Inspirational Image of the Day

G-MM™: Meditation Moment   150519

The Gilmer Free Press

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


Proverbs 3:1-2

My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.

Matthew 18:5-6

Misleading Others

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Notes on the Scripture

The Hebrew idiom for causing another person to sin was a word (skandalizo) that meant “to put an object in a road” so that traffic would be impeded, or which would trip up a person on foot. There is no equivalent word in English. We often see “stumbling-block” as the translation in texts that try to be more literal, but “stumbling-block” is too specific as well as being anachronistic; “obstacle” might be a better way of conveying the literal meaning.

The stricture against intentionally making a road less safe goes back to a literal law of Moses. Leviticus 19:14 commands, “You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God.” Here we see Jesus talking about the innocent rather than the blind, but they are closely related; the meanings overlap. A blind person trying to make his way down a road is a perfect metaphor for a child learning right from wrong, a person who is new to Christ, or any person seeking to make a moral choice.

If we would follow Christ, we must follow Christ. We walk where He directs us to walk, not where we want to walk. We might as well close our eyes, because we obey Him, not our own mind. The human mind — or the voice of Satan, if you will — is full of tricks, arguments, and rationalizations trying to convince us, at every step, to turn to the left or right.

A Christian does not have a moral code: a Christian follows a moral code. And once we understand what Christ actually teaches, we can follow his direction not to mislead others.

A person who seeks to teach others about God should sweat bullets! The first thing anyone who wants to teach the Bible (or, say, write Bible commentary for a website!) is to read James 3, which begins: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3) As in all the epistles, James only expounds upon something brought to us by Christ and the Holy Spirit; in other words, he is giving a slightly more concrete and specific example of the teaching in Matthew 18:6.

Jesus, though, outdid his brother James in colorful language. Like the idea of a stumbling block, the picture of having a millstone tied about our neck and being drowned in the deep sea had more impact to a 1st century Jew than to us, many miles and many years distant. The Jews of Judea were the descendants of high country shepherds. They were frightened of the ocean and terrified of drowning. One need only look at the greatest extent of conquest under David and Solomon, when Israel held most of the land promised to Abraham and Moses. There was a notable omission: the coastline, which even David conceded to the Samaritans and Phoenicians. (Map)

The point being, Christ meant to terrify the listener. Being thrown in the deep ocean, tied to a 200-pound weight, would rank equal to being thrown into a fiery pit.

G-MM™: Meditation Moment   150518

The Gilmer Free Press

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


Matthew 10:1-4

The Twelve Apostles

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.

The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; a Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Notes on the Scripture

The first Gospel is odd, in that it contains five discrete discourses. The most famous of these is the Sermon on the Mount, Chapters 5-7. Since we are coming up on Pentecost, it seemed like a good idea to read the second and less-famous discourse, which consists of Jesus’ words to His apostles before He sends them out for the first time by themselves, to preach the Good News. Luke contains an account of Jesus sending out 70 disciples, which is very similar; it may or may not recount the same events as Matthew 10.

If we ask why Matthew chose to relate the words to the twelve apostles, we might also wonder why Christ chose twelve apostles in the first place. Most people naturally associate the number with the tribes of Israel — and this would jibe well with Matthew, for his emphasis was to write a Gospel for Jews. There were twelve patriarchs or subordinate heads of the Old Covenant, so there would be twelve of the New Covenant. But the number is of little practical importance to us, today. It is the men and their work that fascinate us.

They were, first off, mostly “blue collar” workers, men who labored with their hands — like Jesus himself. They were ordinary men called to extraordinary deeds. Most could not read or write. Christ promised that the meek would inherit the earth; appropriately, he called the meek to spread the message.

There are three oddballs in the mix. First, Matthew himself. He was different from the others in a number of ways. He carried political baggage, being not only an employee of Herod (as a client king of Rome) but, even worse, a tax collector. He was white collar. He was educated, at least sufficiently to read and write Aramaic and Hebrew and to do accounting.

Second was Simon the Zealot. There were innumerable political factions among the Jews, but five predominated: Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots, and what might be called Herodians (who overlapped the first two). Keep in mind, politics and religion were inseparable for the Jews. The Zealots were most likely not a well-organized party at the time of Christ, but simply a description of numerous semi-criminal elements who hated Rome. (They would later become a small, secretive sect of violent anti-Herodian revolutionaries.) They were dedicated to ridding Israel of Roman colonization. One might compare them in organization to the Maumau in Kenya or the Thuggee (Thugs) of India, although the religious aspect was a bit different.

Consider this: if Simon had met up with Matthew in a dark alley (before their call), he might have stuck a knife in Matthew’s belly.

Third, Judas Iscariot clearly occupies an odd spot. Nobody is sure why he was called “Iscariot”; there are at least six competing explanations, including one (probably incorrect) that would make him a member of a revolutionary assassins called the “iscarii”, similar to the Zealots. Most likely, he got the name simply because his father, Simon Iscariot, came from Kerioth, the name of several towns and also a region to the north.

But the critical inquiry is not who they were, but what they did; for lacking their call as apostles, they would be utterly lost to history. To a man, they accomplished extraordinary things, making long journeys, becoming great speakers, leaders, and healers and, with the exception of John, dying violent deaths: Judas by his own hand, and eleven others (including Judas’ replacement, Matthias) slain as martyrs.

Christianity Faces Sharp Decline As Americans Are Becoming Even Less Affiliated with Religion

The Gilmer Free Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Christianity is on the decline in America, not just among younger generations or in certain regions of the country but across race, gender, education and geographic barriers. The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years to about 71%, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

“It’s remarkably widespread,“ said Alan Cooperman, director of religion research for the Pew Research Center. “The country is becoming less religious as a whole, and it’s happening across the board.“

At the same time, the share of those who are not affiliated with a religion has jumped from 16% to about 23% in the same time period. The trend follows a pattern found earlier in the American Religious Identification Survey, which found that in 1990, 86% of American adults identified as Christians, compared with 76% in 2008.

Here are three key takeaways from Pew’s new survey.

1. Millennials are growing even less affiliated with religion as they get older

The older generation of millennials (those who were born from 1981 to 1989) are becoming even less affiliated with religion than they were about a decade ago, the survey suggests. In 2007, when the Pew Research Center did their last Religious Landscape Survey and these adults were just entering adulthood, 25% of them did not affiliate with a religion, but this grew to 34% in the latest survey.

The trends among the aging millennials is especially significant, said Greg Smith, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center. In 2010, 13% of baby boomers were religiously unaffiliated as they were entering retirement, the same percentage in 1972.

“Some have asked, ‘Might they become more religiously affiliated as they get older?‘ There’s nothing in this data to suggest that’s what’s happening,“ he said. Millennials get married later than older generations, but they are not necessarily more likely to become religiously affiliated, he said.

2. There are more religiously unaffiliated Americans than Catholic Americans or mainline Protestant Americans

The numbers of Catholics and Protestants have each shrunk between three and five percentage points since 2007. The evangelical share of the American population has dropped by one percentage point since 2007.

There are more religiously unaffiliated Americans (23%) than Catholics (21%) and mainline Protestants (15%). “That’s a striking and important note,“ Smith said.

The groups experience their losses through what’s called “religious switching,“ when someone switches from one faith to another. Thirteen% of Americans were raised Catholic but are no longer Catholic, compared with just 2% of Americans who are converts to Catholicism.

“That means that there are more than six former Catholics for every convert to Catholicism,“ Smith said. “There’s no other group in the survey that has that ratio of loss due to religious switching.“

There are 3 million fewer Catholics today than there were in 2007. While the percentage of Catholics in the United States has remained relatively steady, Smith said we might be observing the beginning of the decline of the Catholic share of the population.

Pew estimates there are about 5 million fewer mainline Protestants than there were in 2007. About 10% of the U.S. population say they were raised in the mainline Protestant tradition, while 6% have converted to mainline Protestantism.

Evangelical Protestants have experienced less decline, due to their net positive retention rate. For every person who has left evangelical Protestantism after growing up, 1.2 have switched to join an evangelical denomination.

3. Those who are unaffiliated are becoming more secular

The “nones,“ or religiously unaffiliated, include atheists, agnostics and those who say they believe in “nothing in particular.“ Of those who are unaffiliated, 31% describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up six points from 2007.

“What we’re seeing now is that the share of people who say religion is important to them is declining,“ Smith said. “The religiously unaffiliated are not just growing, but as they grow, they are becoming more secular.“

And people in older generations are increasingly disavowing organized religion. Among baby boomers, 17% identify as a religious “none,“ up from 14% in 2007.

“There’s a continuing religious disaffiliation among older cohorts. That is really striking,“ Smith said. “I continue to be struck by the pace at which the unaffiliated are growing.“

White Americans (24%) are more likely to say they have no religion, compared with 20% of Hispanic Americans and 18% of black Americans. The retention rates of the “nones” who say they were raised as religiously affiliated has grown by seven points since 2007 to 53%.

The Pew survey was conducted between June and September of 2014.

Click Below for Mon on Religion and Faith...

Page 338 of 367 pages « First  <  336 337 338 339 340 >  Last »

The Gilmer Free Press

Copyright MMVIII-MMXVIII The Gilmer Free Press. All Rights Reserved