May 24, 2017

WHO do you say I AM?

Long before the Caesars renamed Paneas to Caesarea Philippi in honor of themselves, the local residents worshipped Baal, Pan, and nature gods.

As Jesus walked through that place of pagan spirits, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say I am?”

According to Mark 8, they told Him, “Some say John the Baptist. Others say you’re Elijah or one of the other prophets.”

Then Jesus said, “But Who do you say I AM?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah!”

How true, true! However, Jesus knew everyone expected that long-awaited liberator to free them from the Romans and other rulers, not offer freedom from sin! And so, He strictly charged His followers to tell no one.

Later, the Transfiguration took place on a mountain in that same pagan territory. This spectacular meeting with Moses and Elijah showed – literally, figuratively, and spiritually – the coming together of the Law and the Prophets in Jesus – The Word in Whom all things will eventually come together and be restored.

Meanwhile, Jesus had work to do. Three times He told His disciples what was about to happen to Him and how they too, as His followers, would suffer. Some of us, though, are slow to learn. For example, James and John responded to Jesus’ explanation of what to expect by asking for top positions on either side of Him!

Who does scripture say Jesus is?

Genealogies in the Gospels say Jesus is a Son of Abraham, David, and Solomon, but also a descendant of Tamar, who pretended to be a prostitute in order to seduce Judah, and of Rahab, who actually was a prostitute, and of Ruth a Moabite, and of Bathsheba an adulteress, and, of course, Mary an unwed mother.

The Angel Gabriel said Jesus would be the Child of Mary and the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 1:23 said Jesus is Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”

At Jesus’ Baptism, God said, “This is My Beloved Son.”

The Gospel writer John said Jesus is The Word that spoke creation into being.

Scriptures also show Jesus as a teacher, a miracle worker, a wine-maker, a stretcher of food, a healer, a calmer of storms, a raiser of the dead, an exorcist, a servant to all, and The One Who suffered, died, and rose from the dead.

But Who does Jesus say He is?

The One Who came to undo All of the works of Satan, beginning with the Fall in the Garden of Eden

The Way to forgiveness and fellowship with God

The Truth about God’s love

The Life eternal

Do any of these words from God’s Word about Jesus Christ The Word speak to your current situation or worries? Do any of them offer hope for you, your loved ones, the church, the world?

Who do you say Jesus IS?

Mary Harwell Sayler
, © 2017

What the Bible Says about Love: Love and honor others

What the Bible Says about Love: Love and honor others:

Do you wish church people would show more love and honor to each other? The Bible wants it to start with you and me.

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May 19, 2017

Drawn in Bible Study: Mary, the Mother of Jesus

When I heard about Mary: Seeing God through the Eyes of a Mother by Eugene H. Peterson, I immediately requested a review copy from Tyndale Blog Network for at least three reasons:

1. The work of Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message (MSG), is consistently worth reading!

2. Positive writings about Mary, the Mother of Jesus, have been too few, except among Catholic book publishers or devotional writers, who annually focus on the Nativity.

3. The idea of a “Drawn in Bible Study” appealed to me greatly for its fresh approach to study and discussions about God’s Word.

Those aspects of this book by NavPress do not disappoint, despite a couple of negative reactions on my part. To get those out of the way, my first “Oh, no!” concerns the tight binding of the paperback cover, which does not lay flat or cooperate well if you want to color pages as the publisher most likely intended.

My other regret for this book concerns a couple of Bible verses chosen to be illustrated: 1.) “The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold,” from Luke 1, MSG. 2.) “They suspected He was getting carried away with Himself,” from Mark 3, MSG.

Perhaps the publisher felt those verses needed to be emphasized. Regardless, the other quotations from scripture edify readers and build faith. Indeed the overall content of the text makes an insightful, innovative, spirit-filled way to invigorate a Bible study and get better acquainted with Jesus’ Mother Mary.

As part of the “Drawn in Bible Study” series, this highly recommended book also includes:

• artwork and spaces in which you can color or draw,

• contemporary verses from The Message,

• questions to help you connect your life with scripture,

• comments from Eugene Peterson,

• leader’s notes to encourage you to involve others in this refreshing study of God’s Word.

Reviewed by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, poet-writer, Bible reviewer, and lover of God’s Word.

Mary: Seeing God through the Eyes of a Mother, Drawn in Bible Study, paperback

May 17, 2017

Mary’s Poetry Books

Mary’s Poetry Books:

What a blessing! Rebekah Lyn Books lists my poetry books, books on writing, and reviews on their website.

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May 9, 2017

How to have more followers on social media

Social media works a little like making connections in real life. You approach someone in a friendly manner and strike up a conversation. If the person doesn’t seem interested in a subject, you find another to spark attention, but each time being attentive to the responses or lack thereof.

To engage with readers on social media, type a key subject into the search box found on most of their pages to see who has a similar interest. For me, for example, the words “Bible,” “Christian,” “poet,” “writer,” “publisher” helped me to find people who also want to discuss those topics. As I followed them, many followed me in return.

When new “friends” seemed especially interesting and in tune, I looked to see who their friends were. Then I followed them. I also followed publishers to keep up with what they’re publishing or might need. A few of those connections eventually gave me new writing projects!

Since I highly prize ecumenism and unity among Protestant, Catholics, Evangelical, Charismatic, Orthodox, and Liturgical Christians, I’ve also made a point of following people from all denominations. I want to know what other Christians they think and why, so, Lord willing, I can find ways for us to forgive, accept, and embrace one another, regardless of our differences.

As my connections increased, however, some people felt more like stalkers than followers, and others were so crude, obscene, or politically angry, I stopped following them. On a very few occasions, I’ve had to block people from following me - without blocking them from prayers.

Another word of caution: Social Media sites may frown on your following hundreds of people when, say, only a dozen follow you. So give people time to catch up. Some only come online every few days or so, while others stay active and respond right away if they’re interested in what your profile shows.

What does it show? Well, that depends on what you want other people to know about you. Since I want to discuss #faith, #writing, #Bible topics, etc., my profile shows that with hashtags # to emphasize my favorite subjects. Then, as other people search for those same subjects on Twitter or Facebook, my media page should come up.

This process of seeking and finding new “friends” on the Internet continues as long as we want to stay active on the social sites. And, why would we? Each site offers opportunities to make connections with peers with whom we identify and learn, potential publishers who might want the type of writing we do, and readers who might be interested in our books or blogs.

However, each occasion for marketing our work will be better received when interspersed with an uplifting Bible verse, a lively quote, a writing tip, a cool fact, or a retweet (RT) of someone else’s post. The more you offer interesting content to your Internet connections, the more apt they’ll be to RT your tweets or share your posts too, and the next thing you know, you might have more followers than your town has residents!

© 2017, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved


May 5, 2017

The New City Catechism Devotional

What do Christians truly believe and why? Do those beliefs differ as much as we suppose? The New City Catechism Devotional book, which Crossway kindly sent me to review, reminds us that we’re in agreement more often than we might think.

Edited by Collin Hansen, the book's Introduction by Timothy Keller laments the loss of catechesis in most churches, many of whom outline their beliefs in “statements of faith.” But is this enough? As the intro explains:

“Catechisms were written with at least three purposes. The first was to set forth a comprehensive exposition of the gospel – not only in order to explain clearly what the gospel is, but also to lay out the building blocks on which the gospel is based, such as the biblical doctrines of God, of human nature, of sin, and so forth. The second purpose was to do this exposition in such a way that the heresies, errors, and false beliefs of the time and culture were addressed and counteracted. The third and more pastoral purpose was to form a distinct people, a counterculture that reflected the likeness of Christ not only in individual character but also in the church’s communal life.”

In presenting a new catechism, “The New City Catechism is based on and adapted from Calvin’s Geneva Catechism, the Westminster Shorter and Larger catechisms, and especially the Heidelberg Catechism.”

This book differs, however, in that “The New City Catechism consists of fifty-two questions and answers, so the easiest way to use it is to memorize one question and answer each week of the year.”

Although you can do this alone, you’re encouraged to work with another Christian, your family, or a church group as you discuss the questions, quiz one another, and apply to your life these three areas of faith :

Part 1: God, Creation and Fall, Law (Questions 1-20)
Part 2. Christ, Redemption, Grace ( Questions 21-35)
Part 3: Spirit, Restoration, Growing in Grace (Questions 36-52)

In each section, pages begin with a question, relevant scripture, and commentary by contemporary and classic writers ranging from John Piper and Timothy Keller to Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and more with the back of the book providing brief bios on each.

Since I’m an ecumenical Christian who often thinks, “Can’t we all just get along?” the idea of this book greatly appealed to me. As I read the questions and answers, I saw that most Christians will likely agree with the responses to all but a very few.

For instance, Question 27 may leave some uncertain about their salvation, whereas Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and some Protestants will take issue with Question 43, “What are the sacraments or ordinances?” and Question 47, “What is the Lord’s Supper?”

I mention these differences in perspectives, not to point out what divides us, but to show how very few things do! The more we know this, the more apt we’ll be to show respect to other sincere Christians who have a different understanding than ours of what certain scriptures mean. The more we listen to each other, the more accepting we’ll be. The more accepting, the greater the strength and love in us becomes visible and winsome to the whole world.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, reviewer and poet-writer of the new book PRAISE!

The New City Catechism Devotional, hardback

April 17, 2017

Jesus Christ is Risen indeed!

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Christ our Lord
is risen
in each of us each day,
and neither gravity
nor a cruel grave
can keep us down.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, from her book of prayers, poems, and contemporary psalms, PRAISE! published by Cladach Publishing

April 12, 2017

Why I murdered Jesus - Mary Harwell Sayler

Why I murdered Jesus - Mary Harwell Sayler:

I woke up with the title of an unwritten poem in my head: "Why I murdered Jesus." After writing that down, other lines followed into a prose poem for the last days of Lent, the week of Christ's passion. May God bless your reading.

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April 11, 2017

Jesus Journey

With the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary as His parents, Jesus became a unique person – fully human and fully God. In the Jesus Journey, which Zondervan kindly sent me to review, pastor-author Trent Sheppard presents the human side of Jesus in a reader-friendly, conversational way that helps us relate to Jesus by demonstrating how much and how often Jesus relates to us, particularly in these five areas:

“Part 1, ‘Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,’ focuses on Jesus’ family life with special attention given to the unique relationship he had with his mother.

Part 2, ‘Jesus and Abba,” looks at the remarkable way Jesus interacted with God – intimate, compelling, and controversial all at once.

Part 3, ‘Jesus and His Friends,’ explores the journey of discipleship that Jesus shared with those who knew him best, his friends and followers.

Part 4, ‘Blood, Sweat, and Tears,’ considers the crucifixion, reflecting on Jesus’ trust and determination in the face of confusion, fear, and pain.

Part 5, ‘Breakfast on the Beach,’ is all about the bodily resurrection of Jesus, what it means for us now and for the future.”

Beginning with scripture, each chapter has a reflection followed by a call to “Ponder, Pray, Practice.”

The idea to keep in mind and spirit, however, is this: “we can come to Jesus with our messy, broken, sinful lives because Jesus knows how hard it is to be human, because he knows obedience is a battle.”

If this is news to you and, especially, good news for you, the Jesus Journey will take you on a journey you’ll want to explore.

Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer

Jesus Journey, paperback

April 3, 2017

Trying to keep my eyes on Jesus - with or without clouds

The life of a Christian poet-writer is often clouded with interruptions and disturbances – some desirable, some not!

After a wonderful sisters’ cruise to the Bahamas in mid-March, I came home with a head cold aka sinus infection, both of which kept my eyes looking behind me as I tried to move forward and catch up.

Then, the very day my book of contemporary psalms and free verse poems PRAISE! was to be released by Cladach Publishing, my computer refused to work in total disregard of my plans for promotionals.

As soon as a new keyboard solved my pc problem, I resolved to blab about my book all over the Internet – a smart marketing approach for Christian poets and writers who hope people will actually read what they have written.

New book….
Fun time with siblings….
Head cold….
Fritzed keyboard….

Each caught my attention. Each clouded my focus, and yet each drew me back to prayer and a greater appreciation of the Lord in my life.

Praise the Lord for keeping life lively!

Praise the Lord for scriptures that draw us closer to Christ.

Praise God for speaking to and through us in what we’ve been given to write:

Cloud bank

Around us a cloud –
of the faith –

and our faith rising
like cloud wisps
forming Jesus’ face –

a reminder of The One
toward Whom we run

as we leave behind
all hindrances –
obstructions, interruptions –

and open our own
to be searched by none
but Christ on the throne.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, poet-writer who based the above on Hebrews 12:1-2, today’s Bible verse in a variety of translations from Bible Gateway

March 6, 2017

The Poetry Editor and Poetry: Communion of Saints: poems by Susan L. Miller

The Poetry Editor and Poetry: Communion of Saints: poems by Susan L. Miller:

In Communion of Saints from Paraclete Press, who kindly sent me a copy to review, poet Susan L. Miller writes of present-day people who reflect saintly individuals of the past.

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