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Showing posts from 2019

Tracks in the Heart

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This is where the dirt road ends and pavement begins. There are a lot of tire tracks found in that loose, red Georgia soil, but you will not see a single impression in the asphalt (except maybe on a blistering hot Summer's day when you can fry an egg on that surface).

I believe most people reading my posts would rather have a dirt road over asphalt. They would prefer a slow ride down a quiet, country road over the hectic hustle of the big city traffic jungle.

This photo speaks to me about the condition of a person's heart though. There are strangers, friends and family you meet regularly who appear on the surface to be hardhearted. They haven't always been that way but circumstances turned their warm heart of compassion into a cold heart of stone -- and nothing or no one can make a positive impression on them or move them. And then there are those whose hearts are soft, pliable, vulnerable... people on whom others leave a deep impression -- sometimes for bad, but mostly for…

Confidence - Misdirected and Assured

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A MISDIRECTED CONFIDENCE

Quote from the Movie:
"We'll give him more than chains. He's always been king of his world, but we'll teach him fear. We're millionaires, boys. I'll share it with all of you. Why, in a few months, it'll be up in lights on Broadway: Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World."

God warns man about placing confidence in status, power and reckless behavior.

Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the path of those who have foolish confidence. (Psalm 49:12-13a)

Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. (Psalm 146:3)

The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence. (Proverbs 14:6)

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AN ASSURED CONFIDENCE

An assured confidence does not rest on human accomplishments or wealth. An assured confidence lies in the hope, grace and help of our God and Savior alone.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord…

Light in the Valley

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This is a sunrise photo from the Oconaluftee Valley Overlook on Highway 441 in the Great Smoky Mountains. It is one of my favorite sunrise locations as you've seen before because of where the sun appears on the horizon, the layers of ridges, and the frequently present clouds hovering just over the mountains.

The thing about sunrise photos is that you never know what to expect, particularly if you set out in the early morning hours while it is still very dark. Actually, this is the only way to do it otherwise you will miss all those sweet colors that appear with the very first light -- generally 45 minutes before the sun actually shows itself.

In this case, there were no clouds in the sky so the orange and yellow tones that appeared prior to the actual sunrise were not reflected off the clouds but off the chemicals naturally and unnaturally found in the atmosphere (yes, even traces of smog can produce appealing colors on the horizon). And as it grew lighter, more of the valley reveal…

When the Lights Come On

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I rarely photograph the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge during the day. There's just something mesmerizing about shooting a long exposure image of the water cascading over the dam with the lights reflecting in the water. The mill just seems to exude new life and character at night.

I don't know about you but I am drawn to the historic structures that remind us of decades long gone. I am thrilled when people care enough to maintain and/or restore them for present and future generations.

I believe giving the next generation something tangible to experience of the past is vital. I believe that consistently living out our lives for the Lord today in front of this generation of young people is vital to raising up strong adults who will continue a faith journey which will lead future generations to the Lord too.

But here's my concern... what was spoken of concerning the Israelite nation in Judges 2:10 is far too real in today's American society as well.

"And all that generation al…

Streams of Mercy

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When in the Smokies, I love coming down out of the mountains and stopping at many of the streams, creeks, brooks, and waterfalls along the way. There is a sense of peace and calmness that accompanies the sound and scene before you.

I am reminded that following a mountaintop experience there is only one place to go -- down. It's not unusual to feel depressed, forsaken, lonely, bored, hurting and afraid right after having a grand and golden sunrise moment.

Can I reassure you of something? God gives us those mountaintop moments to remind us of Himself and His presence in our lives, but those rivers of peace, calm, love, mercy and grace do not flow UP... they flow DOWN. So as you journey toward or dwell in that valley experience please know that God's goodness is flowing to where you are. Open your eyes to His life-giving, life-sustaining flow so that you will be re-energized, rejuvenated and restored in whatever situation you find yourself in.

The same God in the mountain is the sam…

Movers and Shapers

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Have you noticed how smooth the rocks and boulders are in the river beds of the Great Smoky Mountains? Obviously the rocks are much harder than water, but it is the water that shapes the rocks and not vice versa.

Yes, rocks may divert the flow temporarily, but sooner or later the force of rushing water will inevitably move or reshape even the largest of stones.

You may have found yourself between a rock and a hard place in life and the weight of your circumstances seem unmovable, yet I am here to encourage you -- prayer, like the rushing waters, touches the heart of God to move or smooth those obstacles which seem too heavy to bear on your own.

Jesus told His followers, "Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."…

The Road Ahead

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No one can predict what lies ahead. We can look forward with hope or we can tremble with fear as we consider the future. Would the next few moments after taking this photo provide other spectacular displays of light or would a torrential rain pound on us for the remainder of our journey?

Proverbs 27:1 reads, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring."

Jesus tells us, "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:34)

Only God knows what the next moment holds for us. We should be consumed with neither boasting nor fear. While I may not know how this day will unfold, I do know Who holds me securely in His grip. So, by faith I trust Him.

Hopping Into Streams

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SURPRISE! I like to photograph mountain streams!

Okay, maybe it's not such a surprise. Considering my past experiences in and around mountain streams you can rest assured that I take the utmost caution when rock hopping nowadays. However, to me the reward outweighs the risk.

In what areas of your life do you find yourself going beyond your comfort zone for a greater purpose? Jesus gave us a command to love our neighbor as our ourselves. In a story He defines a neighbor as someone in need. Perhaps God is nudging you to reach out to that friend, coworker, family member or stranger who needs a helping hand, friendly smile or word of encouragement.

James, the brother of Jesus, was very pragmatic about a visible faith when he wrote:

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm a…

Days Like Two Hand Widths

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Wes King wrote a song called "Life is Precious" with the following chorus:

Life is precious, life is sweet
Like the earth beneath my feet
Though I know I'm passing through
I know I belong to You
Life is precious, life is sweet
And this truth makes it complete
Knowing Jesus died for me
Life is precious
Life is precious, life is sweet


The older I get the more precious I value my life, my relationships, my memories and most importantly, my salvation. Truthfully though, life is not always sweet but each passing minute is both precious and priceless because once that moment is gone we can never retrieve it for a do-over. I love taking pictures because it at least helps me remember those events that could easily get lost in my graying brain matter.

I'm not sure exactly how much time is in a hand width or "hand breath" as found in some Bible translations, but the verses in Psalm 39:5-7 written by David below seems to indicate that it is very short in comparison to eternity. …

The King

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Monarch butterflies are the most beautiful of all butterflies, some say, and are considered the “king” of the butterflies, hence the name “monarch”. Likewise, the name "monarch" is believed to be given in honor of King William III of England, whose secondary title Prince of Orange makes a reference to the butterfly's main color.

However, there is but one who is both Lord of lords and King of Kings and that is God Almighty. Meditate on the words of the Psalmist David this morning and praise our Lord and King!

The Lord is King for ever and ever. (Psalm 10:16)

Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty— he is the King of glory. (Psalm 24:10)

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. (Psalm 29:10)

For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth. (Psalm 47:2)

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:3)

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 10…

Are You Ready for What's Around the Corner?

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The Great Smoky Mountains transform into rolling waves of color in Autumn. Often, the window of opportunity to photograph peak leaf color in a particular location might be rather short. However, since there is such a wide range of elevation you can find colorful displays for a solid month or more somewhere from the ridge lines to the valley floors.

Timing is everything whether your subject is a blooming wildflower, nursing black bear, fence-jumping deer, flowing waterfall or a vibrant leaf display. There is always something to shoot though, so a good photographer is always prepared for the expected and unexpected around the corner.

What about you? Are you ready for what's around the corner? No, I'm not talking about photography now. I'm talking about life. As much as we plan and prepare for tomorrow there is one thing that you can count on... the unexpected. You can save your money for decades just to have the stock market collapse. You can plan for a once-in-a-lifetime vaca…

Unsalty

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I was sad and disheartened when I passed by this little church building and noticed that it was boarded up and abandoned -- DEAD. Yet, all around it were green signs of LIFE and vitality.

I'm afraid this is a reality more and more frequently as the communities around many of our houses of worship blossom and thrive while the number of people attending church services are in decline. More houses of recreation...and less houses of worship.

I realize there are many reasons for this phenomenon in America. We have been the third largest mission field in the world for at least a decade or two now. Wealth, knowledge, spiritual bankruptcy, hedonism, self-centeredness, pride, independence, division, lack of clear spiritual leadership in our homes and very little real discipleship happening in our churches... and the list goes on.

What you see is what Jesus described when the church (Christians) become tasteless (uninteresting, unsavory, weak, stale, unappetizing) and good for nothing (ineffec…

Lifted Up

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Have you noticed recently how busy life can be and how focused you find yourself on everything going on around you -- job, family, chores, bills, hobbies, even Facebook -- yet neglect the very ONE who sustains you unquestionably, cares for you unconditionally, and loves you immeasurably?

Suffering and trials teach me great humility as I recognize my inadequacy to truly effect change in my life and the life of people close to me except through total dependency on God and the power He has to make the impossible possible. So, I have determined to not just pray but to pray hard in those circumstances, knowing that God is my only hope.

When tragedy strikes, suddenly your perspective on what's truly important is modified and your faith in God is solidified. As a result, I spend more time with my heavenly Father and looking up to the only One who can truly bring healing, comfort, peace and restoration.

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! ~Psalm 123:1

Like this s…

The Harmony of Diversity

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Each year we celebrate the diversity of shapes and myriad of colors that adorn the trees across our Autumn landscape. Should we not also celebrate the unique shapes and colors of the human race as we are all part of that very same landscape?

Some of our differences will certainly always divide, but as for the children of God... well, there's no excuse for not finding that common ground on which we can all agree and live harmoniously. Where might that be? --In the throne room of God at the feet of Jesus our Lord and Savior.

The Apostle John wrote in Revelation 7:9-10 about a day when people of every tribe, every tongue and every nation will stand before the throne of God in worship, and with a unified voice proclaim His greatness. As John was given the great privilege of getting a sneak peak into heaven, this is what he saw...

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the t…

Be a Son Follower

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The name sunflower comes from the Greek words helios "sun" and anthos "flower." Sunflower got its name because the flowers turn toward the sun. How are sunflowers able to track the sun?

There is a collection of specialized cells at the base of the flower bud called a pulvinus that carry the "motor" cells that enable the flower to track the sun. These cells enlarge or shrink according the pressure from the water inside them. In response to blue wavelength light, potassium ion concentration increases in the "motor" cells on the shadow side of the pulvinus. With the increase of potassium ions the osmotic potential in the cells becomes more negative and the cells absorb more water and elongate, turning the face of the flower to the sun. (From Wildflower.org)

That is pretty amazing, isn't it?! I learned something new today. I'm certain this was a great scientific discovery at some point but God created this marvelous plant to behave this way in…

Let There Be Light

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In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. (Genesis 1:1-4a)

Light IS good! Without light we stumble in the darkness, helpless to find our way. I've read stories of people lost in caves for days without light. They lost all sense of time. Their minds played tricks on them. Since moving in total darkness could have resulted in even more danger, in all accounts the people stayed put where they were.

King Solomon wrote, "The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble." (Proverbs 4:19)

If you find yourself either trapped in a life of dark hopelessness or stumbling in the little light of understanding that you do have, then please know that help is not only on the way... help has already come. …

Free to Fly

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fly? When I was a young boy I often had dreams of flying like Superman. Just imagine the freedom to float almost effortlessly, weightlessly in the air. Yet, the life of a butterfly is not without risks because it is considered a tasty delicacy to birds, reptiles and spiders.

The life of the butterfly makes me think of our life in Christ. In the Bible we read, "For freedom Christ has set us free." (Galatians 5:1)

We are free to live in the presence and power of the Almighty God who made us. Free to love Him and others unconditionally. Free to not sin but enjoy life to its fullest with joy and peace. Yet, in that freedom we must be very careful because there are traps that will ensnare us and potentially destroy us.

John tells us about three of those snares:
1) the desires of the flesh,
2) the desires of the eyes and
3) the pride of life. (1 John 2:16)

In the new found life and freedom to experience the world as God planned for us we ca…

Sometimes Life Just Stinks

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Let's be real and honest, okay? Not everything that happens in your life feels good. Not everything that happens in your life is pleasant. We suffer pain physically, emotionally, financially and yes, even spiritually. Like this bug pictured here, sometimes life just stinks when we are crushed! There are so many times we want to just ask God, "WHY ME???"

But then the answer comes...

And we KNOW that for those who LOVE God allthings work together for GOOD, for those who are CALLED according to his PURPOSE. ~Romans 8:28

So, we must take a step back and thank God even for those things and times that just plain stink, because we can know for certain that ALL things (good, bad, happy, sad) are for GOOD (maybe not ours, but maybe for someone else's), because God has a plan and a purpose that He will accomplish through those who are His children (the "called").

So, amen and thank you Jesus for ALL THINGS. You are good and You are God. You are Lord and I am not. May You…

Unfinished

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While in the sunflower fields last year I was drawn so many times to the plants that were still in the process of opening. Yes, I considered them beautiful in their own right, but yet they had not fulfilled their full potential.

Maybe I was drawn to them because they reminded me of myself. Of one thing I am certain and it's that God is not finished with me yet -- I am a work in progress.

Ephesians 2:10 reads, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

Being who God created me to be is my lifelong goal and it won't be until after I've passed beyond this life that His creation (me) will be complete. Until then, I may appear a bit "unfinished" but rest assured that I am fine with that as long as I keep opening up to be who God wants me to be.

Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you (and me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (P…

The Actor

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Seeing the reenactment of a Civil War battle is a fascinating experience. If done well it is also very moving to the soul as one recalls the massive loss of life and the larger effect this particular war had on the entire nation.

A number of different things might come to mind when we hear the word hypocrite. Maybe it’s a politician caught in a scandal; maybe it’s a religious leader doing something counter to their creed; maybe it’s a scheming and conniving character featured in soap operas. But it’s likely that the one thing that doesn’t come to mind is the theater or actors.

The word hypocrite ultimately came into English from the Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor” or “a stage player.” This Greek word took on an extended meaning to refer to any person who was wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone or something they were not.

Jesus had a lot to say about people who pretended to be religious but were instead just "wearing a mask" to disguise their tru…

Nature's Proclamation of Passion

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Passion is often associated with any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, such as love or hate, but it began with a much different meaning in the 12th and 13th centuries. It implied suffering, enduring, hurt, misery, woe. It was used in reference to the sufferings of Christ on the cross.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion:
The 10 petals and sepals represent the 10 apostles who forsook their Master and fled, omitting Judas the traitor, and John who remained with Mary at the cross.The flower’s radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or the cup used at the last supperThe 3 stigmata represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds (four by the nails and one by the lance).The blue and …

Foggy Days

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Upon arriving at the Biltmore House on our September 2018 visit we were greeted with a heavy fog. In fact, as our bus made its way up the driveway we could not even see the magnificent mansion until we were right in front of it.

I photographed this tree while waiting on the shuttle bus in the parking lot. Fog creates an ethereal feel to a picture. It almost become unreal or other-worldly. You see in part, but not the whole.

Sometimes we might admit to being in a fog because we just don't have a clue where we are, what we're doing, or where we're going. If we're patient though, the fog will lift and everything becomes clear around us.

The Bible relates our earthly existence to a foggy mirror in which we see in part but cannot fully comprehend God's plan and hand in our lives until it is fully revealed in heaven. So until that day comes, we trust Jesus to guide us because He alone sees the road mapped out before us.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face…

Declaration of Glory

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Psalm 19:1-4
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.


And, like the heavens above, I choose to proclaim openly the greatness of our God and His extraordinary goodness toward man. You might not be able to literally hear the mountain's call or heaven's whisper, yet I am pierced by the reality of God's presence whenever I am surrounded by the beauty of His creation -- it speaks volumes to me of His glorious nature.

It Just Makes Sense

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This is a photograph of Skyline Arch in Arches National Park (Moab, UT). It's an arch. It can be seen along the skyline from many points in the park. Hey, the name makes sense, right?

Do you know what else makes sense? 
How much God loves you and me. 
We read in Romans 8:38-39...

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Unlike this arch, you don't have to look toward the skyline to find God, because He is as close as your very heartbeat. Nothing in all creation can separate you from our loving God except YOU -- you choosing not to receive His free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. 
So, my question to you is if you have not already done so, then why not receive Jesus now? It just makes sense!

Balance

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Without the proper foundation underneath and the correct balance on top, this giant boulder would surely come toppling over. Likewise, if we are not resting on a solid foundation and experiencing balance in our lives then the result can be a devastating fall. What do I mean?

Well, we need balance between the different aspects of our lives: a) Psychological, b) Social, c) Spiritual, d) Physical and e) Vocational.

When we give way too much attention to one dimension over the others then we have a tendency to live lopsided and dysfunctional lives. Consider a person who spends ALL their time in social media apps and never gets outside to work or exercise. Consider one who constantly works at building up muscles in the gym but never feeds his or her mind with mentally stimulating ideas. Consider the person who pours over God's Word daily but seldom ever puts any of what they learn to practice in the world.

Balance keeps us upright. Balance keeps us from crushing others when we fall. And w…

Gracefully Living and Dying

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Some may look at this scene and just see an old, dead tree. But I see beauty in the twisted, gnarled, hard wood of this desert plant. In its prime it had a whole different "personality" which may have provided a resting place or a nesting place for animals. In its decay it will provide nutrients back into the parched ground.

One of the things I realize as I age is that God has a unique purpose for me even if I stand alone in the wilderness -- unnoticed by the crowd. Perhaps, through His providential plan, I will make a positive difference in someone's journey while I am yet in my prime, but I pray that the influence will go on even after the life inside of me has departed.

So while I can, I want others to share in the beauty I see as I photograph the masterpieces of God's creation. And even if there is no fame, there is still One who knows my name... and that's more than enough for me.

[Jesus said] "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be…

Metamorphosis

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METAMORPHOSIS: A profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly.

Transformation is God's will for His children -- conformity is not. As followers of Christ we are to become more like Him and less like the rest of the world. So, stretch those wings and quit crawling on your bellies. You were created for more!

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed (Greek: Metamorphoo) by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Melting Mountains

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It doesn't happen overnight. It might not even be noticeable over a human lifetime. But these mountains of rock are slowing melting/eroding back into the soil from which they arose.

"Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky" were lyrics from the 70's song Dust in the Wind by Kansas, but even that is inaccurate because there is nothing that last forever but one thing according to Scripture -- the Word of God.

"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever." ~Isaiah 40:8

So, enjoy the temporary things of this world while they last, but don't hold onto them too tightly. Instead, put your hope and trust in the only thing that is permanent -- God's truth.

Photo taken at Arches National Park, Moab, UT

A God of Second Chances

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Have you ever wondered why God seems slow toward judging those who are causing harm in this world? Or why He doesn't send down a lightning bolt to take out those who treat you with contempt or abuse? Or why He doesn't just send Jesus back today to gather His children to glory with all the anger expressed toward people professing faith in Christ?

I guess it's for the same reason that God looks down on us without taking us to the barn with a hickory stick every time we sin or disobey His will. If we think we are any more just or righteous than the most vile terrorist then we are fooling ourselves. We place levels or degrees on sin, but it was for even the smallest "indiscretion" that sent God's Son to the cross.

Therefore, when I read the following verse, it is with great joy that I serve a God of second chances... whose love far exceeds my comprehension... whose grace has saved me, forgiven me, and has made me a child of His.

The LORD is compassionate and graciou…

Bridging the Gap

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Bridges have been built for centuries to provide man and beast a way to cross over a gap or treacherous condition. They have been constructed of rope, cable, wood, concrete, steel and the combination of those. The purpose has always been for a safe passage from one side to the other.

While man has been quite successful at building incredible structures to bridge gaps both deep and wide, there is one that remained impossible to build. It was the bridge needed to connect sinful man to a holy God. BUT THEN JESUS... 
Yes, Jesus reconciled us or bridged that gap for us by His death on a cross. Jesus is the way/the bridge, and faith is the vehicle that takes us across from death to life. 
Romans 5:10
For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, [then how] much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of wor…

Perfect Timing

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PERFECT TIMING...

Yes, that's what you call it when you climb all those stairs to get a higher vantage point for a shot of the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC and up drive three new cars (a Camaro, Mustang and Corvette) for a photo opp by their owners. Well, I couldn't resist getting a shot too.

The Bible talks about perfect timing too. God doesn't do anything haphazardly or carelessly. There is a plan and purpose for His timing. For instance, after 1000's of years of mankind living on earth in sin and struggling to follow the Law and Commandments, at just the right time He sent Jesus.

"But when the right time came, God sent his Son... God sent him to buy freedom for us... so that He could adopt us as His very own children." (Galatians 4:4-5) "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6)

Perhaps it was due to the timing of the Roman Empire when roads and ships could take people almost anywhere…

Put Away Your Sword

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Sometimes we just need to put our weapons away. We are frequently our own worst enemy. Rather than destroying one another, we should seek opportunities to overwhelm one another with acts of love and words of affirmation.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:14-15)

"Love" is the motivation behind how God desires for us to treat one another. So put away those swords (words) that pierce the soul and guns (actions) that wound the human spirit. Instead, offer an open heart, open hand, open ear and open mind to someone in need of God's love. Be the difference in someone's life today.

A Black & White World

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I just had to try this image in black and white. You know, it amazes me how beautiful an image can be and how much more one tends to focus their attention on the various tones and details when a scene is portrayed in black and white.

We live in a world of black and white as well, but sometimes the details on which we focus prevent us from appreciating the subtle and often distinct tonal qualities associated with our cultures, traditions and lifestyles which were intended to join us together in a beautiful tapestry of humanity.

Here's the truth according to scripture. Mankind -- red and yellow, black, brown and white -- were ALL created in the image of God and came from the same genetic lineage. It was God's plan for us to live in harmony with Him and with each other. He didn't create us to focus on the differences, but join our hearts, minds and spirits in unity to praise God and live for His glory in joyful relationship with one another.

Not convinced? Then check out some of…

Brand New Creation

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Do you want to make something brand new of yourself? Sorry, not going to happen in your own strength. Self improvement has its limitations. You might get thinner, get a diploma or surgically change your appearance but you will still be the same person on the inside. A paint job alone is not the same as a complete overhaul.

But, if you give yourself to God (the Master body shop mechanic), He will will take that old, rusty, bent up and shattered life and make it brand new -- and even WAY BETTER than the original model. He will start from the inside out and make you a brand new creation!!!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The key is found in those two words "in Christ." Only God has the power to create something brand new, and new life only comes from abiding in the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (see John 14:6).

Looking for Answers?

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In some cultures, the wind, which causes the Aspen's leaves to rustle, is often thought to be the voice of the beyond. Some people believe the leaves of the Aspen speak to them in a distinctive voice even in the gentlest of breezes, and that if they listen patiently and carefully, the answer to life's mysteries will be revealed to them.

Well, while Aspens may be treasured for the calming melody they create when the wind causes them to flutter, I doubt you will find too many of life's difficult questions answered by them.

There is only one place for life's answers. Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8)

Ask the Son of God rather than Mother Earth when you need real answers.

Aspen Trees
Rocky Mountain National Park

What Are You Aiming For?

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YOU COULDN'T HIT THE BROAD SIDE OF A BARN!This hyperbolic term is usually used to denote poor marksmanship or to have very poor aim.
Many times in life we aim for success, fame, wealth and popularity supposing that it will bring true happiness. However, you can watch the news or celebrity gossip channels and realize quickly that what most thought would fulfill their wildest dreams led instead to lives of emptiness, isolation, people trying to take advantage of them, jail time or ruin.

There is only one place to truly hit the mark when it comes to incomparable joy and true fulfillment. How do you find this kind of joy?

1 - Receive Christ and He gives you His Holy Spirit of joy

"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them." (John 17:13)

2 - Love others like Christ loves you

"If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in…

Let's Make A Deal

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I remember watching the daytime game show Let's Make a Deal growing up. It's still on television but I have no time to watch it. However, I remember a point in the show where people had to choose between door #1, door #2 or door #3. Looking at the picture again, I guess you can see why my mind went in that direction. Making the right choice could win a contestant great prizes. Choosing the wrong door resulted in... well... something way less valuable. Okay, it was sometimes junk!

While that game might be entertaining, there are choices we all face in life that can result in great reward or terrible ruin. What job will I prepare for? Who will I marry? How do I invest for retirement? Do I get a Labradoodle? All these and more are certainly life changing decisions, but there is one that far outweighs all others combined. What is that, you wonder?
It is "Whom will I serve?"
Joshua, the one to whom Moses passed the baton of leadership, spoke to the people of Israel, saying,

&…

Silent Surrender

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As I photographed this old farm house I couldn't help but imagine the family or generations that grew up in this stately structure. This was certainly not your typical southern shotgun shack. The owners must have had a large number of acres for farming or perhaps owned a local business nearby. I'll bet the inside walls would have stories to tell of life lived and loved together.

But somewhere in the not too distant past this old lady started to show its age. While it is quite apparent that the grass is mowed regularly, the paint is now peeling, the floor boards probably creak, the lights and water are most likely cut off, and silence fills the empty rooms... only memories echo through the hallways and former living spaces.

It is sad when an old place like this is silently surrendered to time. It's sad when a once vibrant life must silently surrender to the pains and perils of old age as well. On our prayer list a while ago was the name of a man that I never knew but who serv…

Have a "Looking Up" Attitude

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We can walk around with our head held low or we can voluntarily choose to have a "looking up" attitude regardless of what life throws at you.

Looking down creates thoughts of defeat and feelings of depression while looking up acknowledges hope. Here's something that I've learned from God's Word and it has always been true in my life:

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Not all things ARE good, but they all work together for God's good purpose -- and His purpose and fulfilled plan is what I want.


Aspens
Rocky Mountain National Park

Command Centers and Hospitals

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During the Civil War, churches were often used as command centers and hospitals. I think that should be a good use for them today too.

We ought to be people who are obedient to the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ and follow them without question. The church building is a great place to rally the troups each week for training and encouragement concerning the mission to be won out in the field.

The church should never be a hotel for saints but always a hospital for sinners. It should be a welcoming environment where people find help for hurting and broken lives. It is a place where the Great Physician desires to perform a heart transplant within each of us -- replacing ours for His.

LITTLE KNOWN FACT
It is recorded that major revivals occurred among the Civil War forces. In the Union Army, between 100,000 and 200,000 soldiers were converted; among Confederate forces, approximately 150,000 troops converted to Christ. Perhaps 10 percent of all Civil War soldiers experienced conversions duri…

Be Wonderfully You!

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BE YOU! Yes, you! You were wonderfully made by God so why would you want to be like someone else or everyone else? Your uniqueness is what makes you different... sometimes peculiar... but always special!

Psalm 139:14
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

Chihuly @ Biltmore Estate
Asheville, NC

Conflict on the Farm

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Many of you have walked the National Battlefields across the U.S. where Northern troups met Southern troups and often times brother met brother. Some tallies indicate that more American lives were lost in the Civil War than all other wars Americans have fought in combined.

The words of Jesus still ring so true: "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand." (Matthew 12:25)

Our Pledge of Allegiance reminds us that we are One Nation Under God and indivisible! But honestly, it still feels like we are divided on so many political, racial, social, regional, cultural and spiritual issues. The daily news is so discouraging as headlines seem to actually promote as much as they do report on divisive actions and hate-filled rhetoric.

There is a solution and it's as complex as it is simple. Jesus said, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

Love is easy when someone e…

Flowing Streams of Satisfaction

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Have you ever been desperately dry and thirsty? In those times there is nothing like a cold bottle of refreshing water. 
Have you ever experienced times in your life where you were running on empty and you desperately thirsted for something to fulfill you but just couldn't find that "something"?
I want to let you in on that something which millions of others already know -- God is the only One perfectly suited to satisfy us, fill us, and sustain us. The joy of true living is ours as we grow more deeply conscious of, connected to, and confident in God and in Him alone as our unfailing resource in life.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1-2a)

Get Off the Fence

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To be "on the fence" means you cannot decide between two things. For instance, you go the the ice cream shop and before you are the choices of chocolate or vanilla (and swirl is not an option). If you are torn between which to purchase then you are on the fence about it.

Don't be on the fence regarding your relationship with Jesus. Give yourself wholeheartedly to Him because He has already sacrificed 100% of Himself for you.

Speaking of himself, Jesus said, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16

How do I give myself to Jesus? BELIEVE!

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

If anyone tells you anything other than this then they are a liar and teaching false doctrine.

The Apostle Paul wrote, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your ow…

Nothing Civil About It

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Approximately 620,000 soldiers died from combat, accident, starvation, and disease during the Civil War. This number comes from an 1889 study of the war performed by William F. Fox and Thomas Leonard Livermore. Both men fought for the Union. Their estimate is derived from an exhaustive study of the combat and casualty records generated by the armies over five years of fighting. A recent study puts the number of dead as high as 850,000.

There was nothing "civil" about one nation divided and fighting each other to the death. Families, churches, towns, states... all torn apart. 31 million soldiers were involved in this deadly conflict. Millions more were impacted as men and boys of all ages walked away from their homes to fight for their convictions. Did good come as a result? Yes, but so did a lot of bad and unfortunately there are still people today who are fighting a war rooted in tradition (which is sometimes really a another name for "pride" and "hatred"…

At the Cross Roads

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Decisions, decisions, decisions. According to multiple sources on the Internet, the average amount of remotely conscious decisions an adult makes each day equals about 35,000.

In contrast, young children only make about 3,000 decisions each day. Oh to be childlike again! Certainly there is something to be said about the faith a child has in the decision-making of their parents and caregivers. Most of the time they just follow instructions because they know that mom and dad love them and have their best interest at heart.

There is a decision that many adults have put off for way too long and have a difficult time making today -- to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Most professions of faith occur in Christianity among children and students. Why? Because they have the capacity for childlike faith. Jesus said that's the only way to enter heaven.

"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himse…