“Curved in” on Self

girl looking in mirror

I am “curved in” on myself.” My curved-inward self lives “as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most” (LSB, p. 292). “The tug of our flesh is always and ever toward self-justification,” writes Rev. John T. Pless. “Self-centeredness is not just socially inappropriate; it is a matter of idolatry. It is the way of the flesh to fear, love and trust in the self above all things.”

Will things improve if I just forgive myself? No! This is “not only a cruel impossibility” writes Pless, “but blasphemy. Only God can forgive sin, and the self is not God! It is one thing to say that one must learn how to live by the promise that sin is forgiven. That’s faith. It is quite another thing to say, ‘You must forgive yourself.’ That’s idolatry because it makes the self the savior.”

In a world that celebrates self as lord and savior, where is my hope? In a world that does not suppress self, nor hold self in suspicion, nor call self to repentance, where is my freedom?

It is in Jesus Christ! He carried my sin to death and reconciled me to His Father. I justify nothing, but the Lord of my life justifies the most unjustifiable! What comfort there is in knowing that this curved-inward and selfishly-bent woman will find strength, good conscience, and hope not in myself, but in the promise of God.

Jesus is Lord… and I am not.

With appreciation to Rev. Prof. John T. Pless
and his article “I’ve Got to Be Me… or Not”
(The Lutheran Witness, October 2015)
Photo credit: canstoc

Jesus and little childrenSex education as we know it originated with unbelievers. Knowing the history of sex education since the 1960s, it behooves the Christian parent to ask:

For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with a non-believer? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor. 6:14-16).

Biblical instruction in purity is mismatched with sex education rooted in secular humanism like a donkey is mismatched to an ox. Yoked together to plow a field, the larger animal will walk at a different pace than the smaller one. Attempting to drive the two together will be erratic and potentially dangerous. Mixing the Word of the Lord together with false teaching may, in time, weaken or even destroy a believer’s relationship with Jesus and others.

Christianity and sex education as we know it are unequally yoked because the founders of sex education did not see children as God sees them and had no respect for the complementary differences of men and women. Neither did they have a respect for natural, innate modesty nor parental authority. Those who developed sex education had little or no regard for the conception and birth of human life. In fact, great effort went into disconnecting sex and sexuality from marriage and procreation. All of this compromises the teaching of purity.

But what is a Christian parent to do? Our children live in the real world. Don’t they need to be educated about sex in the right way?  Most of us agree that parents should be the ones to have the sex talk with their children, but they need help, don’t they? From where does that help come? Busy and overwhelmed parents in today’s world can easily be discouraged. Discouraged, they may doubt that the Word of God is enough. They may rationalize a partnership with unbelievers or make use of resources that appear beneficial for the healthy growth of their children. But, history proves that compromised faith and practice can turn a culture upside down… one child, one family, one neighborhood at a time.

There is a lesson to be learned from Ezra and Nehemiah useful for a discussion on sex education.

The remnant of Israel that had survived exile in Persia returned home to find the walls of Jerusalem broken down and city gates destroyed. To this small number of faithful people was given the arduous task of re-building the temple and walls of Jerusalem. God also wanted His people to grow faithful families. He wanted them to be holy and set apart in their worship and practice. When people in the neighboring land saw that Jerusalem was being restored, they offered their help. After all, those people explained, they worshiped God, too. (In reality, they were a people of blended religions.) Fearing that they would commit themselves to false worship, the people of God refused the offer of resources and help. They knew that God had entrusted the job of rebuilding the temple and walls only to them. So, “the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose” (Ezra 4:4-5).

The culture in which God’s people found themselves made the building project very difficult, but the Word of the Lord consistently commanded the people to persevere. God also reminded His people that they were to be holy and set apart for His good purpose. But the people of Israel, following the example of some of their leaders, mixed themselves with the Canaanites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and others through marriage (9:1-2). The people were guilty of breaking faith with God and allowing impurity of worship, teaching, and practice. There was confession and absolution but, because the potential for continued corruption of worship was so great, illegal marriages were identified and ended (10:18-19). The re-building of the temple, restoration of the walls, and growing of faithful families began anew.

However, when the neighbors in the land saw that the Israelites were again doing the work of God in rebuilding Jerusalem, they were angry. “[T]hey all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it” (Neh. 4:8). It was easy to cause confusion and discouragement among the Israelites because fathers, mothers, and grandparents were overwhelmed by the task that lay before them. “There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall” (4:10). The enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work” (4:11). Nehemiah encouraged the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (4:14). When the walls were rebuilt and the gates restored, the law of God was read to the people who were both joyful and repentant (chapters 8 and 9).

Everything was coming back into order and Israel was prepared to live by the truth of God’s Word. What could go wrong? What went wrong is incredibly significant. Eliashib, the priest appointed over the chambers of God, gave Tobiah the Ammonite a place in the temple (13:4-5). Under the guise of helping God’s people, Tobiah was given a room formerly used to store the offering for God. There, within the temple, sat Tobiah and his possessions. Nehemiah was away when this happened, but when he returned, he “was very angry, and [he] threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then [he] gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and [he] brought back there the vessels of the house of God” (13:8-9).

God entrusted the rebuilding of His temple and the city walls to His people. He entrusted the growing of holy families to husbands and wives equipped with His Word. He does the same today. God wants His people to keep their worship, teaching, and practices pure and different from that of the sinful world. Certainly, there are resources in the world that can be practical and helpful to the Christian. But we must take care especially when it comes to instructing Jesus’ little ones. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). It is a frightening thing indeed to compromise one of the Father’s children.

Is there hope?

When the Church grows comfortable with the world, it lets down its guard. With guard down, our heads are easily turned. This is true with sex and sexuality education. A Christian parent might be complacent or even intimidated by the thought of teaching their child about sex. Christian educators may pride themselves on years of higher learning or believe that they can discern good material from bad.

But there is hope! In Jesus Christ, there is always hope! By virtue of our Baptism, God sets us apart as “holy ones.” As “holy ones,” we are called “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pt. 2:9). We do not have to conform to the ways of the world but, with trust in God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be on guard and resist deception.

It’s true that when God’s people are weary and burdened, or prideful and above reproach, it is easier for an opposing foe to gain access by offering some kind of help or resource. So Nehemiah “stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows . . . each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built” (Neh. 4:13, 18). The men were on guard at night and labored by day (22).

Nehemiah did not allow Tobiah the Ammonite to remain in the house of God because he would confuse the people of God. For the same reason, the Church should resist the temptation to allow secular humanistic teaching within its walls. Wherever sex education has been welcomed, we have reason to repent, but also opportunity to throw out anything that threatens to redefine the worship and practice of a younger generation.

“Do not be afraid,” said Nehemiah. “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your . . . sons, your daughters . . . and your homes.”

from Chapter Four
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)
(Blog first posted in Case of Mistaken Identity)

sweetening the pill coverA woman can learn much from her mother and grandmother. But we learn the most, I think, from the first woman, Eve. From Eve we learn a woman’s identity and value, but also why we must be on guard against deception. Satan—who despises the humans upon whom Christ lavishes so much attention and love—had no good will for Eve or her life as God’s creation. Nor does he have good will for us, the daughters of Eve.

Satan, the world, and our own sinful nature constantly labor against us. They are faithful to nothing but themselves with no purpose other than enticing our bodies and souls away from all God declares us to be. Words like “equality” and “my body, my choice” get our attention but soon take us captive. The woman who believes that she is no different from a man is a woman “taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). Captive indeed is what we all are when we live as if God does not matter and “I matter most.”

Doubting God, we are more easily deceived. Fearing insignificance and loss of control of “my” life, we set ourselves in God’s place. Such doubts and fears are associated with The Pill.

In her book, Sweetening the Pill or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control, Holly Grigg-Spall shares her personal story as well as the history and medical facts of The Pill taken by millions of healthy women who really know very little about how the drug works. “When the Pill was released, it was thought that women would not submit to taking a medication each day when they were not sick,” writes Grigg-Spall. “Now the Pill is making women sick.”

Grigg-Spall published her book in 2013.  Today, she is working with filmmakers Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein to produce a documentary of her book. (You may preview the documentary at Sweetening the Pill  or Kickstarter.

Grigg-Spall asks, “Who am I when I’m not on the Pill?” She recognized her own disintegrating mental health and physical problems while on the Pill. These included “regular urinary tract infections, sore and bleeding gums, hypoglycemic symptoms, hair loss, and muscle weakness to name just a few.” Going off the Pill, however, “. . . I became stable in both my thoughts and feelings. I felt stronger, more confident and far less fearful. I reconnected with the world. I had clarity of thinking that allowed me to engage again.” Perhaps a man might ask the question differently. “Who am I if I disregard the health and well-being of my wife?”

Sweetening the Pill is categorized as psychology. The author writes about “fertility awareness” and women’s health more than spiritual wellness. She is not hesitant, however, to document the Pill’s dark history. “. . . [S]ex hormones were discovered in the 1920s, but synthetic hormones were developed in Nazi Germany . . . Bayer Schering Corp—now Bayer—developed synthetic estrogen and experimented on Jewish prisoners in the hope of sterilizing them. They found that although women stopped menstruating they were not made permanently infertile. This became an important part of the process of developing the Pill.”

In 1951, Margaret Sanger persuaded endocrinologist Gregory Pincus to work on a birth control pill. The Pill was approved for contraceptive use in 1960, making it easier for women to re-define their identity, reject femininity and, in fact, reject their own bodies. The “female body” became “an object of and a source for fear and oppression.” Still in circulation today is the idea that the ovary and uterus make women inferior to men. The Pill, writes Grigg-Spall, “provided the opportunity to silence . . . rationalizations that had plagued women for so long. The Pill shut down the troublesome organs. Without these organs weakening their bodies and minds the argument for keeping them out of the workplace and the realm of men had shaky foundation. It became a necessary part of the progress of women’s liberation that women deny female biology.”

In 1969, feminist writer Clare Boothe Luce said, “Modern woman is at last free, as a man is free, to dispose of her own body, to earn a living…to try a successful career.” The Pill does, indeed, “dispose” of femaleness and this should make those who put their trust in God—who created male and female at different times, in different ways, and for different purposes—very uncomfortable. Grigg-Spall says there is more to consider. The Pill shuts down the reproductive systems of teenage girls “before they are fully developed,” manipulates their endocrine systems “as they go through volatile puberty,” and impacts their “developing libido and displaces [their] sexuality.”

Sweetening the Pill is a must read for mothers of daughters and every woman who has ever attended a Titus 2 Retreat, been tempted to believe that “equal” means being “the same,” struggled with the physical and spiritual consequences of hormonal contraceptives, or prayed, “Dear Lord, help me to value what You have wonderfully made.”


Learn about Titus 2-4Life here.
Linda Bartlett is the author of
The Failure of Sex Education In the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity
(Amazon) Our Identity Matters

Jesus Teaches Christian Stock PhotosA man who did not begin his life as a Christian is today appreciated for his understanding and teaching of “mere Christianity.” C.S. Lewis brought together what he saw as the fundamental truths of Christianity. He rejected the boundaries that divide Christianity’s many denominations and found a common ground on which all of those who have Christian faith can stand together. C.S. Lewis makes a powerful case for the behavior and personality of a Christian.

There is common ground that all believers in Jesus Christ can stand on concerning the Christian life of purity. For this reason, I quote C.S. Lewis in my book, The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity. But, there was space for only so much of Lewis in the book. Here is more. Lewis writes:

“Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’ Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One of the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong. But I have other reasons for thinking so.”

“The biological purpose of sex is children,” writes Lewis, “just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body. Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true that most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much. One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten. The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.

“You find very few people who want to eat things that really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it. In other words, perversions of the food appetite are rare. But perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful. I am sorry to have to go into all these details, but I must. The reason why I must is that you and I, for the last twenty years [or, in our case, the last fifty years or more], have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.”

“They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up,” writes Lewis. “But for the last twenty years [fifty years for us moderns] it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess. Modern people are always saying, ‘Sex is nothing to be ashamed of.’ They may mean two things. They may mean ‘There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure.’ If they mean that, they are right. Christianity says the same.

“But, of course, when people say, ‘Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,’ they may mean ‘the state into which the sexual instinct has not got is nothing to be ashamed of.’ If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be ashamed of. There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips. I do not say you and I are individually responsible for the present situation. Our ancestors have handed over to us organisms which are warped in this respect: and we grow up surrounded by propaganda in favor of unchastity. There are people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us. Because, of course, a man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales-resistance. God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters if the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.

“Before we can be cured we must want to be cured . . . A famous Christian long ago told us that when he was a young man he prayed constantly for chastity; but years later he realized that while his lips had been saying, ‘Oh Lord, make me chaste,’ his heart had been secretly adding, ‘But please don’t do it just yet.’”

Lewis recognizes that purity is difficult for us to desire, let alone achieve. But there is hope. There is always hope!

“In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so ‘natural,’ so ‘healthy,’ and so reasonable, that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster, film after film novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of health, normality, youth, frankness, and good humour. Now this association is a lie. Like all powerful lies, it is based on a truth—the truth . . . that sex in itself (apart from the excesses and obsessions that have grown round it) is ‘normal’ and ‘healthy,’ and all the rest of it. The lie consists in the suggestion that any sexual act to which you are tempted at the moment is also healthy and normal . . . [T]his is nonsense . . . For any happiness, even in this world, quite a lot of restraint is going to be necessary. . ..

“In the second place, many people are deterred from seriously attempting Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible. But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility . . . [I]n war, in mountain climbing, in learning to skate, or swim, or ride a bicycle, even in fastening a stiff collar with cold fingers, people quite often do what seemed impossible before they did it . . . [P]erfect chastity—like perfect character—will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help . . . [and] after each failure, ask for forgiveness . . . and try again.”

There is hope. There is always hope. C.S. Lewis writes, “Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity . . . may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other hand, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven.”

This is why, in The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity, I continually point to our true identity as sons and daughters of God through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. God does not say: Be sexual for I am sexual. God says, “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” We become holy in the eyes of God when wearing Christ’s robe of righteousness. That robe changes our attitude and behavior. The only fatal thing, then, is to shed that robe and be content with anything less than Christ.

(Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis; Chapter 5: Sexual Morality)
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity
by Linda Bartlett (Amazon)

rainbow flagIt’s likely that we have Christian neighbors, family or church members who celebrate the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex “marriage.” Perhaps we know because they have publicly “waved” a rainbow flag on Facebook.  How can we respond?

As an ezerwoman designed by God to be a helper, I would like to pass on some questions that Kevin DeYoung of The Gospel Coalition has carefully shaped. If asked with kindness and respect, these questions might help brothers and sisters in Christ to slow down and think about the rainbow flag they are flying. Here are 20 of Kevin DeYoung’s questions. (You will find all 40 at The Gospel Coalition.)

1. How long have you believed that gay marriage is something to be celebrated?

2. How would you make a positive case from Scripture that sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is a blessing to be celebrated?

3. What verses would you use to show that a marriage between two persons of the same sex can adequately depict Christ and the church?

4. Why did Jesus reassert the Genesis definition of marriage as being one man and one woman?

5. If some homosexual behavior is acceptable, how do you understand the sinful “exchange” Paul highlights in Romans 1?

6. Do you believe the passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 teach that sexual immorality can keep you out of heaven?

7. What sexual sins do you think they were referring to?

8. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, what do you think you understand about the Bible that Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther failed to grasp?

9. What arguments would you use to explain to Christians in Africa, Asia, and South America that their understanding of homosexuality is biblically incorrect and your new understanding of homosexuality is not culturally conditioned?

10. Do you think children do best with a mother and a father?

11. If not, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?

12. If yes, does the church or the state have any role to play in promoting or privileging the arrangement that puts children with a mom and a dad?

13. Does the end purpose of marriage point to something more than an adult’s emotional and sexual fulfillment?

14. How would you define marriage?

15. On what basis, if any, would you prevent consenting adults of any relation and of any number from getting married?

16. Does equality entail that anyone wanting to be married should be able to have any meaningful relationship defined as marriage? If not, why not?

17. If “love wins” (as some say it did with the Supreme Court decision), how would you define love?

18. What [Scripture] verses would you use to establish that definition?

19. How should obedience to God’s commands shape our understanding of love?

20. How has your support for gay marriage helped you become more passionate about the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the total trustworthiness of the Bible, and the urgent need to evangelize the lost?


grandparents & grandchildrenAs a grandmother, it is difficult—no, impossible—to stomach the arrogance of those who seek to make marriage what it isn’t.
Each of us is alive today because of fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers who believed in and practiced the “one flesh” union of what only God can define as marriage.

We live, breathe, speak, relate, and contribute to this big world because of the Masterly design and institution of marriage. If there are no complications, the flesh of one man joined with the flesh of one woman creates the flesh of a child–new life! For that, a son or daughter can be forever grateful.

How can a society thrive if two men or two women set up housekeeping and call it “marriage”? What vitality is there in this unnatural pairing? Sure, it may produce certain emotions (“I feel so loved!” “I am so happy!”), but it is the “one-flesh,” male/female pairing in real marriage that produces generational fruit even as it perseveres with patient, kind, and selfless love.

Those who practice same-sex pairing and call it good exist because of those of us who do not. They can continue to define marriage as “two people who love each other,” but marriage isn’t really about love. It is about commitment—one man and one woman to each other and (should God bless their “one flesh” union with new life), that father and mother to their son or daughter.

Even the Greeks, with their tolerance of “man-boy love,” knew that marriage was the bedrock for family and society. When young men grew up, they were expected to marry a woman and father sons and daughters. Aristotle and others understood a “natural law” and the importance of building up rather than tearing down.

For our society to thrive, we need men and women who (pardon me) do it the old-fashioned way: in their marital bed, by design of God, acknowledged by man, and with commitment to birthdays and anniversaries to come.


North to Alaska

My husband, Paul, and I just returned from a 35-day road trip through British Columbia and the Yukon of Canada to Alaska and back.  The wonders of God’s creation were always before us… but so were little “lessons for life.”

34-time outSometimes, a gal just needs “time out” from resisting the darkness of the world to be renewed by the Creator of light and life.


55-placer mining67-Dredge 8 stories highWhat is the value of one human life? Up in the Klondike of the Yukon, a gold dredge eight stories high running 24/7 that cost $25 million (today’s dollar) and brought in $75,000/day in gold (today’s dollar) was shut down for three days in order to find the body of a man caught in the conveyor and buried in the tailings.


79-Matanuska ferry87a-sunset from ferryFor two days, we were aboard the Matanuska Ferry that carried us (and our car) from Haines, Alaska, to Prince Rupert, B.C. The views were breathtaking, but most encouraging and hopeful was the father and his daughter sitting next to us at dinner who bowed their heads and began their meal with “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest… .”


1-Paul Linda best Cassiar Hwy - CopyLook at this couple. Do we appear dangerous? A threat to society?  At 2:30 a.m., after driving off the Matanuska ferry and showing our passports at Prince Rupert, B.C., customs, we were pulled out of the line and asked to exit our car while it was searched. Eventually (and with a smile), the border patrol guard gave us permission to proceed. After 3:00 a.m., we were driving the streets in rain and fog hoping to locate our hotel when a fine officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police turned on his lights and pulled us over for “weaving across the yellow line.” When he realized that we had not “been drinking,” but were strangers in a foreign land just off the ferry and seeking safe haven, he graciously gave us directions (with a smile).  The words of Ezekiel 34:12 are comforting: “As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.”


22d-smouldering21-grapes at Osoyoos“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire . . .”  After crossing the border between British Columbia and Washington, we drove in dense smoke; in fact, the forest ground along our highway was still smoldering and I saw flames consuming a fallen tree. The acrid smell permeated our car and clothing. Here and there, it was evident that firefighters, national guardsmen, and neighbors joined to save a house from untamed and restless tongues of fire.  Our tongues are too often untamed and restless. With our tongues, “we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the image of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not be so . . .” (James 3:5,10). Instead, like the grapevines that we saw persevering even as fires raged all around, may we bear the good fruit of mercy, patience and kindness.



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