A Garden Carol


The garden was dead, to begin with. No doubt whatever about that. The bent black stalks of the Mexican Petunia stood up like crooked doornails, or like so many legs of a dozen giant spiders fallen on their backs. The icy shrouds of dead crinum leaves were draped gloomily across the ground.

Every chance to do something better in the garden was now dead, along with summer’s delicate  blooms.

This month I was visited in a real way by the ghost of gardens past. My ancient laptop’s operating system had to be updated, but there was not enough storage. That meant deleting the hundreds of garden photos. Continue reading “A Garden Carol”

Connected to Christ: the importance, the moment and its impact

Every year our culture gives a gentle nod to Jesus through old TV specials, nativity scenes and Christmas carols.  However, is there a reason to move beyond a seasonal sentimentality to take Jesus seriously throughout the year?

After all, Jesus’ story is just one narrative among many. From the conflicting voices of the world’s religions to the nay saying meta-narrative of evolution, many believe they have reason to dismiss the Christ.

However, this is not the end of the matter. Paul describes sufficient motivations for both considering whether it is worthwhile to explore if Christ might be significant for our lives, as well as resolving whether we ought to exalt Christ in our lives above the chorus of confusion. Paul accomplishes most of this within his Colossian letter. Continue reading “Connected to Christ: the importance, the moment and its impact”

Are we grateful or entitled?

Entitlement is something we feel we deserve because of who we are. Similar to gossip or lying, it’s something others have. We’re never guilty. Yet, it’s more entrenched than most in America realize.

Comfort is addictive. We’ve had it for years. Food, shelter, security and spending money are ubiquitous. We’ve no reason to expect anything else. Gifts are under the tree, a feast is on the table, decorations sparkle around us. Same as it ever was. Continue reading “Are we grateful or entitled?”

Feasts, festivals and holidays

We trust that all have had a wonderful Christmas, enjoying time with family and friends. Our heart goes to those who are separated from their families at this time. At least with modern technology, we were able to see and speak with our children in America as we enjoyed Christmas with our son in Scotland. Today in Britain is Boxing Day. According to Wikipedia, “Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradespeople would receive gifts, known as a ‘Christmas box’, from their bosses or employers, in the United Kingdom…and other Commonwealth nations. Today, Boxing Day is the bank holiday that generally takes place on 26 December.” Continue reading “Feasts, festivals and holidays”

Jesus is the reason

Gardeners usually have a reason for the things they do. The laws of nature and of nature’s God leave little room for error. If the recipe for marinated Brussels sprouts inspired me to go out and plant them right now, I would be setting myself up for failure.

The irises are interplanted with the daylilies so that the varieties don’t grow together, and to extend the bloom time of the bed.

The cardinal vine was allowed to grow near the rocks, so that the star shaped red blooms of the fernlike Ipomoea plant could cover them.

Marigolds are planted by squash for two reasons. First, they look pretty. Second, they repel squash bugs. Yes, I know that first reason seems rather lame; but it works for me, and it’s true. My father had his own logic about flowers. He couldn’t eat them so he didn’t grow them. Continue reading “Jesus is the reason”

The King

by Barry Newton

Last week our family endured at least forty minutes sitting in line before spending another ten minutes driving through a series of live outdoor nativity related scenes. Mixed feelings best describe my reaction.

On the one hand, not only is it quite unlikely that Jesus was born in December, but the original reason for crediting this time of year for Jesus’ birth involved providing society with a Christian alternative to its deeply embedded pagan cosmic celebration. This can hardly be exciting from either an historical or methodological viewpoint.

And yet, although nothing in scripture suggests we should commemorate Christ’s birth, the very fact that many people will pause from their secular flush of activity to permit some reflection on Jesus’ birth to penetrate their brain can only be a good thing. And so, I am grateful for whenever people’s thoughts turn to the Lord.

Matthew’s thoughts are crisp and focused. In his telling of the story of Jesus we discover ancestry, the organization of history, God’s angelic messenger, the cosmos, and prophecy all converging to proclaim the unequivocal message Jesus is King.

Although many might find the genealogy Matthew traces about as exciting as reading an old phone book, this opening to Matthew’s gospel verifies Jesus as being “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). The Old Testament had foretold a promised coming ruler who would be from the root of David. Thus this gospel’s commencing claim that Jesus is the Christ, that is the Messiah becomes tenable.

For most Americans, Matthew’s grouping of Jesus’ ancestors into three consecutive batches of fourteen generations might seem like merely a curious footnote. How interesting but also odd that every fourteen generations something enormous happened with Israel.

However, since the letters in David’s name add up to fourteen, first century Jews could have seen another emerging piece of Messianic evidence. It is as though a ball was bouncing through history with king David’s name written all over it with its final bounce landing squarely upon Jesus, the son of David, the promised Messiah.

Furthermore, it is not just dusty ancestral records acknowledging Jesus as son of David; an angel identified Joseph as “son of David.” Although Jesus’ lineage might be traced through Joseph, he is not the father. It is at this point Matthew takes Jesus’ identity to a whole new level, alleviating any doubt about his significance. God’s heavenly messenger informs Joseph that Mary will give birth to a child conceived from the Holy Spirit. Mary’s baby is God’s doing. God is at work in bringing this child into the world.

Immediately we are ushered into realizing that the very cosmos has been crying out that a king has been born to the Jews. Furthermore, when Herod has the scriptures searched to discover where the promised king mentioned in the scriptures would be born, the answer is Bethlehem. This is the very place of Jesus’ birth.

Time and again Matthew heaps up evidence that Jesus is the promised King. Following his resurrection from the dead Jesus announced, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (28:18).

If Jesus is King with all authority in heaven and on earth, he deserves more thought than just a few moments of pause each year. He deserves our riveted attention and devotion throughout the year.

We don't own the greatest gift


by Richard Mansel, managing editor

The greatest gift ever given to mankind is Jesus the Christ (John 3:16). Jesus came to bless, save and soothe his children. We can all have him as our Lord, if we will give our lives to him (Romans 5:6-11).

“He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, NKJV).

When Jesus was born, he became one of us (Matthew 1:23). He was God in the flesh so he could become the sacrifice to take away the sins of the world (John 1:14; Hebrews 9:13-14).

Jesus was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). A trip through the gospels clearly shows the love, compassion and hope he had for mankind. He hungered for us to choose the right path and follow him.

The baby in the manger was of God but was given to man. Yet, God would have him back (Acts 1:9). If we become members of Christ’s body, the Church, we would be his family (Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19) and receive all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3).

At the same time, Jesus did not come to be owned or manipulated. We cannot change who he is or the Word he delivered (John 12:48). His words come from heaven and they were settled before time ever began (Psalm 119:89).

People teach error about Christ, when they have no right to do so. They misrepresent his Word to help their own political or social causes. Yet, they sin because they have no ownership over the Lord and will be accursed by God (Galatians 1:6-9).

People seem to think that Jesus continues to be the innocent baby that can be manipulated, used and discarded. However, they are sadly mistaken and will face an eternity of regret and fire (Matthew 25:46; Revelation 20:14-15).

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10).

We must submit to Christ and treat his Words with the deepest respect and reverence. Coming to Christ with the proper mindset and humility, the Savior will be ours for all eternity and that is worth saying no our sinful, fleshly desires.

Christ is the Lord, not a toy. The sooner we realize that, the better off we will be.

Christmas in October is unbiblical!

Many prayers, among them ours, are going up for those in the northeastern US. We pray for no loss of life and for opportunities for the gospel. Many of us have friends there. We know good brethren in Virginia, New York, New Jersey (Brazilians!), Connecticut, and other states as well. We pray for their safety.

• While the US struggles with water and snow, our region is feeling record-high temperatures. The city of Ribeirão Preto, on the other side of the state from us, felt an all-time record of 110ºF. Coincidentally, I sent 40 hymnals to the church in that city today. Continue reading “Christmas in October is unbiblical!”