Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hot for Christ


I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelation 3:15-16 NLT
These are such powerful words, but there is a truth in them that Christians need to heed. First, that God said, "I know about everything you do." We cannot hide from God. The Psalmist stated this so clearly.

O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. 2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. 3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. 4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Psalm 139:1-4
But it doesn't stop there. Not only does He know everything we do, but He knows how fervent we are as well. (Romans 12:11; James 5:16)

We are selfish human beings, forever fighting against our carnal nature. We will do for others mostly if we'll receive something in return. However, we did not "so learn Christ." (Ephesians 4:20) Didn't He die for us despite everything we have done?

The Apostle Paul describes this battle.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. (Romans 7:18-19)
I can truthfully say, "I know the feeling." My intentions were to do good, but in the end I served only myself.

So, how do we overcome? How can we pull ourselves out of this endless cycle? Psalms 119:1 gives us the key.

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
By meditating on the Word of God, planting its truths in our heart, making God's directions first place in our daily decision making, we will not walk in sin, and we will become more dedicated, more fervent, and "hotter" for Christ. This means walking in God's love even when it is difficult, honoring our commitments, guarding our speech (not saying everything that comes to mind), and protecting our thought life by watching what we put into our mind, to name just a few.

The Apostle Paul warned the Roman church not to waver.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:5-7 NLT
Wow! By wavering, or being lukewarm, we place ourselves in a position to receive nothing. Even further, it says we become unstable. This reminds me of Jesus' story about a house built on shifting sands. Without a firm foundation laid underneath, it fell. And notice it had a "great fall", not a little fall, but a disastrous one! (Matthew 7:26-27) What did Jesus say was the reason it fell?
...every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not...
God has promised us success and prosperity, peace and joy. But it is all on the condition we remain hot in our commitment, in our love, for Him. And we show that commitment by placing His words in our heart, by "doing" His sayings.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seek Peace


Let him seek peace... 1 Peter 3:11
Everyone finds peace in their own unique setting. I find mine through the lens of my camera. And though these images were taken time and space apart, they still speak to my heart of the silence I found in that particular moment.

But the previous verse tells us why we should "seek peace" when it states, "For he that will love life, and see good days..." Isn't that the goal of everyone? I know it is mine.

I will "love life" and "see good days"!

One Foggy Morning
One Foggy Morning

One Cold Morning
One Cold Morning

Early fog on the Maple Tree
Early Morning Fog on the Maple Tree

Into The Mist
Into The Mist, Saddle Creek Park, Lakeland, Florida

Lost In The Fog
Lost In The Fog, Saddle Creek, Lakeland, Florida

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Setting Your Priorities


But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him... Philippians 3:7-9 NKJV
The Apostle Paul in this passage of scripture had just given them his pedigree. "Look," he had said, "at who I am, at what my accomplishments are." But he wasn't bragging, as can be seen by his following statements. Rather, he was telling the church to get their priorities in line. What was gain, or advantage, for him - his birthright, his education, even his "zeal" - he now considered useless to instead follow Christ.

Paul had forsaken all to follow the call of God on his life.
This seems to us like an incredible sacrifice. When pressed against the wall, we don't want to give up all the "stuff" we've worked so hard to gain. Why would he be so willing to make such a huge commitment? And what did he know, what revelation had he had, that had caused him to choose this?

Forget for a moment, his heavenly visitation on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:3) Though that definitely changed him, he could still have used his connections to further his new "career". He had, after all, been a man of influence in religious and political circles. Yet, Paul plainly states, "What I once thought valuable is worthless." (CEV)

Part of the answer lies in the fact that those things we do outside of Christ, through our body or our mind, are not profitable.
(John 6:63) Paul himself in verse 3 said he had "no confidence in the flesh." The truth is, what we can achieve under our own power will never come up to the level of what Christ can do in us through our faith. (Colossians 1:27)

In the book of Matthew, Jesus compels us to:

...seek ye first the kingdom of God... Matthew 6:33
Seeking Christ isn't something we do because we have been told to do it. Neither do we choose to do it after we've completed everything else on our list for the day. Seeking God is more than attending church on Sunday. It is more than reading one scripture before we fall asleep. No, we seek Christ out of our great desire for His presence. We long to be near Him, to hear what He has to say, and to please Him in our words and actions.

What someone desires, they will spend their time on. A professional sports athlete only becomes the best by constant practice. A husband and wife are only married for twenty, thirty, or fifty years because of their love and desire for each other. In either case, they don't mind the sacrifice because it moves them closer to what they love.

Paul knew this. In verse 10 he states:
...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings...
And in verse 12:
I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
His desire, his longing, was now for Christ. But it is greater than just having a desire because desire unfulfilled "can make you sick." (Proverbs 13:12 CEV)

Let's read the remainder of the verse in Matthew, chapter 6.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
What "things"? Why, the "things" of verse 31, clothing, food, drink, and by extension, money, promotions, and success.

It is not only that Paul had longing and desire for Christ. He also knew that Christ would provide all the other things he, Paul, would have had to work so hard to obtain on his own. His priorities were set according to his desire for God and his knowledge, his faith in, what God said He would provide.
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. 5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. 6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord. Psalms 27:4-6

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Moment Without A Lens

Sunset

There I was standing in a field surrounded by the most beautiful sunset. A cool breeze was blowing across summer grasses, tiny puffs of clouds, all lined up in rows, had captured the fading pink sunlight and turned the world magical. I could spin and see it from all directions. Marveling at the beauty around me, for just a few moments I stared and soaked it all in.

That sunset was such a healing for my soul. The stress of life, I admit, had taken hold of me. Between work and school, health and building construction, there seems to be so much going on in my life these days. Friends email me, wanting to know if I am okay. I respond, "Really I am.," and whiz away again on some other errand.

And The Sky Shall Unfold
2000
And The Sky Shall Unfold...

I have no photograph of that sunset, except for what is imprinted in my mind. I hold a lot of memories that way. I have found that being without a camera in my hand is almost as good for me as being with one. For once, nothing is required of me. I don't have to worry about camera modes, lighting, or composition. I won't have to edit, resize, or post it later. And I don't have to put anything into words. I can, in effect, let words fail me. There I am, just standing, being myself, watching an event unfold that I have no control over.

Oh, I have other pictures of many sunsets, some which were more spectacular than others, but I think the best photographs are often the ones in my mind. They are those that demanded nothing of me and asked no responsibility from me other than just to be remembered.

People, Longboat Key, Florida
August 1, 2001

People, Longboat Key, Florida


*This was originally posted on the Pix-N-Pens blog in 2008.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Intimate Relationship

As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God. (Ps. 42:1 NLT)
The best part of my day is the time I spend communing with God. It is as essential to life for me as eating, sleeping, and breathing. You see, I have fallen in love, and when you fall in love you have great desire for the other person. I can never seem to get enough of His presence. I long to hear what He has to say to me.

But sometimes finding the time to spend alone with God to build our relationship is difficult. I become too busy, to over-stimulated - the television is going or the telephone is ringing. I have too many tasks to complete, or someone wants to talk to me. Amidst all that noise, I can no longer hear God's voice.

There is a scripture my pastor read a few Sunday's ago and the words really spoke to my heart.

(11) And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: (12) And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
The prophet Elijah was standing on the mountain listening for God's voice with a lot of noise going on around him: the wind breaking rocks, the rumble of an earthquake, the crackle of a massive fire. But notice the scripture says God was not in any of that.

So many times we sit around waiting for God to pick up a bullhorn and announce what we need to hear over top of the cacophony of sounds around us. He becomes some big bully who will just push aside everything we've put in the way. We go on as we always have, never taking the time to lay worldly things aside and just listen for a while.

We teach our children to listen. "You have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak." How many parents have quoted that one? I know I have. But as an adult, where hearing God's voice is concerned, suddenly that rule does not apply.

The Bible plainly tells us that "faith comes by hearing the Word of God." (Romans 10:17) We will not hear until we take the time to listen.

...a still small voice...
God speaks in whispers, and He speaks through His words that I have put into my heart. (Psalms 119:1) I put His words there out of my great desire for Him, out of my longing to build an intimate relationship. King David expressed this in Psalm 139.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts... (verse 23)
However, he also knew that there was more involved in the relationship than just his desire for God. God also had a desire to be with him.
O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. (2) Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. (Psalms 139:1-2)
One of the most frequently quoted verses, that every child can speak, is John 3:16. But I'd like you to meditate on the word "so". "God so loved." That one small word changes the dynamic of the entire sentence. "So" is an adverb expressing quantity. It tells us "how much" God loved. We see this again in 1 John 4:10-11 where it states, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us...Beloved, if God so loved us..."

There is nothing greater than being in love. In reverse, there is nothing worse than being in love and the one you love isn't listening. Relationships are built upon time spent together hearing each others words and committing them to your heart. That is my desire in each moment I spend with my Savior.

If it is only ten minutes out of my day, I take the time to turn off all the noise - no televison, no music, no phone calls. It's just me and Him spending time together. It is then He speaks to me and I hear it because I am intently listening.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What Parents Must Teach Their Children (Additional Scripture)

This scripture came across my desk this week in discussion with some friends about my blog on Wednesday, September 2, 2009.

But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. (1 Timothy 5:4)
The King James version is a little obscure in our thinking, so let's read it in a few other translations.
But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God. (NLT)

If a widow has family members to take care of her, let them learn that religion begins at their own doorstep and that they should pay back with gratitude some of what they have received. This pleases God immensely. (Message)
What a wonderful reward! That we, as parents, would have poured into our children and grandchildren, responsibility and godliness, and that they would pay it back to us with gratitude.

It is no wonder to me then what the scripture means with it says in Deuteronomy 11:21, "That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children...as the days of heaven upon the earth." That is a marvelous promise!

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

An Example of Compassion

God's wisdom, however, is shown to be true by its results. (Matthew 11:19 GNB)
When Jesus uttered this statement, He was responding to an inquiry by John the Baptist. John was in prison and had sent some of his own followers to ask Jesus if He really was the Christ.

Imagine that! This is the same John who had seen the Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove and had heard a voice from heaven declaring, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. " (Matthew 3:16-17)

This is the same John who had said, "I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" (Matthew 3:14) So at one point in time, John had known who Christ was.

The Bible doesn't say why after all this time John had felt the need to ask. I'm sure prison was not a pleasant place. Perhaps the loss of freedom had him depressed. Sitting there with nothing to do but think, maybe he had begun to doubt. Again, the Bible doesn't say, but instead it tells us how Jesus responded.
Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: (5) The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (6) And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (Matthew 11:4-6)
The word "offended" there is misleading. It is actually a word meaning "trip up" or "stumble". Thayer's Greek Definitions defines it as "to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey." Jesus, seeing John's doubt, reminded him "again" of the great things he had seen and encouraged him to believe.

But He didn't stop there. Jesus didn't just speak to John and leave it at that. This inquiry had taken place in front of a crowd of people. Verse seven plainly refers to there being "multitudes". No, Jesus also defended him in front of the people. He reminded the people of who John was and what God had done through him.
What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? (8) But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. (9) But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. (10) For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. (11) Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist... (Matthew 11:7-11)
I find this so amazing. Jesus took the time to protect John's image in the eyes of the people. Maybe as He stood there, He saw what they were thinking, "What is this? Who WAS John anyway? And if John doubts, then who IS this Jesus?"

(13) For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. (14) And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. (15) He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (16) “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, (17) and saying: ‘ We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; We mourned to you, and you did not lament.’ (18) For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ (19) The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” (Matthew 11:13-19 NKJV)
This brings us back to the statement at the end of verse 19. The King James says "wisdom is justified of her children." I especially like the Good News Bible translation, "God's wisdom, however, is shown to be true by its results."

Jesus was saying, "Look at John's results. Look at mine."

Jesus ends His statements with a prayer. I call your attention to verses 28-30.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
The phrase "meek and lowly" is also translated "gentle and humble" (CEV) and "gentle and without pride" (BBE). In other words, it was not out of pride that Jesus had made these statements to John or about John, or even about Himself. It was compassion.

Multiple times in the Gospels is Jesus said to have been "moved with compassion." At this moment in John's life it was no different. Yet even greater than that, in this final statement He extended His compassion to those in the crowd as well. "Take and learn of me," He said, "...and find rest unto your souls."

The more we learn about Jesus, the more we seek Him, the more rest we will find (Psalms 23) and the more strength we will receive. After all, Jesus gave Himself in the ultimate act of compassion.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Early Mornings

I think I like mornings the best.

Evenings are nice, as silence descends over work's busy fields. Darkness embraces the earth in a final blaze of light. Flora and fauna alike, people and animal alike, relax and rest. Labors cease.

Sunrise
Sunrise

Nights are magical. Standing in inky blackness, just me and the sky, in awe I admire the vastness of space. Me, so small, in the totality of it all, can all that really be up there?

Orion and The Night Sky
Orion and The Night Sky

Afternoons are enjoyable. The sun warming the soil, the insects are alive, crawling and buzzing. Millions of creatures, seen and unseen, are moving and shifting in their daily activities all around me.

But no, I like mornings the best - when the last vestiges of night still cling to the landscape and the only sounds I hear are a few twittering birds and the whispers of the wind. Even the sun struggles to awaken, with brilliant beams brushing the clouds away from its face.

Imagine That, Spiderweb
Imagine That, Spiderweb

There we sit, my dog and I, warming our faces, eyes closed, drinking in the sunlight and sound - almost inert.

Mornings never stay long; they soon tire and turn to eve. But the good thing is they always return. This is a cycle I am never weary of.

Yes, I think I like mornings the best.

Magical Sunrise
Magical Sunrise


*This article was originally posted at Pix-N-Pens, Thursday, January 8, 2009.


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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography

Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What Parents Must Teach Their Children

18 Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.

19 And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

20 And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: (Deuteronomy 11:18-20)
With every passing day I become more and more determined to teach my daughter what she needs to know to become a responsible adult, a Christian, a woman, and eventually a wife and a mother. It is our job as her parents to say to her as it says in the book of Isaiah, "This is the way, walk ye in it." (Isaiah 30:21) I want her to learn, both from our experiences and from the guidelines in the Word of God, how to act and react to every situation in her life.

There is a passage of scripture in Romans, chapter 1, that describes the person I do not want her to be.

29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,


31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Notice, that in this list alongside some perfectly horrible attributes is the phrase "disobedient to parents"!

We see this again in 2 Timothy 3:2-5 where disobedience is placed alongside even more disturbing behaviors.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away
This is why we are told that obedience is "pleasing unto the Lord." (Colossians 3:20) If a child is continually disobedient, it will open the door to all these other things! God has given parents an instruction to teach His principles to their children because disobedience will ultimately affect their behavior, their actions and reactions, in every other area of their lives.

Let's take these same scriptures and in reverse list what behaviors are important to God.
Righteousness, Sexual purity, Obedience, Forgiveness, Loving, Giving, Kind, Truthful, Promise keeping, Merciful, Understanding (Romans 1:29-31)

Humble, Clean speech, Thankful, Holy, Honorable, Faithful, and Loves God (2 Timothy 3:2-5)
I would add modesty (Philippian 4:5; 1 Cor. 6:20), restraint (1 Peter 3:10) and gratitude (Colossians 3:15) as well.

In 2 Corinthians 12:14 the Apostle Paul put it this way, "For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children." I especially like the Message Bible version.
Children shouldn't have to look out for their parents; parents look out for the children.
I "look out for" my daughter by setting an example for her to follow. In John 13:15 Jesus said, "For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." In other words, what I expect of her, she should see in myself.
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12
So here it is! I set an example and then she in turn sets an example! What a marvelous thought. But let me take it one step further. The guidelines, or rules, for our behavior do not change because we have become older and are now adults. We cannot ask of our children that which we are not willing to do ourselves.

No! But it is because I am an adult, because I have lived longer and had more opportunities to make choices, that I now have the wisdom and understanding, the knowledge on how to behave both in difficult situations and in common every day ones, to share with her. It is by my response that she will know how she ought to be.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

Dear Reader

This piece was written for the Grace & Faith 4U Blog. It received such a nice reception that I wanted to also post it here. It is not di...