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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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What’s Going On

baltimoreWe live in turbulent times. I think back on the Watts Riot of 1965 that occurred in the impoverished African-American community in Los Angeles that killed 34, injured one thousand, and over four thousand were arrested during the six days of its duration. I was 13 at the time. Here’s a brief description of what happened during those six days in August 1965:

The Watts Riot, which raged for six days and resulted in more than forty million dollars worth of property damage, was both the largest and costliest urban rebellion of the Civil Rights era. The riot spurred from an incident on August 11, 1965 when Marquette Frye, a young African American motorist, was pulled over and arrested by Lee W. Minikus, a white California Highway Patrolman, for suspicion of driving while intoxicated. As a crowd of onlookers gathered at the scene of Frye’s arrest, strained tensions between police officers and the crowd erupted in a violent exchange. The outbreak of violence that followed Frye’s arrest immediately touched off a large-scale riot centered in the commercial section of Watts, a deeply impoverished African American neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles. For several days, rioters overturned and burned automobiles and looted and damaged grocery stores, liquor stores, department stores, and pawnshops. Over the course of the six-day riot, over 14,000 California National Guard troops were mobilized in South Los Angeles and a curfew zone encompassing over forty-five miles was established in an attempt to restore public order. All told, the rioting claimed the lives of thirty-four people, resulted in more than one thousand reported injuries, and almost four thousand arrests before order was restored on August 17. Throughout the crisis, public officials advanced the argument that the riot was the work outside agitators; however, an official investigation, prompted by Governor Pat Brown, found that the riot was a result of the Watts community’s longstanding grievances and growing discontentment with high unemployment rates, substandard housing, and inadequate schools. Despite the reported findings of the gubernatorial commission, following the riot, city leaders and state officials failed to implement measures to improve the social and economic conditions of African Americans living in the Watts neighborhood. (Quote source here).

Fifty one years after the Watts riot it would appear not much has changed in our society as racial tensions, once again, threaten to tear our society apart. And the number of incidents of racial tension and violence in the past couple of years has been mind-numbing (and that doesn’t even include the several terrorist attacks that have taken place in this same time frame, too). As I was trying to find an article that adequately articulates what is really going on, I found a number of articles regarding the racial tension and violence and other current societal ills too numerous to count, and the views are often disparate. Does anybody have an answer?

war-wrong-questionBack on May 21, 1971, Marvin Gaye (1939-1984), an American musician who gained worldwide fame for his work with Motown Records, released what came to be one of his most famous songs which still has a lot meaning for our turbulent times today. That song is titled, What’s Going On.” Unfortunately, Marvin Gaye met with his own violent end when he was fatally shot by his father, Marvin Gay, Sr., on April 1, 1984 at their house in Los Angeles (source here). Here’s a little background information on how he found this song, or rather, how the song found him:

The spring of 1970 was a dark time for Marvin Gaye. His beloved duet partner Tammi Terrell had died after a three-year struggle with a brain tumor. His brother Frankie had returned from Vietnam with horror stories that moved Marvin to tears. And at Motown, Marvin was stymied in his quest to address social issues in his music.

While he was pondering his next move, a song fell in his lap that would provide a channel for all his sorrow and frustration (quote source here).

Here are the lyrics to the song, and the YouTube Video is at the bottom of this post:

“What’s Going On”

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on

Mother, mother,
Everybody thinks we’re wrong

Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply because our hair is long
Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
What’s going on
Ya, what’s going on
Tell me what’s going on
I’ll tell you what’s going on

(Lyrics compliments of AZLyrics.com)

We talk too little and assume too much today. It seems like everybody is yelling and nobody is listening, and when it comes to the terrorists–they are coming from an ideology that we simply cannot understand. It reminds me of something the apostle Paul wrote to his young protege, Timothy, that is a bit hard to read, but nonetheless, I will quote it here (from The Message Bible). It is found in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.

That is quite a list of negatives, and, of course, not everyone is going to fit every label mentioned, but we can all find ourselves somewhere in that list starting off with the very first item mentioned–“self-absorbed.” Just look at the plethora of “self help” books published every year (Christian and secular), and how the media caters to advertising “stuff” to make our lives better or our bodies thinner or our teeth whiter. And look at our “online” presence especially on sites like Facebook. And we change smartphones almost as often as we change clothes in order to have the latest and the greatest cell phone available (which also keeps the tech billionaires in billionaire status, too, which speaks to the second item on the list–“money-hungry”). We are often a “self-absorbed” and “money-hungry” culture, like it or not.

It makes me flinch to read those verses. It’s not a pretty picture. And the ingredient absent in all of it is the ingredient most needed to solve our problems–love (with a big dose of humility thrown in). We make an appearance of love (and we can fake it really well) but underneath lurks the truth, and it leads back to the whole issue of being self-absorbed. We want what we want when we want it, and if we can’t have it we brood or do whatever it takes to get it. That is essentially what is at the bottom of all of the ills in this world. Being self-absorbed (e.g., self-centered pride) kills genuine love and humility.

do-nothing-out-of-selfish-ambitionC.S. Lewis (1898–1963) made the following statement in his book, Mere Christianity,” in Chapter 8 titled, The Great Sin.”  Lewis “was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement” (quote source here). Lewis states:

There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else and of which hardly any people… ever imagine that they are guilty themselves…. And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone… who showed the slightest mercy to it in others. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.

The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it… is called Humility…. The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride.

The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But pride always means enmity—it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God. (Quote source here.)

At the core of our self-absorption is pride. In a devotion titled, Don’t Let Pride Be Your Guide,” by Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor at Saddleback Church, he states:

Every conflict that you go through in a relationship has an element of pride mixed into it. What is the middle letter of the word “pride”? I. What’s the middle letter of the word “crime”? I. What’s the middle letter of the word “sin”? I.

We have an “I” problem! “I” want what “I” want and “I” want it now, and that causes all kinds of problems. In any relationship, never let pride be your guide, because pride is the root of every other sin.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (NIV). Paul says that there are two conflict-creating kinds of pride. One of them is selfish ambition and the other is vain conceit. Selfish ambition says, “It’s all about me” and vain conceit means, “I’m always right.”

Selfish ambition causes all kinds of problems. James 3:16 says, “Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” When you find confusion at your workplace, your church, your home, in your marriage, and even in the government, you can know that selfish ambition and jealousy are causing it.

Vain conceit is the attitude that you are always right. The Living Bible translation of Philippians 2:3 says, “Don’t live to make a good impression on others.” We do this in every area of our lives, but especially on social media. It’s a great temptation to make yourself look better on the Internet than you are.

In Galatians, Paul lists about 17 effects of living with pride. He says when we live a self-centered life, it shows up in all kinds of ways. He starts off by saying things like self-indulgence shows up in sexual immorality and wild partying and getting drunk. You would expect those things.

But most of the things on the list are actually relational sins. Galatians 5:19-21 says, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear… quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy…. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (NLT).

If you want to be happy in your relationships, you’ve got to have harmony. And if you’re going to have harmony, you’ve got to have humility. Never let pride be your guide. (Quote source here.)

There is not one person on the planet that doesn’t have a problem with pride. Any time we think we are better than someone else it is taking front and center stage in our lives. And at the core of all of our societal issues is pride. Call it whatever you want to call it, but it is still pride.

So what is the opposite of pride? It is stated in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts . . .

Always hopes, always perseveres . . .

Love never fails . . . .

YouTube Video: “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

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Suburbianity

suburbianityI’ve been reading a very interesting book titled, Suburbianity: What Have We Done to the Gospel? Can We Find Our Way Back to Biblical Christianity?” (2013), by Byron Forrest Yawn, senior pastor at Community Bible Church in Nashville, TN. A synopsis of the book and a few editorial reviews on Amazon.com state the following (quote source here):

Rick Warren famously wrote, “It’s not about you.” But much of the Western church seems to disagree, having settled for a self-centered message of personal fulfillment. With incisiveness and a passionate love for the church, pastor and author Byron Forrest Yawn offers a compelling call away from narcissism and back to the powerful and transforming gospel of Jesus. He shows the difference between…

  • Sunday-morning life coaches selling self-help seminars, and preachers proclaiming God’s redemptive work through Christ
  • promises of prosperity and comfort, and a realistic and helpful perspective on suffering
  • escape from unbelievers and their godless world, and redemptive engagement with people

As Byron exposes the false gospel of “suburbianity,” he offers readers a better alternative: to look beyond themselves and embrace God’s call to be His image-bearers and ambassadors, partnering with Him as He restores people and all creation to His original design.

Editorial Reviews

“Every person, every Christian, is to some degree a product of his environment. Byron Yawn’s concern is that Christians have been unwittingly and unduly influenced by the values and ideals of suburbia. Powerful gospel-centered Christianity has been replaced by impotent gospel-free suburbianity. Byron writes not as a sociologist but as a pastor, calling Christians to be shaped far more by the timeless Word of God and far less by the changing preferences of the suburbs. May every Christian heed this call!”
Tim Challies, Christian blogger, pastor, and author

Suburbianity is one of the most refreshing and disturbing books I have read in quite a while. Refreshing because my friend Byron Yawn has managed to make the gospel even more attractive and alluring to me. Disturbing because he makes such a strong case for all the ways we tend to miss and ‘dis’ the gospel by settling for much of what is accepted as conservative, Bible-believing Christianity. Byron doesn’t write as a cynic, but as a man who longs to see his own heart, his congregation, and our culture come more fully alive to the grace and truth of the real gospel. This is a book for believers and nonbelievers alike because everybody needs the gospel Byron highlights.”
Scotty Smith, Pastor of Christ Community Church, author of Everyday Prayers and Restoring Broken Things

Suburbianity is about the life-giving recovery of the most important reality in the world―the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Found herein is delightful refreshment to the weary soul bombarded by tireless pop-evangelical trendiness. Pastor Byron Yawn delivers a welcome mix of pointed sobriety, self-criticizing humility, and yes, even some gut-busting humor. I hope Suburbianity will produce a multitude of wonderfully dissatisfied Christians who will insist that pastors unashamedly and explicitly preach Christ rather than moralism masquerading as the eternal gospel. Everyone should read this profoundly Christian book. For the glory of Christ in the churches!”
Patrick Abendroth, Pastor, Omaha Bible Church

“This is not a how-to or 12-step self-help book. Nor is it a book of character sketches from which to draw and apply life lessons in morality and ethics. If you have ever tried to bootstrap yourself into favor with God, read Suburbianity, and you’ll approach Scripture differently. Instead of seeing the Bible as a series of stories, you’ll discover the one story of Christ’s finished work of redemption. And it will transform you.”
Perry Stahlman, Chairman of the elders, Community Bible Church

charles-spurgeon-quote-god-does-not-changeIt was the title of Yawn’s book, “Suburbianity,” that caught my eye as I was glancing through the book titles on the bargain book shelves in a Christian bookstore. Personally, I’ve never actually been a part of the suburban lifestyle in America since I’ve been single all of my life and I have lived, for the most part, in apartment complexes. In other words, I’ve never experienced the house (big or small) with a garage (or carport), lawn, spouse, kids, neighbors, or been a part of PTA or homeowners meetings, etc., (other then when I was a kid before my parent’s divorce–and that’s been decades ago and there were no home owner associations way back then).

The churches I have attended over my lifetime could be described as suburban churches, and I usually gravitated to any “singles” groups that those churches might have had (some did, some didn’t). Once megachurches became popular (and a number of today’s suburban churches fit into that category), I attended them, too. However, being a professional working woman and also being single all of my life, as I got older I sometimes outgrew, by virtue of my age, the “singles” groups (as they were in a younger age category–often college age and young unmarried professionals looking to find a spouse). I did try several women’s groups (the professional women’s groups, when they were available which was rare, were the best), but many of the women’s groups catered to wives, mothers, and grandmothers, and I didn’t fit in with that particular demographic or the topics they discussed (child-rearing, husbands, grandparenting, family stuff). So as you can see, my actual experience with “suburbia” has been somewhat limited.

I read several pages of this book in the bookstore and it certainly piqued my interest, and best of all, it was on sale, and I always love finding a good book on sale. It has not disappointed me, either. Yawn states early on in his book what his book is not about (p. 36):

This book is not specifically about gospel centeredness. That message has been so well articulated by others that any addendum by me would be the equivalent of white noise. Horton, Bridges, Keller, Carson, Tchividjian, Wilson, Chandler, and others have all honed the message for a new generation of believers. They have spread the message of Jesus, Paul, Athanasius, Calvin, Burroughs, Warfield, Machen, and a host of others. I have read their works and thank God for them all. They have each helped me reawaken my own soul to the truth of the gospel.

This book is the volume before theirs (although I in no way pretend to be their equal in influence). It’s a prologue to the details of redemption they expound so thoroughly in their works. My basic message explains why messages like theirs are so important for suburban Christians to hear (quote source: Yawn, “Suburbianity,” p. 36).

Tim Challies, Christian blogger, author, and book reviewer, wrote a book review of “Suburbianity” when it was first published in 2013, and here is some of what he had to say:

Byron Yawn is the pastor of Community Bible Church in Nashville, a church I have been to a couple of times and one I have very much enjoyed. He loves Christianity, the Christian faith, but despises Suburbianity, a contemporary perversion of that faith. Every person, every Christian, is to some degree a product of his environment. Yawn’s concern is that Christians have been unwittingly and unduly influenced by the values and ideals of suburbia. 

Suburbianity is the general conviction among professing evangelicals that the primary aim of Christ’s death was to provide us with a fulfilled life. We came to this perspective by persistently reading the mindset and aspirations of the suburbs into the biblical story. It relentlessly seeps into our Christianity. It comes through in nearly all forms of Christian media, including songs, books, movies, and sermons. God has big plans for you. You are important. You should not be discontented, There’s more out there for you. This is the suburban gospel. By it we’ve saved countless sinners from a poor self-image but not much else.

Of course the Christianity of the Bible is not about this at all. It is antithetical to this. “You can’t find it anywhere in the Bible. You may cite Moses, but he never meant that. Even if you make Jesus say it, He didn’t really. Jesus never commissioned anything close to this. We’ve made all this stuff up.” Powerful gospel-centered Christianity has been replaced by an impotent gospel-free suburbianity.

Yawn proposes a three-part antidote to suburbianity. The first part of the cure is to recover the true gospel and he writes three chapters on what the gospel is and why it must be central to all of Christian doctrine and practice. The second part of the cure is to recover the true and most meaningful storyline of the Bible, looking beyond the moralisms that plague today’s churches. He gives two chapters to the Bible. The third part of the cure, which receives two chapters, is to embrace the local church as God’s plan to save the world. This antidote is so simple and so obvious, yet so commonly overlooked.

In the third part of Yawn’s book which is titled, “The Church,” the cure for suburbianity is found, as Challies stated above. In the first chapter in Part 3, titled, “Hanging On Till Jesus Gets Back,” Yawn opens with this statement (pp. 175-177:

The American church is bored. You can feel it. The giant isn’t sleeping so much as it’s twiddling its thumbs. The frustration is palpable. We’ve spent so much time asking, “What’s my purpose as an individual?” we forgot to ask the greater question: “What’s God’s purpose for the church?” For all our emphasis on personal identity, we’ve no idea what our collective identity is. We’ve no real sense of what we’re suppose to be doing as a people. The reality that defines all of us has been overshadowed by the likes of us.

Boredom creates a unique sort of desperation. As others have said, it’s a very underestimated emotion. Evangelical Christians, especially the younger ones, are desperate to experience church as God intended. Younger Christians can feel pressed between the faith traditions of their parents and the shallow pragmatism of contemporary church models. The pendulum, as it always does, has swung. There is a desire to worship. D.A. Carson observed this reaction among young Christians:

We start attending meetings because it is habit, or because it is the right thing to do, or because we know that the means of grace are important, but not out of the heart-hunger to be with God’s people and to be fed from God’s Word. Sermons are filled with clichés. There is little intensity in confession, little joy in absolution, little delight in the gospel, little urgency in evangelism, little sense of privilege or gratitude in witness, little passion for the truth, little compassion for others, little humility in our evaluations, little love in our dealings with others.

There is currently an intense push back against the failed strategy of marketing techniques and the narcissistic philosophy of seeker churches [Note: Yawn discusses the “seeker-sensitive movement” which started in the church back in the 1970’s in Part 1 of his book. Also, an article titled, “How a Seeker Sensitive, Consumer Church is Failing a Generation,” by Dorothy Greco, published in August 2013 in Christianity Today, is available at this link for additional information]. The failure is now more than obvious. Designer religion for the affluent Americans only works in the suburbs and is not designed to save. The trendy suburban seeker models have left a confused spiritual wasteland in their wake. The gospel is all but forgotten. The suburbs are the new burned-over district. Christians are leaving in droves, seeking more meaningful experiences of church. The church is suddenly getting off the couch and going outside.

Christians want to be a part of churches that are disruptive forces in the culture, not indistinguishable from it. These evangelical dissidents have no interest in over-correcting and returning to the religion of their parents. The idea of forming fundamentalist conclaves and hiding at safe distances from the culture is unthinkable. They’re not seeking asylum behind the walls of traditional church. What they want is the chance to throw grenades. They are hungry for the front lines. . . (quote source: Yawn, “Suburbianity,” pp. 175-177).

Well, you get the picture. . . . And I daresay it’s not just the younger generations that feel that way, either. While I can only speak for myself, I can imagine there are a bunch of us older folks who feel the same way, too. I’ve recently had a friend admonish me as to my lack of church attendance of late as if somehow it equates to me being “less Christian” then those folks sitting in the pews on Sunday morning. This book clarifies the situation much better than I could ever try to explain to my friend. We need to start with a definition of what genuine Christianity is really all about, and Yawn has done just that in his book, “Suburbianity.”

For those who might be bored with church but can’t put their finger on why that is the case, Suburbianity is a good place to start. . . .

Actually, Jesus is the best place to start. . .

So bring on those grenades . . .

It’s time to hit the front lines. . . .

YouTube Video: “Lose My Soul” by TobyMac (with Kirk Franklin and Mandisa):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

What Did Jesus Teach?

sermononthemountOne of Jesus’ most famous teachable moments occurred in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). GotQuestions?org gives a summary account of the Sermon on the Mount as follows:

The Sermon on the Mount is the sermon that Jesus gave in Matthew chapters 5-7. Matthew 5:1-2 is the reason it is known as the Sermon on the Mount: “Now when He saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them…” The Sermon on the Mount is the most famous sermon Jesus ever gave, perhaps the most famous sermon ever given by anyone.

The Sermon on the Mount covers several different topics. It is not the purpose of this article to comment on every section, but rather to give a brief summary of what it contains. If we were to summarize the Sermon on the Mount in a single sentence, it would be something like this: How to live a life that is dedicated to and pleasing to God, free from hypocrisy, full of love and grace, full of wisdom and discernment.

Matthew 5:3-12The Beatitudes
Matthew 5:13-16Salt and Light
Matthew 5:17-20Jesus fulfilled the Law
Matthew 5:21-26Anger and Murder
Matthew 5:27-30Lust and Adultery
Matthew 5:31-32Divorce and Remarriage
Matthew 5:33-37Oaths
Matthew 5:38-42Eye for an Eye
Matthew 5:43-48Love your enemies
Matthew 6:1-4Give to the Needy
Matthew 6:5-15How to Pray
Matthew 6:16-18How to Fast
Matthew 6:19-24Treasures in Heaven
Matthew 6:25-34Do not worry
Matthew 7:1-6Do not judge hypocritically
Matthew 7:7-12Ask, Seek, Knock
Matthew 7:13-14The Narrow Gate
Matthew 7:15-23False Prophets
Matthew 7:24-27The Wise Builder

Matthew 7:28-29 concludes the Sermon on the Mount with the following statement: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” May we all continue to be amazed at His teaching and follow the principles that He taught in the Sermon on the Mount! (Quote source here.)

Here is the complete Sermon on the Mount” from the New International Version (NIV):

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

The Fulfillment of the Law

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Murder

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister,Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Adultery

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Divorce

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Oaths

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Eye for Eye

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies

counterculture43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Giving to the Needy

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Prayer

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
    For Yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.
 (NKJV)

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Fasting

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,  your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Judging Others

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Ask, Seek, Knock

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

True and False Prophets

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

True and False Disciples

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

The crowds were amazed at Jesus’ teaching because he taught as one who had authority–and Jesus has the ultimate authority, too. After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (read about his trial, crucifixion, and resurrection in Matthew 26-28), he made this statement to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In a summary on Life, Hope & Truth,” on the Sermon on the Mount,” the author, John Foster, states, “Nearly 2,000 years ago, Christ preached a profound sermon showing how converted Christians are to live. How essential is the Sermon on the Mount today?” (Quote source and summary at this link.) At the end of the summary he states:

The words of this sermon are as relevant today as they were when Christ spoke them! For “whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25). (Quote source here.)

The Sermon on the Mount is profoundly relevant to our lives today. I’d like to end this post with the entire words found in Matthew 6:13, of which the words in the second part of the verse are often left off in later versions of the Bible. They are found in the King James Version (KJV) and New King James Version (NKJV) at the end of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13 which states (KJV): And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, and the power . . .

And the glory, forever . . .

Amen . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Lord’s Prayer” – Andrea Bocelli (w/choir):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

He Reigns

god-reigns-over-the-nationsAlmost four years ago I published a blog post titled, Invitation to the Thirsty,” which contains Isaiah 55 from The Message Bible. Below I’ve included Isaiah 55 from the New International Version along with the first two verses in Isaiah 56, and I’m adding a little background information on Isaiah, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament. The following background information on Isaiah is taken from Truth for the World:

Isaiah is often calledThe Messianic Prophet.” He is called this because he records many prophecies of the coming of the Messiah [Jesus Christ] into the world. “Messiah” means “the anointed one.” In the Old Testament, priests were anointed with oil when they were appointed to their office (Exodus 30:25-30; Leviticus 8:10-13). Prophets and kings were also anointed with oil when they were appointed by God (1 Samuel 16:1,13; 1 Kings 19:16). The prophets foretold the coming of One who would hold all three of these offices and be prophet, priest and king all in one. Therefore, He was called “The Anointed One” or “the Messiah.” The New Testament word for “The Anointed One” is “Christ.”

Isaiah prophesied during the rule of four different kings of Judah. They were Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Isaiah 1:1). Isaiah was probably born in Jerusalem about 760 B.C. He likely began prophesying about 740 B.C. He was God’s spokesman to Judah for fifty years or even longer. Hebrews 11:37 speaks of some men of faith who were “sawn in two.” According to the Jews, this is the way Isaiah was killed. When he was a very old man, the evil king, Manasseh, had his body placed between two planks of wood and sawed in two.

Isaiah lived and preached during a very important time in the world’s history. During most of his lifetime, Assyria was the most powerful nation on earth. Babylon was only beginning to gain strength as a nation. While Isaiah lived in Judah, Romulus and Remus were beginning the city of Rome. The Greek cities of Athens and Sparta were just being built. It was during Isaiah’s lifetime that the Northern Kingdom, Israel, was taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. Micah, Amos, and Hosea were other prophets of God who lived during Isaiah’s lifetime.

During most of the time that Isaiah preached to God’s people, the nation of Judah was very prosperous. People forgot about God because they were so involved in the things of this world (Isaiah 59:1-8). The rich people lived in luxury and idleness. The poor suffered from lack of food and clothing (Isaiah 3:14-15; 32:9-15). Many of the people were drunkards (Isaiah 3: 16-26, 5:11-12, 22-23; 28:7-8). . . . Government officials were corrupt. They used their offices to oppress the poor (Isaiah 1:21-23). Even the prophets failed to do the job God had given them. Instead of rebuking sin and delivering God’s message, they preached what the people wanted to hear (Isaiah 9:14-16; 30:8-14).

The Book of Isaiah has sixty-six chapters. The first thirty-five chapters speak of God’s judgments on evil and evildoers. Chapters 36 through 39 tell of a time when the Assyrian army surrounded the city of Jerusalem. They planned to attack and destroy it. The leader of the Assyrians boasted that God could not save them just as the gods of other nations they had conquered had been unable to deliver them. King Hezekiah prayed to God about the matter. That very night God sent His angel into the camp of the Assyrians. The angel killed 185,000 Assyrians and the rest of the army fled (Isaiah 37:36-37).

The last section of Isaiah contains chapters 40 through 66. These chapters foretold that the nation of Babylon would arise and oppress God’s people. They also told of the sending of God’s Servant to suffer for the sins of the people. Finally, the glory of the Messianic Age is described. (Quote source here.)

Dr. Allen Ross, Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University states the following in his Introduction to the Book of Isaiah on Bible.org:

The Book of Isaiah is one of the most important books of the Old Testament. While little is known of the personal life of the prophet, he is considered to be one of the greatest of them all.

The book is a collection of oracles, prophecies, and reports; but the common theme is the message of salvation. There was, according to these writings, no hope in anything that was made by people. The northern kingdom of Israel had been carried into captivity (722 B.C.), and the kingdom of Judah was in the middle of idolatry and evil. The kingdom of Assyria had dominated the Fertile Crescent and posed a major threat to both kingdoms; and the kingdom of Babylon was gaining power and would replace Assyria as the dominant threat. In view of the fast-changing international scene, the people of Israel would be concerned about their lot in life—what would become of the promises of God? How could the chosen people survive, let alone be a theocracy again? And must the remnant of the righteous also suffer with the nation that for all purposes was pagan?

To these and many other questions the book addresses itself.

There would be a purging of the nation because God is holy. Before the nation could inherit the promises made to the fathers, it would have to be made holy. So God would use the pagan nations to chasten Israel for its sins and cleanse it from iniquity. And even though the judgment of the captivity would punish sin and destroy the wicked unbelievers, the removal of iniquity would ultimately be the work of the Servant of the LORD, the promised Messiah. On the basis of such cleansing and purification, God would then establish the golden age, a time of peace and prosperity that the world has never known. When the holy God would make the remnant holy, then He would use them to rule over the nations rather than allow the nations again to discipline them.

The messenger of the message of salvation is the prophet Isaiah, whose name means “salvation of Yahweh,” or “Yah saves.” He was the son of Amoz; he may also have been related to the royal family, perhaps King Manasseh, by whom he was believed to have been sawn asunder (see the Apocryphal literature; Heb. 11:37). He prophesied in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, and also may have lived past Hezekiah into the reign of Manasseh. Assuming that he was a young man at the death of Uzziah in 742 B.C.when his official ministry began, he might have been 70 or 80 at the time of his death (ca. 680 B.C.). Therefore, the prophet would have ministered for at least 60 years in an effort to bring the nation back to God. . . .

. . . The setting of the first half of the book is Judah in the days of the Assyrians, and the setting of the second half of the book is Babylon, then Jerusalem again, and then beyond in the age to come. (Quote source and full article at this link).

he-reignsThere are several major themes in the Book of Isaiah: Sin, suffering, justice and judgment; power (human power and God’s power); loyalty; dreams, hopes, and plans; compassion and forgiveness including mercy (source here.) And within the Book of Isaiah is found one of the greatest invitations in the entire Bible–Isaiah 55:

Come, all you who are thirsty
    come to the waters.
And you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
Because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
     so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
    but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
The mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”

This is what the Lord says:

“Maintain justice
    and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
    and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
Blessed is the one who does this—
    the person who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it,
    and keeps their hands from doing any evil.

And I’ll include the greatest invitation found in the New Testament–John 3:16-18:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

I’ll end this post with the words from the song He Reigns (YouTube video below):

“He Reigns”

It’s the song of the redeemed
Rising from the African plain
It’s the song of the forgiven
Drowning out the Amazon rain
The song of Asian believers
Filled with God’s holy fire
It’s every tribe, every tongue, every nation
A love song born of a grateful choir

It’s all God’s children singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns
It’s all God’s children singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns

Let it rise about the four winds
Caught up in the heavenly sound
Let praises echo from the towers of cathedrals
To the faithful gathered underground
Of all the songs sung from the dawn of creation
Some were meant to persist
Of all the bells rung from a thousand steeples
None rings truer than this

And all the powers of darkness
Tremble at what they’ve just heard
‘Cause all the powers of darkness
Can’t drown out a single word

When all God’s children sing out
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns
All God’s people singing
Glory, glory, hallelujah
He reigns, He reigns

(Lyrics compliments of AZLyrics.com)

Yes . . . 

He reigns . . .

YouTube Video: “He Reigns” by the Newsboys:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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