Well, the year is quickly drawing to a close. Fall color is quickly flying past, and it’s time to take look back at the “New Year’s resolution post” and check progress.
- Get Organized. Nope. Not an inch of progress. I did manage to give the site a face lift this summer, though.
- Show Off. Currently working on selecting some pictures to make LARGE living room sized prints from. Contests? I’ve entered a few online that weren’t outright “rights grabs” where you have to give up all your rights to your photo whether you win the contest or not. Last night, though, I actually did win a place in my very first photo contest with this shot:
I guess the winning photos will be in the newspaper sometime in the near future, so I guess I get another 15 minutes of fame. Sharing online? Some sort of consistency would probably help. Still struggling there.
- Try something new. Well, just about the time the weather was getting nice enough for me to start getting out the Bender, we had to go and move. Now that the year is nearly over, I’m finally pretty much done with all that, so I hope to start playing with that again. I’ve been looking at large format printers since the summer. My husband may have just made it possible for me to actually acquire one of these, and I believe there is still a rebate going on for the one I want which will make the price much more appealing, so it’s possible that by the end of the year I’ll be delving into the other end of the photographic process – making prints worth putting up on the walls.
- New perspectives. While the technical skills continue to improve making it easier for me to reproduce in two dimensions what I see in three, I’m still fleshing out how I uniquely see the world.
- Do some good. It’s a pleasure to use my photography skills and equipment in service to Christ. It’s probably an odd thing to do, but I told a pastor here, “You know how some people dedicate their babies? I dedicate my cameras.” And I do. It’s God who has given both the equipment I have and the skill to use it, and when I get a new camera or lens, I take it to church with me and lay it on the altar and dedicate it to the Lord’s service first. Do I get a lot of pleasure from it that’s not at all related to serving the Lord? Absolutely! But if that ever begins to take first place in my heart, I have a tangible reminder of where my blessings come from and who really owns “my” stuff, and that’s a blessing too. I’d still like to explore this area in more depth, though. As far as teaching, since my daughter is the one who inherited my Rebel, I get the pleasure of throwing her a tip or new technique to try now and then, as well as watching her progress.
- Challenge myself. The photowalks have sort of come to an end during the moving process. Not to say that it will stay that way forever, but . . . . Taking pictures of people I don’t know. Is it only photographers who react badly to having their picture taken? Maybe just some photographers.
- Start a project. The only “project” currently in the works is trying to decorate the new place with some of my photographs. Mostly, it’s my own indecision holding that one up. I finally made some small prints of potential candidates while mom and dad were here, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.
- Take my camera everywhere. Definitely. Good move.
Here’s another picture entered in last night’s contest that didn’t win. Enjoy.
Or, more specifically, what makes a church MY church?
I’ve always enjoyed visiting other churches during my travels. Reasons for choosing a particular church have ranged anywhere from, “I have to get on the road early, and this one has an early service,” to “This one is closer to the hotel than that one.” It’s a little different when you’ve moved to a new city and now you’re looking for a new “home.” It’s still been very enjoyable to scope out the religious environment (at least the Baptist environment) here; kind of like an extended vacation.
But let me back up a bit.
My first contact with Baptists of any sort was related in my “What’s Your Life Verse” post and the follow up. After going to the local Southern Baptist Church with Mr. G and his family for a while, I actually did make a profession of faith and was baptised. Unfortunately, while I might have been sincere about something or other, it certainly wasn’t about any desire to actually love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. After high school, I promptly told God to take a hike and would have done so sooner if I had been allowed to by my preacher folks. But there was something about that family so real that it has stuck with me to this day. (Side note: I caught up with Mr. G twice after high school. In 2004, as I sat down to dinner with he and his wife, he prayed a blessing over me that would have made Abraham proud, and there was a fourth guest at the table that night who was just as real as the three of us – Jesus Christ – and I knew that what I had sensed as “real” in 1980 was still just as real 24 years later.)
After 18 years of atheism, God stopped me in my tracks. Since I had been out of the church scene for so long and had no idea where to start (except that I remembered Mr. G and his Southern Baptist Church), I went to the church of one of the preachers I had been listening to on the radio who had been making sense to me – Parkside Church in Solon, Ohio. That got me off to a great start. In fact the first sermon I heard there after my life of unbelief still drives much of my desire to live as a Christ follower. But that church was over an hour away from home, and there was no way to really connect with other Christians at that distance. So we started looking closer to home.
There were a few visits to churches that were either odd (a foot washing service – something I had never seen before), uncomfortable (don’t know what it was at that church), or flat, we ended up at an Independent Baptist church in Spencer, Ohio, and that’s where I finally realized that whatever other motives I might have had for “accepting Christ” previously in my life – i.e., get out of hell, get mom and dad off my back, trying to turn over a new leaf, etc. – never once was there any desire to actually love God or have him take the first place in my life. That church has been my home and my family for the last 10 years.
Until June. First impression on looking in the phone book when we got one was that there are a LOT of Baptist churches here. The only place I had seen more was in North Carolina where there is literally a Baptist church on every corner (or so it seems ). So with a couple of recommendations and a phone book in hand, I started visiting. I’ll refrain from naming names, but here are my impressions:
Church number one – The people were very friendly. The adult Sunday School teacher was very knowledgeable about the Scriptures and was a very good teacher. The first time I visited, the pastor preached a largely political sermon full of a lot of fundamentalist “hear say” stuff that really turned me off. Because I had determined that I would visit each church at least twice before making a decision, I went back one more time. Again, everyone was very friendly, and the Sunday School teacher gave a great lesson. The pastor started off with a pretty good Gospel message, and then about halfway through got entirely side tracked on the number 7. Now I’m just as capable of going off on tangents as anyone else, and sometimes they’re fun and interesting. But when I go to church, I expect to hear from God – not someone’s half baked ideas about numbers or genealogies (1 Timothy 1:4). I still think A. W. Tozer said it best:
Toward anything like thorough scholarship I make no claim. I am not an authority on any man’s teaching; I have never tried to be. I take my help where I find it and set my heart to graze where the pastures are greenest. Only one stipulation do I make: my teacher must know God, as Carlyle said, “otherwise than by hearsay,” and Christ must be all in all to him. If a man have only correct doctrine to offer me I am sure to slip out at the first intermission to seek the company of someone who has seen for himself how lovely is the face of Him who is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley. Such a man can help me, and no one else can. (A. W. Tozer)
Second church – This was one of my less than spiritual reasons for choosing to visit one church over another. I needed to go to an early service, and they had one. A very nice lady took the time to show me around and introduce me to people. Lots of Bible studies going on. The sermon was okay. One comment by the Associate Pastor left me wondering whether the church was more concerned about “projects” than people.
The next church I visited was one I had pulled out of the phone book and driven by and decided I should visit based on my drive by. After doing a little investigation on the Internet, I found out that 1) they were without a pastor, 2) they were Southern Baptists (I did have another memorable encounter with the Southern Baptists during a visit to Gastonia, NC, in 2007.), 3) the wife of the interim pastor was involved with Beautiful Feet. I had gone to the first Beautiful Feet conference at Cedarville University back in 2006, and so I sent her an email. The day I visited for the first time, the serrmon text was from my “testimony” verses – Psalm 40:1-3, and there was nothing goofy or off base at all. I was clearly hearing from someone who knew God “other than by hearsay”. It was also the day the church determined to call their new pastor. That week a loaf very tasty bread showed up on my door. Yummmm. Back on the Internet to investigate the new pastor. I listened to the sermons he had preached as a candidate at this church, then I found the website of the church he was then at and listened to every sermon he had preached there, along with some of the youth group stuff on the site that he had led. Good stuff. He’ll be arriving in August, so I can finish off my list of churches and see what he’s like in person. (Why the focus on the pastor? Because churches tend to become like their pastor, and so I want to make sure this is someone whose faith I want to follow – Hebrews 13:7.)
Next visit – a small church with a big heart. Good preaching and teaching. It was interesting in this church that the pastor “prayed” my testimony verses as he closed the service. I was talking to a friend about this odd “coincidence” (no such thing), and wondering what – if anything – I was supposed to do with that. She very succinctly said, “Maybe God is just telling you that either church will be okay.” I’ve chewed on that but haven’t come to any firm conclusions.
Next church – I arrived late and a gentleman in the hall showed me where to go for Sunday School. I was sitting there feeling very strange and the more the gentleman leading the class talked, the stranger it got. Finally, he said something along the lines of, “All sin has to be paid for before we leave this earth. You have to pay for your sin before you leave earth.” I waited for the next part – “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe” – but it never came. I’m sorry. If I couldn’t pay for my own sins before I was saved, what on earth makes this guy think I’m going to pay for them now. Jesus has done all that ever needed to be done in order to pay for the sins of the whole world, and there’s nothing you or I or anyone else can do to add to that. I simply have to rely on Him.
So at this point, I can’t wait to just get out of there. I restrained myself until Sunday School was over, by which time I was beginning to feel a little claustrophobic, and then high tailed it out of there – very grateful that no one wanted to stop me and talk. There was a place just a few minutes away where I knew I would hear from people who believed and preached the Gospel, and so I ended up at the “drive by” church. It was like a big tall glass of fresh water to sit in the worship service with them that day, as it has been every other time I’ve gone there.
For a few weeks I bounced back and forth between the two “testimony” churches. One Sunday I drove by another church that I had put on my list. I got there about 3 minutes early for Sunday School, but something just didn’t seem right. The building was a decent size – probably a couple hundred or so capacity, but there were only 5 cars in the lot. As I was driving in, two couples got out of two of the cars, and they were both seniors. As I continued slowly driving through the parking lot, I wondered what a nice looking church like that was doing with no kids for Sunday School. As I drove out, another elderly couple was driving in. I went to one of the “testimony” churches that day.
And at this point, I really feel like I don’t need to visit anymore churches. The Lord led me to two good ones, and now I just need to settle somewhere. I’ve been going every Sunday for a while now to the SBC church, and I’m pretty sure I know why. My last visit to the other church, I left with the impression that both the pastor and the church were “settled.” I could be wrong about that, but it seemed like everyone knew the routine. Their love for each other and the Lord is very real, but I had a hard time seeing where I might find a place there. On the other hand, at the SBC church, the new preacher, though young, is clearly someone who has heard from and is listening to the Lord. The people love the Lord and each other – this is very obvious from overhearing converesations about different people who are going through trouble of one sort or another. I haven’t heard any condemnation or malicious gossip – just a deep, heartfelt desire to care for those who need cared for. And they are moving! I don’t think it’s just the new pastor either. Things were happening before he got there.
Obstacles? It seems like all of the potential obstacles that I came up with have all been removed, so we’ll see if the Lord wants to send any further confirmation or whether I just jump in the rest of the way with both feet.by beakennedy
I was listening to the tapes from “Family Camp”, which I didn’t go to this year, but a lot of people from my church did, and in one of the messages the speaker mentioned reading through the Bible in 30 days and how it had changed him, as well as others he knew who had done it. He mentioned that for him it meant reading something like 48 pages in somewhere about 2 hours per day. Not a terribly insurmountable goal, I thought to myself. Hmmmmm….maybe I’ll try it – not so I can say I read through the Bible in 30 days. That would be kind of meaningless. I happen to be a “big picture” kind of person, and so it intrigued me to consider how my view of God might change if I could see the whole scope of history from creation to consummation in that short of a time span.
So I started out today. In my Bible, reading the entire book in 30 days amounts to about 35 pages for a total of 1044. BUT as I was beginning to read page 1, I started to think about all the times as a kid that I had read entire books of 1,000 pages or more – think the Hobbit and LOTR series – multiple times in no more than a day or two. Nothing else got done, of course, and I often read way into the wee hours of the morning in order to finish a book before going to sleep, but once I started a good book, I seldom put it down for any but the most demanding tasks. I wouldn’t even put it down to go to the bathroom (learned how to zip my pants with one hand) or go to school (I was quite proficient at reading while walking.).
What if . . . .
What if I set out to read the Bible in that same spirit – as a book that was so good and so much to be devoured in one sitting if possible – that only the most pressing necessities could tear me away from it. Hmmmm . . . .
Of course, I’m no longer a kid, and there are things like laundry and work, and such that won’t be put off, so I kind of doubt that I would have 48 uninterrupted hours to finish the entire 1044 pages, but we’ll see how it turns out. Not so I can say “I read the whole Bible in x number of days!” but so I can read the greatest story ever told.by beakennedy
And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. –1 Corinthians 6:11
I do not know all of the Savior’s reasons for choosing the woman at the well. I know that His revelation of Himself to her constituted an everlasting rebuke to human self-righteousness. I know that every smug woman who walks down the street in pride and status ought to be ashamed of herself. I know that every self-righteous man who looks into his mirror each morning to shave what he believes to be an honest face ought to be ashamed of himself….
Jesus was able to see potential in the woman at the well that we could never have sensed. What a gracious thing for us that Jesus Christ never thinks about what we have been! He always thinks about what we are going to be. You and I are slaves to time and space and records and reputations and publicity and the past-all that we call the case history. Jesus Christ cares absolutely nothing about anyone’s moral case history. He forgives it and starts from there as though the person had been born one minute before. (A. W. Tozer)by beakennedy
This particular town was one where Bibles were distributed in the school last year. The great need now is for a church and people who can disciple those in whose hearts God has been working. In fact, one of the team leaders said the other day that every town where we've taken God's Word into the schools needs a church. Pray for laborers.by beakennedy
In the morning, I got left behind with the boxes while the rest of the team took them to the classes. It wasn't long before I was surrounded by about 30 kids all curious about the white lady and the boxes. As soon as I told them the boxes were full of Bibles, they all wanted one. It about killed me that I couldn't just crack open a box and start passing them out right there. The hunger in some of their eyes was obvious. I had a good time laughing and cutting up with the kids. One guy told me he was Elvis Presley. Eventually, they all ended up with tracts and began to break up into groups of four or five and sit down to read them.
One boy in particular seemed especially interested in having a Bible. He was in 12th grade and told me his name was Patrick. I quickly asked God to get that kid a Bible somehow along with the group of girls who had sat down right next to the boxes. Later, I did see that Patrick had gotten a Bible and was grateful for that. A bit later he came back and gave me the tract that had just been given to him not too long before with his name and address on the back and a check mark in the box indicating that he had received Christ.
Patrick is one of about 40 or so kids who returned their tracts to one of us while we were still there. Pray that these kids will grow in their faith and pray that they will follow Jesus all the way into eternity.
Update: Someone (not me) actually got a picture of Patrick. That’s him on the end of the bench reading a tract.by beakennedy
Some of the classes will sing for us when we arrive. At one school, the entire school was gathered together to sing. Brother Paul Sr. then teaches them the song "God is so good." Look for the video sometime in the near future when I can get enough bandwidth to upload it.
I've gotten to share my testimony in a couple of the classes, and that was a blessing.by beakennedy
Today, the ladies’ class discussed one of the most fascinating single verses of scripture we’ve arrived at to date.
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. John 12:27-30
I still remember the instant in December 1997 when I went from not believing there even was a God outside of anyone’s immagination to being so sure he was actually in my car with me and had just changed my radio station that my whole life took an INSTANT 180 degree turn that hasn’t changed direction since. My response to this God that day was, “Alright, you’re there. Now what?” (Real reverent, I know. LOL)
It has occurred to me more than once over the years that the biggest miracle that day was not my radio station changing, but rather that my heart was changed. Had I arrived at that day with the same heart that led me to disbelieve in God in the first place, I would have done just what the Jews in John 12 did – explained it away – looked for a natural explanation like the weather – dismissed it as too much pizza the night before or a good imagination. I doubt if I would have called the angels out, since they were just as much a figment of the imagination as God was.
This fascinates me. So many times I have heard people (even said it myself):
1) Why doesn’t God just speak from heaven? Then I’ll believe, or
2) People back then were really gullible and didn’t know all that we do today about science and things.
The problem with both of those is, they weren’t any more gullible than people today. They resorted to exactly the same explanations we do, and I/they/you most likely wouldn’t believe it if God spoke from heaven anyway. Jesus put it fairly strongly when he suggested that if someone wouldn’t believe the scriptures that had already been given, they wouldn’t believe if someone was even raised from the dead. Still just as true 2000 years later as it was the day he spoke those words.
I remember Khoa, an exchange student who stayed with one of the families at my church for the year. The country he was from is fairly atheistic, and so for that year he came to church with his American family kind of like an observer/scientist. Then one day in the spring, there was a day when something happened at church that was totally arranged and orchestrated by God. He was in the room, I was in the room. Everyone who had any concept of God knew that God had showed up that day and that his presence had filled the room in a way that even we knew was special. No one was unaffected — except Khoa. Another lady asked him if he had noticed anything different, and he just looked back with a blank stare. She said to him, “You just saw God.” Well, I beg to differ, but I don’t think he did. I think he saw someone talking to the air and a bunch of other people standing around with their eyes closed. Thankfully, God soon opened the door for some serious discussions, and he did go home believing in this God that people had been telling him about all year.
This afternoon listening to the radio, Ravi Zacharias told about a non-theistic Buddhist mathematics professor who in courtroom testimony gave the odds of evolution actually happening totally based on natural processes as in the 10:40,000 exponent neighborhood. In other words, though he didn’t attribute anything to any kind of invisible God, he certainly wasn’t willing to chalk up to chance and natural selection something that is clearly totally outside the realm of reasonable probability – our universe. Fascinating that when asked how he explained the existence of life on earth he said that this world must have been seeded by another extraterrestrial civilzation.
Who has the greater faith?
Ravi made an excellent point in conclusion. It’s not the believer in God who is demonstrating a will to believe against all evidence. The resurrectiton of Jesus from the dead is one of those things that happened in history and can be looked at historically and rationally. Someone who believes that he was raised from the dead, especially someone who once did not believe, is not doing so AGAINST rational evidence but in concert with it. On the other hand, sometimes it is the unbeliever who is demonstrating a will to disbelieve despite all evidence to the contrary. This is really crystal clear in the verse above. The Jews who attributed the voice of God to natural processes – the thunder – had just seen Jesus restore sight to a blind man (John 9), and raise another man from the dead who had been in the ground four days (John 11), and had just been welcomed into Jerusalem as the King and Messiah of Israel – the one who had been prophesied to come for hundreds of years – and when he spoke of his coming death on the cross, God the Father spoke audibly from heaven to demonstrate his approval, and they said it sounded like the thunder. They didn’t deny that these things had happened. They denied that they — and Jesus — were from God.
I’m going to be real interested to find out next month why God has had his eye on that little place for so long. I’ve only been aware that it even existed for about five years or so. It’s taken two years from the time I was first asked to pray about going to get to the point where I can actually say that, barring the unforeseen, I AM going — and it’s all been God’s doing. All I’ve had to do is cooperate with Him and pray.
When I step on the plane, though, I guess you all might want to say goodbye, because from what I hear from others who have gone I won’t be coming back the same. And that might just be a blessing.by beakennedy