Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

This was a great idea for a challenge.  I had been thinking of writing a post about thankfulness since we just celebrated Thanksgiving here in the US.  Last Thursday after Thanksgiving dinner with friends, we were sitting around the table with their kids and one of the kids actually suggested we each write down what we were thankful for.  Pretty impressive coming from an 8-year-old don’t you think?  I realized I have so many things to be thankful for.

Above all, I’m thankful for Jesus and for the cross.  If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t be here!  I wanted to take a picture of a big cross somewhere…but that will have to wait.   However, I like this photo because it brings to mind other things I’m thankful for; God’s word, the freedom we have to own a Bible and speak freely (including blogging of course:-)) and this amazing time in which we live, when we can read the Bible online, in many different versions and languages.

I’m thankful for my wonderful and patient husband, growing up in a loving family, good friends, a comfortable home.  Clean fresh water, food and medicine, the opportunity to interact with people from many places and cultures, the city in which we live.  My husband’s work which allows us the opportunity to travel more than we otherwise could.  I could go on and on…

This photo was taken near my home.  The trees don’t always change colors so well here, but this year has been beautiful.   I love the change of seasons and am always thankful when summer is over in Texas and the cooler weather has arrived, so this photo seems to sum that up!

Photo of trees along street

Now it’s your turn to write your list.  What are you thankful for?

“He remains faithful”

It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NASB)

Daily Prompt: Connect the Dots

Daily Prompt: Connect the Dots

Open your nearest book to page 82. Take the third full sentence on the page, and work it into a post somehow.

I liked the randomness of this writing prompt, so I thought why not give it a try!  So I looked around, and the book closest to me was The Bedford Handbook, a writing and grammar reference.  And then I thought, ‘Oh no, that’s boring!  I have lots of other interesting books around, like cookbooks, a guidebook on Maui, a little Christian devotional book, etc.  Does it really have to be the closest book?’

I decided to give it a try.  Well, I should have known, God’s plan is better than anything I could come up with.  So on page 82 there is a section explaining the difference between comparison and contrast.  The third sentence says, “To contrast is to focus only on differences.”

Then, I immediately knew what I wanted to write!  Since this blog is mainly a Christian devotional, I’ll apply it to the Christian church for this post.

Sometimes it seems we, as Christians, focus so much on our differences, like differences in doctrine, different denominations, stands on certain issues, etc. that we forget what we have in common.  As followers of Jesus Christ, the main thing is that He died and rose again for us.  We belong to Him.  Each one of us was bought with a price, the price of Jesus’ blood. We may have differences of opinion, and I’m not at all saying that we shouldn’t stand up for what we believe.  In fact, we must stand up for what we believe when what’s being questioned is the center of our faith, our belief in Jesus.  But sometimes we need to realize other Christians have other perspectives, and when the issues are not central to our faith, remember what’s really important.

One reason we need to be unified is our witness to the world, to reflect God’s love through our lives.  Jesus himself prayed for our unity on the night before he was crucified.  I can’t think of a better reason than that.

And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

John 17:19-23 (ESV) (underlining my own)

In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes,

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)

The Bedford Handbook, 6th Edition, Diana Hacker, 2002, Bedford/St. Martin’s

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

This week’s photo challenge made me first think of Hawaii, and I found many photos with many shades of green.  Ok, so I got a little carried away!  I also found some green photos right here where I live in Texas.  Hope you find it refreshing!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

Photo of Butterfly on Crab Apple Tree Blossoms

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (ESV)

Seeing the topic for this week’s photo challenge immediately made me think of a previous post called “New Life”.   The picture and scripture above was from the previous post. If you’re interested, you can read it here.

These photos were taken in March a couple of years ago, and we just happened to visit the Japanese Garden when the Crab Apple trees were in bloom.  Spring can be a beautiful time of renewal.  The tree blossoms and butterfly remind me of the renewal that comes with the change in seasons, but also the renewal we experience with our new life in Christ.   Sometimes we find unexpected beauty in that new life!

Photo of yellow butterfly on tree branch

…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Colossians 3:10 (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)

Photo of sun shining through the trees

And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:3 (ESV)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10  (ESV)

Here’s my heart

Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it; Seal it for Thy courts above.

This is a line from the hymn Come Thou Fount, written by Robert Robinson and adapted by many singers over time.  This version is performed by Jadon Lavik on one my favorite CDs, Roots Run Deep, his first hymns album.  If you haven’t before, check out this CD.  It has lot’s of good traditional hymns and the music is very soothing.  And…I promise I’m not marketing for him :-)

Anyway, here are some lyrics from the song:

Here by Thy great help I’ve come

And I hope by Thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home

Jesus sought me when a stranger

Wandering from the fold of God

He to rescue me from danger

Interposed His precious blood

Let Thy goodness like a fetter

Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it

Seal it for Thy courts above

If you’d like to listen, here’s Come Thou Fount performed by Jadon Lavik:

When we accept Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us and testifies that we belong to God.

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (ESV)

Nelson’s Compact Bible Commentary on the passage explains,  “Sealing indicates ownership and security.  The Holy Spirit is a guarantee, the down payment that there is more spiritual blessing to come and that the believer will receive eternal life.”  (p. 818)

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14 (ESV)

Nelson’s commentary on verses 11-13 explains,“The seal or mark of ownership in believers’ lives is the Holy Spirit.” (p. 836)

Reference: Earl Radmacher, Ron Allen & H. Wayne House, Editors.  Nelson’s Compact Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2004.

Here’s my heart, Lord.  I give it to you.   Sometimes I have the tendency to wander from your path.  Please help me stay on your path and guide my steps.  Thank-you for your forgiveness which is fresh every day.