2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 3: SELF PORTRAIT WITHOUT SELF

 

FujiFilm XT-1, 35mm, processed with Lightroom, Aurora HDR, Noiseless, and Snapheel.

 

This week’s theme called for a self-portrait, without myself.So, the goal was to represent me in a way that did not include me. Right away I knew what I wanted to photograph. These pair of objects represent me well. I hope you enjoy them!

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God will be glorified

we-three-kings

At Christmas time, we spend much time discussing Christ, his birth, the purpose for his birth, etc. And then there are all the peripheral stories surrounding the arrival of the prophesied Messiah. Mary and Joseph, the virgin birth, Bethlehem, a manger birth, etc.

One that I’ve been thinking about a bit, this season, is the story of the Magi, who came with gifts for the King of the Jews, from the east. They’re often referred to as the three kings, even in the Middle Ages, names were given to them; Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar. Often one of them is pictured as an African, most likely an Ethiopian.

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I’m not hear to peal away the myths and legends, from what the Bible does say about these men. I simply want to look at the larger plot line, that to me is a clear example of God taking something bad and bringing glory to himself afterwards.

Quite some time back, Israel was conquered, and the bulk of the Hebrews were deported to Babylon. It was here that we get stories of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We also can learn about Daniel the prophet and his interactions with the King and other leaders of the empire. There were a higher class of men who were seriously in to astrology, astronomy, and prophecy. These men were called Magi. It’s where we get our words magic and magician. Without delving too deep into their history and involvement with the Babylonians and Persians, there were simply a highly respected class of educated men.

It is also known that Daniel had interactions with them, and more than likely taught them the Holy Scriptures, and possibly even left copies with them, to endure through the ages.

Fast forward to the birth of the prophesied Messiah, and a band of Magi, who had studied the works of many religions throughout the Middle East, knew of the upcoming arrival of the King of the Jews, and wanted to at least come pay their respects. And so they did.

Here’s the overarching story. The children of God sinned, and experienced generations of consequences for their treachery. Much of that was being cast from their home, Israel. In being foreigners in a foreign land, they had ups and downs, but were mostly persecuted. Being cast from your home is painful and has lasting effects. Yet, God would be glorified!

Generations later, God brought these Magi to come worship His Son, the King of the Jews, and of the whole world.

Thank you Lord for always following through on your promises.

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Hillary’s America

I have discovered, there are two kinds of democrats. Historical Democrats and Modern Progressive Democrats.

Historical Democrats are the Blue Dog Democrats, longtime union supporting Democrats, and older Democrats who have sometimes voted Republican, but oft remain committed to their party in spite of the devolution of their party into what they have become. I know and love people like this.

Modern Progressive Democrats are really two sorts of people. Those who have learned the wrong definition of what a conservative REALLY is and have decided that a socially oriented policy is what motivates their worldview, which I cannot fault. However, this comes at a cost of their failure to understand the consequences of their allegiance and understanding of economics. They’re willing to forego some inalienable rights, in exchange for what is really just Christian charity and outreach. On this account, I actually blame the real Christian Church for failing to be THE Church, that makes the rest feel like the government should take care of people that Jesus called the Church to take care of.

The other kind of Modern Progressive Democrats are true radicals who desire the kind of change to America, making us more like Europe. Of that worldview, I completely reject as morally wrong and ignorant. These are found in Barry Sanders’ camp today.

On social media, I often push memes and articles that are strongly conservative, sometimes offensive, and always what I believe deeply. Presidential and national elections take the volume up to eleven. I can tell that’s a time where I’m hidden more, and then people come back. I’m sure they get sick of my rhetoric. That bums me out a little. But, more often than not, I’m trying to come alongside those who are discouraged by the discourse, and remind them that they are not alone. Transforming view points doesn’t come from reading a Facebook post, and I know this. It only comes from real life exchange that doesn’t happen nearly enough. In my family, historically we avoid deep discussions of faith and politics. Not at the single generation level. My sister and I have good discussions on these issues, as do I with my parents, cousins, etc. But beyond that, it can often be forbidden to discuss.

However, this blog post is meant to be seen. It’s meant to be shared. It’s meant to break the boundary of hiding Trevor because you’re sick of his volume or viewpoint. This goes beyond my single issue voter stance of Liberty for all, found in the Pro-Life and 2nd Amendment.

So I ask all of my friends, which I rarely do, to share this blog post on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media you use. Below is a preview to Dinesh D’Souza’s upcoming film, Hillary’s America. I believe that it, along with the 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, must be seen by every voting American. I will buy 13 Hours and this film by D’Souza, and offer to show it to anyone who cannot afford to see them. And I will share them however I can, legally.

American was founded on principles, codified in stone-like documents, recognizing our God-given inalienable rights that are not to be molded and mushed up like clay. They are not to be messed with by “Change you believe in” or desires to turn this great nation into some other nation. We are a beacon of light to the world because we have NOT ebbed and flowed our nations founding ideals, but only applied them as they were meant, as we grew in wisdom in understanding them. Slavery was eradicated because we applied original intent as our electorate began to understand better, original intent. Women and all races eventually acquired suffrage as we began to better understand the original intent of those founding documents. We didn’t need to change them, only clarify them, to open up the rights that already existed.

Pray for them and and defend ourselves from their evil

Author’s addition after writing this post.

I started writing this post a day or so ago. Generally, I get an idea and I flow out the first draft in one sitting. And the bulk of this post I DID write on that day. But sometimes I sit on a post, or take my time editing the larger ideas. Grammatical editing happens last. Today is I think the second day I’ve been sitting on this post. Interestingly, I’ve continued my normal flow of social media interactions, and am starting to be lambasted, mostly privately, for what appears to be my anti-refugee stance. For my thoroughly conservative friends, I get support. For my Christian friends, there is a sense of negativity in rejecting the poor and destitute. For my liberal friends, they’re either mature enough to chat politely and disagree, or they hid me a long time ago. 🙂

Unfortunately, many forget that we don’t represent ourselves wholly or in a balanced way, online. We tend to emphasize the issue de jour, and or just don’t communicate with balance. I for one, am not so anti-refugee as it appears. Yet, I share more memes and articles that make me look as though I am. I’m hoping this post will help clear some of that up. But the issues of the day are so very complicated and diverse. The ISIS crisis, Syrian “refugee” crisis, the current political race for our next US President are huge issues right now. And they overlap. I’ll leave this preface with the notion that we don’t have to be so polarized on these issues, and we can love the downtrodden, yet want to be protective and safe in our dealings with them.

Friends, I think I have failed to effectively communicate a balanced approach to the most pressing issue of the day; ISIS.

Listen, you know I am passionate about my worldview, my support for individual liberty, firearms, etc. Often, I get into flow of posting and sharing content that is a little out of balance. During this heightened political landscape, one can expect that we’ll all see and post a little more, supporting our candidates and parties. I’m ok with that. It’s the ebbing and flowing of what’s important right now.

The same is true for current issues surrounding Islamic Terrorists. ISIS. This somewhat headless organization is doing the most evil things to people all over the world. They’ve clearly taken advantage of the Syrian refugee crisis, flooding into Europe, by sneaking in along with real hurting people.

I wish I had the energy to collect all the videos and articles highlighting how they’re sneaking in. I know of a video from Germany where arriving “refugees” are rejecting the food they’re given FOR FREE, demanding other things to eat. There are videos of “refugees” demanding women to please them. And at some point we end up seeing them grab a woman for the purposes of gang raping her right there in the street.

These are not refugees. I pray for them. I pray for justice. Their deserved earthly consequences could contrast with their after death treatment, but that is God’s judgement and under His sovereignty.

As nations, we must be nations of laws. Those laws should be enforced. Sometimes, the consequences for ones violation of the laws of their country can be severe. That doesn’t mean that God won’t deal with differently. But again, that is under His sovereignty.

But more than that, evil must be contained and stopped. Often, the only way to stop that evil from advancing and continuing, is to do it RIGHT NOW! That’s where military powers. Law enforcement, and armed citizens (in free countries) come into the picture. This is what is meant when you see phrases like “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” This terrorism in Europe is already here in North America, and we cannot stop it. Look at what’s happened in Paris, France. Here’s a few links to even the non-terrorists and their rioting and ungratefulness.

I’ve laid it out. I’ve fanned the flames of fear and motivated us to understand we’re not safe and should get prepared. I’ve established that we are at a dramatic shift in our world. I actually believe that the bulk of Europe is in the midst of and already shifting, away from it’s historically Christian-ish worldview. I believe we will see great European cathedrals converted into Mosques in less than a decade. We may even see the Pope in Rome move his Holy See to a new location, outside of Europe. The landscape is shifting, and it’s too late to stop. I think we’ll see great efforts to make that change here in North America, but I believe that we will fend it off. I don’t think it’s politically and socially too late here. Could you imagine seeing American’s in the role of “refugee” fleeing elsewhere? I believe it’s one of the core characteristics of being an American. We don’t flee, we resist. I think we’ll have a massive refugee crisis of our own, as traditionally European people groups come here en masse like we’ve seen before. Canada will see it too. Spanish-speaking illegals will become the lease of our worries, as their jobs quickly get taken up by the influx of Europeans. Who knows, maybe the next Holy See will be in North or South America? Not a Catholic, so doesn’t matter to me.

Enough with the future.

Yet as a Christian, I’m compelled to not just head some out of context warnings, but to obey the various commands of my Lord. Look, I’m no works-based Christian. I don’t DO things to be saved or maintain a state of being saved. My salvation comes from the Lord. I respond to His salvation by seeking to become more like Christ. It’s a response to His having died on the cross to atone for my sin, all of it.

“O LORD, God of vengeance,
O God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O judge of the earth;
repay to the proud what they deserve!
O LORD, how long shall the wicked,
how long shall the wicked exult?
Psalms 94:1-3

I do believe that God will separate the wheat from the chaff, and even use Western powers to earthly punish, opening the door for an eternal punishment for more than just the evil ISIS, jihadists, and terrorists. For all who live their life of sin, rejecting the pull of the Holy Spirit to be saved. I’m not seeking a theological debate surrounding punishment, earthly or eternally. Nor do I want to enter much of any debate with this post. I’m writing this to lay out what I hope to be an explanation of and show a balance towards my stances on these issues of the day.

Time to shift a little. If I see a vagrant, aka a homeless person, clearly in need, shall I not give them a buck to help them take a step forward? But what if they’ll just use it to get some more Everclear or another 40? Is that up to me? Shouldn’t I just obey the Lord and let they needy chose to sin with my handout? I don’t know the answer, but I lean towards, let them chose to sin or not. In my line of work, I’m pretty sure if we’re in Santa Barbara County, I already know them by name, and where they hide their can opener and their single pocket knife, having probably given them 10’s if not 100’s of putdown searches. But with that knowledge, there are steps I can take to help them out, and not set them up for failure. I can toss a handful of canned goods in my truck, and when faced with the opportunity to give them something of a blessing, why not just give them a couple of canned goods? They’ll be grateful, and I can obey God’s direction to be helpful to the needy. (Author’s addition: It’s interesting, a friend sent me a piece of Scripture, as a part of a public rebuke, and I only wish that he’d had know of this post, or I had finished it when I wrote it.)

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:35-40

But this “refugee” crisis is much more than the simple discussion about giving something to a single destitute person in your community. It’s SO MUCH bigger, and complex. First off I will state, there is no way I could support a blanket, “Accept them all without making a real effort to filter out those we know are bad guys and/or evil”. I do not believe that the Lord’s call the feed, clothe, and generally care for those in need includes opening yourself up to danger or evil. Today’s American Christians have the local collective funds and resources to be helpful and even collectively set up their own small scale refugee camps, and we could even reroute resources intended for other church projects, fulfilling God’s calling, without having to bring them into our homes. And yet, we could still set up locally managed programs that DO accept individuals and/or families into our homes. But I’m telling you, it would have to be done with great care into the management of who these people are, and they shall be vetted to a certain extent. That’s just good stewardship and prudent use of the resources the Lord has blessed us. Interestingly, some of us might actually have to set aside our obsessions and family addictions, in order for these things to happen. Maybe turn off the 30 sports channels we must subscribe to so that we never miss a game? My family doesn’t have a dish or cable, so we don’t have that. But we sure do play a lot of Xbox. Our coffee press is a lot cheaper than a plugged in coffee maker or even a daily Starbucks. These little things might actually go far if we stepped up with our local church and set up a Gratuitous Fund, whose purpose would be to pay for a temporary steel building in our church’s parking lot or on an unused grassy area, We could build it out for 3-4 families, with a communal kitchen. Then take in that many families from the incoming VETTED refugee community, and help them get on their feet. We could commit to house and feed them for a given period of time, as they move towards establishing themselves.

I am not against this. I am not against even trying to help a few families at a time, and later discovering that one or more of them gave into their evil and sinful desire to cause harm. If we had set up a program that placed the responsibility of the vetting on the government, the rest is up to God’s sovereignty. And I do believe in the sovereignty of the Lord! Even as far as I’ve stated accepting a bad outcome from an honorable effort to provide care.

Look, I love God. He has brought me through so very much. I trust Him. He has backed up His claims to provide care and comfort. He reigns over all. And one day, every created being will be unable to deny His existence and mastery over all of creation. I also believe that God calls me, as a godly man, husband, father, male leader within my local church body, and deacon, to be vigilant and wise.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:6-8

Those who truly believe in the Doctrines of Grace, aka the Gospel, should be praying for all involved. Pray for the President. Pray for the leaders of the European countries, right now under siege. AND PRAY FOR THE REFUGEES! Pray for the ISIS terrorists! Pray for wisdom with the leaders. Pray for those in actual need, that they don’t become pawns in the mix. Pray for justice, repentance, and salvation of them all, including ISIS and the other terrorists. Pray for those who have lost loved ones and were injured. And pray for those who have yet to be injured or murdered.

I will continue to use the skills of my profession to be alert when I enter a restaurant or business establishment. Us sheepdogs tend to bob our heads left to right a few times, looking for potential threats. Does that mean I don’t trust God to protect me? Nope, He is protecting me, by having given me the training to be aware. I will continue to use the rights granted to me to remain armed when permitted and be prepared to defend myself and others if the need arises. I’ll also lock my front door, because I care to protect my wife and children from anyone with unauthorized access to our home.

Do I think the current efforts some states are making, to ban Syrian “refugees” from entering their states are wrong or right? I think, with the current system established by our President and the executive branch, committing to welcome such massive numbers with what is clearly a passive vetting, I say good for them. Those states are saying, “Woah! Let’s make sure that these arriving refugees are not ISIS and/or other sorts of terrorists.” The FBI is saying that the flow out paces their ability to vet them. So, Barry should take a step back and let the professionals dictate the speed of arrivals. That’s not going to happen, and terrorists will get in. It’s probably already happened. We’ll get attacked and murdered, but no one will hold him accountable. That’s our system right now. Barry does what he wants. We can’t avoid it for the next year. But the 10th Amendment dictates that states have the right to govern themselves as they see fit, unless the US Constitution gives the authority on said issue to the federal government. So, these states will try to stop the influx, but they won’t succeed because Barry doesn’t care about the Constitution. So be it.

That doesn’t change our calling. It doesn’t change my faith.

You should know, as I look back at my leukemia journey, and I’ve said this before, I would not have it any other way. I would gladly walk this path again, knowing it has been God’s will for me to carry this burden, and weather this storm. I am becoming a better man because of this journey.

I will stand firm, ready to protect and defend my home, my family, my community, and my freedoms. All the while knowing that God’s sovereignty is supreme, and every situation and outcome is dictated by Him.

For further reading that I believe supports my points, but does so in a much better way…

 

 

How can I help Japan? Send $10, to help churches…

Seriously, what’s Japan’s best hope for a blessed future? Jesus Christ.

Now, duh, there are tons of great things all sorts of well-meaning people will do to help real, tangible needs of the hurting people in Japan. Those are important things that must be done now. Thousands of people are dead; tens of thousands of people. That alone is causing tremendous suffering. Then there’s the survivors. They’re hurting because they need food and water. They need a dry place to sleep tonight, and tomorrow night.

The needs will continue. The list will grow.

Much of these needs will, albeit slowly, be met by NGOs, missions organizations, locals helping locals, and their own government. The felt needs will slowly be met. But the deep pain, sorrow, and hurting will continue. For some, it will go on for a very long time.

Only Jesus can heal this pain.

I just donated $10 to Churches Helping Churches. CHC was birthed out of two pastors who knee-jerk jumped at the chance to head down to Haiti last year, within days of their disaster. These two pastors combined their desire to connect willing people to needy churches. Now this week, they’ve committed to helping the Church in Japan too. That’s something I can get behind!

So, you should text “chc” to 20222 to donate $10 to Churches Helping Churches too. Don’t forget to reply “yes” when prompted. Wanna give to a more well known ministry? Fine, give to World Vision. Still hesitant? Or you just don’t care about the Church in Japan, fine, donate to the Japanese Red Cross, via Google.

***Update***
Churches Helping Churches announced that they are supporting a local ministry that has been and is continuing to serve suffering Japanese. Perfect! What better way to make sure that donated funds are most effective, than to hook up with a ministry already serving effectively? Well done, CHC! This local ministry is called CRASH Japan. (CRASH stands for Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope network)

CHC also announced that they’re encouraging churches to take a special offering this weekend, March 26 and 27, to support CRASH Japan’s efforts. Read more about that here.

Happy Halloween!

For those who haven’t caught my self-promoting via most social media outlets, I’ll tell you now. I wrote a blog post, on my church’s website. It reads…

Halloween is the one holiday we Christians can’t modify into our very own Christian bookstore supported holiday.

Do you know that we celebrate Resurrection Sunday (Easter) on an old Roman, pre-Christian pagan holiday. Do you know that we celebrate the birth of the world’s Savior (Christmas) in place of the ancient celebration of the winter solstice. In all truthfulness, Christians have been in the business of hijacking holidays for the glory of the King since we were still persecuted by the Romans.

So, in light of all that, Happy Halloween!

Go read the rest…

Jesus Junk and Stretching for Jesus!

Without adding too much of my own commentary, I thought I’d toss up a couple of short answers Pastor Mark Driscoll gave recently to a couple of questions that are quite touchy in the Church today.

Now, the artistry answer is actually in response to a question about a focus on dark artistic endevours, but Pastor Mark diverges into a more general commentary on artistry in the church.

These two segments are from the Question and Answer session, “Jesus and Demons” Part 2, following the message titled, “Jesus and Demons”.

The best quote? “Jesus Junk”. Go listen for yourself!

What to give those who need?

With our economy in the ropes, are there people in your life with real, genuine needs? Do you know someone who lost their job? Do you know someone preparing to loose their home?

All these people have real, genuine needs.

At this time in their lives, there are a lot of things they DON’T need. However, there are some things they do need. Don’t know what they need? Ask them!

One easy way to find out who has real, genuine needs is to ask someone else who might know. Be careful to stay clear of the gossip channels, though.

I’d suggest you ask your pastor. That’s a good person to be in the know about those who have real, genuine needs, this Christmas season. He can tell you who recently lost their job. He can tell you who’s about to loose their home.

Now, there’s a good chance that he won’t just give you their name(s). In fact, that’s probably a real good thing. So, just ask him to give you some stats about the family in need. Then, head down to a decen local store, like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, or Sears for a gift card.

However, in times like this, there are great gift ideas that are a must. When the family budget gets smaller and smaller, the family eats out less and it’s important to carefully manage the food cooked at home. That’s when having the right kitchen tools can really help the family.

I’d suggest you look at a few items. Here’s an example:

Additionally, items for repair around the house can be of great value. There may be less trips to the mechanic for the family car(s), and/or less call outs for repairmen. So, a decent set of tools can be valuable.

All these ideas are less then $100. That’s what’s so cool. You can really help a family in need, without breaking your own bank.

If I had $100 to spend on helping out someone or some family, these are the kinds of things I’d consider. How about you?

This idea came to me, from a blogpal, BenSpark. BenSpark Grants a Wish is his post, about doing quite a similar thing. He’s running a contest on his blog, so go check it out!