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The Real Deal

One of the hardest parts about preaching is that there is always something I’m not saying.  I can’t preach the full counsel of God in a single sermon (and you sure wouldn’t want me to!).  Sermons are sort of like snapshots.  They capture truth, but not the whole truth.  Take yesterday for example.  I preached about the deal that we can make with God.  We surrender our lives to him and in return, he gives us forgiveness and eternal life.

While I stand by what I said, I would hate to give anyone the impression that the only way to be saved is by giving up your life to God through a sheer act of your will.  If that were the case, it would never happen.  The whole deal starts by God choosing us and making us his special possession.  It is only after that happens that we can begin surrendering our lives.  The real deal always starts with God and his grace, not us.

Moon and Stars

On Friday night we had a meetup to shoot a barn with star trails. It was very enjoyable but photographically challenging. With over 30 people participaing working in the dark, and evryone with a flashlight it made for lots of ruined shots. On my way home I stopped at my favorite barn near Nunica. This is my first tone mapped image of the moon and stars combined. You get some of the fuzziness around the trees which I hate but I like the way the stars and the moonrise combine.When I consider your heavens,

   the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

   which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

   human beings that you care for them?

-Psalm 8:3-4

Five months ago we began a visual journey through the photos of Gert Wallis.  So often we see the tragedies, the pain, the darkness.  Through these 17 photos we have focused on the light – light that the darkness has not and will not overcome.  When we look at the world around us we can see the darkness, the pain, and the brokenness.  But there is far more than those things.  Because the earth is the Lord’s, hope is the truest way to see the world.  Our God reigns!  Our world belongs to Him!  The moon and the stars announce it.  Creation declares it.  Even now with our own eyes we can see it.  We need only to look.

Tuscany

In Tuscany the roads are really not condusive to stopping and taking photos.  Because I didn't have a tripid most photos are more snapshots than a pre-meditated photograph. While I am looking at these snapshots, I see why the area is so photogenic.  You have the s-curve leading into the house which was the first thing that attracted me to this scene. The other elements which deserve a photo on their own are the bales of hay on the right, the rolling hills with, and the layered morning mist.As I look at this beautiful landscape in Tuscany, it occurs to me that I know hardly anything about that part of the world.  Looking at this photo gives me a little information.  I could also read about this region of Italy or do some internet research.  There are probably documentaries on Netflix that could introduce me to Tuscany.  I might meet someone who is from that part of the world and get their description of it.  Yet even then, I wouldn’t really know Tuscany.  In order for me to really understand this region, I would need to travel and spend some time there.  If I did this several times over the course of a few years, then I would be able to say that I knew Tuscany.

Knowing Jesus is a lot like this too.  A person could do a lot of research on Jesus’ life – even reading the Gospels.  A person could talk at length with someone who knew Jesus.  A person could attend church services where people sang about Jesus.  But none of that is really knowing Jesus.  To know Jesus, one has to engage in a relationship with him.  Jesus can’t be known objectively.  We know him by walking with him through life.

Winter – Hoffmaster

It’s a little disconcerI recently aquired a new 160 LED light and I took it out to see if you could use it to light nature scenes. I realized that it has a yellow tint to it. It was a welcome error as fixing the color cast to make the leaves green gives you a very cold tint to the rest of the background.ting to think about snow in June.  For many people, snow is a nuisance, a threat, an inconvenience.  Some people flee to the southern states during the winter months to avoid it.  That’s understandable.  It can be dangerous to drive in.  It is slippery.  It is cold.  Yet when I look at this picture I see a few ways that we have made the best of it.  More than that, we have turned something inconvenient into a canvas for recreation activity.
There are a lot of things we complain about in life.  There are challenges that slow us down and draw down our energy.  Just like snow, we have the option to embrace the challenges.  We can make the best of hard situations.  They can become a catalyst for growth and relationship, not just a nuisance.  In Philippians, Paul listed a number of inconveniences and threats in his life.  Then he made this amazing statement: “I can do all these things through Christ who strengthens me.”  That same Christ will strengthen us too.

Friendship

IMG_1999There is a time and a place for solitude.  It is important for us to spend time alone to reflect or gain perspective.  However, friendship is a basic human need.  We have been created to be in relationship with each other.  We learn much about who we are through the eyes of others.  As we move down the winding river of life, we need people to accompany us on that journey.  There are people who need our presence on that journey.  We need each other.  Sometimes we need to be challenged – someone to push us and drive us forward.  Other times we need encouragement – someone to support us and go ahead of us.  There is great consolation in not being alone.  That’s why we do life together at FCC.  There should be no such thing as loneliness in the church.  There are times when we may find ourselves alone.  But we have a family and friends who will stand by us and walk (or paddle) alongside of us.

 

Kids’ Joy

_MG_3663We’ve talked about how work is an important part of life.  God has made us for productive effort.  We’ve been given tasks and jobs to do.  It is also important for us to take a break from meaningful work.  We need time for recreation.  We need to play.  Whether an infant or a senior citizen, play is important for all of us.  Some of us do this in the backyard, others on a computer or mobile phone screen, still others with a cup of coffee and a deck of cards.  But we need to play.  Play and recreation is a moment in time where we can forget about ourselves for a few moments.  We can live into the joy of the moment.  We can’t play all the time.  Even in heaven, I believe there is meaningful work.  But there is also play.  And so we should do it on earth too.

Pets

IMG_6183Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.  –Genesis 2:19-20

Our connection with animals is strong.  And no where is it stronger than the bond between people and their pets.  The dog is not just an animal that comes around.  A cat is not just for decoration.  These are full members of the family.  They are objects of our love and affection.  In their own way, pets return this love (except goldfish).  There is a bond between humans and animals.  It goes all the way back to the creation of the world.  God entrusted us with the task of naming the animals.  Whether you realized it or not, when you named your dog, your cat, or even your goldfish, you were acting on something woven into the creation order.

 

Marriage/Romance

_MG_1860Romance and faith are rarely seen as complementary endeavors.  While faith is highly regarded as a spiritual enterprise, romance is seen as a fleshly, earthly pursuit.  Faith will guide one toward understanding and peace and wisdom.  Romance will generally put a person’s head in the clouds and sometime lead them into trouble.  However, romance itself is a gift from God.  And that is remarkable.  God created us not just with the capacity for reproduction, but with the capacity to experience powerful attractions and deep longings for another.  Yes, weve messed this up in all kinds of ways.  But it is still a gift.  It is a gift to experience these feelings toward another.  It is a gift to be the object of these feelings.  Most of all, we come to experience God’s powerful longing for us, His children.  God is the ultimate smitten lover.  His love was so powerful that he sacrificed in unthinkable ways to win His “bride.”

Cousins

_MG_9323The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”  -Genesis 2:18

From the beginning we were not meant to be alone.  God created us to be interwoven, to walk side-by-side with each other.  At Ferrysburg Community Church we celebrate relationships as an amazing gift from God.  Relationships allow us to be needed and to have needs met by others.  When relationships are strong and healthy we experience a taste of our true relationship with Jesus.  When relationships disappoint and break, we are reminded and consoled because our most important relationship is unbreakable.  May we walk together.

 

War Memorial

_MG_8101 (1)He will judge between the nations

   and will settle disputes for many peoples.

They will beat their swords into plowshares

   and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not take up sword against nation,

   nor will they train for war anymore.

–Isaiah 2:4

 

One of the most obvious symbols of human brokenness is war.  During the American Civil War, General Sherman famously said, “War is hell.”  Indeed.  It is evidence of the way sin and death – hell – has remained on the earth.  Especially in a civil war, it pits brother against brother and magnifies the fallenness of our human relationships: we must use violence to settle our disputes.  The Croatian Civil War Memorial is a symbol of the worst things within us.  But the cross that sits atop it is a symbol of the worst being paid for and removed forever.  It is a symbol of a day when all wars shall cease and Christ will rule every land in peace.