Tag Archives: Bible Study

Advent Visit

During her pregnancy, Mary visited Elizabeth:

Gospel Reading –  Luke 1:39-56 NIV: At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Reflection: I’ve never been pregnant but many of you who are reading this have been. Can you imagine the mother of God visiting you during your pregnancy?

Scripture, First Two Sundays of Advent 

Scripture readings for Advent are divided into two sections. On the first and second Sundays, Bible readings focus on the second coming of Jesus. The third and fourth Sundays center on the coming of the Christ child at Christmastide. Below are Scriptures read in some churches during the first and second Sundays of Advent:

Old Testament Reading – Malachi 3:1-4 NIV: “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

Epistle Reading – 1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13 NIV: How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day, we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Gospel Reading – Luke 21:25-36 NIV: There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. That summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

Copyright 12/5/2020: Carolyn Adams Roth

What is Advent?

Advent: In contrast to the western civil calendar which begins on New Year Day (January 1), Advent starts the church new year. Advent is a season, an approximate four-week period, that encompasses four Sundays before Christmas (December 25). In the West, Advent begins any time between November 27th and December 3rd. The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus which means “arrival.” During this season, the church and Christians prepare themselves for Jesus’ joyful birth, his arrival into the world. Also, the church reflects on Jesus’ second coming, a somber contemplation.

Copyright 11/17/2020, Carolyn Adams Roth

Getting Started on Advent

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV)

November 29, 2020: The first day of Advent is the first day of a new Liturgical (or church) calendar and begins a four week period of preparation in anticipation of the nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The Advent Season is all about reflecting on how we can prepare our hearts and homes for Christ’s birth in the world as it is today.

This year Advent Sundays are November 29, December 6, December 13 and December 20. Advent ends with the start of the Christmas Season which begin December 25.

(Meditation 1) Getting Started on Church Seasons

Prayer:1 Loving God, I am reminded that there is a time for everything in life. Help me to look at each day this church year as a new opportunity to be your servant. Allow me to see you in the lives of those who surround me. Open my eyes to look at them as you do, with love and compassion, so I can give myself in love to them.

Blessed Jesus, as this church year progresses, I want you to be my companion. Teach me to overcome my sinful thoughts, my pride, and my selfishness. Open my heart to your forgiveness and strength. Lift me when I fall. Carry me when I am weak.

Holy Spirit, guide me into the way that leads to life. Make me sensitive to your promptings—eager for the presence and power of sanctifying grace. Allow me to be your ambassador wherever I go this church year. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

Posted 11/16/2020, Carolyn Adams Roth

Be Watchful

 

 The Word of the Lord: The first time the almond tree is named in Genesis, the setting is Paddan Aram. There, Jacob used almond branches to attempt to influence the color of animals in his flock.  Genesis 30.37-40: Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals.

The second time the almond tree is named the setting is Canaan. Jacob directs his sons to take almonds, one of the best products of Canaan, as a gift to the Egyptian in charge of selling grain. Genesis 44.11: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds.

Meditation: Few plants have the important symbolism of almond trees in the Old Testament. Almond trees encompass buds, flowers, and fruit (almond nut).  In addition to the two Genesis examples, almond tree products appeared elsewhere in the Bible. In the Tent of Meeting, the original menorah had almond buds carved on its branches and central stem. Aaron’s staff budded, bloomed, and produced almonds after a night in in front of the Ark of the Covenant.

When Jeremiah was called to be God’s prophet, God showed Jeremiah an almond branch and asked Jeremiah what he saw. Jeremiah answered God that he saw an almond branch. God commended Jeremiah’s response and said that he was watching to see that his word is fulfilled (Jeremiah 1.12); thus, almonds are associated with God watching mankind. Job called God a “watcher of mankind” (Job 7.20)

Application: Daily new events bombard our world. Currently, a worldwide viral pandemic is occurring. How rapidly the virus spread over the globe. Each day, there are more diagnosed cases and deaths in the world and in my country. Hopefully, we have all read Revelation sufficiently to not be surprised. Pandemics, reduced commerce, and collapsed economic systems are signals God gives us so we  repent and turn to him.

As the almond tree demonstrated in biblical times, God is watching to verify that his word is fulfilled on earth. What  occurs now in the world is an example of God word being fulfilled.

One part of Jesus’ message causes me sadness: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24.12-13). Each of us must work so that our love for others—regardless of country, race, gender, sexual preference, etc., doesn’t  grow cold.

We need to monitor our hearts and evaluate how we behave. About 30 years ago, I realized that I had a hard, even callous,  heart. I prayed that God would soften my heart. Since that time God changed my heart of stone to a heart filled with compassion.  My husband often comments on what a compassionate person I am.  Yet, decades ago he never made that comment about me. You can offer God the same prayer— to soften our hearts—God answer that prayer.

 Reflection:  How are you keeping your love for others warm? How do you continually evaluate your love for others?

Copyright 10/25/2020; Carolyn A. Roth

Exfoliate Ourselves

The Word of the Lord: Genesis 30.37-40: Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals.

 Mediation: After Laban agreed to Jacob’s proposal to grow his personal flock by Jacob keeping only spotted or striped sheep and goats, Laban moved animals with these characteristics three days away from Jacob’s location.  That left Jacob with only solid-colored animals. Laban believed that no or few future offspring in Jacob’s flock would be spotted or multi-colored. Laban believed that once again he outsmarted Jacob.

Normally, the oriental plane tree that Jacob used to influence the color of his flocks doesn’t grow in the United States. Jacob used it in Paddan Aram that is now in Syria. The tree’s bark exfoliates naturally giving the tree a spotted black-white appearance.

Exfoliate means to cast off in scales of thin layers. Plane trees cast off pieces of bark, so the trunk and branches look spotted.

Most of us wish we could exfoliate, cast off some of our foibles and quirks like the plane tree sheds its bark; however, just the opposite occurs. The parts of our character and personality that we want to get rid of, are those parts that seem to cling. I’ve concluded that  trying to get rid of the un-beautiful parts of my being is part of Christian maturity, i.e., becoming progressively more like Christ.

Some days we want to rush forward toward Christ likeness so we can become pure and clean. But total purity and cleanliness aren’t going to happen on earth no matter how much we shed old behaviors and put on new ones. We’re human, which means that we will never reach perfection in this life no matter how smooth our skin appears.

God expects us to struggle as we move forward, as we move nearer to Christ. Do you ever become impatient with yourself and ask, “Why don’t you just make me righteous, God? I’m willing. Just do it, God, so I don’t have to expend all this effort.”

Reflection: Ponder why God doesn’t make us, force us, take all actions necessary to achieve the character of Christ here on earth.

Copyright 10/15/2020; Carolyn Roth 

Do you love Autumn?

Front of St. John Lutheran Church in Roanoke.

What Motivates You?

The Word of the Lord: Genesis 30.35-40: That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.

Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink.

When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals.

Meditation: After Rachel gave birth to her first son, Jacob told Laban, he wanted to go back to Canaan; but, he didn’t want to go back empty handed. Jacob wanted wealth in  flocks to accompany his wealth in sons. By this time, Jacob had 11 sons, two wives,  two concubines, and servants. He needed possessions to feed and clothe them.

Jacob was motivated to return to Canaan to see his father and live in the land of his birth. At the same time, Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law was motivated to keep Jacob with him. Laban believed that God blessed Jacob; thus, contributed to Laban’s prosperity.  Both men wanted tangible wealth.  Because Jacob was an Israelite patriarch and because Laban was presented in the Bible as manipulative, most readers support Jacob’s motives and reject Laban’s. In reality, nowhere do we read that either Jacob nor Laban made any, or much, effort to ascertain God’s will.

Jacob knew about God from stories and discussions from his father (Isaac) and possibly his grandfather (Abraham). Yet, despite all of Jacob’s foolish decisions earlier in his life and experiencing Laban’s manipulations, Jacob didn’t turn to God for help. Instead, Jacob attempted to influence the color of sheep and goat using tree branches, to include the popular tree. Jacob’s flock of spotted and striped goats and sheep increased. Most twenty-first century Christians don’t believe that spotted and stripped branches impacted the color of sheep and goats.

Ponder: Ponder your actions when you aren’t sure how to proceed.  Do you pray and ask God to intervene in the situation? Alternatively, are you more prone to attempt to solve the situation on your own? If you pray, are you willing to take the same petition to God more than once? A much-quoted American proverb is “God helps those who help themselves.” That proverb isn’t in the Bible. Instead, the Bible tells us to cast your cares on God because God care for you (1 Peter 5.7).

Action: If you aren’t sure whether or not to pray, or if  persistence in prayer is valuable, read Jesus’ parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke 18.1-8).

Copyright 9/29/2020: Carolyn Adams Roth

I’m Famished, Are You?

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.) Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So, Esau despised his birthright.

Meditation: Isaac married Rebecca who gave birth to twin boys. Esau was the firstborn and Jacob was born second. In ancient near east cultures, the law of primogeniture (first-born son) prevailed.  As the first-born son and legitimate heir to Isaac, Esau would have been the ancestor of Jesus, the Messiah. But, the line of succession changed.

One day, Esau returned to camp after a time away in the open fields, probably hunting. Esau saw Jacob cooking red lentil stew. Identifying that he was famished, Esau asked Jacob for stew. Jacob’s response was that he would give Esau the stew if Esau swore an oath to give Jacob his birthright. Esau swore the oath in exchange for lentil stew.

Someone in the camp may have heard Esau’s oath to transfer his birthright to Jacob. Despite the tumultuous relationship between the two brothers, Esau never denied that he traded his birthright to Jacob.

Consider the difference in value between a bowl of lentil soup versus being the heir to a wealthy father. Obviously, Esau cheapened his birthright. It wasn’t valuable to him.

Men and women today are famished for someone to believe in, someone to trust. Jesus’ behavior to his human brothers and sisters is diametrically opposite from the behavior of Jacob. Jesus invites each of us to come to him and live with him. We don’t have to barter for Jesus’ blessing.  Freely, he nourishes us with himself and his words, i.e., “the one who feeds on me will live because of me” (John 6.57).

Reflection: You don’t have to barter for salvation, for immortal life with Christ. He gives it to you free-of-charge.

Copyright 9/1/2020: Carolyn Adams Roth 

Renewal

The Word of the Lord: Genesis 22.9-14: And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!

“Here I am,” he replied. Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Meditation: Normally, Mount Moriah was covered with trees and excluded thickets. Thickets are present only where tall trees have been burnt or otherwise destroyed. The destruction of trees that resulted in growth of the thicket on Mount Moriah most likely occurred because of a natural disaster. Whatever occurred, when Abraham reached Mount Moriah, a thicket was adjacent to where Abraham built a stone altar to God.

An evergreen shrub common to the dry, sandy soil on Mount Moriah is the broom tree. The broom tree symbolizes renewal. With renewal comes a restoration of vigor and freshness; what was faded or disintegrated is made whole.

If anyone needed renewal, it was Abraham. Think about what Abraham endured. When Abraham arrived on Mount Moriah he was exhausted and depressed. By this time, Abraham was 120-130 years-of-age. Some of his stamina was lost. Abraham was heart sick: God wanted him to sacrifice his only heir. Isaac was the son of Abraham and Sarah’s old age. Isaac was supposed to be their reward for following God from Haran to Canaan.

Most of us want so badly to have the kind of faith that Abraham had – faith that God will keep his promises when logic tells us something can’t or won’t happen. Most of us want to be renewed, to be changed from the inside out, i.e., in our heart, mind, and spirit. We want to be different from the society we live in. We want to exhibit Christ in our lives.

One of my firmly held beliefs is that God is aware of my every deep-seated desire. He is pleased when I yearn to be renewed and when you yearn to be renewed. Further, God rewards our yearnings to be renewed in his image.

Reflection: Spend the day pondering ways you need to be renewed. List actions you can take to be renewed in the image of God.

Copyright 9/10/2020, Carolyn Roth Ministry