Weather or Not Photography

Jim (Dad):  Jeremy, where did you take this shot?
Jeremy (Son): This photo was taken at a friend’s house.
Jim: Why do you shoot so many weather photos?
Jeremy: Because I think it’s beautiful.  And I love weather.
Jim: Have you had any photography training?
Jeremy: No.

Heaven for the Comfort, Hell for the Company

This is a phrase that I heard as a kid.  It means: I want to go to heaven to physically feel good and escape Hell’s torment and pain; but I want to socialize with people in Hell because they are “real” and not hypocritically thinking they are better than me.  There is a lot of truth to this phrase.

Some people in church are hypocrites.  Talking Jesus but without accepting others as they are, not giving mercy, love, forgiveness, acceptance and grace.  The problem is these same people usually haven’t experienced the unconditional love that Jesus offers.  They think what makes them a “christian” is going to church, obeying rules (that is, the ones they want to obey and ignoring the others), and being accepted by other “christians”.  They have missed everything.  And that “everything” is a personal relationship with Jesus.

When a person truly knows Jesus they don’t think they are better than you.  In fact, they believe they are your servant and put you first.  Not just if you are another Christian but regardless of who you are, what you believe or what you’ve done.  That’s because that’s what Jesus did… and still does.  Jesus counted Himself among sinners and is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters.

People don’t become true Christians by following rules and pretending they are perfect. Rather they become true Christians by surrendering themselves to the Jesus they have learned to trust and love because they have seen Him love them first hand through one of His followers.

If you can’t find a true Christian perhaps you want to consider investigating becoming a true Christian yourself?  Pray to God and tell Him you want to know Him.  Read the Bible starting in John (you can use the index to find it) and learn about Jesus’ character and love for you and others.  Pray that God would lead you to one of His true followers, that they might help you know God better.  You can explore if Jesus is someone you want to spend your life and eternity with.  And being with Jesus is what makes heaven, heaven.

Wisdom, Humility and Real Life

James 1:5 NKJV

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

James 4:6 – 10 NKJV

6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:     “God resists the proud,     But gives grace to the humble.”  7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. 

Naturally, in and of myself, I don’t have any wisdom at all.  I become painfully aware of this sometimes when God removes His wisdom from me.  Then I realize that if my own wisdom was dynamite I wouldn’t have enough to blow my nose.  God is the source of all true wisdom.

I used to write these posts for the local newspaper, accompanied by a meaningful photo.  After writing them weekly for two years I became proud, thinking I was writing them out of my own wisdom, out of my own power, out of myself.  I knew I was getting proud, but I couldn’t shake it.  My pride got in the way of hearing from God to write the posts.  And eventually I had to quit writing them.  And I couldn’t write another until eight years later.

There is a relationship between wisdom, love and pride.  Wisdom is the practically working out of love for God, others and ourselves in our daily lives.  Pride is the opposite of love.  Pride cuts off the ability to hear God’s wisdom because we seek glory for ourselves and so it results in a fall, or the destruction of our lives.

God knows we all have a problem with pride.  That’s why He sent Jesus to take the punishment for our pride.  God said to humble ourselves under His mighty hand and in due time He will lift us up.  He doesn’t lift us up the way this world does, that is, by making ourselves “greater” than others.  He lifts us up by making us like Himself, by making us able to be a loving servant like Him.  Humbling ourselves and loving and serving others is real glory.  And this real glory, when we humble ourselves, and love God with all that we are and others as much as ourselves, is just breaking even in God’s sight.  It is the minimum God expects from each of us.  We are no “greater” than anyone else.

And that’s the way we would want it isn’t it?  We want others to love us as much as they love themselves.  But, we don’t want them to feel “greater” than us by doing so.  It is just what is expected.

But loving others this way is impossible in our natural selves.  When we are born our spirits are dead.  But, when we confess our sins to God and believe that Jesus paid our sin debt in full (when He died and rose from the dead), God gives us the Person of His Spirit that is alive and willing and able to do all that God asks.  We then are able to choose to follow God if we want to follow Him.  And when we choose to follow Him we find out the reason He made us.  We find real life the way God intended it to be.

 1 John 5:11-13 NKJV

11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Matthew 10:39  NKJV

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Today, right now, Jesus is calling you.  And if you listen to Him, and respond to Him, you will never be the same.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I’m glad I didn’t get what I wanted

Jesus said that even in abundance our life does not consist in what we have.  I just updated my Linked In account to reflect my new job.  For my job description I put that I serve the mentally ill of which I am one.  At one time I wanted to be a CEO or president or anything that at that time I thought commanded respect.  I despised my mental illness and the stigma and “shame” that came with it.  Now I thank God for the experience of mental illness though I would not want to go back to having no meds.  I get to meet some of the neatest people through my job.  And what used to hold me back now I use to join with others in moving forward.  Jesus’ kingdom truly is upside-down when compared with how this world thinks.  If God would have granted me a healthy brain and given me my desire to “be important”, I would be lonely, frustrated, and friendless.  Instead He gave me defective brain chemistry, pain and sorrow, and a new life that values other people instead of what I think other people think of me.

What do you value?  Are you happy?  The Bible says that Jesus, took the form of a servant, and for the joy set before Him, endured the cross to pay for our sins.  What did He value?  You and me, and His Father.  He was never elected to public office, never wrote a book, and didn’t travel the world.  He did however, humble himself and obey His Father.  And He is happy.  If you want to follow in His footsteps you can.  Just confess your sins to Him.  Tell Him you’re sorry for them and that you are turning from them with His help.  Tell Him you believe He died for your sins and rose to give you new life.  And then tell someone about the forgiveness and new life God has given you.  Read the Bible and pray.  And love and obey Him.  You will experience His peace, love and joy.

Satan’s work exposed

2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV84

 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I suffer from lack of confidence sometimes, especially in new situations.  Satan knows this and regularly attacks me there.  Satan’s fiery darts, those destructive thoughts and feelings, are hitting me most recently in my new job.  I am praying that Jesus will take care of my thought life and me personally and my company and their customers.  I am praying that Jesus will expose the lies of satan (that I believe) to the light of God’s truth.  The truth will disarm the lies and make them powerless against me.  How does this work?

When satan tells me a lie it is usually aimed at a shame and insecurity I feel.  He threatens to expose my weakness and I fear telling anyone because I feel ashamed.  And the lie grows hidden in the dark.  But if I have the courage and insight to realize what the lie is and expose it, or I talk to someone who helps me to do this, I can compare satan’s lie to the truth found in the Bible.  Then I realize that Jesus loves me just as I am, that He has already paid for whatever I’m ashamed of, that I am complete in Him, and that satan cannot harm me.

Writing about this is easier than dealing with it and so though I know what’s going on I still have to fight the battle.  Praying and reading the Bible, talking with Christian friends who understand, and even writing a blog post about it, helps expose and destroy satan’s work in my life.

Thanks for reading this and feel free to comment about anything you would like.

My youngest son decided that tithing once is enough!

My youngest son was buying a video game today that cost $20 with the money he earned this week, also $20.  I told him he needed to wait and save his money because $2 of the $20 belonged to God.  He told me he already tithed once and that he really wanted to spend the money on the video game.  I told him that his mom and I tithe every week.  He said that tithing once is enough.  I said “ok”.  And I wondered if I had misrepresented tithing to him… and to you.

God does indeed tell us to test Him in this area of finance.  So, did God fail my son?  We don’t know yet.  But I think it is important to know why God wants us to tithe.  He provides an extra 10% when he gives us money (whether through our work, investments, social security, etc.) so that we can return it to Him through our local church.  God uses our/His money to pay for people and programs that lead people world-wide into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  Now, God doesn’t need our money.  All the money we have comes from Him and He could finance everything through miracles if He want to do so.  But God wants us to know the joy of giving like He does, to  know the joy of being a part of His work to unconditionally love people, and to show a watching world His reality and true nature through our loving actions.

I neglected to tell my son all this and I wonder if that might have influenced his decision concerning tithing.  After all, my son might not be able to appreciate these blessings if he doesn’t know about them.  My son is asleep right now, but tomorrow I hope to be able to talk to him.  I want to ask him about why he tithed, did God bless him more than he could receive, and what would have to happen for him to decide to tithe again.

And, I apologize to you if I made tithing sound like a guaranteed money making investment.  God has always blessed me for tithing.  If it wasn’t for Him I would not have avoided many traffic accidents, I would not have met my beautiful wife, I would not have been able to adopt my two wonderful sons, and I wouldn’t have a job that I like and I think suits me well.  These blessings can’t be seen as easily as the four tickets to a kids’ movie that his brother received when his brother tithed, but they are no less real.

I will talk to my son in the morning.  I believe God has, or will, bless my son with more than he can receive because of his one week tithe.  And, he and I will watch for it.

Did God pass the "test"?

Malachi 3:10 (NKJV)   

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,     That there may be food in My house,     And try Me now in this,”     Says the Lord of hosts,     “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven     And pour out for you such blessing     That there will not be room enough to receive it. 

Back on September 1, 2013 I told you about my wife and I double “tithing” (or giving back God 20% of what He has given us during the month) in order to show our two sons that God comes through on His promises.  God promises in Malachi in the last book of the Old Testament of the Bible that He will throw open the windows of heaven and pour out so much blessing that we will not have room enough for it, if we give Him back His 10% of what He gives us.  Since we were already giving God back His 10% we decided to give Him back 20% in the month of September to give God the chance to show our sons proof that God can be trusted.

God has blessed us by giving our sons neighbors to play with after school.  Jesus has helped me to see more quickly when I’m wrong and apologize to my wife.  God has enabled us to go to church together, which is very sweet because it hasn’t happened often lately.  My younger son has been walking away from the antagonism of others, which takes great strength and I am proud of him.  God provided a mini-mentoring session for my older son through a Christian friend of a Christian friend who was cleaning my carpets (he did an excellent job with my son and the carpets – ask for referral information).  My son tithed five weeks at church tonight (partially ahead of schedule) and was totally pumped, ready to see what God would do to bless him.

Monetarily, God did some off-the-chart things for us, as well.  First, He provided a perfect stranger to pick up our dinner check at a restaurant.  Next, my wife got paid for work that she wasn’t planning on getting paid for.  Our family received a free hotel stay, including mileage, breakfast, pool, and exercise room.  I interviewed for a new job and quit my then current job on Thursday, September 5th, 2013 and got paid for the next two weeks.  Last Monday, September 23, 2013, God gave me the job I interviewed for making twice as much as I did before plus unbelievable benefits.  This fits perfectly with my wife going from 40 hours per week to 20 hours per week (which is welcome).  And as far as God’s timing, my job starts the same day my wife’s job goes to part-time.

To me, God has indeed opened for me the windows of heaven  And poured out for me such blessing  That there is not room enough to receive it.

Ephesians 3:20 – 21 (NKJV) 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,  21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.