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The Greatest of These is Love

 (Jim Estok)
www.estokphotography.com

 

Reflecting on this past week’s tragic events I can’t help feeling that we {society} as a whole have failed. Dismissive of the Bible and its “outdated” moral teachings, putting in place our own code of morals.
 
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:9-10 NRSV
LOVE is missing…..as Paul declared ” the greatest of these is Love.”

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 

 

God Bless,

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

www.estokphotography.com
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In Good Standing ?

(Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

 

 

Snow. We have received an abundance of snow over the last week, and we will continue to receive more and more snow over the next few days. It looks wonderful and picturesque; but, it can be a barrier to navigating a motor vehicle. Wednesday morning, I had an appointment at an office located in a strip mall. Driving in the parking lot,  focused on my destination, I did not see the curb buried in snow. As a result, the car and I experienced a surprising and abrupt jolt. Hubcaps flew off, one rim became bent and the alignment was now in need of urgent correcting.
 
Our individualism, independence, and self-reliance can also cause us to hide God from our lives. Life takes on a righteous independence, believing we are morally right and without sin. Like the curb hidden by the snow, we hide our sins; and we hide from God. We deceive ourselves, with the focus on worldly influences causing us to stray. But, in the end, each of us will be held accountable for our own sins. 
 
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 1 John 1:8 NLT
C.S. Lewis stated in his book Letters to Malcolm “It is no use to ask God with facetious earnestness for A when our whole mind is in reality filled with B. We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.”
It is not about all about us, we must stop the selfish-individualism, the sense of entitlement we have for ourselves.   God created us, He loves us, He has plans for us….and we must seek a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ and then we will experience His love and His plans for us. We are made whole only through God. In God, is where our identity is found.
 
 
In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, Ephesians 1:7 ESV
God Bless,

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

www.estokphotography.com
www.facebook.com/EstokPhotography
twitter.com/EstokPhotography

Bolstered In Faith

 (Jim Estok)
www.estokphotography.com 

      Why is it when recalling childhood memories we only recall a selection of the happy or sad times? Hidden and not recalled are what psychologists refer to as the “concealing memories”. Also known as the repressed memories, the ones we want to forget and hide from.
 
     During childhood is when much of our character develops. Influenced by our interactions with our parents, teachers, peers, clergy (etc.). These interactions are where our sense of security develops. Security that we are good, lovable, worthwhile and capable of meeting life’s challenges.
 
    Undergoing treatment through therapy I am now recalling my childhood in more detail. But, I am not about to blame my parents for my deficiencies. My parents did their absolute best.
 
    One example, they both introduced me to their Church. My mom to the Pentecostal church and my dad to the Catholic church. One church held a more “formal” orderly service and the other a “spirit led” service. It was a contrast in worship styles that formed my faith, the faith I have today. Faith, that due to my teenage immaturity and thinking that I knew best I walked away from for many years. I regret my decision and wish I could have that time back, but I am glad that today God loves me and with open arms accepted me back into a relationship. I was the runaway child who- through Jesus- ran back into our Father’s arms. He is the God of comfort, He comforts us in all our troubles (2 Corinthians 1:4).
 
” who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4 (ESV
    Without God, I would not be able to heal. To heal me, of what I have repressed, whether it was to survive, avoid pain & suffering, be strong, or to take care of others. .” 2 Corinthians 1:4 (ESV) It may be my most powerful act of faith. There is a peace experienced in taking  problems to God. (Philippians 4:5-6)
 
” The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:5-6 (ESV)
    I know God to be:  holy, a God of love, just, rich in mercy, compassionate, always present and all knowing. God is the Creator and the great I AM.
God Bless,

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

www.estokphotography.com
www.facebook.com/EstokPhotography
twitter.com/EstokPhotography

Apostate, Apathy, Abandonment

www.estokphotography.com  (Jim Estok)

 

The other day I traveled out of town on a round trip of a little less than two hundred kilometers. Something I’ve tried to do for the last couple of weeks, unsuccessfully.   Anxiety was at an extremely high level within me,  so I decided to take the backroads instead of the express, multi-lane highways.  It really didn’t help quell the anxiety but it did provide an easier ability to pull to the side of the road to take time to calm myself.

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” Charles Spurgeon

During the drive, I noticed many abandoned churches each with a cemetery beside each protected by chain-link fences. In one instance the church had been torn down and only the cemetery remained.

I couldn’t help thinking that the abandoned churches are indicators that society has moved away: physically, mentally and spiritually. Once a society that based decisions on moral and biblical teachings: respecting, seeking and honouring God. Now the Ten Commandments are viewed as a suggestion if they are even acknowledged at all. They are Old School. Divine no longer.

C.S. Lewis portrayed Hell as follows: “We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives with the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.”

I can’t help but think that this is a description of the world we are in today. We need to draw on God’s love, teachings and His word that we find in the Bible.

“There is power in God’s gospel beyond all description.” Charles Spurgeon

 

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

www.estokphotography.com
www.facebook.com/EstokPhotography
twitter.com/EstokPhotography

Blue Monday Prayer

 www.estokphotography.com  (Jim Estok)
  {Blue Monday is a name given to a day in January claimed to be the most depressing day of the year.As a person afflicted with depression and anxiety, the day caused my reflection.}
Where to turn when the overwhelming hopelessness engulfs and consumes my thoughts, emotions, and life. During the times when I cannot bring myself to find hope & assurance. Depression’s overwhelming and all-consuming grip devours me.
 
But on this “Blue Monday”, I’m not about to give my total surrender to this disease. (at least in this moment) Rising up, in defense. I turn to Psalm 34, where  I find truthfulness and optimism in the knowledge of God’s protection for those who trust in Him.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Psalm 34:15
This Psalm is a comforting reminder that the Lord cares for all who Trust in Him. Searching my soul as I read, my heart fills with love which is a reminder; of His assurance; of His protection. When we who believe in Him cry for His help He hears. He does not ignore us. His eyes and ears are focused on us. 
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.Psalm 34:17
We were not made for only the good and happy times. Realistic life, here on earth, comes with troubles and hardships. We will experience sorrow and suffering. But we have the assurance that when we walk humbly with God we then have the constant presence of God.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
When we place our trust in God, we find that He is faithful. God is good to those who seek Him.

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

www.estokphotography.com
www.facebook.com/EstokPhotography
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God’s Medium

 

 (Jim Estok)
www.estokphotography.com 

 

“God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on the trees and flowers and clouds and stars.” Martin Luther
 
God is our author and when we attempt to supersede God and become our own author, it all falls apart. For we impose our will, not the authoritative will of God. We are not designed and created for such autonomy.
 
A stunning revelation reading Luther’s quote the other day: physically, emotionally and spiritually. For a while now I’ve sensed something amiss with me beyond the depression and anxiety. I am at fault for trying to be my own author.
 
My self-worth and my hope do not have origin through my own devices. The good news and love of Jesus Christ is where my identity is secure, through and in the amazing grace of God. Establishing my true identity and self-worth.
 
“To some God is discoverable everywhere, to others nowhere.”CS Lewis
 
When I find my joy in Christ it allows me to find the gospel, not only in the Bible but also in all that God has created. C.S. Lewis commented, “To some God is discoverable everywhere, to others nowhere.”
 
My prayer is to discover God everywhere!

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

www.estokphotography.com
www.facebook.com/EstokPhotography
twitter.com/EstokPhotography

Christmas: The Birth of Jesus Christ

 


 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com 

Let it snow, let it snow…..

For a very, very long time, it wasn’t Christmas “season” for me until I heard John Lennon’s  song Happy Christmas (War is Over). Another indicator of Christmas was Bing Crosby & David Bowie- Peace on Earth/ Little Drummer Boy.  For me, these two recordings symbolized a modernization of the Christmas Season, bringing Christmas music into my generation. I refer to this period as the Commercial Christmas period for me.

Change has taken place within me because I now find influence through the authority of the Bible start my rejoicing in the birth of Christ. Starting with passages in Isaiah “therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 ESV

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 ESV

And today the musical influence for me comes from a recording by Andrew Peterson entitled Behold the Lamb of God. One song, in particular, Labor of Love sung by Jill Phillips paints a vivid account and a new perspective on the birth of Jesus in the manager.  So, now the Spiritual Christmas season lives within me {no longer commercial}.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:11-14

Whatever Christmas means to you, I encourage you to open your Bibles to Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2 and read the Biblical stories of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, may it impact you as it has impacted me.

Merry Christmas!!!

 

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

www.estokphotography.com
www.facebook.com/EstokPhotography
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Shadows Lacking Detail

www.estokphotography.com 
 (Jim Estok)

 

When I was in grade school, during the warmer months, I used to sit in the backyard of my parent’s house, once the sun had set and under the cover of darkness, and practice singing and playing guitar.

It was around that time period I heard a line from a song that questioned: “can you stand it in the light of day?” I understood that to mean if your convictions and beliefs are embedded sincerely in your heart, that they should be visible and on display always. It was my belief, then as it is now, that it is hypocritical to selectively reveal your beliefs & convictions only when convenient, or when they won’t face resistance or when they will not be subjected to peer judgment and pressure to conform otherwise.

Today, I struggle with my emotions, my hurt, my feelings, all negative; manifesting into depression and anxiety. Somewhere in my subconscious are the answers and slowly I’m working, through therapy, to unlock them and to gain some control. Control is the wrong word, it’s really the ability to recognize what is impacting and causing me to react as I do. To understand me. In the light of day, this is me today.

It’s a scary season. I liken it to looking at your shadow, it is you, but the details are missing, hiding in the dark recesses.

Thankfully, I am not alone as God is with me!

Blessings,

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

www.estokphotography.com
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twitter.com/EstokPhotography

Meekness in Character, Strength in Faith


 (Jim Estok)www.estokphotography.com

 

You know that experience when you apply something you were taught previously and you thought, at the time,  I’ll never use this it’s useless knowledge? Or perhaps the application of a life lesson is a revelation of a character trait you always thought was a weakness but now you see it as a character strength. 

Yesterday while attending a mission fundraiser at our church I saw a character trait of mine in a new light. Let me explain…. I was fortunate to be able to hold a two-month-old baby. {Neither the mother or I knew each other} The baby, was a beautiful little girl who her mother told me loves to be held. She was peacefully sleeping in my arms, with the occasional peek to see who was holding her; peeking glances at me with her beautiful blue eyes: eyes full of life, trust, dependency, the need for love and the miracle of creation.

A peaceful, humbling therapeutic experience: everything a person suffering from depression struggles to consistently acknowledge.

While I was holding her, Matthew 5:5 came to mind “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” This verse is part of the Beatitudes, where Jesus instructs His disciples and followers on the nature of life and proper living.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

And here is the lesson I learned from this experience.

The definition of the word meek in today’s culture characterizes someone as quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on, submissive, deficient in spirit and courage. However, the text of the New Testament was translated into English from Greek. The Greek word being, Πραθς,  prah-ooce- someone who is gentle and does not assert themselves over others to further their own agendas; but rather someone strong in [Godly] character as they trust in God to direct the outcome of events. The meek are also free from malice and a vengeful spirit. Meekness is manifested by God and given to the believer-Jesus was meek but He had the power of God at His command. They will inherit the earth or more precisely they will gain entrance into the Promised Land.

Aristotle defined meekness as the middle ground between two extremes, getting angry without reason, and not getting mad at all.

This definition- not to be boastful- but reveals a truer picture of my character trait.

Blessings,

Jim Estok
Purveyor of Light through Life lived & shared and through photography

www.estokphotography.com
www.facebook.com/EstokPhotography
twitter.com/EstokPhotography