Category Archives: Plants in Christ’s Birth & Galilee

Advent is Approaching

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The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.  Psalm 85:12-13 (NIV)

Advent started on November 27, 2016. From now until 25 December, we prepare for the birth of Christ.  Advent is a season of hope filled waiting. We are waiting for God’s intervention in our land; we are waiting for God to give what is good. The recent horrific events that have occurred in our nation are a prayer point that God is preparing our nation for righteousness. May our prayers be filled with hope filled waiting as our society continues to face the reality of sin. God is preparing the way for his steps (David Whitehead).

The Amaryllis has become a popular Christmas flower, offered for sale in all the catalogs and stores. Interestingly, I buy them but they rarely flower until January. Perhaps that’s what is to occur — we wait for the flower to bloom as we wait for the birth of Christ.

Amaryllis is showy and brilliant and puts plants with only green foliage to shame; but they should never be ashamed.  After all, Christ was described as having no physical beauty. Plants with only, or mostly, green foliage have great value. It is the green-foliage in plants that gives oxygen into the atmosphere and adds appreciable to the pleasing environment of our homes.

By the Way: If you are growing amaryllis, be sure not to let the water level go above the top of the root bulb. I’m sure  there is a lesson in Christian living in that; such as don’t drown when you can walk on water with Christ.

As we walk for Christ in 21st century, most of us aren’t showy or even brilliant; we tend to be more quiet and  simple  as we live each day. That doesn’t make us less valuable, it just makes us what we are: a Christian who does his or her part daily for Christ. We raise children in a Christian home, we are a witness in the workplace, we let a driver into the traffic lane in front of us.

Reflection: Perhaps it is more important to walk day-by-day, year-after-year for Christ than  have a brilliant flare.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 2/14, Updated 11/28/16

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Winnowing Wheat, Winnowing Us

Girl winnowing wheat

Bible Reference: Matthew 3:12

John the Baptist parable on winnowing described separating chaff from wheat:

His winnowing fan (shovel, fork) is in His hand, and He will thoroughly     clear out and clean His threshing floor and gather and store His wheat in His barn, but the chaff He will burn up with fire that cannot be put out. Matthew 3:13 The Amplified Bible.

John spoke this parable to foretell actions of the coming Messiah (Christ). John preached personal acknowledgement and repentance of sins followed by baptism—full body emersion—in water as an outward sign of repentance. The water of baptism washed sins away. John didn’t stop with his message of repentance and physical act of baptism. John exhorted those baptized to change their behavior and bear fruit consistence with repentance (Luke 3:8-14). When the baptized asked him what they should do, John’s answer wasn’t that they quit their jobs; rather in their lives and jobs, they should act honorably, treat others fairly, and share with the less fortunate. For example, John told men with two tunics to give one to the man who had none. Soldiers should stop accusing people falsely and extorting money from them.

John the Baptist spoke bluntly to the multitudes that came to him for baptism; but reserved his worst denunciations for the Jerusalem’s elite, i.e., Pharisees, Sadducees, and priests. He called them vipers (Luke 3:7). The fierceness of his words, suggests firsthand knowledge of their behavior. Perhaps, when he rotated through the Jerusalem temple as a priest, John saw the excesses, insincerity, and, yes, even corruption that infected the leaders of the Herodian-style Jerusalem temple.

Separating Wheat from Chaff

In ancient Judea, wheat kernels (seed, grain) were separated from the chaff (stalks, straw) on threshing floors. Generally, chaff was unusable except as fodder for livestock. The farmer separated the wheat kernels from the chaff using a process called winnowing. Winnowing consisted of throwing the threshed material (chaff and grain) into the air with a fork or a winnowing basket. The wind separated the valuable grains of wheat from the chaff. Because wheat kernels were heavier than chaff, they fell to the ground. The lighter chaff, dirt, etc., were blown away by the wind. At times, farmers used fans to create air currents to blow chaff and other impurities away from the valuable wheat kernels.

Application

When John the Baptists told the parable of winnowing wheat and chaff, the spiritual reality was that the coming Messiah (Christ) would distinguish or separate the righteous from the unrighteous. Christ would critically analyze peoples’ hearts, not pious actions that were outward displays for show. John said that sincere, righteous individuals – the wheat kernels—would be taken and stored in the farmer’s barn, i.e., heaven. In contrast, the chaff, those with pretend piety, will be forever burned.

Reflection: God is not going to accept any dirt, chaff or straw into his barn. Where does that leave you and me?

Check out http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com books on plants.

Copyright August 11, 2016; all rights reserved.

False Prophets?

Centaurea iberica

Reference:  Matthew 7:15-20.

This teaching is labeled “A Tree and Its Fruit” (NIV-SB). Jesus began with “watch out for false prophets” (Matthew 7:15). Then, he told the crowds the reason for his warning: false prophets were ferocious wolves that acted like gentle sheep. The good news was that people could recognize false prophets by their fruit – by looking at both their words and their actions. Just as a woman cannot pick grapes from thorn bushes or a man pick figs from a thistle, neither can a false prophet produce good fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Although false prophets could appear humble and mild like Christ or even blunt and rough like John the Baptist, their words are full of lies.

When Christ compared the words of false prophets to thorn bushes and thistles he was still teaching in Galilee. Primarily his listeners were from rural areas and small towns who had experience growing and picking grapes and figs. They knew about good and bad vines and productive and non-productive trees. These listeners weren’t surprised when Jesus said that trees that do not bear good fruit are cut down and thrown into the fire. The sooner bad trees were uprooted and destroyed the better. Although newly planted trees take 3-4 years to grow, they have the potential to produce good fruit; with bad trees there was no hope for a good crop. When Christ noted that bad trees were cut down, he was not implying that the people should kill false prophets. Rather, he was saying that the correct response to a false prophet is to stop listening to them.

Spanish Thistle Centaurea iberica, butterfly

The plant associated with the thistle in Matthew 7:15-20 is the Centaurea iberica, known as the Spanish thistle or Iberian star thistle. The Spanish thistle is native to India, the Middle East, and southeastern Europe. Often the thistle is found in disturbed areas including over-grazed lands and construction sites. Seeds are spread by livestock, vehicles, equipment, and contaminated hay and seed crop. Seeds can be transported on clothing. The Spanish thistle grows throughout Israel from the northern Golan and Hermon areas, through the central mountains and plains including the Mediterranean coast to the Northern Negev Desert area. Spanish star thistle is an invasive plant that displaces valuable forage species and space in pasture lands. The plants sharp spines deter grazing animals, impede recreational use, and restrict access for wildlife.

Symbolism: Recognize, Recognition           

Christ told his disciple that plants and prophets could be recognized by what they produce. When we recognize someone, we are familiar with them, distinguish them from others, and comprehend what they do and say. God gave some guiding principles to differentiate between a true versus a false prophet.

First, a true prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ is the son of God in the flesh (1 John 4:3).  In contrast, a false prophet does not acknowledge Jesus as God. When prophets, pastors, or theologians say that it is not important whether Christ was truly God or in some way deny the deity of Christ, they are false prophets.  

Second, false prophets can be recognized by how they respond to and preach the word of God.  True prophets read and obey God’s word (1 John 4:6). They preach the Bible, because it contains God’s truths for personal salvation and for successful everyday life.  In today’s society, the norm is to “spin” information. “Spin” is a form of propaganda that provides an interpretation of an event in order to persuade opinion for or against it. Often spin is disingenuous, deceptive, or manipulative. False prophets spin God’s truths. Believers need to discerningly read the scriptures so they do not get taken in by the words of false prophets.

Third, false prophets can be recognized by sin in their lives. One way to recognize sin is to compare a prophet’s life with The Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments identify sins, e.g., coveting, lying, and putting career achievement before God. A prophet who breaks God’s Commandments consistently and without repentance is a false prophet.  

Finally, in the Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus outlined expectations for followers. False prophets have said that these standards are unrealistic, e.g., so high that people cannot meet them. False prophets argued that the moral-ethical standards that Christ described in the Sermon on the Mount will only be achieved when Christ returns to earth the second time. Prophets or pastors who advocate this view are denying Christ’s words. In the Sermon on the Mountain, Christ outlined how individuals should live now, not in the new heaven and the new earth. False prophets sin when they distort God’s word and they provide an instantaneous way for Christians to recognize them.

Reflection. Do you know the Bible well enough to recognize when it is being preached truthfully? If you answered “No,” what are some options?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: June 22, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

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Mustard Seeds are Small Beginnings

Mustard tree Sara

Read Matthew 13:31-32, 17:19-20, and Luke 17:5-6 for some of Christ’s teachings on mustard trees and seeds.  

Christ used the mustard seed several times in his ministry.  The first time Christ talked about the mustard seed was in a parable about the kingdom of heaven. Christ told the crowd that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, one of the smallest of all seeds. Yet when planted in a field, the seed becomes a large garden plant. Birds come and perch on tree branches. The meaning of this parable is that although the kingdom of heaven begins small, it will expand throughout the entire world. People from all nations will take refuge in it.

On another occasion, Christ used the mustard seed to illustrate faith. In Caesarea Philippi, a man asked Jesus to heal his son who was possessed by a demon (Matthew 17:14-21). Christ’s disciples had tried, but were unable to heal the boy. Christ rebuked the demon and it came out of the child. The disciples asked Christ why they were unable to heal the man’s son. Christ responded that the disciples had too little faith. If they had faith the size of a mustard seed, the disciples could say to a mountain, “Move from here to there” and the mountain would move.  Christ’s point was that nothing – not even casting out a demon — is impossible with enough faith.

The Mustard Plant

Some  scholars and botanists believe that the Biblical mustard seed and tree was the Brassica nigra. Brassica nigra is also known as Sinapis nigra, black mustard, and shortpod mustard. Others believe it was the Salvadora perscia commonly called the toothbrush tree. I favor the Salvadora because it is a larger plant than the black and better able to accommodate birds resting in its branches.  The toothbrush tree grows up to 20 feet in comparison than the much shorter black mustard plant. The mustard tree grows throughout arid Africa and the Middle East. The mustard tree grows in the Judean Desert, Dead Sea Valley (around Ein Gedi) and in southern Israel deserts. Pilgrims to Israel can see the mustard tree growing in the Biblical Landscape Reserve between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Symbolism: Faith

From early Christian times, the mustard seed has been associated with faith. As a young girl, I was given a necklace with a single mustard seed inside a clear heart. The mustard seed was tiny.  It reminded me that if I had even a little faith, nothing was impossible to accomplish as long as it was God’s will for my life. The dictionary defines faith as a firm belief in something or someone for which there is no proof. The implication of that definition is that there is no proof of God. Yet, a popular Christian song says, “I talked to him this morning.”  In fact, I talk to God all the time and God talks to me. He talks to me through the Scriptures, through other people, and through my conscience. God is really good about convicting me of transgressions against his holiness and I appreciate his ongoing discipline. Part of my role in the ongoing dialogue between God and me is wanting God’s input and staying attentive to it. 

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, a small religious group known initially as “The Way” grew into a world-wide religion that has lasted for 2000 years. The disciples of The Way had faith in God and shared their faith with other individuals, who shared their faith with others, who shared their faith with others. Today, we have a world-wide communion of Christian believers. My minister tells us that our present age is more like that of the first and second century Way than any other time in the history of the Church. Christians are no longer in the majority in Westernized countries including Europe, Britain, Australia, and the United States; while, Christians in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia must worship underground and are dying for their Christian faith. The Christian faith is ridiculed and Christians are mocked and declared intolerant.

Individuals who follow The Way should not be surprised by the negative behavior directed toward them. Christ and the early apostles warned us that Christians would be persecuted for their faith (John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3: 12). Our goal during this time of persecution is to have faith, even faith the size of a mustard seed. When we have faith, we can move mountains and trees. With faith we can accomplish great things for Christ and live The Way he taught us to live both by his words and his actions. So what if we are scorned for our Christian faith? So what if we are called bigots, intolerant, etc. for our faith? So what if our careers dead-end for our faith or friendships are lost? Didn’t these same things happen to Christ? There is no reason to think that we, Christ’s servants, will be treated any different from the way our master was treated. A key to a Christian life is to have faith in all circumstances, counting on Christ to not only be the author but the perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Reflection.  How does faith in Christ ease the circumstances of your life?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright January 20, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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Weeds in a Wheat Field

Lolium temulentum var. arvenseChrist’s Parable of  Weeds in a Wheat Field is in Matthew 13:24-30.

Christ was seated by the Lake of Galilee when he told The Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:1).  The parable is one of six parables that Christ used to demonstrate the nature of the kingdom of heaven. Here is the parable: A farmer planted good wheat seeds in his field. “Good” wheat seeds meant that contaminants, e.g. weeds, wild oats, and chaff, are absent from the wheat seeds. At night the farmer’s enemy sowed weeds or tares among the wheat. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, so did the weeds. The weeds were intermingled with the wheat.

A servant told the owner about the weeds. He asked the owner if he and the other servants should pull out the weeds. The owner said “No” and explained that when the servants pull out the weeds, they could inadvertently pull up the wheat. The farmer understood that weed and wheat roots planted near each other intertwined. If weeds are removed, wheat roots and stems would be pulled up or damaged. The farmer directed the servant to let both wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest. Then, the servants could go through the fields, pull and bundle the weeds, and burn them. Wheat would be harvested and taken into the owner’s barn.

The parable demonstrated the growth of the kingdom of heaven from its original planting, through growth, to harvest. The field is the world. God, the owner, sowed good seed; individuals who were destined to followed him. The devil, the enemy, sowed weeds into the field; individuals who were against or indifferent to God’s teachings. The servants are God’s angels.  God refused to allow the angels to remove the weeds from the world because the lives (roots) of rejecters and followers are intertwined, just like the roots of weeds and wheat. 

Harvest represented the second coming of Christ. At that time, the angels are free to remove the weeds.  God rejecters will be collected like the weeds they are. They will be bundled and burned.  Then, the angels will gather God’s followers. These good plants will be brought into the storehouse of God.

Weeds, Darnel

The weed referred to in the Parable of the Weed was most likely the Lolium temulentum. This weed is also known as darnel and poison ryegrass. The darnel is indigenous to the Mediterranean region including the Middle East. Darnel infests wheat fields and other cultivated land and spreads as a contaminant of wheat. It is widely distributed in Israel to include Mediterranean woodlands and shrub lands, shrub-steppes and deserts to include extreme deserts. Even a few darnel grains can adversely affect crop quality. Darnel seeds are poisonous to people and livestock.

Symbolism: Malice, Malicious

The enemy who sowed the weeds among the good wheat was malicious. His behavior was spiteful, mean, and malevolent.  He wanted to destroy the good wheat that the farmer was growing. An Old Testament proverb focused on maliciousness:  “A malicious man disguised himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming do not believe him ….. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly” (Proverbs 26:24-27). The proverb also teaches us how to respond to a malicious man and his ultimate outcome.   

The New Testament is contains instruction to avoid malicious behavior (Table 12.1). Christ told his disciples that what goes into a man does not make him unclean (Mark 7:17-23). Rather, what is inside and comes out determines whether a man is clean or unclean. If a person’s heart is clean, good things will come out of them. Unfortunately, if a person’s heart is unclean, he will think and spew forth all kinds of unclean words, such as evil thoughts, malice, and deceit.  Similarly, an unclean heart produces unclean living, e.g., sexual immorality, adultery, theft, murder.   

St. Paul addressed malice and malicious talk repeatedly in letters to early churches and in letters to his young protégé Timothy. Notably, Paul and Peter were both writing to believers. These two saints were exhorting believers to set aside spiteful, mean, and malevolent words. Malice can be harmful to a church; e.g., Paul wrote that a potential deacon’s wife must “not be a malicious talker” (I Timothy 3:11). Despite man’s excellent traits, e.g., sincere, temperate, honest, if his wife is a malicious talker, then the man is disqualified to be a deacon. Believers – men, women, and children – must all be attuned to what comes out of their mouths.

Table 12.1, Directions to refute maliciousness

Speaker

Direction

Scripture

Christ to his disciples

These thoughts/behaviors make a person unclean: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly

Mark 7:20-23

Paul to the Ephesus church

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Ephesians 4:31

Paul to the Colosse church

Rid yourself of these things: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Colossians 3: 8

Paul to Timothy about deacon’s wives

Wives of church deacons should be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

I Timothy 3:11

Paul to Timothy

Paul warns that a man who teaches false doctrines and does not accept sound instruction is conceited and understands nothing.  He has an unhealthy interest in controversies, quarrels about words that end in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of corrupt minds.

I Timothy 6:3-5

Peter to Christians in Asia Minor

Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of any kind.

I Peter 2:1

Reflection. In a way it is good that the heart and our words are so closely aligned. Hearing our own malicious words can be a clue that there is something wrong with our hearts. Do you take the time to reflect on what you say?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

copyright June 6, 2013; Carolyn A. Roht

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Identifying False Prophets

Centaurea iberica, butterflyJesus’ identified that we can recognize good and bad prophets by their fruits; see Matthew 7:15-20.

This teaching is labeled “A Tree and Its Fruit” (NIV-SB). Jesus began with “watch out for false prophets” (Matthew 7:15). Then, he told the crowds the reason for his warning: false prophets were ferocious wolfs that acted like gentle sheep. The good news was that people could recognize false prophets by their fruit – by looking at both their words and their actions. Just as a woman cannot pick grapes from thorn bushes or a man pick figs from a thistle, neither can a false prophet produce good fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Although false prophets could appear humble and mild like Christ or even blunt and rough like John the Baptist, their words are full of lies.

When Christ compared the words of false prophets to thorn bushes and thistles he was still teaching in Galilee. Primarily his listeners were from rural areas and small towns who had experience growing and picking grapes and figs. They knew about good and bad vines and productive and non-productive trees. These listeners weren’t surprised when Jesus said that trees that do not bear good fruit are cut down and thrown into the fire. The sooner bad trees were uprooted and destroyed the better. Although newly planted trees take 3-4 years to grow, they have the potential to produce good fruit; with bad trees there was no hope for a good crop. When Christ noted that bad trees were cut down, he was not implying that the people should kill false prophets. Rather, he was saying that the correct response to a false prophet is to stop listening to them.

Spanish Thistle

The plant associated with the thistle in Matthew 7:15-20 is the Centaurea iberica, known as the Spanish thistle or Iberian star thistle. The Spanish thistle is native to India, the Middle East, and southeastern Europe. Often the thistle is found in disturbed areas including over-grazed lands and construction sites. Seeds are spread by livestock, vehicles, equipment, and contaminated hay and seed crop. Seeds can be transported on clothing. The Spanish thistle grows throughout Israel from the northern Golan and Hermon areas, through the central mountains and plains including the Mediterranean coast to the Northern Negev Desert area. Spanish star thistle is an invasive plant that displaces valuable forage species and space in pasture lands. The plants sharp spines deter grazing animals, impede recreational use, and restrict access for wildlife.

Symbolism: Recognize, Recognition           

Christ told his disciple that plants and prophets could be recognized by what they produce. When we recognize someone, we are familiar with them, distinguish them from others, and comprehend what they do and say. God gave some guiding principles to differentiate between a true versus a false prophet.

First, a true prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ is the son of God in the flesh (1 John 4:3).  In contrast, a false prophet does not acknowledge Jesus as God. When prophets, pastors, or theologians say that it is not important whether Christ was truly God or in some way deny the deity of Christ, they are false prophets.  

Second, false prophets can be recognized by how they respond to and preach the word of God.  True prophets read and obey God’s word (1 John 4:6). They preach the Bible, because it contains God’s truths for personal salvation and for successful everyday life.  In today’s society, the norm is to “spin” information. “Spin” is a form of propaganda that provides an interpretation of an event in order to persuade opinion for or against it. Often spin is disingenuous, deceptive, or manipulative. False prophets spin God’s truths. Believers need to discerningly read the scriptures so they do not get taken in by the words of false prophets.

Third, false prophets can be recognized by sin in their lives. One way to recognize sin is to compare a prophet’s life with The Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments identify sins, e.g., coveting, lying, and putting career achievement before God. A prophet who breaks God’s Commandments consistently and without repentance is a false prophet.  

Finally, in the Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus outlined expectations for followers. False prophets have said that these standards are unrealistic, e.g., so high that people cannot meet them. False prophets argued that the moral-ethical standards that Christ described in the Sermon on the Mount will only be achieved when Christ returns to earth the second time. Prophets or pastors who advocate this view are denying Christ’s words. In the Sermon on the Mountain, Christ outlined how individuals should live now, not in the new heaven and the new earth. False prophets sin when they distort God’s word and they provide an instantaneous way for Christians to recognize them.

Reflection. Do you know the Bible well enough to recognize when it is being preached truthfully? If you answered “No,” what are some options?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright May 27, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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John the Baptist: No Weak Reed

????????????Christ description of John the Baptist as no feeble reed is in Luke 7:18-35.

About to begin his public ministry, Jesus went John to be baptized.  John preached a baptism for the repentance of sin. At first John declined to baptize Jesus recognizing that Christ was the sinless son of God. John persuaded John to baptize him by saying that the baptism was necessary to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:13). To fulfill all righteousness indicated that Jesus was consecrated to God and officially approved by him. 

Soon after the baptism of Christ, King Herod Antipas imprisoned John. John openly disapproved of Herod’s marriage to Herodias, Herod’s brother’s wife (Matthew 14:3-5).  Herod divorced his first wife to marry Herodias. John’s prison was Machaerus, Herod’s fortress-palace on the east side of the Dead Sea. 

While imprisoned, John sent two of his disciples to Galilee to ask Christ, “are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else” (Luke 7:19). Christ did not give John’s disciples a direct “Yes” or “No” answer. Instead he told them to go back to John and report what they saw and heard, e.g., the blind received their sight, the lame walked, and lepers were cured.

After John’s messenger left, Christ asked the crowd what they expected when they went to the desert to see John: a reed swaying in the wind, a man dressed in fine clothes, or a prophet?  When Christ asked the crowd if they expected to see a swaying reed, he was referring to the firmness of John’s conviction and message. John’s message did not depend on his audience. He had the same message for tax collectors, religious leaders, and rulers:  repent, for the kingdom of heaven is a hand. John was not politically correct.  He never altered his message to accommodate an audience. He was a straight reed that did not sway from of his convictions; thus, his imprisonment and death.

The Reed

The reed that Christ alluded to was the Arundo donax, known as the giant reed or the Cypress cane. The giant reed was introduced into the Middle East and Europe from the sub-continent of Asia. The largest colonies are located on the banks of natural water courses, in floodplains of medium or large sized streams, and in dry river banks far from permanent water sources. Often the reed is found where water sources have been physically disturbed or dammed.  In Israel A. donax grows throughout the country from Mount Hermon to the Negev Desert. At one time, botanist thought the giant reed could not tolerate salt and maritime exposure; however, giant reeds have grown on sand dunes near seashores, e.g. the Sharon Plain. It tolerates strong winds and just about any type of soil. The giant reed will not grow in the shade.

Symbolism: Conviction, Convict

In the vignette of John the Baptist and the swaying reed, the symbolism is conviction. A conviction is a firmly held belief that something is true, real, and certain. John lived his convictions; he stayed on message (repentance) and on task (baptizing). My husband calls John “a straight arrow” because John did not deviate from his convictions. John was like the long straight culms of the giant reed which grew along the Jordan River where John baptized repentant sinners. 

Today the world has an even stronger voice than that of John to convict us of sin. The Holy Spirit is in the world to convict individuals of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). The Holy Spirits convicts individuals of original sin and their need to repent, accept Christ as Savior, and be baptized. At the same time Holy Spirit has a convicting role in the lives of Christians as well. If we listen, the Holy Spirit tells us which parts of their lives are righteous and which are sinful. Then we can make sound judgments about aspects of our lives to change.   

Jude wrote that God and his holy ones will convict sinners about the harsh words that they have spoken against him (Jude 1:15). Sometimes Christians speak harshly about God when they do not get their own way, or do not understand reasons for circumstances in their lives.  At times, we laugh at jokes about God. Years ago I heard a joke about the Holy Spirit. I am still stunned that anyone had the temerity to joke about God’s spirit (Mark 3:29). Rarely do we speak up when an individual disrespects God by cursing or discounts the Holy Scriptures. Both laughter and silence imply agreement and can be as harsh as outspoken words against God.      

John could have been silent when Herod divorced his first wife so he could marry his brother’s wife. He wasn’t silent and he paid for his out-spoken convictions with his life. I wonder if we as Christians should speak out more often on the rampant immorality in our world. Yes, we will get push-back and that push-back may label us as intolerant, bigots, etc. Our reputations may be shredded as a result of speaking our convictions. John the Baptist cared more about his convictions than his reputation in the world.

Prayer: God, please give us men and women today who have convictions and beliefs and are not buffeted by winds of change and political correctness. Lord, give our churches and society men and women who will speak up for you.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright May 13, 2013; Carolyn A. Roht

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Grass of the Field

Dactylis glomerata, RignaneseJesus teaching on the grass of the field is in Matthew 6:28-30.

In the “Do Not Worry” portion of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ spoke about grass of the field as well as the lilies considered in the last section. Although scholars do not sure where Christ preached the Sermon, on the    northwestern corner of the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum is a gently sloping hillside that is often considered the Sermon site. Possible Christ stood at the bottom of the hillside while his listeners sat in the grass at higher elevations similar to an amphitheater.

In this story Christ told his hearers to consider the lilies and the field grass. The lilies adorned the simple grass in much the same way that colorful robes adorned King Solomon. Solomon’s robes were not as beautiful as the lilies that grew among the grass; the same grass that was here today and tomorrow thrown into the fire. Then, Christ asked his listeners, if God cared enough about field grass to clothe it with beautiful lilies, would not God much more clothe his people? 

Orchard Grass

In Israel there are hundreds of grasses in the local flora. One of the most valuable native grass species is the Dactylis glomerata, also known as orchard grass and cocksfoot. In ancient Israel, this grass grew wild and was used for grazing animals and at times cut for fodder. D. glomerata is native to North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. It can grow on slopes, in shallow areas, and in very dry soils.  Orchard grass is frost and heat resistant and tolerates shade. The plant is found throughout Israel to include the Mediterranean coastline and extreme deserts. In the Mediterranean Basin, orchard grass has adapted to long, hot, dry summers.Seeds often germinate in three weeks.   

Symbolism: Pasture, Meadow

In the New Testament, the Greek word for grass is chŏrtŏs which comes from a primary word meaning a court, garden, or pasture. In the context of field grass, chŏrtŏs best symbolizes pasture land. Often pastures are called meadows. A meadow is land that is in grass or predominantly in grass. Pastures have important meaning to the ancient Israelites and by extension to Christians today. Jeremiah (50:7) wrote that the Lord was the true pasture of the Israelites; while psalmists sang that the Israelites were the sheep of God’s pasture (Psalm 100:3).  

King David declared that the Lord is our shepherd and makes us lie down in green pastures (Psalm 23:2). Interestingly, sheep only lie down when they feel contented and secure. When sheep feel threatened, they stand up and look around seeking the source of peril. David’s metaphor was that with the Lord as our shepherd, we, his flock, can rest contentedly in verdant meadows. Christ named himself the Good Shepherd and the gate for the sheep (John 10:9-14).  Whoever enters through him will be saved and find pastures. In these pastures, Christians will be safe and they will have a full life.

In the Roanoke Valley of Virginia, spring is here. Grasses have turned green, dogwood trees are blooming, and azalea bushes are laden with pink and white flowers. Looking at them calms my mind. I spend hours looking out my window at the beauty of the spring season. Often, my husband walks into the room, catches me standing in front of the window, and asks what I’m looking at. My answer is always the same – grasses, trees, and flowers. God made this beautiful section of creation just for me and just for anyone else who values it. God clothed these meadows with trees and flowers. 

In  2-3 weeks the dogwood trees will no longer bloom and azalea flowers will die. In several months, meadow grass will turn brown from the effects of reduced moisture and unrelenting sun.  If God is gracious, I will still look out my window; but the beauty of spring will be gone. When I consider spring’s beauty, it is hard to fathom that I am more important to God than spring grasses, blooming trees, and budding flowers. 

Reflection.  David wrote that we will enjoy safe pasture if we trust in the Lord and do good (Psalm 37:3). Do you want safe pastures enough to trust God and do good? Or, are safe pastures not a high priority for you right now?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright April 30, 2013; carolyn a. roth

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Worry and the Lily of the Fields

?????????????????Jesus talked about lilies as part of the Sermon on the Mountain; see Matthew 6:25-34.

This excerpt is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus was teaching in the synagogues in Galilee, healing disease and sickness in people. News of his teaching spread throughout Syria and large crowds from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the trans-Jordan followed him.   When Jesus saw the large crowds, he went to the mountain side and sat down. Matthew wrote that Jesus’ disciples came to him and he began to teach them (Matthew 5:1-2). Most likely the “them” that Matthew identified in this passage referred to both Jesus’ disciples and the crowds present at that time (Matthew 7:28).

The Sermon on the Mount was Christ’s inaugural address. Christ explained what he expected of members of his kingdom. This address is the standard for Christian life. At the same time, Christians cannot expect to meet these standards in their own power. Christians need a regenerated heart and the Holy Spirit inside them in order to meet Christ’s requirement for kingdom living.

Christ’s example which used lilies of the field was part of the “Do Not Worry” section of the Sermon on the Mount (NIV-SB). Christ began this section by asking his hearers why they worried about clothes.  More than likely Christ was asking why they worried if they would have clothes to wearer rather than which outfit they were going to wear that day. Then, Christ gave the example of the field lilies, saying that King Solomon in his splendor – in all his beautifully-colored, rich garb — was not dressed like one of the lilies.  Christ ended the “Do Not Worry” portion of the Sermon on the Mountain by saying that God knows our need for clothes, food, and drink. If we first seek God’s kingdom and righteousness, then God will give to us everything else we need including clothes.     

When Christ used the example of lilies, he was not referring to the true lily (Lilium candidum) described with Hosea. He was referring to a flower that grew wild and abundant in the fields, was colorful, and known to most people in the crowd. 

The Anemone

The lily of the field that Christ described in the Sermon on the Mount was possibly Anemone coronaria, also known as the crown anemone, Palestine anemone, and windflower. The anemone is indigenous to southern European countries. It grows in every part of Israel from the northern Golan and Hermon area south through central valleys and hills to the far south at Eilat. Anemones are found along the Israel’s Mediterranean coastline. Anemone grows well in full sun to partial shade and average, well-drained soil. The more sun, the more water required for anemone to thrive; however, anemone do not respond well to constantly soggy soil.  Although anemones grow from seeds, they also propagate by forming bulbets or corms.

Symbolism:  Worry   

The Anemone coronaria has been associated with the Trinity, sorrow, and death; however, in the context of the Sermon on the Mountain, Christ is talking about worry.  Three times in the Matthew 6:25-34 passage, Christ told the people not to worry. He identified four things they should not worry about — their life, what they would eat and drink, and what they wear. Christ promised that God knows his children require these basic necessities and will see that they are met.

Later in Matthew, Christ gave his apostles instructions prior to sending them out in pairs to preach and to heal (Matthew 10:5-20). One directive was for the apostles not to worry about what they would say or how to say it when they were arrested and even flogged in the synagogues. In those times God would give the disciples the right words. The Spirit of the Father would speak through them.

Recently, Bruce and I were working in our garden transplanting flowers. After working about 1.5 hours, Bruce walked up a hill carrying a pan of chrysanthemums. I was walking behind him.  Suddenly, he dropped the pan, flailed his arms, and somersaulted backward down the hill dropping off of a rock wall. Immediately, I ran to him and found him unconscious. Our neighbor called 911. In a short time, Bruce was in the Emergency Department of our local hospital.  Initially, I was beyond worried, almost to panic. Then, my spirit became very calm. The calmness was the result of our very Christian neighbors praying for both of us. Later our church family joined these prayers. 

This incident made me realize that I do not have control of my life or my husband’s life. Health alterations can happen in a second. Worrying about basic needs such as food, clothing, and health does not change the need for them.  Worry does nothing but disturb an individual’s peace of mind as the same thoughts and concerns intrude into the mind, hour after hour and day after day. What changes life is taking our worries and anxieties to God in prayer and letting him give us back peace.

Reflection. In the sermon on the Mountain, Christ reassured the people that they were more valuable than birds, flowers, clothes, food, and water. Do you worry incessantly or do you live like you believe Christ’s words?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright April 17, 2013; carolyn a. roth

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Neonatal Gift of Frankincense

Frankincense 2The story of the wise men offering frankincense to the Christ child is told in Matthew 2:1-18.

When Christ was born in Bethlehem, Judea, wise men came from the east to worship him.  Bible scholars believe that the wise men were from Persia. In Persia wise men were well regarded and often occupied roles in the king’s court, e.g., Daniel was considered a wise man in the Babylonian court (Daniel 2:48). The visiting wise men were astrologers – they followed a star that first appeared in the east. They believed that the star was a sign that a Jewish king was born.

Not surprisingly, the wise men went to Jerusalem, capital of the Jewish nation, and ask King Herod to see the newborn king. King Herod was not a Jew, but he and the high priests were aware of the Jewish prophecy that a king would be born who would rule over Israel. Jealous for his kingship, Herod learned from the priests that the promised Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. Herod shared this location with the wise men and requested that they contact him after they found the child. Ostensibly, Herod wanted to go and worship the new born babe.

The wise men left Jerusalem and followed the star to Bethlehem where it stopped over the home where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus lived. Seeing the Christ child, the wise men fell on their knees and worshipped him. They gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Advised by God in a dream, the wise men returned to Persia without going through Jerusalem or seeing Herod. When Herod realized that he was outwitted by the wise men, he commanded Roman soldiers kill all baby boys in and round Bethlehem two years of age and under. Herod hoped to rid himself the Christ child and a possible threat to his rule over Judea.

In a dream God told Joseph to take Mary and the young child to Egypt. The family was to stay in Egypt until God told Joseph it was safe to return to Judea. Probably Joseph used the wise men’s gifts to help subsidize the family’s trip to Egypt and life in Egypt.

Frankincense

The frankincense of Matthew 2:11 is the Boswellia sacra plant, also known as B. thurifera and incense. Both the plant and its resinous product are called frankincense. It is native to the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula and the north-eastern regions of Africa. The first record of frankincense is dated to the reign of Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt, around 1500 B.C. The Queen sent an expedition south to bring back frankincense trees. She had the trees planted in a temple near Luxor. In 2013, the Boswellia sacra plant was not present in three Israeli plant databases. Almost all frankincense is harvested from wild trees. Frankincense is hard and resinous and can be an opaque, white or yellow crystalline. Generally frankincense is described as smelling like aromatic pine.

Symbolism: Sanctity, Saint

Frankincense was used in important religious rituals and occasions from the time of the Tabernacle to the present. So complete is the link between frankincense and religious occasions that frankincense is known as the “odor of sanctity” and associated with sainthood. Sanctity implies a holy life and character, a life worthy of religious veneration. Sanctity encompasses reverence, respect, and inviolability. The opposite of sanctity is accursed. A saint as a person who is faithful to the Lord (I Samuel 2:9 study note). From the time of Christ’s birth, he inspired individuals to live reverent, respectful lives. That’s why we have saints. 

Christian denominations place different emphasis on saints. Our Roman Catholic brethren have a formal recognition system for sainthood and believe saints can have a significant influence on the lives of the faithful. Often there are statutes of saints in Catholic churches and buildings, e.g., hospitals. Although not a Catholic church, my church is named after Saint John, the Beloved apostle. St. John’s life and writings are worthy of respect and we can learn from them.             

At the same time that we learn from the lives of saints, we need to keep in mind that there is one mediator between God and man and that mediator is Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus came to earth as a baby and was born in a stable. His birth was announced by choirs of angels. Eastern wise men recognized him as a king and brought him valuable gifts including frankincense.

Saints are recognized in both the Old and New Testaments. God knows his saints and watches over them. The Psalms aver that God delights in the saints (Psalm 16:3), preserves them (Psalm 31:23), and that they lack nothing (Psalm 34:9). Samuel wrote that God will guard the feet of the saints (1 Samuel 2:9). The Holy Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints so their prayers and actions will be consistent with God’s will for our lives (Romans 8:26-27). Loving words from God are, “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalms 116:15).  

Christians who are faithful to God (the saints) have been given instructions on how to live.  God’s saints are to fear and love the Lord, to sing to the Lord and praise his name, and to rejoice in the Lord (Psalm 30:4; 31:23; 34:9; 149:5). God expects us to love and pray for the saints (Ephesians 1:15, 6:18). When Paul wrote to Philemon, he noted that Philemon’s love refreshed the hearts of the saints (Philemon 1:7). Many times we do not think that our love is refreshment to a hurting heart or to a person under stress.

Daniel (7:18) reassured readers that God’s saints will receive the kingdom and possess it forever, while Paul warned that the saints will judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2). Judging the world seems like a huge task and certainly many of us do not feel up to it. Yet, when that time comes, God will be with us – his saints — as he is with us now when we think activities or situations are too big for us to handle.

Reflection. In one of Saint John’s visions, he saw 24 elders around the throne of heaven (Revelations 5:8).  Each elder was holding a bowl full of incense. The incense was the prayers of the saints! Amazingly our prayers are incense – sweet aroma – to God.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright April 5, 2013; carolyn a. roth

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