Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thursday Picture Mixture: Baby elephant, Maria, Old postcards, beauty

Photographer Finds Locations Of 1960s Postcards To See How They Look Today, And The Difference Is Unbelievable

Not long ago an old matchbook laying on photographer Pablo Iglesias Maurer's desk caught his eye. Or rather, it was the postcard-like picture on it, of a resort complex built in the 1960s. It got Pablo wondering how the place looked now, and the answer has led him to make an amazing photo series called Abandoned States.

I love how this series is displayed. The old postcard is shown and in that same spot the photo fades to the exact view of the scene today. It is a stark reminder to us that nothing on this earth is permanent, no matter how large, luxe, or solid it looks. The series is wistfully melancholy.

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This baby elephant runs around chasing birds. He slips and falls, and what he does next is so precious. Babies are cute, whether pachyderm or human! 25-second video.

Baby elephant chases birds

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The recent quakes and quake swarms, not to mention hurricanes, remind us that the earth is under a curse. only to be lifted by its Creator, Jesus, in His timing. Below, workers race to find survivors of the 7.1 quake at Mexico City which collapsed a school. Reuters photo




Scientists say recent quake swarm at Rainier is rare but not unprecedented



Rescue teams take to Puerto Rico streets in darkness amid warnings that power could be out for months following devastating hit from Hurricane Maria

Below, damage on Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria. Our infrastructure, including electrical power, is so tenuous. Only God is power.



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And yet, amid the damage and heartache caused by a restless earth, beauty. Jesus created all the beauty we see in creation in under one week. Wow.



Throwback - Repentance brings blessing

This essay was first published on The End Time in December 2011

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EPrata photo

I listened to a very good sermon on Sunday afternoon. Don Green is [was] the pastor of the Grace Life section of the Grace Community Church of John MacArthur. Green's preaching Sunday on the "The Call to Repentance" was an eye opener. The verses were from the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5 and also Matthew 4:17.

His theme was not what you might expect. Repent, yes, but the call to repentance always has with it another part to the message, one that is often forgotten. When Jesus calls people to repent, there is always a blessing associated with it.

Pastor Green's point was that we of course should call people to repent, yes, but do not forget to tell them they are blessed if they do! Matthew 4:17 says, "From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This is the summary statement of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. In the sermon, He is explaining what repentance means. The verse from Matthew 4 is the summation, but the Sermon is Jesus explicitly teaching what He meant regarding repentance. Matthew 5:3-9, for example, is linked to the Matthew 4:17 verse in that Jesus now gets specific about what happens to a person on the inside when they repent.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

Look how many blessings come when a person repents and allows the Holy Spirit to change them on the inside! Jesus ended His sermon with reminding us that it IS an internal change. He said in verse 20:

"For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."  (Matthew 23:13). The scribes and Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day, but they were only righteous on the outside, with what they wore and what they said and how they acted. Their internal state was not one of humble repentance, and as a result they were cursed, not blessed.

The call to repentance is to:
--turn away from sin toward biblical righteousness
--in order to give irrevocable allegiance to Jesus
--and to receive divine blessing

Pastor Green's sermon focused on understanding the third point, that with repentance comes blessing, and this shapes the way we explain the Gospel to people.

We call for repentance and warn of the justice from the Highest Court in the universe, from the most perfect Judge. Punishment for sins is real and must be declared to the unbeliever. This is our duty. But don't leave it there, Pastor Green urged. Because love is part of the equation, too. Jesus blesses His children. He bought us with His blood as pardon from the justice they would likewise receive but instead blesses them when they do repent.

Nine times in Matthew 5 (NASB) Jesus used the word "blessed". Nine blessings are pronounced! Also in Matthew 11, Matthew 13, Matthew 24, more blessedness is offered to those who do not take offense at Jesus, to those upon those who see and hear the message, and on those slaves who are doing the Father's will. The change brought about at repentance comes with is blessings that start there and continue on the growing believer.

When you share the Gospel, love them enough to tell them of the justice for the sins, but also love them enough to tell them of the Lord's blessings waiting upon them if they do repent. This is a good lesson for me, too.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

17 minutes of continual sin

We need a savior. We are evil, evil continually rising from a corrupted heart. Our human nature is depraved, polluted, and thoroughly iniquitous. Don't believe me? Think that Genesis 6:5 is only historical? You imagine I'm being unnecessarily pessimistic? "I haven't murdered anyone," you protest. "I'm not, like, a Nazi war criminal," your mind challenges. Hrm. Read on.

This piece is pretty well-known. It has been floating around the internet ever since it was published in World Magazine in 2005. Our pastor read it to us on a recent Sunday and then it became known to me. Boy, did it ever. I urge you to read it. Better still, read it out loud. Best of all, read it aloud to your spouse or friend, together, with someone. The relentlessness of it picks up steam, and the commensurate heart conviction rate increases also. Or it should. The article deftly illustrates why "good" folks "like us" need a savior. We. Need. A. Savior.

Postscript at the end.

Seventeen minutes
It's the thoughts-ordinary, daily thoughts-that count
By Andree Seu Peterson

These are the thoughts of a woman driving home from the Stop 'N Shop on an ordinary day.

She conjures three comebacks she could've hurled at Ellen if she had not been caught off guard.

She spots the baby shower invitation on the dashboard and schemes a way to be out of town that weekend-then thinks better of it because she has a favor to ask the sender at a later date.

She sizes up a woman standing at the bus stop-and judges her.

She stews over a comment her brother made behind her back, and crafts a letter telling him off-and sounding righteous in the process.

She reviews the morning's argument with her husband, and plans the evening installment.

She imagines how life would have been if she had married X (a well-worn furrow, this).

She magnanimously lets a car merge into traffic, and then is ticked off when she doesn't get her wave.

She resolves to eat less chocolate starting today-well, tomorrow.

She replays memory tapes going back to the '60s, trying to change the endings.

Somebody rides up the road shoulder and budges to the head of a traffic jam, and she hates the driver with a perfect hatred.

She passes the house of the contractor who defrauded her and fantasizes blowing it to smithereens.

She passes Audrey working in her garden and waves-but thinks, "If Audrey has chronic fatigue syndrome, I'm a flying Wallenda."

She glares at a driver who runs a red light in front of her, forgetting that she did the same about a mile ago.

She checks her slightly crooked nose compulsively in the rearview mirror, and reassures herself it isn't too bad.

An inner voice tells her to turn off the radio and pray, but she decides that's the voice of legalism.

She brainstorms talking points for her upcoming woman's Bible study lecture on "Ephesians" and considers how she can improve it-and make it better than Alice's talk of last week.

She is angry at God because here she is a Christian and broke, while her good-for-nothing heathen of a brother is rolling in dough.

She thinks how much better her life would be if she were beautiful, and fantasizes all the bungee-jumping, maggot pizza-eating "fear factor" stunts she'd be willing to subject herself to to look like Gwyneth Paltrow.

She wonders how her parents will divvy up the inheritance-and how long she has to wait.

She rehearses two good reasons why her sister and not she should take care of the folks when they're too old. She thinks about her childhood and counts the ways her parents have screwed up her life.

The Johnsons drive by, and she recalls all the meals she made for them 10 years ago when Lydia had toxemia during pregnancy, and bets they don't even remember. Hmm, did they even send a thank-you card?

The word treachery flashes through her mind (Mr. Beaver's succinct epithet for Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) but leaves no footprints.

An SUV cuts her off, and she decides to punish it by tailgating.

Her heart smites her for this. So she determines to try harder to live righteously from now on. Who knows, God may reward her in some amazing way: Her husband may give her grounds for divorce, and God will lead her to the arms of Mr. Right.

She tries to pray but doesn't get past "Our Father."

There are lots of other people that the woman does not think of while driving home with groceries, people who are not important to her social status, or just not interesting.

She doesn't think about AIDS-ravaged Africa, she doesn't think about the death sentence dangling over millions in Sudan, she doesn't think about missionaries, she doesn't think about martyrs in Kim Jong-il's prisons, she doesn't think about ways she could encourage her children.

She pulls into her driveway. Total driving time: 17 minutes.

And if you were to ask the lady, as she rustles parcels from the car, what she has been thinking about on the drive from town, she would say, "Oh, nothing in particular." And she would not be lying.

Imagine believing that we don't need a Savior.

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Jesus brought light and cleansing to our blackened hearts.


Hurricane Irma was approaching Georgia on that Sunday. It was due to hit on Monday. Our church service runs from 3:00-4:30. After church, I stopped at the nearby grocery store to pick up a few last minute items. It was packed. Jammed. And a sheen of tension overlay the store. People were in more of a hurry than usual, pumped up from the weather forecasters' predictions of downed trees, lost power, and other dire unknown things that were sure to happen. I got into the self-checkout line, which was not any shorter but I was hoping that I might gain a slight time advantage.

I didn't, and I waited in line without moving, for a long while. As I stood and waited, and my stress levels increased, so did my thoughts. I began having a stream of consciousness, nothing-in-particular thoughts about everyone else in line. I judged their clothes. I judged their slowness of movement. I even judged their purchases. Shocked, I realized that I was the same as the woman in the article, thinking evil thoughts continually. Here, ten minutes after the service ended, still in my church clothes.

Daily repentance is necessary.

Daily repentance is necessary.

Daily repentance is necessary.

Thank you Jesus that You covered us with your blood, cleansed from our sin in Your eyes. Our sin has been erased from our record to be thrown into the vast outer places, as far as the east is from the west. Seeing my sin record before me, I stagger under the weight of carrying it, never mind a lifetime. I would have justly been penalized for it, had You not submitted to the Father's plan of the cross.

You bore the weight of eternity's sin of all the people You have chosen since before the foundation of the world, and their/my punishment. Thank You.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Was Achsah's request too bold?

You do not have, because you do not ask. (James 4:2b)

So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:13)

The second scripture above from Luke is a story Jesus delivered just after teaching the disciples 'The Lord's Prayer', in the section on how to pray.

We know of the more familiar examples of Bible people asking things boldly. David, Jeremiah Habakkuk, Job, Hannah...they all asked for things of the Lord and did so honestly, with raw intensity. There is no doubt that they were sincere believers who felt awe and reverence for God. They feared Him. Yet when it came time to pour out their heart in naked emotion or bold prayer requests, they did.

Here is a less well known example of someone in the Bible asking for something of her (earthly) father, boldly. Achsah. Here she is in scripture, Judges 1:12-15,



And Caleb said, "He who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter for a wife." 13And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife. 14When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, "What do you want?" 15She said to him, "Give me a blessing. Since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water." And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

Was Achsah too bold? Was she greedy? Was she rebellious in her asking when she should have remained meek and submissive? The Jamieson Fausset Commentary explains it this way
that is, when about to remove from her father's to her husband’s house. She suddenly alighted from her travelling equipage—a mark of respect to her father, and a sign of making some request. She had urged Othniel to broach the matter, but he not wishing to do what appeared like evincing a grasping disposition, she resolved herself to speak out. Taking advantage of the parting scene when a parent's heart was likely to be tender, she begged (as her marriage portion consisted of a field which, having a southern exposure, was comparatively an arid and barren waste) he would add the adjoining one, which abounded in excellent springs. The request being reasonable, it was granted; and the story conveys this important lesson in religion, that if earthly parents are ready to bestow on their children that which is good, much more will our heavenly Father give every necessary blessing to them who ask Him.
The last sentence of the commentary explanation harks back tot he verse from Luke above. And here is another short explanation of this small incident from Judges about Achsah, it is Matthew Henry from his Complete Commentary. The tenth commandment was "Do Not Covet."
From this story we learn, 
1. That it is no breach of the tenth commandment moderately to desire those comforts and conveniences of this life which we see attainable in a fair and regular way. 
2. That husbands and wives should mutually advise, and jointly agree, about that which is for the common good of their family; and much more should they concur in asking of their heavenly Father the best blessings, those of the upper springs.
3. That parents must never think that lost which is bestowed upon their children for their real advantage, but must be free in giving them portions as well as maintenance, especially when they are dutiful. Caleb had sons (1 Chr. 4:15), and yet gave thus liberally to his daughter.
Ye have not because ye ask not! Now, just because we ask, doesn't mean we will get what we ask. God is not a magic genie, bestowing upon us all that we desire. There are conditions to asking boldly of our Father in prayer. First, the rest of the James verse explains that sometimes we do not receive because we ask wrongly. If we are asking in order to indulge our passions, it will not be granted. If we regard iniquity in our heart, prayer will not be heard. (Psalm 66:18). There are other conditions, too, which if in place mean the prayer will not be heard, no matter how bold it is. (source with scriptures here,please look at the list).
Conclusion:

Prayer: Nothing is too great and nothing is too small to commit into the hands of the Lord!
-- A. W. Pink
Our Father who is holy, will give good gifts. Be bold in prayer, be diligent in asking, be sure of the result.

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Further resources:

Sermon "Pray Boldly", here John MacArthur explains the weird scene from Luke 11
jmac sermon "don't be afraid to ask'

Charles Spurgeon's sermon Have not because ye ask not? exposits the scene with Achsah.

Thomas Watson quotes on prayer, here at Grace Gems

Valley of Vision, The Prayer of Love

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sipping wine in the place where the grape is grown

In the late 1980s I was inspired by the movie Shirley Valentine, a film that depicted a middle-aged London wife unhappy with her boring husband and her dreary life. "I want to sip wine in the place where the grape is grown" Shirley had said. So she chucked her husband and her life and jetted off to sunny Greece, swam topless, had an affair, and decided to stay. I guess she liked the wine better than her husband.

Vineyard in Chiusi, Tuscany, Italy. EPrata photo
I was very much taken with the notion of changing one's life. I was entranced by Shirley's life mantra, of 'sipping wine in the place where the grape is grown'. I had tried a conventional life, but my husband had chucked me, I was saddled with a house in a dreary climate and three jobs to pay for it. I wanted more. Sipping wine in places where it's grown was certainly not the dying mill city of snowy Lewiston Maine. It bespoke of gentle Tuscan hillsides, green California dreams, or Greek whitewashed stucco. What a goal, Shirley, what a goal.

I went to wine places. California, Tuscany, South of France, rolling hills and grape vines abounding. But wine was just wine and the problem was the same. I met my goal. It was empty.

I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. ...

What was the meaning of life? Where was permanence, solidity, something that would not disappear in a breath? Something that would give lasting joy, meaning, and purpose? What is man's chief end??

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:2-4, 11).
Question. 1. What is the chief end of man?
Answer. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever. Westminster Shorter Catechism
The Puritan Thomas Watson preached on this in his sermon, Man's Chief End is to Glorify God
Here are two ends of life specified. 1. The glorifying of God. 2. The enjoying of God. 
First. The glorifying of God, 1 Pet. 4:11. "That God in all things may be glorified." The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions. l Cor. 10:31. "Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." 
Everything works to some end in things natural and artificial; now, man being a rational creature, must propose some end to himself, and that should be, that he may lift up God in the world. He had better lose his life than the end of his living. 
The great truth asserted is that the end of every man's living should be to glorify God. Glorifying God has respect to all the persons in the Trinity; it respects God the Father who gave us life; God the Son, who lost his life for us; and God the Holy Ghost, who produces a new life in us; we must bring glory to the whole Trinity.
Q. What is it to glorify God?
A. Glorifying God consists in four things: 1. Appreciation, 2. Adoration, 3. Affection, 4. Subjection. This is the yearly rent we pay to the crown of heaven.
Watson continued in his sermon to explain what and how to appreciate, adore, love, and submit to God.

King Solomon, who wrote Ecclesiastes concludes with the eternal wisdom:

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of every human being. (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Wine is vanity, travel is vanity. All we do when we relocate is bring our depravity with us. We are the problem. Godless, we are adrift in a sea of evil, wafting from one vain flurry to another. Drifting as dust motes upon an acid air, we leave evil, bring evil, and expire as evil. We believe ourselves to be maidens of rosy blush and coy innocence, when we are simply mud mounds cast upon miry shores. Godless, we are drenched with corruption.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. (Genesis 6:5,12).

When we are saved by His grace through faith, we are cleansed, our sin nature is given a Helper. We are dressed in white robes and stood on our feet, no longer to crawl in the dust like the serpent. We are given a will and testament that promises eternal peace, treasures, crowns, and dwellings in glory with the Savior. Our goal shifts to one of giving Him glory and enjoying Him forever.

What a goal, what a goal.






Sunday, September 17, 2017

Kay Cude poetry: When We Remember

Kay Cude poetry. Used with permission. Click to enlarge

Artist's Statement:

As I continue to go through them my perspective is reinforced with the fundamental truth: it is necessary that we learn and grow through "issues" and situations we'd rather avoid. They will either drive us deeper into Scripture and prayer, or we will allow them to drive us into despondency, confusion and sorrow. When we experience breath-knocking blows, above all else it is necessary that we "remember" Who our first love is and that He, Christ is our ever-present secure help. He is our All-in-All, our sufficiency, protection, strength and giver of wisdom. We must remember that issues and circumstance have eternal purpose for His beloved redeemed.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Picture Mixture Saturday: Earth predicted to end this month, APOD, thrift stores, outdoors in fall, more


Biblical prophecy claims earth will end on September 23. Good to know.


This is why I love second hand stores. Second hand books! My local store often has good quality Christian material. I buy books to give away. Except for a few volumes that will always stay with me, my Christian bookshelves are revolving.

Here's some reasons why thrift store shopping is cooler than you thought.





This is why I love photo editing software (Pixlr.com, free)




Do you have a quiet place to enjoy God's creation this weekend? 10 Outdoor activities to grow closer to God and each other




If you're not familiar with NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), then this might spark your imagination. "Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer." Photo for September 15, 2017 credit and explanation is below

100 Steps Forward
Image Credit & Copyright: Camilo Jaramillo
Explanation: A beautiful conjunction of Venus and Moon, human, sand, and Milky Way is depicted in this night skyscape from planet Earth. The scene is a panorama of 6 photos taken in a moment near the end of a journey. In the foreground, footsteps along the wind-rippled dunes are close to the Huacachina oasis in the southwestern desert of Peru. An engaging perspective on the world at night, the stunning final image was also chosen as a winner in The World at Night's 2017 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest.


Though the man is standing in a desert in Peru, I think about this being the same universe that Joseph, trapped in a desert well, looked up into. That Job, mourning and grieving, cried under. Habakkuk questioning God at night, the disciples, asleep in Gethsemane with Jesus praying under these same stars. Our God created all those stars...and named them also. What a gracious thing it is, to know Jesus and understand the universe is God's.


Thursday Picture Mixture: Baby elephant, Maria, Old postcards, beauty

Photographer Finds Locations Of 1960s Postcards To See How They Look Today, And The Difference Is Unbelievable Not long ago an old matchb...