Built in the 1800's, Ocean Grove, NJ
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
This year my husband and I have been going to Church on the Jersey shore, in Ocean Grove. It's been a lot of fun. They have this huge, "Great Auditorium." The doors and windows are open so the sea breeze can flow through. This is our hot season in NJ. I don't know how they used to get through the humidity without air conditioners to be honest! Each Sunday a new speaker comes. Last Sunday was Tony Campolo. He's another one of those men of God that has made a difference in my life. He has a wonderful sense of humor and showed me that Christians laugh. Sunday, he had us all raising the roof with laughter : ) He told us about a time when he was in one of the inner cities in the USA with high crime rates. He wound up in a dirty cafe to get a bite to eat and coffee. It wasn't clean, there weren't waitresses. Instead he found himself surrounded by local prostitutes. And a grimy chef. It was uncomfortable to say the least. But his ears perked up when he heard one of the girls say, "Tomorrow is my birthday. I've never had a birthday party."
Tony decided he'd set up a party for her in the coffee shop. So he worked it all out and had lots of people invited. The next day the woman came into the diner and saw the cake. She was so amazed she couldn't speak. She stared at it, and took it home to show her Mother. It reminded me of a story about Jesus. The religious guys (Pharisees) in town caught a woman in adultery and pulled her out in the dusty street.
3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
(John 8:3-11 NKJV)This is what Jesus meant about love. Not just the people we know, the people who are beautiful or have lots of money. It's about the people who are alone, sick. Those that don't smell good, or talk properly. Those that have bad teeth and drink too much. We're not supposed to pretend to be better than those who are wealthy. Jesus sees us all as His children. Nicodemus, a wealthy Pharisee, was one of Jesus' friends too. He loves all of us. According to Revelation, the Church is to be different. Chapter 2 of Revelation contains letters Jesus had the Apostle John write to the seven Churches. The first one is to Ephesus (we read this recently but it's always good).
1 “ To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,
‘ These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:2 “ I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 “ He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ’
(Revelation 2:1-7 NKJV)
I can understand forgetting my first love. I think all of us have times as Christians where we just don't feel like doing something loving. Sometimes I wake up and wonder why I feel so irritable. My poor husband... What I think Jesus is describing is when we put the Bible in the closet. I feel like I just want to be invisible and do my own thing. I am an artist and that's what artists do after all. But the true inspiration for my photos and artwork comes from God. It's just not the same without Him in the middle of my work. Who else could show me where the good photos are : ) In this section, He calls Himself our first love. I was taught to have my quiet time first thing in the morning. To seek my first love first. My husband is my human first love- need to treat him well too.
After seeing all the violence in Missouri these last few weeks; I wanted to share something I stumbled upon last Sunday. Camden, NJ is one of the worst places in the USA. I worked there for 2 years and was told if it's dark out don't stop at the red lights, just drive through. Bodies were dredged up in the Delaware River next to Camden. A ministry has been set up called, "UrbanPromise (link)." The group helps teens and teaches them how to mentor younger kids to get good grades in school. The kids I met were awesome filled with hope and joy. Feel free to use my own testimony (About my faith) linked on the right side. I know all too well what being alone as a little girl, and hopeless means. God changed all that for me.
Dear Heavenly Father I thank You and praise You for the great things I've seen in Iraq. Many of us are waiting to see what will happen next. I lift up the Kurds and ask Your blessing on them. I also lift up Ukraine and Israel. Father I pray for those in Missouri who are bringing about violence in their city. Bless the kids with good things and help them turn away from harm. Please raise up good leaders to help. I pray the right will win and the wrong will fail.
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
10 Set the world right;
Do what's best––
as above, so below.
11 Keep us alive with three square meals.
12 Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
13 Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes .
(Matthew 6:9-13 Message)
In Jesus Name, Amen.
Here's a great song from Owl City, In Christ Alone (link)