Twin Falls, Washington, August 2010.

 

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


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Hold Still
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
 
As much as I would like to be a wildlife photographer....I am not quite there.  One early morning, while camping in Montana, that's what I wanted to tell this deer: "Hold still."  The lighting wasn't great, and the deer wasn't sure if she should check me out or high-tail it out of there.  For a split second, I got her to pause. 

God's creations are beautiful and amazing.  Whether we are viewing a majestic mountain, a flowing river or a peaceful deer, we can see the hand of God.
 
As The Deer
 
As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after thee
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship thee

Chorus
You alone are my strength my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield
You alone are my hearts desire
And I long to worship thee

You're my friend and You are my brother,
Even though you are a king.
I love you more thank any other,
So much more than anything.

I want You more than gold or silver,
Only You can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy Giver,
And the apple of my eye.


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Phoebes
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 28, 2010

 The book of Romans concludes with Paul introducing a number of believers to the congregation in that city.  Among those believers was a woman by the name of Phoebe from the church in Cenchrea, who apparently had been of great help to Paul personally.  This same name is used for a group of birds found in a genus named after Thomas Say, an American naturalist.  Two of those included in that group are the Say’s Phoebe, also named after the biologist, and the Eastern Phoebe.  Say specialized in entomology so it’s not surprising that the genus named after him is composed of insect eating species.  I don’t know if he sought this honor, but we do recognize the significance of this tribute.
 
We also know that Jacob recognized the importance of names.  Genesis 48 contains the blessing he placed upon his family members at the end of his life.  Referring to the grandsons, he said, “May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth.”  (vs 16 NIV)   This, and the blessings that follow, seem to indicate he envisioned them playing a significant role in the history of mankind.
 
The Eastern Phoebe also plays a small role in history.  It involved John James Audubon, the man largely responsible for introducing American birds to Europeans and fellow Americans alike.  He noticed a phoebe building its nest under the eaves of his porch and captured it.  He proceeded to tie a couple of silver cords around the bird’s leg and then released it.  The following year the same bird returned and resumed nesting in the identical location.  This incident in the early 1800s marks the first example of bird banding in America.  And like Jacob before him, Audubon understood that an individual can make a difference.


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No More Death
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 27, 2010

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

-Dorothy Frances Gurney, "Garden of Thoughts"

I took the photo of the dahlia in the Bellevue Master Garden.  It's getting towards the end of the blooming season and the flowers blooming now are totally different from those that were blooming in the spring. 

I'm not a gardener myself; the plants I bought in May are still sitting on my deck in the pots they came in!  I do, however, appreciate the work that goes into a garden and I like to visit gardens to see what's blooming.

While gardens can be amazingly beautiful, the beauty is transient.  The flowers soon fade and even though others come up that can be equally beautiful, we have to wait a whole year before we can see those spring blooming lilacs again.

Mankind started off in a garden.  Everything that was created was created to live and not die.  It was because of sin that death entered the picture and Adam and Eve had to leave their garden home. 

I'm looking forward to heaven!  Revelation 21:4 "He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

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The Light of the World
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 26, 2010

The is the second week of illustrations of Bible stories through art. I took this photo in the cathedral in Cefalu, Sicily. Translated into English, it says “Christ All Powerful” and is the focal point of the elaborate Byzantine mosaics in this cathedral. In His hand, Jesus holds an open Bible bearing a Latin and Greek inscription from John 8:12: 'I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in darkness.” It is considered to be the best mosaic depiction of Christ in Sicily, dating between 1150 and 1160.

Is Jesus the Light in your world?

Next week I'll bring you another example of Christian art – check it out!


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What’s Really Inside This Book? (Get Ready for a Surprise!)
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 25, 2010

Earlier this month, on my way to--coincidentally--a Bible study, I slipped into a tiny Christian thrift store. Running my eye over the books, I spotted this small black Bible. Hmmm, I said, taking it off the shelf. I wonder how small the print is.

But as soon as my fingers closed on it, this Bible felt weird, somehow stiffer than a Bible should be. And then I opened the cover, and this is what I found.

 

Those are real paper pages, by the way. Evidently a cynical novelty manufacturer had created a punch-die which would slice down through those pages and create a perfect hiding place for a whiskey hip-flask. I mean, you’ve got to give them credit for a bit of intelligence. Placed among a line of books on a living room shelf, this small “Bible” would get barely a glance from a visitor.  Which means that the tippler householder would be able to enjoy every single drop of that whiskey himself!

It’s appallingly blasphemous, of course, to use God’s Holy Word for such a purpose. But the truth of the matter is that a lot of people these days are wrapping their own debased ideas within the covers of holy books, asserting that Heaven’s blessing rests upon some very un-God-like actions which they perpetrate to fulfill their own purposes. And sometimes their fierce zeal can be intimidating to people who don’t know the Bible well themselves.

The only solution, of course, is for you and me to open and read our Bibles thoughtfully and regularly--not only for our own protection but to help advance its--and its Author’s--true agenda.


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Eyeball Fundraiser?
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 24, 2010

Tuesday mornings I volunteer at our local Adventist elementary and secondary schools, and while walking across the parking lot--just at the right moment mid-stride--I caught a glimpse of this readerboard sign. And grabbed for my camera.

Sorry. Nobody’s really fund-raising for someone’s eyeball replacement. If I were to have moved the camera a few inches to the right, you would have seen the entire message: “Volleyball Fundraiser.” (And we're presuming that if this had really been an "eyeball" fundraiser, a school would have spelled it correctly!)

Seriously, the above half-message fell neatly into my lap this week as a parable of something which you and I need to keep firmly in mind: It’s important to get the entire message. Remember the old cigarette commercials, advertising “Low Tar”? The rest of the message (unspoken of course)--"Cigarettes are still deadly killers." And the half-concealed truth has by no means disappeared from today’s Advertising Land. It seems like every couple of weeks or so, we hear about a drug or other product being withdrawn from the market because of a side effect nobody mentioned in the promos.

And here I’m getting really serious. You and I need to continually read a lot in our Bibles. From one end to the other. One afternoon this week I had an hour-long (and very genial) phone conversation with a man who has a brilliant and very logical mind. He was asking what seemed to be a very logical Bible question which (to my way of thinking) might have led him in a different direction than the Lord would have him go.

So as I listened, I racked my brain to think of Bible facts which would provide balance, and was fortunately able to come up with some. But this would never have happened if I hadn’t been a constant and thoughtful Bible reader. (A suggestion: before you read anywhere else in the Bible, read through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They were particularly helpful to me that afternoon.)

And don’t just assemble a list of proof-texts. Read around those texts--before them and after them. What’s that old saying--“A text without a context is a pretext.” The more regularly and prayerfully you read your Bible, the more opportunities the Lord will give you to encourage someone else with its message!


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The Test of Discipleship 
Photographs ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Commentary ©1892 by Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ
Thursday, September 23, 2010

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it,
but you cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.
So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

Like the wind, which is invisible, yet the effects of which are plainly seen and felt, is the Spirit of God in its work upon the human heart. That regenerating power, which no human eye can see, begets a new life in the soul; it creates a new being in the image of God. While the work of the Spirit is silent and imperceptible, its effects are manifest. If the heart has been renewed by the Spirit of God, the life will bear witness to the fact. While we cannot do anything to change our hearts or to bring ourselves into harmony with God; while we must not trust at all to ourselves or our good works, our lives will reveal whether the grace of God is dwelling within us. A change will be seen in the character, the habits, the pursuits. The contrast will be clear and decided between what they have been and what they are. The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts

Those who become new creatures in Christ Jesus will bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Galatians 5:22, 23)  They will no longer fashion themselves according to the former lusts, but by the faith of the Son of God they will follow in His steps, reflect His character, and purify themselves even as He is pure. The things they once hated they now love, and the things they once loved they hate. Christians will seek not the "outward adorning," but "the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit." (1 Peter 3:3, 4)

 

The loveliness of the character of Christ will be seen in His followers. It was His delight to do the will of God. Love to God, zeal for His glory, was the controlling power in our Saviour's life. Love beautified and ennobled all His actions. Love is of God. The unconsecrated heart cannot originate or produce it. It is found only in the heart where Jesus reigns. "We love Him because He first loved us." (1st John 4:19)  In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the principle of action. It modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and ennobles the affections. This love, cherished in the soul, sweetens the life and sheds a refining influence on all around.

 

…Christ changes the heart. He abides in your heart by faith. You are to maintain this connection with Christ by faith and the continual surrender of your will to Him; and so long as you do this, He will work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. So you may say, "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)  So Jesus said to His disciples, "It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." (Matthew 10:20)  Then with Christ working in you, you will manifest the same spirit and do the same good works --works of righteousness, obedience.

 

Who has the heart? With whom are our thoughts? Of whom do we love to converse? Who has our warmest affections and our best energies?

 

If we are Christ's, our thoughts are with Him, and our sweetest thoughts are of Him. All we have and are is consecrated to Him. We long to bear His image, breathe His spirit, do His will, and please Him in all things.

 

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Scripture references from the new King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Excerpts from "The Test of Discipleship," chapter 7 of Steps to Christ by E.G.White.

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



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Bring On The Rain!
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
 
You don't always hear people say that...'bring on the rain'.  Of course there are times, and places, where rain is a very welcome sight but here in the Northwest, we don't have to ask for it as it shows up on its own.  And because of heavy rains, sights like the powerful Snoqualimie Falls can be seen.
 
In the song Grace Like Rain by Todd Agnew, we are given the encouragment that God continues to send His grace to us, like rain.  We need His grace and the fact that we don't even have to ask for it, is amazing.
 
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I'm found
Was blind but now I see so clearly

Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me
Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away, washed away

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing Your praise
Than when we first begun

Hallelujah, grace like rain falls down on me
Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away, washed away


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Canadian Rockies     
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A trip through the Canadian Rockies provides the traveler with almost limitless vistas upon which to gaze.  Lofty mountain peaks, crystal clear lakes, wildlife, and waterfalls seem to wait around each corner.  This falls especially caught our attention as geological processes had formed the rock formations in such a way as to give the viewer the impression the water was flowing obliquely, rather than in the vertical direction we have come to expect.  (Yeah, right!  If you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you!)
 
While there is an abundance of truth out there, there is also a profusion of error, sometimes wrapped in beautiful packaging.  Paul warns us of this in Ephesians 5:6 “Don’t let anyone deceive you with empty words.  It is because of their disobedience that these people will reap God’s final displeasure with sin.”  People can be deceived with a simple twist of the wrist, putting the camera off-center, by a subtle twist of a phrase, changing truth into error.  While the distant horizon may not always be visible, there are always enough indicators pointing us to the truth so we have no excuse for believing error. 


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Crooked Paths
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 20, 2010

Doesn't it sometimes feel that our lives are not going in the direction we would like them to go?  We would like to be taking the most direct route from point A to point B but we seem to be meandering around and getting sidetracked and going off course all together.

We can't walk in a straight path on our own; we need help! 

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight. 


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Jesus Multiplying Bread
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Today, all children in developed countries learn to read at an early age--many can read well even before starting kindergarten. Many years ago most people couldn't read. The tasks, for girls especially, was to learn how to help with the household tasks and to care for the animals--not going to school or learning to read. Such was the case for my grandmother growing up in a small Tuscan village.

Therefore, since most villagers weren't able to read, stories in the Bible were told by painting or mosaic art. The photo above is of the ornate cathedral located in Orvieto, Umbria in central Italy. With construction lasting almost three centuries, it is decorated with scenes from the Old and the New Testaments. Orvieto sits high on a tufa cliff and dates back to the 9-8 centuries B. C. when the rock was occupied by the Etruscans.

Of the many “stories” told through art, I'm sharing the one about Jesus multiplying bread (see photo below).



Since we can read, turn to Mathew 15 starting with verse 32 (NEB):

“Jesus called his disciples and said to them, 'I feel sorry for all these people; they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away unfed; they might turn faint on the way.' The disciples replied, 'Where in this lonely place can we find bread enough to feed such a crowd?' 'How many loaves have you?' Jesus asked. 'Seven,' they replied; 'and there are a few small fishes.'

"So he ordered the people to sit down on the ground; then he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and the disciples gave to the people. They all ate to their hearts' content; and the scraps left over, which they picked up, were enough to fill seven baskets. Four thousand men shared in this meal, to say nothing of women and children.”

Yes, miracles can happen with Jesus! Check in next week to see another example of Bible stories in art.


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Oh, If It Were Only This Easy
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 18, 2010

This picture is a bit fuzzy because I was too shy to stride right up to it in view of the mall-store clerk behind the counter. So I zoomed in, and then enlarged the zoom. But you get the point, right? I’m assuming that the serene white balls within the glass globe are candies, but the sign across the front says “Peace of Mind.” Wouldn’t it be nice if we could really purchase 30 minutes of mind-peace for a quarter?

Well, maybe not. Some people, of course, seek peace of mind by ingesting other kinds of white substances. But having taken a few painkillers when I had kidney stones about 15 years ago, I discovered that while they do induce a certain amount of otherworldly dreaminess, after awhile you get sick of feeling like a mental vegetable. Once I didn’t need those pills, I flushed the remainder of the bottle’s contents down what the British call the “lava’try.”

Christians know that real peace of mind comes not from a pill- or booze-bottle. True tranquility comes neither from medication nor meditation. It comes instead from knowing that a powerful and loving heavenly Father created us, gives us life, cares about our eternity, and knows how to get us safely there.

Here are some of the Bible’s many “peace prescriptions":

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Romans 8:6

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . . . Galatians 5:22

Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble. Psalm 119:165

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3

[Jesus is speaking here] 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. John 14:27

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The Prayer Button
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Friday, September 17, 2010

Just after I palm-whacked the longsuffering button on this well-worn traffic device, I found myself thinking, “Isn’t this (though a highly crude and imperfect comparison) something like prayer?”  With the traffic device, (1) You push the button,  (2) the circuitry picks up the signal about your wish to cross, but (3) it grants your wish only when its carefully-programmed computer says to.

Have you ever prayed to God, repeatedly (pushing the prayer-button again and again), hoping for a “yes” answer, only to get no immediate response? You’re not the only one. David--harassed and pursued by the murderous King Saul--pushed that button desperately  and often. But notice: though David's Psalm below begins in anguish, it ends expressing trust that the Lord (far more intelligent and kind and far-seeing than a traffic signal’s computer) will respond in the way, and at the time, He knows is wisest:

How long, O LORD?
Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?

How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”;
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

But I have trusted in Your mercy;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me. --  Psalm 13


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Faith and Acceptance
Photograph ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey
Commentary ©1892 by Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ
Thursday, September 16, 2010

I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions,
and like a cloud, your sins. (Isaiah 44:22)

You long to be forgiven, to be cleansed, to be set free. Harmony with God, likeness to Him, -- what can you do to obtain it?  It is peace that you need, -- Heaven's forgiveness, and peace and love in the soul. Money cannot buy it, intellect cannot procure it, wisdom cannot attain to it; you can never hope, by your own efforts, to secure it. But God offers it to you as a gift, "without money and without price."  (Isaiah 55:1)  It is yours if you will but reach out your hand and grasp it. The Lord says,

        Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
        though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
        I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.

        --- Isaiah 1:18, Ezekiel 36:26

You have confessed your sins, and in heart put them away. You have resolved to give yourself to God. Now go to Him, and ask that He will wash away your sins and give you a new heart. Then believe that He does this because He has promised. This is the lesson which Jesus taught while He was on earth, that the gift which God promises us, we must believe we do receive, and it is ours.

Jesus healed the people of their diseases when they had faith in His power; He helped them in the things which they could see, thus inspiring them with confidence in Him concerning things which they could not see, -- leading them to believe in His power to forgive sins. This He plainly stated in the healing of the man sick with palsy: "But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins," then He said to the paralytic, "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."  (Matthew 9:6)  The sick man might have said, "Lord, if You will make me whole, I will obey Your word." But, no, he believed Christ's word, believed that he was made whole, and he made the effort at once; he willed to walk, and he did walk. He acted on the word of Christ, and God gave the power. He was made whole.

You cannot atone for your past sins; you cannot change your heart and make yourself holy. But God promises to do all this for you through Christ. You believe that promise. You confess your sins and give yourself to God. You will to serve Him. Just as surely as you do this, God will fulfill His word to you. If you believe the promise -- believe that you are forgiven and cleansed -- God supplies the fact; you are made whole, just as Christ gave the paralytic power to walk when the man believed that he was healed. It is so if you believe it. Do not wait to feel that you are made whole, but say, "I believe it; it is so, not because I feel it, but because God has promised."

Put away the suspicion that God's promises are not meant for you. They are for every repentant transgressor. None are so sinful that they cannot find strength, purity, and righteousness in Jesus, who died for them. The Lord declares,

        I have loved you with an everlasting love;
        therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you. --- Jeremiah 31:3

While the sinner is yet far from the Father's house, the Father's heart is yearning over him; and every longing awakened in the soul to return to God is but the tender pleading of His Spirit, wooing, entreating, drawing the wanderer to his Father's heart of love. Can you believe that when the poor sinner longs to return, longs to forsake his sins, the Lord sternly withholds him from coming to His feet in repentance? Away with such thoughts! He declares,

       Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion 
      
on the son of her womb? Surely, they may forget,
       yet I will not forget you.
--- Isaiah 49:15

Look up, you that are doubting and trembling; for Jesus lives to make intercession for us. Come with your whole heart to Jesus, and you may claim His blessing.  As you read the promises, remember they are the expression of unutterable love and pity. Yes, only believe that God is your helper. As you draw near to Him with confession and repentance, He will draw near to you with mercy and forgiveness.

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Scripture references from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible.
Excerpts from "Faith and Acceptance," chapter 6 of Steps to Christ by E.G.White.
Photograph of clouds over the Pacific Ocean on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington.

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

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Let's Make Like Trees
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
 
In Psalm 1, we see that being more like the tree (that is described below) is the true path.
 
 "Blessed is the man
         Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
         Nor stands in the path of sinners,
         Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
         And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
         Planted by the rivers of water,
         That brings forth its fruit in its season,
         Whose leaf also shall not wither;
         And whatever he does shall prosper."

 
A tree planted by the living water....that's not a bad way to spend eternity.  Allow God to be the master gardener in your life.

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Curve-billed Thrasher         
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
 
The Curve-billed Thrasher is invariably found in the setting pictured above.  A desert-loving species, it fits well into that harsh environment and thrives where other species wouldn’t survive.  It often places its nest within the protective arms of cacti whose thorny projections keep out unwanted predators.
 
Throughout the pages of Scripture, thorns are used almost exclusively in a negative way.  Since the Bible was written to a largely agrarian audience, most of its contemporary readers clearly understood the consequence of trying to eek out a living while battling against thorns and thistles, part of the curse placed upon man following the fall.  It seems those same type of plants were still thriving in Christ’s parable of the sower, where the unwanted vegetation strangled the good seed which was sown but fell among the thorns.  Even the expression “thorn in my side” has biblical roots and is understood as well today as in the past. 
 
But perhaps the most vivid depiction of thorns used in Scripture is the terse, succinct, usage of John in his account of the crucifixion:  “The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head.”  (John  19:2 NIV)  It may be that the Curve-Billed Thrasher has become accustomed to the thorny protection surrounding its nest, perhaps.  God forbid that we should become so blasé about the cross, about the crown of thorns, that we should take for granted the protection from death it offers.  Symbols they were, but more than symbols.  They brought pain and agony, but they also brought us life and forgiveness.  Part of the curse that was placed upon Adam was directly used by the Second Adam to remove that very curse.  Amazing grace, how sweet the song!
 
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I Will Give You Rest
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 13, 2010

I took this picture one spring day at the Bellevue Botanical Garden.  It's a great place to get outside and the scenery is constantly changing.  It can also be a good place to just sit quietly, smell the fragrance of the roses, lilacs and lilies and contemplate the beauty around you while listening to the birds.  You may even see some of the local wildlife.  I've seen rabbits, a raccoon, deer and a coyote.

Life can be tough sometimes and it seems like we are on the go constantly.  There is so much to do from the minute we wake up until the minute we fall asleep.  I love the fact that we have a God who built in a day of rest in the weekly cycle.  He knew how much we need rest - physically and spiritually.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30


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The Mountain of God

Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 12, 2010

The small village of Erice, Sicily sits 750 meters above the town of Trapani and the sea and is normally reached by funicular. This medieval village has sweeping views. Today, the people call their village, “The Mountain of God”, taking visitors on a fascinating journey through 1000 years of art and history kept in an extraordinary museum – the many churches of Erice. At first, this term made me wonder about calling a village, “The Mountain of God”. The more I thought about it, I concluded it was indeed a good idea! Really, why not call our mountains, plains, even houses, a “place” of God! And...God might reach some people when they go to Erice and visit it's museum - churches!

“Happy is the nation (or village) whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen for his own possession. The Lord looks out from heaven, he sees the whole race of men; he surveys from his dwelling-place all the inhabitants of earth....Let thy unfailing love, O Lord, rest upon us, as we have put our hope in thee.” Psalms 33:12-14, 22 NEB


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Check Your Balance Here
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 11, 2010

Back in early June I spotted this sign in a shopping mall. Most signs communicate with instant clarity (like “Exit” and “Restrooms”), but this one didn’t.

Okay, what is this sign talking about? I wondered. Several irretrievable decades have disappeared behind me, but I’m fairly fit and do a lot of walking, so I think my balance is pretty good. Am I supposed to clamber up on this counter and see how long I can stand on one leg?

Then I decided that maybe the sign was offering me the chance to check a card balance. There wasn’t any bank logo (like Bank of America or Chase) on the sign, but I suddenly remembered that this mall has some sort of cash-card account you can put money into and then use the card to buy things. And if you wonder how much balance you still have, you can insert your card into that little machine attached to the counter on the other side of the sign, and find out.

What I’d really like to do is to bring in a whole bunch of little giveaway Bibles and stack them on that bare counter. Because true mental/spiritual/and even physical balance is only achieved by getting a thorough grip on Scripture’s contents. People with Bible-corrected balance would never talk about burning Korans in a bonfire--or crosses on people’s lawns. Or fly jetliners into Twin Towers. Nor would they be led astray by big-haired televangelists with egos and winning smiles--or cultists with sober faces and earnest, guilt-inducing voices.

Here are just a few confirming phrases from the Bible’s longest chapter--which is also a lengthy infomercial for God’s Balance Checker:

How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
  -- Psalm 119:9-11 NKJV


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Satan Sanderson
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch

Friday, September 10, 2010

Glancing through a used bookstore recently, I saw--sandwiched between a couple of Dr. Seuss books and what is evidently a Star Trek cast member’s memoir--this startling title.  A cursory check of Google and Wikipedia revealed little else than that Satan Sanderson was a best-selling novel in 1907. And since I didn’t actually take the book down from the shelf and flip through it, I don’t have a clue about the plot.

I do know that the Bible clearly tells me that the real Satan is not above disguising himself and his heresies to gain a following. Listen to these sobering words from Paul. After describing some pseudo-Christians who were causing trouble, the apostle describes them as “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness . . . . ” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NKJV

Bottom line: the devil isn’t a horned, fork-tailed cartoon character, but a fallen angel with appallingly vicious motives combined with a deceitfulness which can charm a woman, fresh from the hand of God, into distrusting her Creator. And since Revelation 12:12 says that Satan is working extra hard these days because he knows that he has just a short time, we need to get a better grip on what the Bible really says so that we won’t be tricked by demonic half-truths no matter how attractive and seemingly innocent.

Scary? James 4:7 gives us the good news: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” And keep firmly in mind the first sentence of that verse: “Therefore submit to God.” Verses 8 and 10: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. . . . Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”


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Consecration 
Photograph ©2010 by Beth-Anne Harvey 
Commentary ©1892 by Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ 
Thursday, September 9, 2010

No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by Him who knows 
what is best … transgression is the path of misery and destruction.

God’s promise is, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)  The whole heart must be yielded to God, or the change can never be wrought in us by which we are to be restored to His likeness.

By nature we are alienated from God. The Holy Spirit describes our condition in such words as these: "Dead in trespasses and sins;" "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints;" "no soundness in it." We are held fast in the snare of Satan, "taken captive by him to do his will." (Ephesians 2:1; Isaiah 1:5, 6; 2 Timothy 2:26)  God desires to heal us, to set us free. But since this requires an entire transformation, a renewing of our whole nature, we must yield ourselves wholly to Him.

The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God, requires a struggle; but the soul must submit to God before it can be renewed in holiness.

God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view. Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves. Man is doing the greatest injury and injustice to his own soul when he thinks and acts contrary to the will of God. No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by Him who knows what is best and who plans for the good of His creatures. The path of transgression is the path of misery and destruction.

Many are inquiring, "How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?"  You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.

Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.

Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith.

----------------------------------------

Scripture references from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible. 
Excerpts from "Consecration," chapter 5 of Steps to Christ by E.G.White. 
Photograph of a gnarled path on the way to Wallace Falls, Washington.

 

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

 


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How Great Is Our God
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It doesn't take much to see how great our God is to us. It also doesn't hurt, if you have the chance to watch the sunrise over the Masai Mara, in Keyna.
 
In the lyrics of the Chris Tomlin song, we are reminded of His greatness.  Dwell on the words, pray, and never forget.
 
The splendor of a King, clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice, all the earth rejoice
He wraps himself in light, and darkness tries to hide
It trembles at his voice, trembles at his voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great
How great is our God

And age to age He stands, and time is in His Hands
Beginning and the End, Beginning and the End
The Godhead, three in one Father, Spirit, Son
The Lion and the Lamb, the Lion and the Lamb

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great
How great is our God

Name above all names, Worthy of all praise
My heart will sing, how great is our God
Name above all names, you are worthy of all praise
And my heart will sing, how great is our God

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great
How great is our God


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Yellow Warbler            
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
 
We remember the story of the persistent widow presented in Luke 18.  The story has some twists to it that prevent us from applying all the details to our theology, but Jesus' central point comes through loud and clear: the Lord will listen to those who care enough about what they’re praying for to keep at it.  Too often we meekly ask, and then forget our request when an answer isn’t given immediately.  In Christ’s story, the woman is rewarded simply because the judge realized she wasn’t going to go away. How much more would a loving God answer our prayers when we show we are genuinely sincere in our requests?
 
We can also see examples of persistence in the natural world.  Take the Yellow Warbler for instance (pictured in the two photos above).  They are one of the frequent cowbird hosts and their numbers suffer accordingly. 
The Brown-headed Cowbird is a parasite, building no nest of their own but depositing their eggs in a nest of a host species which then raises the young cowbird as their own. 

Unfortunately, this often means the smaller warbler offspring do not survive.  Three seems to be the magic number.  If less than three eggs have been laid, the female warbler will desert the nest.  If more than three, she will often accept the introduced egg and incubate it along with her own.  One way of dealing with this intrusion is simply to build another nest on the top of the one containing the foreign egg.  Nests up to five stories have been found.  The record is a ten-storied nest some determined female undertook.  The limitless seventy times seven that Christ spoke about seems almost unimaginable, and that was what was intended, to put no limit on our forgiveness.  But to see that same kind of persistence played out in real life, well, that’s impressive too.

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Where Can I Go?
Photo and commentary 2010 by Cheryl Boardman
Monday, September 6, 2010

Western Washington is full of these helpful signs (I haven't seen any of these in Eastern Washington!) with directions on where to go should a disaster such as an avalanche, tsunami or volcanic eruption occur. This is the route that will best get you out of the way of the impending calamity.

The Bible also gives us direction on where to go in the times of trouble:


Psalms 46:1-3
God is our refuge and strength, 
      
an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way 
      
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam 
      
and the mountains quake with their surging. 
       Selah

I like the song Where Could I Go But to the Lord by J. B. Coates.  Here is the chorus:



Where could I go oh where could I go 

Seeking the refuge for my soul 

Needing a friend to save me in the end 

Won't you tell me 

Where could I go but to the Lord

 


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My Rock of Refuge

Photo and commentary ©2010 by Bev Riter
Sunday, September 5, 2010

Strombolicchio, about a mile off the coast of Stromboli in the Aeolian Islands, is a huge cliff rising from the sea surface. As you can see, its imposing mass offers a deeply striking view. Throughout the ages, men have tried climbing to the top. In 1920, the building of a 200-step staircase and a terrace overlooked by a lighthouse on top were started. One might think it's too rugged for much vegetation to grow, but caper bushes and Indian-fig trees grow there!

Psalms 62:5-8 says that “Truly my heart waits silently for God; my hope of deliverance comes from him. In truth he is my rock of deliverance, my tower of strength, so that I am unshaken. My deliverance and my honour depend upon God, God who is my rock of refuge and my shelter. Trust always in God, my people, pour out your hearts before him; God is our shelter.” NEB I also think of the old hymn we all know, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Cleanse me from its guilt and power.”


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Duh . . . .
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Sabbath, September 4, 2010

I couldn’t help blinking in surprise as I snapped this photo in late July at a Half-price Book store. A percussive “Duh . . .” popped off my tongue as soon as I laid eyes on this “self-study Bible.” I mean, what did the poor, Scripture-hungry Christians do before Concordia decided to graciously provide them with a Bible they could study for themselves? Just sit helplessly in their living rooms?

Seriously, I’m sure whoever titled this volume meant well. I’m sure that this Bible contains many helpful study aids, and a lot of grateful people have probably used it with much appreciation. But the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible to always be a “self-study” book. That’s what it’s for--not to sit enshrined on a shelf but to be devoured like a love-letter from someone fond but far away.

Are you taking advantage of the wonderful variety and availability of God’s word? Why not try our online Bible reading plan? Click here.


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Back in 20 Minutes
Photo and commentary ©2010 by Maylan Schurch
Wednesday, September 3, 2010

“Yeah,” I muttered as I paused in front of this door mid-August and snapped this picture, “but when did the 20 minutes start?” Seems to me that a merchant who cared a bit more about the customers might instead provide one of those clock-face signs with movable hands--“Back at 11:15.” Which, of course, is exactly the kind of sign the efficient young carpenter Jesus of Nazareth would have put on His workshop door if He'd had to rush off for a few minutes. “Back at the sixth hour.” 

Surprising as it might seem, however, when Jesus spoke about His return in the clouds with the angels, He used Option 1, not Option 2. So for 200 decades we’ve been staring at the Savior’s Second Advent Shop, only to see the sign, “I Am Coming Soon.” How soon is “soon”? How many years, days, minutes? When will "soon" start?

Well, that’s the way He wanted to do it. And it’s good, of course. Not only does “I Am Coming Soon” keep us on our toes--or should--but the bottom line is that if our vehicle encounters that of a speeding drunk driver, or if we suffer a heart attack, “soon” can be seconds away. Are you ready? If you’re not--read John chapter 3, and just keep reading. Get to know to the Man with the “I Am Coming Soon” on Heaven’s door!


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The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth, So Help Me GOD!
Photograph & Commentary ©2010 by Beth–Anne Harvey
Thursday, September 2, 2010

Carved out by hand in the 6th century, the Basilica Cistern sleeps in the darkness beneath the crowded streets of Istanbul, Turkey. Capable of holding 100,000 tons of water, the underground reservoir is supported by an army of marble columns rising 30 feet to the ceiling and showcasing a variety of architectural styles and symbols of pagan deities. In the Turkish language, the name for this manmade cavern is the 'Sunken Palace,' and although it once served as the pedestal for the Byzantine emperor and quenched the thirst of his people, today it holds but a small amount of water and is home to a school of scavenger fish.

Jesus shouted to the crowds -- "If you trust me, you are really trusting God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the darkness."

As human beings, it's not uncommon to find ourselves wrestling with doubt and struggling with fear. Try as we may to hold fast to what we believe, sometimes we find ourselves deep in the mire and grow discouraged when we remember our roots of humble clay. Although we have eyes to see, we are blinded by our own misunderstanding and fumble in the darkness trying to feel our way towards reason.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths. Don't be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD and turn your back on evil. Then you will gain renewed health and vitality.

Like the army of columns in the cistern, dressed up with the emblems of false gods, sometimes my doubts have grown into towers of untruth about God: He isn’t listening, He doesn’t care that I'm hurting, He's just testing me - no good can come of this, I've gone so far that I can’t go back, He only wanted me then - He won't want me now, I'm all alone. In the darkness of my fear and despair, I'm like the fish swimming in the dank waters, groping for a way out.

Unless the LORD had helped me, I would soon have died. I cried out, "I'm slipping!" and your unfailing love, O LORD, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. 

One day, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart, "You are upset because you are telling yourself a story that is causing you to doubt and be afraid. You are trying to find reasons for things which I have not made known to you. By leaning on your own understanding, you have painted a picture of Me that is not true. You are doubting Me and My love for you, and because you are doubting, you are afraid. Tell yourself the true story; the truth about Me. When you tell yourself the truth about Me, your doubts and fears will go away and you will have peace."

Jesus told [the one who doubted] -- "I am the way, the truth, and the life. … If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. … No, I will not abandon you as orphans -- I will come to you."

What is the true story? What is the truth about God? How can I know?
In this life, in this world, the only way to know the truth about God is to find Him by seeking for Him in His Word and by pursuing Him in your seeking with all of your heart. Once you find Him, don't let go.

Jesus said to the people who believed in him -- "You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

At the bottom of a column in that army within the cistern, the face of an idol - a false god - sits crushed under the weight of the tower supporting the ceiling. Tradition says that those who constructed the well, gathered the columns from conquered kingdoms and placed the heads of the deities on the bottom of the towers as if to say, "In our eyes, you are not high - you are low - you are covered and at the very bottom - you are conquered - you are no more."

May we seek and find the Lord and surrender to Him all that we were, all that we do not understand, and all that we desire to be. May the Lord take our doubts and bury them at the very bottom of the abyss from which there is not return. May we take hold of His strength and see our fear carried away, like water into the midst of the sea. May we seek to know the truth, nothing but the truth, and may we cling ever only to the truth, so help us God.

----------------------------
Scripture references from the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible, Psalm 94:17-19; Proverbs 3:5-8; John 8:31-31, 12:44-46, 14:6,15-18.


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Abracadabra!

Photo and commentary ©2010 by Darren Milam
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

First of all, I am not sure you can tell what this image is.  I'll give you a hint - it's a dried leaf.  Second, if you think I am that good of a photographer, to capture a falling leaf in mid-air, well....thanks....but I'm not.  This isn't a magic trick, it's not an illusion. No, actually this leaf is suspended by a tiny thread of spider web, virtually invisible and undetectable, except for the fact there is no other explanation to this "hovering ability".
 
In Matthew 17, we read about the disciples attempting to exorcise a demon from a young boy but they are not able to.  They ask Jesus, "Why couldn't we drive it out?".  In verse 20 Jesus replies, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
 
A mustard seed?  Do you know how small a mustard seed is?  I didn't either, that's why I looked it up -- they are about 1/16th of an inch.  That's tiny.  Now, put that in to context with Jesus' reply.  If you, disciple (insert your name here) have the faith of a mustard seed...nothing will be impossible.  If you look at this tiny thread of spider silk, that's even smaller then the mustard seed yet it's very strong, it shows how God loves the details, in nature.  God doesn't ask us to have the strength of a truck, or faith the size of that same truck.  No, He asks us to have the faith of a tiny little dot and not to use our own strength, but to love and believe in Him and He will take care of the rest.

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