Friday, June 24, 2016

Taking The Better Land

Tip: Experiment with the panorama function for landscape photography. Hold your breath and turn your upper body rather than your arms or feet for a more steady shot.

In Genesis chapters 13 & 14, Abram and Lot come to the conclusion that there isn't enough space in the land for both them and all of their possessions and families. Abram steps up and gives his kinsman the first choice for land. When given the option to choose what he liked, Lot of course picked the nicer looking side to travel into. Who wouldn't, right?

As the story continues, it turns out that while Lot's choice may have been good as far as the quality of the land itself, it came with an unexpected downside: the inhabitants were incredibly vile people. At one point, the land even gets pillaged by opposing armies and Lot ends up taken captive (but Abram gathers an army himself and rescues Lot and defeats his captors). Later on, God ends up sending His messengers to tell Lot to flee the city he is in because He intends to destroy it due to the great sinfulness of it's inhabitants. 

How often are we inclined to jump at the first choice without thinking of what our friends or family may want or need? How often are we the ones who have the ability to take whatever option we desire, but instead kindly offer the first pick to others? We may not run into the bad results that Lot did when he decided to take what he thought to be the best for himself, but nevertheless, we are called to treat others as we would wish to be treated:

"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Grey Zone

Tip: Get a long range lens and zoom in on an object to create a nicely blurred background.
This was done with a 200mm lens.

"Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." (Romans 14:20-23)

There are certain things that are morally neutral; while the Bible commands us not to be gluttons or drunkards, there is nothing telling us specifically what to eat or drink. There are many Christians who are flat out against alcohol consumption or eating meat because those things are bothersome to their conscience - on the flip side, there are many who enjoy the same things with hearts of gratefulness toward God for them. 

To those who can confidently do these things before God, be conscientious about who is around when you are enjoying these liberties- don't do things that could lead those with a more fragile conscience to fall to sin.

To those who are against exercising these liberties, be careful that you do not begin feeling and acting self-righteous about your choice, looking down on those Christian brothers and sisters who choose to enjoy such things on occasion.

To everybody: be respectful of your fellow Christian's convictions, whatever they may be, as long as they are not in violation of scripture. Civil discussions on such matters of differing opinion are healthy and wonderful, but when you begin to try and force someone into adopting your stance on the "grey areas", you've gone too far.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Unspoken Message of Creatives

Tip: Think about color; does your background complement your foreground?

There are many types of creative people in the world: builders, writers, inventors, artists, cooks, and so many more! What do they all have in common? All creative people, whether they realize it or not, are creative because there is something that they or the world around them lacks. They could see a need for an invention to make life easier, a need for good food, a need for shelter, a need to share information or tell a story, a need for beauty, or perhaps just a need to show off what they are capable of and be appreciated. That is the difference between our creativity and God's creativity.

The Bible begins with Genesis 1:1 stating that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." This short line speaks volumes. Nobody commanded God to create something. He doesn't have any feelings of need or lack because He is fully self-sufficient; He created something from nothing and continues to uphold His creation simply because He is God and it pleases Him to do so.

When you see the creativity in others and yourself, remember that it points to our great Creator. Let us join the psalmist below in praise to God for the wonderful gifts He continually gives us day after day:

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! 
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.

In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.

-Psalm 95:1-7

Friday, June 3, 2016

Christian Service: Are You Doing it Right?

Tip: If you don't have the right lens for blurring out the background, try to find a backdrop that will complement and/or go with your food photography! Don't show off a messy kitchen :)

There are so many ways that we can serve our Creator; more likely than not, at some point in your life, you have (or will!) be asking yourself what your "calling" is. You might be completely blank and just know you want to do something, or you might have a head full of bright ideas that you are trying with all your might to pursue. Having a strong desire to serve God is wonderful, but it was recently pointed out to me that even with good intentions, we must stop and make sure we have our priorities straight.

A person can go through their life running like crazy trying to keep up with their "dream goal" of service to God, and in the process, find themselves lacking time for Bible study and starting to neglect the practice of those great traits mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). When you start really stressing about trying to serve God, a question must be asked: are you really doing this activity for Him, or are you doing it because it gives you a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of worth?

Matthew 6:21 says "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Where is your heart at? If something happens and your ability to do your project for God gets taken from you, will you be absolutely torn up about it, or will you be able to move on, knowing that your worth and identity are in Him? Doing projects for the benefit of God's kingdom is a wonderful use of time- just don't let those projects become idols that you prioritize above God Himself.