Vote for Your 3 Favorite Charles Gabriel Songs

A local colleague in ministry and prayer partner, William Richardson, also blogs on WordPress, highlighting the lives of past followers of the Christian faith. If you love Gospel songs, like “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” then you know Charles Gabriel. Take a moment to cast your vote for your top three Gabriel favorites. Click this link: Vote for Your 3 Favorite Charles Gabriel Songs.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

Music has been an important part of my family’s life. Just as I remember sitting on the piano bench with my mother, it’s pleasing to see my granddaughter’s hand between my daughter’s as they “tickle the ivories.”

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Find more examples of “between” HERE.

As I processed this picture, I thought how beautifully it represents the process of discipleship. As my mother passed on a love for music to me, I passed that down to my daughter, who is now sharing that passion with her own daughters. When we recently visited their home, the two-year old sang “let it go” (just that phrase) repeatedly for about 30 minutes. I know that my mother is blessed to see her grands and greats follow her example.

In a similar fashion, the Apostle Paul shared with his spiritual son, Timothy, a pattern for discipleship; the passing down of spiritual truth to future generations. He said:

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.  2 Timothy 2:2 (NASB)

Much as a parent imparts truth/skills to a child, every follower of Christ should embrace the role of being a spiritual parent to the point that they are able to see at least spiritual great-grandchildren – four generations (Paul – Timothy – Faithful Men – Others) – following them as imitators of Christ Jesus.

For some more thoughts and suggested resources on this topic, check out a previous post “Me, Disciple Someone.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra

The “Honey Moon” was visible in the Northern Hemisphere on Friday the 13th.The name comes not from the traditional wedding month, but from the moon’s yellow tone as it seen through more atmosphere, traveling a path closer to the horizon in opposition to the sun’s higher path as the summer solstice approaches. Because my amateur photography is characterized by a lot of trial and error, I was searching for moon photography tips online. I discovered this site and app, The Photographer’s Ephemeris. It allowed me to add the extra, extra for which I was looking. While the full moon was beautiful in its own right (extra), I was wanting the moon’s reflection in water (EXTRA, EXTRA).

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The app gives the times of sun/moon rises and settings, as well as the coordinates of each with a compass feature. Knowing the angle of the moonrise, the app enabled me to do a map search on my phone of various lakes in my area to find a place to set up for the shot with the most water in the foreground.

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The TPE app will prove to be very valuable in calculating sunrise/set pictures, as well. Check out the video to see some of the additional features.

There are few things in the visible, celestial realm as enthralling as a full moon. To think that it has no light of its own but is just a reflection of the sun brings to mind so many spiritual applications. The example that I like the most has to do with Jesus’ words to His followers that we are to let our lights shine.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16 (HCSB)

As followers of Christ, we have no natural spiritual light but only a reflective light of the glory of God in our lives. When we are living fully in His grace and under the control of the Holy Spirit, we are motivated to show His loving kindness to others. They see our good works and begin to get a picture of God’s love for them as we radiate a bright reflection of Him.

However, just as the earth begins to cast its shadow on the moon, eclipsing and even blocking out the sun’s reflective light on the moon, worldliness in the life of a Christian diminishes the reflected glory of God in our lives. The less of Christ the world sees in His followers, the more unlikely they are to grasp the glory of God.

May the full moon be a reminder to you, follower of the way, to shine brightly the way for others!

Click HERE for more examples of “Extra, Extra.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

Spring is something to be celebrated, especially for those who live in the Mid-west. After a long Winter, it’s time to plant and start the labor that leads to the fruit of the harvest. One Iowa town’s Spring festival highlights its Dutch heritage. In the first weekend of May, Pella, Iowa, hosts the Tulip Time Festival. It was a perfect fit for this week’s challenge!

With the unpredictability of Iowa weather, the tulips are not always in full bloom by the first of May, and last year’s event saw snow! So, we were grateful to enjoy a the beautiful blooms of Tulip Time.

While we enjoy the beauty of Spring and it’s blossoms, I am reminded how quickly it passes. And, so do our lives. However, there is one thing that never fades…God’s word! The first century disciple of Christ and apostle, Peter, wrote that having heard and believed in Jesus, His followers lives would be transformed by obedience to the truth the imperishable word of God:

23 since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word that was preached as the gospel to you. – 1 Peter 1:23-25

To say that the word of the Lord endures forever means that its message continues to be relevant to every generation and every culture. Other descriptions in the Bible speak of the living and active nature of God’s word, so that it has a dynamic nature to radically transform people that no other written material has (Hebrews 4:12). It is inspired (literally, God-breathed) and brings about teaching, rebuke, correction and training in right-living (2 Timothy 3:16-17). One anonymous writing found in the flyleaf of a Bible sums up the importance of God’s word, the Bible:

  • THIS BOOK contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners and the happiness of believers.
  • Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.
  • Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe and practice it to be holy.
  • It contains light to direct you, food to support you and comfort to cheer you.
  • It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword and the Christian’s character.
  • Here paradise is restored, heaven opened and the gates of hell disclosed.
  • Christ is its grand object, our good is its design and the glory of God its end.
  • It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet.
  • Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully.
  • It is given you in life and will be opened in the judgment and will be remembered forever.
  • It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labour, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.”

May you enjoy the beauty of this Spring, but seek after that which truly and eternally endures: the word of the Lord. Its words can transform you life!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned

For this week’s photo challenge, show us abandoned. You can go literal, as I have, and share a photo of ruins, a desolate place, or your idea of a wasteland. - Cheri

“Forsaken”

Abandoned farmhouse

Cries out in silent complaint

“Why did you leave me?”

Perhaps the most distressing words in the crucifixion of Christ were “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 37:46, KJV). This cry of anguish by the Savior, the same words of the David in Psalm 22:1, have caused theological debate over the type of abandonment Jesus suffered on the Cross. To me, John MacArthur sums it up well:

There is no way to explain it. Maybe we’re helped a little bit to understand that even in His incarnation there was a separation. Did you know that? Because in John 17:5 He says, “Father, Father, return Me to the glory I had with You before the world began.” So there was some kind of relationship that He had before his incarnation that He wanted back. So in the incarnation there was some degree of separation and now in his sin-bearing death there is another degree of separation. He is separated from God. [1]

Whatever it meant for Jesus to be forsaken, His death on the cross secured salvation for those who believe in Him and who abandon themselves to His lordship, so that mankind no longer has to feel separated and alienated from God. In Jesus’ final “marching orders” to the disciples, He promised, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20, KJV), never to be abandoned again!

1. From John MacArthur’s sermon “A Closer Look at the Cross.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light!

I missed a week of participation in the photo challenge (11.29.13), but still wanted to contribute something to that theme. I live on a corner and for a while the sodium-vapor street lamp, emitting its yellow hue, cycled on and off through the night. Recently, the city installed an LED light that is much more intense over the intersection, but creates less overall light pollution. However, it is positioned to illuminate my front yard quite well. With our first measurable snow occurring this past Sunday, the new light caused my bare maple tree to cast some long shadows, nicely contrasting the fresh, white ground cover.

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Of course, this is the Season of Light as Christians observe Advent, preparing for the celebration of Christ’s first coming. In one of the seven “I Am’s”* of Jesus in the Gospel of John, very clearly asserting His claim of deity, He spoke of His illuminating nature:

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

May this be a time in which many people discover the true Light of the World!

*Here is a short but thorough article on The “I Am’s” of Christ by Henry Morris.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Good Morning!

My wife and I have a regular morning practice of rising early to have a spiritual devotional time together. The tools we use are the Bible, a devotional guide or book (my favorite is Daily with the King – W. Glyn Evans) and a cup of coffee. After reading, we spend some time in prayer for our church, family and ourselves. Because we believe Christianity is relational, this is always a special time with the Lord, Jesus Christ and each other as we seek to hear from God and spend time talking to Him through prayer. It is our way of having a “Good Morning!”

Good morning, Son!

Good morning, Son!

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.                                Mark 1:35 (NIV)

Just for fun, here is another “Good Morning” picture to amend a comment I made about Vladimir Brezina’s post Travel Theme: Relaxing. His first photo showed Johna having a cup of coffee on a sandbar. Occasionally, a few brave souls join us for sunrise on the beach during our vacation time. Since the end of October is a little chilly even on the Gulf Coast, daughter #2 has her feet raised off the cold sand. Daughter #1, holding sleeping baby, gives me the “don’t you dare take this picture” glare! Oh, well…there it is.

Good morning, Sun!

For more examples of “Good Morning!”, go to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV

Challenge: Go out and take photos and share a shot that reveals a new and different POV.

I have made mention of our family’s afternoon gatherings for sunsets when we are at the beach. However, sunrises are a different story! My wife loves being the first one out to see the sunrise and find shells that might have washed up overnight, but she is often solitary in that venture. Occasionally, I tag along with camera. On one such morning, I found this coconut that had washed up…not a normal sight on the section of beach we frequent.

IMG_0054As I lay on the ground, an early morning jogger came by, took a quick glance, and continued on his way. While not necessarily trying to capture his passing, these three photos in the slide show do:

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As this jogger ran by what I thought was an unusual, “stop and smell the roses” moment, it reminded be that our personal POV drives us: mine – wanting to find something that was photo worthy; his – staying in shape. Our “point of view” means everything to us and often directs the focus of our day. For example, if our point of view is that we must be physically fit, it will motivate us to get up early and pound the pavement (or beach) and watch what we eat. If we have a passion for a political ideology, we will immerse ourselves in the latest news, attend Town Hall meetings and voice our opinions on everything political. Unfortunately, our POV often causes us to give passing glances at the really important things of life.

However, God calls us to have a balanced and overarching spiritual perspective on life, seeing it through a “God lens.” This POV is often seen as “unusual” in our day and time, just as it was in Jesus’ day. In fact, when asked why he spoke in parables (spiritual truths wrapped in everyday life stories), Jesus said it was to help his listeners to have a perspectives that were unique in comparison to the ones taught by their religious leaders. However, even their lack of spiritual insight into his parables was foretold in Old Testament prophecy:

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ [Isaiah 6:9-10]

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. (Matthew 13:14-16, NIV)

The disciples’ eyes and ears, however, were blessed as they began to perceive the message of Christ. Because they were “all in” with Jesus, having made the decision to follow him, they began to see the world through the “God lens.” As a result their POV shifted from selfish to selfless, from temporal to eternal, from religion to relationship. Having this new, and unusual (to the world) POV, transforms everything we see!

When in Doubt, Don’t!

We’ve all done it…the sniff test. Whether it’s the jug of milk a day or two beyond expiration date or that previously worn shirt, a quick sniff tells us if were “good to go” or should make another plan. However, sometimes we’re just not sure.

H.A. Ironside told the following story:

Sandy was a thrifty Scot who objected to needless laundry expense, so when he wore a dress shirt to a banquet, he put it away carefully for future use. On one occasion when dressing for such an event, he took a used shirt out of the drawer and examined it with care, hoping to be able to wear it that evening. Not being quite sure of its strict cleanliness, he took it to a window, where he was looking it over under a better light than the room afforded.

His wife, Jean, noticed him shaking his head as though fearful that it would not pass careful scrutiny. “Remember, Sandy,” she called to him, “if it’s doubtful, it’s dirty.”

That settled it. The shirt went into the discard and another – a fresh one – took its place. Jean’s words may well speak to every believer concerning things about which conscience raises any question whatsoever. – Illustrations of Bible Truth

In Romans 14, Paul is advising the church on how to relate to one another in areas in which the Bible give no clear instruction. In those areas we are to exercise freedom, but not judge others who don’t share our convictions. Paul says:

20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.                                              (Romans 14:20-23 NASB)

Paul affirms that the Christian life is not as burdensome as some legalistic followers were making it in his day. However, one’s freedom is sometimes set aside for the benefit of a weaker brother, whose differing conviction in a debatable area is such that your freedom may sidetrack them.

IMGP6293In the end, however, it is important to have our “own conviction before God.” If we are doubtful about a matter and we do it, then that doubt turns into guilt (the conscience condemning our action). So, when in doubt, don’t. In other words, if you don’t have a firm conviction, avoid the activity until you get some conviction on the matter. Then, stick with that conviction.

So, here is a sniff test to apply to those debatable areas of the Christian life. When something comes up that is not clearly spoken of in Scripture, put it to the test:

  1. THE WORLD TEST. Is it worldly? Will it make me worldly to do it (John 15:19; 1 John 2:15-17)
  2. THE QUALITY TEST. Is it good for me physically, emotionally, and spiritually (Romans 12:9)
  3. THE TEMPLE TEST. Can I do it when I remember my body is God’s temple and must not be marred or misused (1 Corinthians 6:19)
  4. THE GLORY TEST. Will it glorify my Lord, or will it on the other hand possibly bring shame to His name (1 Corinthians 6:20, 10:32)
  5. THE BLESSING TEST. Can I honestly ask God’s blessing on it and be sure I’ll not regret doing it (Proverbs 10:22, Romans 15:29)
  6. THE REPUTATION TEST. Is it apt to damage my testimony for the Lord (Philippians 2:15)
  7. THE CONSIDERATION TEST. Am I being considerate of others and the effect this might have on them (Romans 14:7, 21)
  8. THE APPEARANCE TEST. Will it look bad? Does it have the appearance of what is wrong or suspicious (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
  9. THE WEIGHT TEST. Could this slacken or sidetrack me in running the Christian race (Hebrews 12:1, 1 Corinthians 9:24)
  10. THE COMING OF CHRIST TEST. Would I be ashamed to be found doing this when He comes again (1 John 2:28)
  11. THE COMPANION TEST. Can I invite Christ to go with me and participate with me in this (Matthew 28:20b, Colossians 3:17)
  12. THE PEACE TEST. After having prayed about it, do I have perfect peace about doing it (Colossians 3:15a, Philippians 4:6-7)*

*Taken from Basic Bible Beliefs, Bible Baptist Church, Auburn, WA, 1975, unpublished. From Training Manual for Local Church Visitation, Eugene A. Wood, DTS, ThM Thesis, 1980.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus

Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus by Cheri Lucas Rowlands on August 23, 2013

For this challenge, get out there and take a picture demonstrating the concept of focus. 

  • Snap a photo of something or someone in focus, against a blurred background.
  • Share a panorama or landscape in sharp focus, in which you can see details far away.
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Shallow depth of field – corn stalks in the foreground

I live in an agricultural area with corn and soybean fields almost within a stones throw of my home. One of my church members, who sells crop insurance, recently asked me to take a few pictures of corn for his website. The scene, just down the road from my church featured a seed company’s test plots with the local grain elevator in the background.

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Greater depth of field – Grain Elevator in focus

Thanks for coming by to see my photographic take on “focus.”

Now let me give a spiritual take on the topic. As harvest is just around the corner, and the grain elevators will have semi-trucks lined up to store the farmers’ bounty, I think of Jesus’ parable (Luke 12:13-21) of a rich farmer who had a great harvest. He decided to build bigger barns and to selfishly live off of the fruits of his labor “for many years” with no concern for God and others (the repeated use of the pronouns “I” and “my” give evidence of his self-ward focus). The Father’s response was:

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?’ 21 “That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:20-21 (HCSB)

At times, it is difficult for us to have anything other than a self-ward focus – a shallow depth of field – especially in the midst of life’s difficulties. However, we must remember the temporary nature of this life and focus on the greater depth of field – the eternal.

These green fields will soon be reduced to the rubble of decaying stalks – in the same way we see our earthly bodies deteriorate over time. However, if our focus is toward God’s call and obedience to His purposes, we will be accumulating treasure in heaven.

16 Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

So, is your life focus on a shallow depth of field (selfish) or a greater depth of field (eternal)?