Wealth and Lukewarm Christianity

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Revelation 3:17 (NIV)

Prior to this passage the writer John calls this church lukewarm. How did they get lukewarm? By trusting in their wealth. They thought that money brings security, We are not to confuse what the world calls wealth with what God calls wealth (adapted from David Whitehead).

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Rejected by God

Photograph of a growing barley

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” – Genesis 4:6-7 (NIV)

God rejected Cain’s offering of grain, yet He accepted his brother Abel’s offering of a lamb. It is easy to see why Cain became angry, but that was because God’s preferences contrasted Cain’s inclinations. Yet God loved Cain so much that he tried to reason with Cain. What happens to us when our will is crossed by God’s will in Scripture? Do we get angry as well? Our reactions are more of an indicator of our heart than any inconsistencies on God’s part (David Whitehead).

Millet berries and flower

Disobedience Consequences

 

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”– Genesis 3:19 (NIV)

Ruling and subduing the earth was given to us before the fall of Adam and Eve, but our rebellion against God turned that work into a drudgery. Now what was created to be satisfying takes a toll upon our body and our mind. Yet even in the curse of toil God gives Adam the perspective that there is more to this life than what we do. In other words, our dignity does not come from our work but from the breath of God that separates us from dust. Our value is far greater than our efforts, and the dust reminds us of a day when our labor will cease and we shall experience peace in a way that we only knew in the Garden of Eden (David Whitehead)

 

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For-sightful Forsythia

Forsythia

The forsythia (Forsythia europaea) is an ornamental shrub; a member of the olive family of plants. There are about eleven species. Most are native to eastern Asia and one native to south-eastern Europe. Some gardeners refer to forsythia as “Golden Bell.”

Forsythias are an early-spring flowering deciduous shrub. Back home in southern Pennsylvania, our forsythia bush bloomed in April, generally the earliest flower to bloom. Our forsythia bush grew on a trellis and was about four feet tall; however, forsythia bushes can grow up to 20 feet tall. Forsythia also makes an attractive hedgerow if you are willing to prune them repeatedly. The deeply four-lobed flower are medium, the petals joined only at the base. Petals become pendant in rainy weather, shielding reproductive parts. Flowers appear before leaves.

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Low hanging forsythia often take root in the soil, and can be removed for transplanting. Commercial propagation occurs through cuttings, taken from green wood in late spring to early summer after forsythia flowers. Alternatively, cuttings may be taken between November and February.

For the longest time, tradition advocated that forsythia flowers produced the milk sugar (lactose). Lactose rarely occurs in other natural sources except milk. However, the presence of lactose was never confirmed.

Christian Fore-sight

I’m multitasking, writing this column and watching a popular news channel. A woman, who wrote a book, claimed Radical Islam wants to create an Armageddon-like situation in the Middle East. Their approach is to kill any group who disagrees with them, even peace-loving Muslims. For any group to aspire to such a goal is mind-boggling.

St. John wrote about Armageddon in Revelation. If you have never studied Revelation, now would be the time. St. John foresees the end times (the end of the known world) and a huge battle which includes the world’s superpowers. The battle ends with blood, destruction, and death of millions.

Seeing and writing about the Battle of Armageddon his battle must have been difficult for the sensitive apostle. I don’t know what will happen in the Middle East; however, I do believe in the end-time prophecy fore-seen by John. But, I am not spending my time working for it or praying for it to come. Instead, I am praying for the salvation of souls, even of the jihadists.

Reflection: What about you? Do you remember to pray for salvation of the terrorists who are inflecting inhumane atrocities as well as their victims?

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: March 1, 2015 by Carolyn A. Roth; Updated March 6, 2017. all rights reserved.

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Rooted in God

Temporarily out of stock.

 

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Choices, Choices!

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Cleveland select flowering pear.

The pear tree produces beautiful white blossoms that delight our eyes early in spring in the mountain valleys of Virginia. They are blooming all over the Roanoke Valley. Often we call them the Bradford pear or Callery pear. The flowers are produced in early spring before leaves expand fully. They are white, with five petals, and about 0.79 to 1.2 inches in diameter. Flowers have a sickly-sweet smell. The fruit is small, hard, and almost woody until softened by frost. Humans don’t eat them, but birds consume them enthusiastically. Bradford pear trees often push out native American plants and trees. On the Bradford pear tree, limbs grow upward from the main branch at an angle so narrow that hard winds break limbs from the tree. Rarely, will you see an intact mature Bradford pear tree.

Today, many municipalities and individuals who want the spring-time beauty of a flowering Bradford tree buy and plant the Cleveland Select pear tree. Cleveland Select pear tree is a genetically-improved variety that grows in a uniform globe shape. The Cleveland select tree is strong because of its limb structure. It withstands ice on branches and/or strong winds without breaking or coming apart because limbs grow at an optimal (45-60 degrees) – rather than a too narrow (5-15 degrees) – angle from the trunk or central leader (limb) of the tree.

Application:

When something is optimal, it is best, ideal, finest, or most advantageous. The opposite of optimal is worst. On a continuum between optimal and worst Christ-like behavior, there are a lot of points, i.e., a lot of distance between optimal and worst. Unlike the Cleveland Select pear tree limbs that are strong because they are at a larger angle from the tree’s main leader, Christians aren’t stronger when there is a lot of distance between them and God. Closeness counts in a relationship with God.

Words from today’s church liturgy were: “Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth: You have given us the spirit of discipline, that we may triumph over the flesh and live no longer for ourselves but for Christ.” Aren’t they food for thought? God has given us a spirit of discipline. We have the choice to exercise or not exercise that spirit. No one can say, “The Devil made me do it.”

Reflection: What kind of limbs do you want to grow on your tree of 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 3/5/17; Carolyn A. Roth

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Lent, A Time of Celebration

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In orthodox churches, Lent is the 40 days before Easter. Lent is a time of reflection and repentance; therefore, tends to be a solemn time for Christians.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday which in 2017 is March 1. We will get ashes as a reminder that we are repentant sinners who don’t deserve what Christ did for us. During Lent my church has a Wednesday noontime service and Wednesday evening service to help us to reflect on Lent. We tend to be more about what we can do extra in Lent than what we can give up.

When we walk into the church on Wednesday noon, seeing the blooming Lenten rose makes me smile and tends to calm me.

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This beautiful flower starts blooming about February in Roanoke, VA (Plant Zone 7) when the ground is still frozen. The Lenten rose is present during Lent, hence its name. This evergreen plant is in the Helleboros genus, and like most Helleboros grows best in a shade garden.  It is resistant to both deer and voles, long-lived, and provides exquisite blooms at a time when flowers are a scarce delight. Once established Lenten rose is drought tolerant but grow best when the soil is evenly moist. Water well during extended dry periods. I have mine on a soaker hose with a timer during the summer. Lenten rose flowers are creamy yellow as the one above or a dark magenta color.

Reflection: What do you plan to do “extra” to celebrate (and it is a celebration) of Lent?

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February 27, 2017: carolyn a. roth; all rights reserved.

 

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Curtains Conceal

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Photo is of a mature cotton flower before turns in boll.

Esther chapter 1.

Esther is the last of the historical books of the Old Testament. It is the story of a beautiful Jewish girl who became wife to Ahasuerus (Xerxes), king of Persia (486-465 B.C.).

The story begins with Ahasuerus giving an elaborate banquet for his nobles and officials. The banquet was held in the palace’s enclosed garden. The garden had white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings on marble pillars (ESV). Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women in another part of the palace.  Feeling merry, Ahasuerus commanded that Vashti come before him to display her beauty to his guest. Vashti refused. Because of her disobedience, Ahasuerus divorced Vashti. Subsequently, Esther became queen.

Then, the plot of the book unfolds. Haman, an enemy of the Jews and chief advisor to Ahasuerus, determined to murder all the Jews throughout Persia. Ahasuerus consented to Haman’s plans not knowing that Queen Esther was a Jew. Esther’s uncle Mordecai sent word to Esther that she must plead to Ahasuerus for the lives of the Jews. Although frightened, Esther agreed to make the plea on behalf of her people. Esther planned two private banquets for Ahasuerus and Haman. At the second banquet Esther humbly admitted she was a Jewess.  She disclosed Haman’s scheme to destroy her people. Both Ahasuerus and Haman were stunned.  They were unaware that in ordering the murder of all Jews, they ordered the Queen’s death.

Angrily Ahasuerus ordered Haman to be hung. Because Ahasuerus could not undo his previous decree, he sent out another decree enabling the Jews to destroy any armed force that might attack them and to plunder the property of their enemies.

Celebration of Purim:

Purim is celebrated on the 14 day of Adar which is usually in March. In March 2012 at the time of the Festival of Purim, the Prime Minister of Israel visited the United States President and presented him with a scroll of the book of Esther.

Cotton

Cotton Flower, leaves

Young cotton flower, before turning cream-colored.

The white cotton curtains (Hebrew karpas) of Esther were probably Gossypium herbaceum also known as Levant cotton and Arabian cotton. G. herbaceum was domesticated in India about 3000 B.C. and present in Mesopotamia about 1000 B.C.  Ahasuerus ruled lands from India to Ethiopia; consequently, finding cotton curtains in his palace is reasonable. In the 7th century B.C. cotton was present in Horvat ʽUza located in the Arad Valley in Palestine. Certainly, the exiles would have brought cotton fabric, if not plants, back with them from exile in Persia. G. herbaceum is not the same species of cotton grown in present-day Israel, nor is it grown in the United States. When cotton plants are irrigated, most flower mid to late summer. Large, showy, solitary blooms have five petals (1-2 inches long). Flowers are yellow (occasionally white) at first, then fade to a soft red or pink. The cotton plant fruit is called a boll. When ripe, the boll splits and a mass of fine white filaments or fibers exude.  The white fibers are the cotton of commerce. Seeds are contained in the white fibers. In ancient times seeds were separated from fibers by hand.  With the invention of the cotton gin in the 18th century, seeds and fibers are separated mechanically.

Symbolism: Curtain, Conceal

In Ahasuerus’ palace, curtains were made from cotton. Curtain has several meanings to include 1) a hanging screen that can be drawn back, 2) a device that conceals or acts as a barrier, or 3) the time that a theatrical performance begins. In the first chapter of Esther, the cotton curtains were associated with all three meanings. Technically, the white cotton curtains were tied back by cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods. In inclement weather or to obscure the sun’s rays, the cotton curtains could be let down. Figuratively, the curtains symbolized Esther concealing her nationality. They symbolized Haman’s concealed desire to murder Mordecai; yet convincing Ahasuerus that all Jews should die because they disobeyed the king’s laws. Finally, the cotton-curtained plaza was the stage where the first act of the drama of Esther began.

Earlier in this blog, we studied the importance of the veil or curtain in the Tent of Meeting. That curtain was made of linen not cotton but it also concealed, e.g., the Most Holy of Holies room from the Holy of Holies room. The chief priest entered the Most Holy of Holies one time per year and then only after making blood sacrifice for his own sins and the inadvertent sins of the Israelites.

Christ death changed the curtain separating the two rooms of the Temple. When Christ died, the curtain separating the Most Holy of Holies from the Holies of Holy rooms tore from top to bottom. Similarly, Christ’s death tore the curtain separating us from God. God became open and available to us; no longer concealed by a curtain. Now through the blood of Jesus Christ we have confidence to stand before God (Hebrews 10:19).

Reflection:  We have ready access to God through Christ.  No more curtain between us and Abba, our Father.  Now the only one who can keep God concealed from us is us.

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 12, 29, 2012; carolyn a. roth; updated 2,23,17

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Priceless

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ONE SUNDAY MORNING, THE PRIEST NOTICED LITTLE ALEX STANDING IN THE FOYER OF THE CHURCH STARING UP AT A LARGE PLAQUE. IT WAS COVERED WITH NAMES WITH SMALL U.S.A. FLAGS MOUNTED ON EITHER SIDE OF IT. 

THE SEVEN YEAR OLD HAD BEEN STARING AT THE PLAQUE FOR SOME TIME, SO THE PRIEST WALKED UP,  STOOD BESIDE THE LITTLE BOY,  AND SAID QUIETLY,  “GOOD MORNING ALEX.” 

“GOOD MORNING FATHER,” HE REPLIED,  STILL FOCUSED ON THE PLAQUE. “FATHER, WHAT IS THIS?” HE ASKED THE PRIEST. 

THE PRIEST SAID, “WELL, SON, IT’S A MEMORIAL TO ALL THE YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN WHO DIED IN THE SERVICE.” 

SOBERLY, THEY JUST STOOD TOGETHER, STARING AT THE LARGE PLAQUE. 

FINALLY, LITTLE ALEX’S VOICE, BARELY AUDIBLE AND TREMBLING WITH FEAR, ASKED, “WHICH SERVICE, THE 9:00 OR THE 11:00?”

False Indigo

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Blue False indigo (Baptisia australis) grows in St. John Lutheran Bible garden. I planted it several places because it doesn’t seem to need a lot of water. Deep-rooted and long-lived, blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) forms a large bush at maturity with clusters of deep blue flowers in late spring.   Flowers change to a brownish pod in late summer-early fall so the plant has interest about 6-7 months of the year.  The native range for false indigo is the eastern United States particularly in zones 3 – 9.  It grows about four feet tall and spreads widely (3-4 feet). Blue indigo is a perennial.

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The false indigo doesn’t grow naturally in Holy Lands.  So why did I put it in the Church Bible garden? Because it is attractive, interesting, and native. This blog focuses on Bible plants, but I digress occasionally.

Symbolism: Native

A synonym of native is indigenous. Native means belonging to a particular place at birth. At birth I was not native to heaven or even God’s family. I did not belong to Christ. God had to seek me out, to reach out to me. He made me— an alien—his daughter. I became Christ’s sister. I am now one of the family. I belong to God.

I have God living in me in the form of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I am just tickled pink and feel all warm and fuzzy inside that the Holy Spirit lives in me. At other times I am more cerebral and thoughtful about his presence. At still other times, I forget that He is there and I ignore God.  What a broad spectrum of responses to the Trinity.

Today I went to a funeral. Ira was a 96 year old former minister. He was one of God’s family. He wasn’t born into God’s family; he was not native or indigenous to God’s family. But when Ira accepted Christ he became a family member.

Reflection: Are you a member of the family of God?

Copyright January 24, 2017; Carolyn A. Roth

Please visit my website at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

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