The beliefs and sentiments expressed by those whose letters appear here are not necessarily shared by the Adventist Review or its editorial staff. These letters have been edited for clarity and length. -- Editors

Cheers and Jeers
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the background for the nearly 20 editions of Christmas in My Heart (Christnas in My Heart--and Beyond, Dec. 16, 2010). It was inspiring to hear how Joe Wheeler came to love reading, and stories in particular; and how he was led by the Lord to use this medium, which Jesus used so effectively, to make thoughtful impact on his readers and listeners. I’ve enjoyed listening to Wheeler read these stories on audio tapes over the years. Those who listen or read will be blessed by slowing down and reflecting on what is most valuable.
I also appreciated “Listening to Habakkuk.” Tina Billups zeroed in on how his message is for our times. In this day of overindulgence and self-absorption, may we keep before us that “the Lord is in His holy temple” (Hab. 2:20), and that He calls us to be holy in every aspect of our lives.

On the other side of the coin, it appalled me to see the Draper Valley Vineyard ad for non-alcholic grape juices with the names Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. How can you accept an ad that entices readers to look as much like the world as they can? I don’t object to the sparkling juices, but the names. What would better please the Lord as we celebrate various holidays with family and friends?
--Tina Thomse
Silverdale, Washington

The names Chardonnay and Pinot Noir refer to the types of grapes used in the making of the juices. They are meant to be descriptive, not to mimic wine that contains alcohol. Nonetheless, the advertisement policy on this point will be reviewed.--Editors

Focus on Education
Kudos to Carlos Medley!In “A Temple Reborn” (Dec. 16, 2010) he succinctly states what it would take to strengthen the mission of our schools.
From my travels to about 70 countries in all six continents of the world, and having worked in Bangladesh, Canada, India, Jamaica, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and the United States, I could say “amen.” A great deal of dedicated work must be done.

George Sweeting, a philosopher of uncommon magnitude, gives this philosophical position: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

To all who work hard for spiritual values and reflect the blueprint God has provided through the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White, I recommend that we keep our focus on Jesus. Simply put: be careful, be vigilant, and watch with utmost diligence what you do.
--D. L. (Eb) Ebenezer
Detroit, Michigan

Why a Manger?
I enjoyed S. R. Morris’ take on the symbolism of the manger of Christ in his article, “Why Jesus Was Born in a Manger” (Dec. 16, 2010).

It occurred to me that another type of symbol/metaphor is possible in the story of Jesus’ birth. In French the word “manger” derives from “to eat.” I wonder if God wanted us to see the manger as a place where the creatures of His hand come to feed; for He not only created them, He is their constant provider. Of course, He also created and provides for us.

Taken a step further, we not only look to Him for physical sustenance but for our spiritual sustenance as well.

Beyond that, we are counseled to partake of Him: “take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you” (1 Cor. 11:24, KJV). This was a “hard saying” for some of Christ’s followers while He was on earth (see John 6:53-60). But when truly understood it is a beautiful symbol of how we must internalize our relationship with Him—“Christ in you” (Col. 1:27). This is a “sign” that is a “supernatural miracle.”

May we, like the Wise Men and Shepherds, come to the manger of Christ to be fed.
--Brent Balmer
Via E-mail

Of Finances and Faithfulness
I concur with Mark A. Kellner’s editorial, “Revival, Reformation, . . . and Tithing (Dec. 16, 2010).

My wife and I joined the Adventist church in 1975. While members of the church the first time we did not faithfully tithe. We based our tithe on our net rather than gross income. At times we more or less returned what we thought we could afford. Then we found “other gods” and left the church behind for 18 years. During this time we hit some rather difficult times that nearly ended our marriage. We also found ourselves deep in debt and ended up declaring bankruptcy.

In 2002 we both were impressed in different ways to return to church (that would entail an entire article itself). The one thing we determined to do upon returning to church was to return tithe based on our gross income. We were re-baptized in November 2002, and have returned tithe ever since.

Our heavenly Father has not once failed to bestow His blessings upon us. I must admit though, that He does make it interesting at times; all the more reason to put our complete trust in Him.

The one thing tithing has done for us is to help us determine the difference between needs and wants. By putting God first we realize that some things we think we need are merely wants that Satan uses to confuse us. God reveals our true needs.

To anyone who says they can’t afford to return tithe, I can only reply, “You can’t afford not to return it.” The verses of Malachi 3:8-12 are God’s promise to us.
--William E. Huttemann
Slatington, Pennsylvania

Genetically Modified
My heart was warmed with deep gratitude on reading “Organically Grown? Genetically Modified?” (Dec 16, 2010) and how Doctors Handysides and Landless responded to the reader’s query on these two topics. Not only did they take the high road in their statements, but they were so exactly right.
Too often, in my career as a plant physiologist and biotechnologist, have people politicized and evangelized on these two issues. I applaud the doctors’ approach and statements, given without slant for or against.

We scientists must share the blame for so much angst about new technologies, as we assume the world understands them as we do. The scientific community has, in numerous situations, spoken about concepts that are taken by the media as actual processes. An example of this is in the announcement some years ago that “genes from Greenland flounder transferred into strawberries provide greater frost tolerance.”

Genes are essentially super-micro-blocks of chemicals. Their construction, and the order they are placed in the DNA helix, provide the functionality. Modern science is able to synthesize (make artificially) most genes, without having to extract them from certain species. In essence, these “unthinkable concepts,” while discovered in other species, in realty have no linkage to being extracted from flounders, hogs, monkeys, or any other living entity.

What seems most difficult for the Adventists I speak to about biotechnology is the concept of the commonality of genes across the kingdoms of plants, animals, and microorganisms. Their genetic makeup gives each living organism its unique characteristics, and this can be from an extremely small portion of genes. Genomic projects have shown monkeys and humans share 99 percent of their genes. Sobering, but also enlightening, as we could hope that this small piece of knowledge may help dispel fears of our foodstuffs or medicines coming from the genes of hogs, or other equally unclean creatures.
The doctors’ reasoned and balanced responses strengthen their message. Kudos to them both.
--Clive Holland
Des Moines, Iowa

Lukewarm, or Careless?
I am moved to respond to Fredrick Russell’s column, “I’m a Recovering Laodicean” (Dec. 9, 2010).

While I applaud getting out of our comfortable pews and getting down to the business of witnessing about our wonderful Savior, I am saddened at another subtle message in this article: namely that our “majestic organs, tightly scripted bulletins, finely crafted sermons, and all the usual trappings of congregational comfort” are the problem.

Too often we substitute fervor for excellence when it comes to our worship, and as a consequence turn off the very people who might worship with us but don’t because of our shoddy bulletins and hastily thrown together music and messages.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hesitated and, yes, refused to invite people to Adventist services because I wasn’t sure they could see Jesus through the careless preparation. Collective worship is a powerful witnessing tool when participants and leaders recognize that they are in God’s presence and have planned for it.

When a church is planted, what will make it grow? I have found our greatest fault is not in planting but in careful nurture. While we wait for the Lord to come, let’s be serious about worshipping Him; and that includes our bulletins! We can become Laodicean about our worship as well as our witness.
--Jeanne Henriksen
Pleasant Hill, Oregon

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