#23 The Sermon on the Mount by Sinclair Ferguson, 1987
This classic has sat on our bookshelf at home for decades – and if I picked it up previously, there is no indication of it. I’m glad I waited until this season in my life to read it, so that I could blog about it. It’s a great work with a lot packed into about 200 pages. I highly recommend it because while Matthew 5-7 could arguably be some of the greatest chapters in the Bible, I also think it can be some of the most difficult to interpret.
I enjoyed Sinclair’s teaching on the beatitudes–blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the peacemakers, the meek, and persecuted. I struggle to remember why it is that we are blessed if we are poor in spirit. And, I also have a hard time with blessed are those who mourn. So, Sinclair’s explanation on these two passages was especially helpful. He says that to be poor in spirit is to be emptied of our own sin-impoverished soul apart from the filling of the Holy Spirit–to be emptied of “self-confidence, self-importance and self-righteousness. I need to memorize that!
The mourning Jesus is referring to is grieving over our own sin. I need to be grieved over my sins. Not the sins I committed decades ago. I trust I’ve moved on–repentantly–but to mourn the sin I committed a couple minutes ago. That is when we are comforted with the forgiving love of the Father.
My favorite part of the book, however, was toward the end when he devotes a whole chapter on Anxiety. (Chapter 12, Anxiety States Cured).
Here’s a quote from that section:
Jesus’ teaching is not a form of ‘power of positive thinking.’ The problem with anxious people is not merely that they think negatively about life. It is much more radical than that. Anxious people think untheologically about life! Their mistake is not that they have low self-images; it is that in all their thoughts there is no room for God. It is only when their focus upon the Lord is restored that they can finally experience the conquest of anxiety.
Anxiety–along with depression–is a way of life for many in this present age. And often we try and fix the problem with drugs. Legal and illegal. But is that fixing the problem or just numbing the soul so we’re not bothered by the entrenched sin within? I think we’re just numbing ourselves. And, I promise, I’m not saying this is an easy fix for many who battle with anxiety. But, I also think that the problem continues because we are not waging war against this battle with the right tools. If this is a struggle for you, I especially recommend this chapter.
I wrote about anxiety over four years ago. If you want to read more of my take on the subject (based largely on a few excellent books), you may find it here.
#24 Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne, 1996.
I bought this book during the years I was enjoying a summer week at Brookstone Camp. Some of my favorite weeks–ever. Blogged about that too four years ago. Oh the joy that floods my soul when I think about those weeks. Sheer fun. Bringing the love of Jesus to children who are eager, filled with wonder, and easy to love. That’s how I remember them.
This book is eye-opening to the ways and thinking of people living in poverty in America. It sounds very tragic and entrenched. There are a couple of key factors in making it out of this life style. They involve emotional, mental and spiritual resources. I prefer to think of it this way:
- Great mentors. (emotional resources)
- Excellent education. (mental resources)
- The people of God sharing the love of God. (spiritual resources)
Brookstone School does all three of these things well. Is it any wonder it’s my favorite place in Charlotte, North Carolina?