Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Irony

In just the month of December Utah has revisited it's past in a unique way.

First, back in the day, Utah had to abandon and denounce any plural marriages as a pre condition to gaining statehood.  It even had to be written into the Utah State Constitution.    

Fast forward a century and some change.  Now a federal judge has struck down parts of Utah’s anti-polygamy law as unconstitutional. Once again plural marriage is right at the forefront of Utah politics as it was 117 years ago. Then last Friday a Federal Judge Struck down Utah State Constitution amendment 3, which defined marriage as between 1 man and 1 woman.

Utah just can't seem to appease the government with regards to marriage no matter what they do.  These federal rulings, among other things, have strangely brought the potential for polygamy closer than it's been in a hundred years.  Utah certainly has some interesting things going on.      

It's ironic that the federal government forced Utah to adopt a traditional definition of marriage at statehood in 1896, and and is now being told the definitions are invalid or unconstitutional.    

And here I used to think politics were boring...

Monday, December 9, 2013

Trivia is not light and truth

I'm in the audience of a lot of Church lessons that tend to focus or contain a lot of trivia.  Which in our culture seems to be interchangeable with light and truth.  The one leaves a feeling of emptiness, but light and truth fills me and gives me something to think about, and prayerfully consider in the context of my life.

I was teaching Elder's Quorum last week and posed the question to the class "What's the difference between truth, and trivia".   It was some time before anyone had anything to say about it.  The silence was getting long so I brought up the TV show Jeopardy, or various board games that are based around trivial knowledge.  The difference began to become more clear as the class discussed it.  

I think it's funny that IBM produced a computer that could outperform humans on Jeopardy.  But at the end of the end of the day trivia doesn't save anyone, so that's one trump card for the humans.  Computers can't be saved, but humans can.  Trivia may win people money, or make you look good to others, and maybe cause pride, but lots of trivial knowledge doesn't mean that person has acquired light and truth no matter how seriously they take their trivia.  

I'm concerned when I see teachings of the Church drifting away from doctrine, away from truth and light, and in it's place trivia, watered down truth, and emotional storytelling.  It seems to be more and more evident. Sometimes the historical trivia is even wrong, or based on lies, which complicates the problem.

But whether we personally acquire light and truth is not dependent on an organization.  The Gospel can be viewed in terms of trivia, or in terms of truth.  If for example we view the temple through the lens of trivia, than the symbols and signs are factual data you can amass in your head.  Something you can enter into a heavenly kiosk at the entrance to heaven.  And once you get the little green check mark you can enter in.  If you view the Gospel and symbols and signs in that way you can find all the trivia you want on the internet.  There are ample websites willing to entertain with all manner of temple trivia.  You needn't even attend the temple at all to gain the needed trivial knowledge.  But what you won't find there is light and truth.  Viewed in the wrong light it darkens your mind because it distracts from the knowledge of truth.  Truth as defined in D&C 90:24.
  
The truths behind the trivia is what we should be after.   

Trivia:  Joseph Smith was born on Dec 23rd. 
Truth:  Birthday's Matter.  Joseph Smith was born the day after the Winter Solstice, which is the day of the year when the amount of light on the earth begins to increase again.  A perfect symbol for the life and ministry of Joseph who brought light to the earth after a time of darkness and error.  Birthday's are not just coincidence.    

How much more important is it to search the scriptures to gain light and truth, than to simply gain trivial understanding?   In fact we miss the mark if all we gain is trivia.   John 5:39 "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."
   

Friday, November 22, 2013

Insomuch

Alma 30: 53 But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.

"Success" or having your teaching accepted doesn't always mean that what you are teaching is true.  Nor does lack of success mean that what you are teaching is false.

Korihor says he taught the people, even until he had much success INSOMUCH, (meaning "to such a degree") that I verily believed that they were true.  But it wasn't. He was deceived by the audience's acceptance of what he said.

Don't be fooled that large scale acceptance equals truth.  The scripture more often than not show how a large scale audiences acceptance of a belief or message almost NEVER equates to the truthfulness of the message.  Small audiences also do not mean it's false. The followers of Christ when he lived his mortal life were very small.   

Friday, November 15, 2013

Who can say the scriptures are plain unto them?

Finish reading this post before you let your reaction determine what it is you may think I'm saying.



Unfortunately today is a day when many have assumed that titles and offices in our religion confer gifts, powers, and abilities when in fact they are mere invitations to obtain them. It's a calling. A call (by very implication of the definition) is an invitation.  I can sustain the leaders of the Church, but what I cannot do is cause them to be or possess something they themselves must obtain by obedience to God.  I support their "callings".  I sustain them with prayers.  However, the receipt or display of the gifts they are "called" to exercise is not up to me.

Where is there an authorized prophet or apostle in the current Church that can declare that the words of Isaiah are plain unto him? On the contrary, most of them will admit they do not understand them.  This isn't meant to be critical or demeaning. We don't like to become aware of such things but we ought not fear the truth.  The truth is not evil, so pointing out the truth is not evil speaking.  I affirm their God given calling and pray for them.  However if the gifts are absent, I don't think anyone needs to get irritated and cry "apostate".  That's not the case.    

What can happen when a people hold too tight to the idea of a "prophet", is they create myths to explain away the absence of something.  They may start to call "policy changes" revelation.  And call political research and opinion surveys evidence of divine gifts.  They are not.  But understandably it would be very troubling to entertain the idea that a leader who we call a "revelator" isn't revealing anything about God or his will.  In fact many other Christian pastors do more revealing than the men we sustain in our own church as revelators.

Think back to what started the restoration. An experience we all know.  An experience where a man, spoke with God himself.  He said so, in plain English  He encouraged everyone to come to God and see and know for themselves.  Joseph Smith taught a list of shocking doctrines, encouraging man to connect directly with heaven which are now completely avoided, discarded, and intentionally left out of church curriculum by the correlation department. What once was scripture (Lectures on Faith) is not allowed to be read by missionaries in many missions in the Church.  We teach to spread truth while at the same time intentionally neglecting it.   

The scriptures become increasing vague and difficult to understand the more more darkness we allow ourselves to remain in.  There are forgotten scriptures restored by Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon that used to speak of neglecting and robbing the poor in favor of "fine apparel" and "fine sanctuaries".  (2 Nephi: 28:13) (Mormon 8:38-41) Scriptures speak of the "widows" mite and how she gave more than the rich who were paying donations to be seen of men.  Yet we all seem to miss the fact that the widow went away with nothing.  No one helped her.  All those religious donations were given and no one had eyes to see the poor widow.  Even though they all had eyes, they all knew she was poor, and they all knew she gave much.  Yet they were blind.

We gloss over these things not seeing that they describe the condition of all of us.  We, the Church calming Christ's name spent over 5 billion dollars on a high end shopping mall and luxurious housing complex. I find no one, anywhere, that fits the description in the Book of Mormon of those who "build fine sanctuaries and rob the poor" better than us Mormons who are for some reason spending billions on commercial endeavors.  After all we, not others, are the ones reading that book and believe it to be true.  We are a church bearing Christ's name who owns a multi-billion dollar shopping mall which houses Tiffany's jewelry next door to a temple.  Yet members of our own faith in other countries perish with hunger.  Even though I would bet most members are willing and have a heart to donate.  Somehow the donations seem to have been seized.  It's as if the scripture authors saw our day, and predicted out exact errors. But we'll never be able to do anything about it until we recognize it.

The good news is that we can repent.  And there isn't a moment to loose.

The scriptures are plain, but it's hard to see it because of how squarely it slaps us all in the face.  We have to drop our religious pride, our arrogance, and then we see the scriptures are indeed plain.

Many do not see a high end church owned shopping mall as anything other than intelligent investing and managing of the Lord's funds.  Kind of like the parable of the talents, with the one servant bringing a big return on the talents given him.  I view it differently.  Did not the Lord in the parable require even the interest to be returned to Him?  It was all His, including the interest.  So we are indeed accountable for what we do with the interest and the original donation which always belonged to Him.

The scripture can become a lot more plain when you start seeing how precisely they describe some of our modern day behavior.  Christ's words aren't so old or obscure that they require some leader to help us determine how they meet the needs of our day.  They are plain.  The Holy Ghost makes them plain to each who seeks.  Come unto Christ.   

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sunday Sideliners

I went to hear my brother-in-law speak at the Federal Heights Ward right down the hill from Shriners Hospital in Sale Lake City a few weeks ago.  This chapel features a layout I had never seen before.  The sacrament table was right in front of the pulpit. And it was no small table.  Front and center.  It immediately drew my attention.  Rather than being a sideliner like in most correlated chapel layouts, the sacrament table in this building architecturally was the center.  It caused its symbols to become more apparent, and as the meeting went on it helped all of us remember what the center point of the meeting really is.  Even while observing the speakers, the sacrament table remained within direct field of view.  One couldn't look at the speaker without seeing the sacrament table at the same time.  It helped keep things in proper perspective.

I thought that it was not just a great symbol, but a helpful one.  The atonement, and the sacrament should be at the heart and center of our worship services.  Sometimes they are not, and having the table off to the side of the room doesn't help the fact. It almost makes the sacrament a side topic.  Which ironically, Christ often is a side topic of our meetings.  I've visited who knows how many wards over the past few years, and this is a trend no matter where I go.  Christ gets less and less focus, while men gain more and more praise and adoration. We often know more about leaders, then we do the Lord.      

But back to the sacrament table.  With the table front and center, one can't help but see the white sheet laid over the top of the sacramental emblems and think of the Lord in the tomb.  The contours in the white linens created by the bread and water trays helps the mind reflect on the Lord's body as it lay.  He having literally given His life, body, and blood as a sacrifice for mankind.  Then as one partakes of blessed bread and water, which literally becomes part of the person who partakes, he or she can ponder on the living reality of the Lord.  No longer dead, but alive.  What great symbols the sacrament offers.  

The architecture in most buildings causes our minds to focus on the pulpit and the one speaking.  But that should not be the focus of our meetings.  I wish more churches held this ordinance in the front and center, both in architecture, and in Spirit.   

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Great thought for any day

I really like this saying: "whatever there be that truth can destroy, it should.'"

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Confounded Language

Ether 1: 34-35 "And the brother of Jared being a large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord, Jared, his brother, said unto him: Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words. And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded."

"That 'we' may not understand 'our' words".  Ever noticed this?  How curious that he refers to a loss of understanding of their own words.  I believe this petition was small scale, limited to a family or small group. 

It's possible for any number of people to speak English with each other and yet at the same time have a confounded language.  While growing up in the Church and attending primary I used to think the Tower of Babel story was a story of people who went to bed one night, and woke up the next morning with one person speaking Chinese, and their next door neighbor woke up speaking Arabic, and their littler brother and sister speaking Spanish. (It was every foreign language speaking missionaries dream come true)  In primary I saw it as an overnight thing that resulted in mass chaos. 

Upon further thought, many many more possibilities and ways to view these scriptures occur to me.  I can't say for sure if people really did just spontaneously obtain fluency in a foreign language.  But what I did want to write about was something that may in fact may be occurring in our day before our eyes.  Language becomes confounded simply by the nature of entropy and our fallen world. 

Interestingly today in church the closing prayer was long and deliberate yet I could not make heads or tails of what the person was saying.  I recognized the English words, yet when strung together they had little meaning.  Think about every day contexts...how many of us speak English withe each other, yet do not share the same meaning of the words with the person we are speaking with?  Might as well be speaking Spanish to a Russian native.  If you both use the word "Gospel" and one of you is thinking of the chapel you attend on Sunday, and the leaders of some specific religious organization, and the other person is thinking of exclusively the bible and exclusively only certain parts of just the bible, then the conversation is going to hit some early roadblocks.   

Word meanings deteriorate over time.  Just like fallen man himself.  Fallen man's words becomes confounded without the light of truth.  The definitions deteriorate, stray, and dwindle.     

If you can alter the meaning of a scriptural word, and create associations in the minds of the people that trigger the wrong idea and wrong picture you can pretty effectively confound someone.  Take repentance for example.  How much baggage is attached to that word?  What about obedience?  How many people have a totally incorrect image in their head when it comes to obedience?  If we do not understand the word repentance to mean what the scriptural authors intended, then how can we possibly repent?  Can you repent in the way we need to if our understanding of repentanc eis all skewed?  Using the repentance example, you could spend your entire life "stopping" certain things, and at the end fail to ever repent.  Repentance involves "starting" something and "adding" things to your life as well as stopping things.     

Ask yourself if our language is confounded.  I asked myself that, and the answer is yes.  Not only can two people speak English to each other and yet not understand each other, but we are in jeopardy of reading the scriptures and completely missing the meaning, and therefore remain unable to live and apply the teachings.  We then are ripening as a confounded people.
        
I like the petition Jared asks of his brother for himself and friends.  I think it's as applicable today, as it was then:  "Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words." 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Priesthood Keys

A few interesting ideas about keys in the church.  For your consideration.

"In order to receive priesthood keys the recipient must be taught them. This concept is almost completely foreign to modern members of the church. However, this is exactly what was meant by Joseph Smith. And we know this is the case because of Joseph Smith’s early practices, his statements, and beliefs.

"Knowledge of what the keys are and how to use them cannot be transferred through simply uttering the phrase, 'I bestow upon you the keys.'

"It would be like giving your car keys to someone, but not actually giving them the physical keys. Instead you just tell them that they now possess the keys to your car. But unless they do some hot wiring, they aren't going to be starting the car anytime soon.

"No, the Keys must be taught to the recipient. Therefore, when Joseph Smith received the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood, the messengers who bestowed them must not have simply pronounced upon them the keys. Rather, they bestowed the knowledge of the physical and spoken manifestations that are the Keys."

"The word key was often used by the Prophet Joseph Smith. In this instance it refers to a means of unlocking revelation whereby 'knowledge and revelation shall flow.' It is this knowledge and intelligence that empowers people to become more like Christ, and by becoming more like Christ they are in turn unified with each other. In other words, the magnificent "key" that was given was the key to the knowledge that allows the blessings and power of the priesthood to change us -to allow us to be born again."  (Joseph Smith and the Doctrinal Restorationpg 247.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In who's name?

At church recently (and on more than a few other occasions) a speaker (adult) concluded their talk with the words "In the name of thy son Jesus Christ amen".

I hear this probably once a month or more at some point during church regardless of the ward I attend.  It catches my ear for some reason.  In the name of "thy" son is what's said.  As if the speaker were giving the talk to God instead of the congregation.  Or perhaps the speakers inadvertently keep switching in to prayer mode.  The entire phrase "In the name of......amen" has become so common place, rushed, slurred, and sometimes trite that I worry it's lost its meaning, and intent.  Like a vain repetition that we have become conditioned to repeat so we can end our talk/lesson already.

Closing a comment or any form of communication in the name of someone else is common phraseology beyond religion. Shouldn't be new to anyone. Political situations, government communications, military communication, many many contexts involve someone speaking "in the name of" someone else. It means the words are approved by that person or are in fact the words of the person but are being relayed by someone else. To share a message that in fact does not meet that criteria begins to head towards bearing false witness.  I pass no judgement on anyone's speech that I hear at church, this is simply to draw attention to something that I think merits attention.  This entire discussion is related to the commandment to not take the Lord's name in vain.  That's the context I'm speaking from.

The widely-held view of the third great commandment is that it prohibits calling on deity in a vain or exclamatory manner, as with other vulgarities. But think for a moment how an ancient Israelite would have understood  the commandment to not profane God’s name. Though offensive yes, exclamations or derogatory usage is not the same as taking His name in vain.  “Taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain”, as the commandment is rendered in Hebrew, means the invoking of God’s name to justify doing something that God did not ask you to do. Such things misrepresent Him. Likewise saying you are speaking for Him when in reality you do not, is a misrepresentation of Him. It's vain.  If we are going to say something in the Lord's name, seems wise to be sure that you are actually doing that and not just pontificating or sharing philosophies or theories mingled with scripture. The Lord gave a warning related to this in Matthew 7:22-23.

Maybe the commandment to not use the Lords name in vain has less to do with profanity and more to do with saying we speak for Him when we don't. Speaking for someone whom you have never met and who has never given you a message to convey, yet still saying you are doing so anyway would be something important to consider.  I sometimes imagine what it would be like if we were not culturally conditioned to conclude talks or lessons in church the way we do. I've never seen any rule or procedure that says we are required to conclude with the phrase this post is discussing.... but then again I haven't read the official church handbook of instructions recently.  There are many ways to conclude a talk, but it's hard to even conceive of doing it differently due to how deeply ingrained our cultural traditions are.  But perhaps we should give it some thought.

Granted not all of us are perfect in our speech, but this tendency I've been writing about is frequent enough that it's gone beyond a slip of the tongue.  It's almost revealing something about our mindset and how we understand what it means to speak in the name of Christ.

Do we know the person for whom we say we speak?  Or do we speak these phrases just to speak?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

That which ye call anger

And ye have murmured because he hath been plain unto you. Ye say that he hath used sharpness; ye say that he hath been angry with you; but behold, his sharpness was the sharpness of the power of the word of God, which was in him; and that which ye call anger was the truth, according to that which is in God, which he could not restrain, manifesting boldly concerning your iniquities. (2 Nephi 1:26)

That which ye call anger......   It was actually the truth.

I think a tool of the devil is to distort the Lord's involvement and communication so it appears to us as something we should reject, or immediately judge out of defense.  I can only imagine how frequently truth, and light filled gestures from the Lord have been misinterpreted as angry and thus fought instead of accepted.  The Lord is not an angry being.  He asks us to be like him.  He teaches "be of good cheer" because that is how he is.

Lord, help us see You and your work for what they are, and not be blinded by limited and distorted perceptions of anger.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Who hath done it?

Before enjoying the harvests of righteous efforts, let us therefore first acknowledge God’s hand. Otherwise, the rationalizations appear, and they include, “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deut. 8:17). Or, we “vaunt” ourselves, as ancient Israel would have done (except for Gideon’s deliberately small army), by boasting that “mine own hand hath saved me” (Judg. 7:2). Touting our own “hand” makes it doubly hard to confess God’s hand in all things (see Alma 14:11; D&C 59:21).

- Neil A Maxwell.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pressure mistaken for promptings?



With the announcement regarding missionary age change I've noticed and been a part of some discussions lately that gave me pause.

Sister missionaries are now feeling more pressure to serve missions.  I've seen this consistently across many different circles.  The pressure for guys has been there as long as I've been alive but this recent change brings the matter to the surface again.  When the announcement was made regarding sister missionaries it was clearly stated that they do not have the same obligation and duty to serve a mission as the young men.  It was stated that if they desire to serve great, if not, that's perfectly acceptable as well.  Regardless of that, the culture has done what it sometimes does, which is do things a bit contrary to what leaders and doctrine state. 

One conversation yesterday was particularly interesting.  A sister missionary candidates voiced she was moving forward with plans to serve not totally due to promptings, but in large part due to pressure. Pressure and promptings are obviously not the same and should not be confused with one another. One of those comes from the Holy Ghost.  The other comes from our culture. The long term effects of acting on pressure vs acting in promptings are worth thinking about.  The outcome is vastly different.  The two can sometimes lead in opposite directions even. One can change the heart, the other often lacks the divine and thus will usually only lead to superficial changes, if any.  The temptation to succumb to pressure is something we all deal with in one way or another.  

The effect of this kind of cultural pressure seems to just create a herd mentality and an empty form of worship.  It produces no power, and often only mimics true faith.  The Holy Ghost does not have that effect.  We need the Holy Ghost as our constant companion.  Cultural pressure is constantly surrounding us so the need is as high as it's ever been to also have a divine gift that is an active, living part of our life.  It's not our will, nor the will of our culture or traditions, it's doing God's will that brings light and happiness.   

Joseph Smith said: The Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. TPJS. 149-150.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Gospel Fruit



Loved this thought from a friend:

The "fruit" (Gospel Fruit) is primarily internal, changing the heart. When it comes to affecting others, it is only secondarily external. It is of course external in how you conduct your life, but not so when it comes to whether you will see others welcome the truth. Did Mormon have "fruit?" Measured by the external standard and during his lifetime, it was only his son and a small handful of others. But certainly he had "fruit." The same would be true of Nephi. Most of those in his own family rejected him.

If we abide in the True Vine, we can then bear fruit. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Obedience to God



"Thousands have waned in their spiritual life because they limited their obedience to the mere standard of other Christians, or to the conservative opinions of other saints. God never duplicates the spiritual life in any two persons, and everyone who walks with Him will be called upon to say and do and experience things somewhat unlike them, or any other person. To save His children from aping each other, He will resort to terrific methods of separating and individualizing them; for He is determined that they shall obey Him, and not each other.

There is a realm of Christian counsel and uniformity of faith and practice; yet, within this range, the Holy Ghost ordains that all who are made perfect shall follow in an individual orbit. No saint perfectly obeyed God in the world that did not have to say things and do things that nobody else on earth exactly agreed with. If you perfectly obey God, you will have to do some things outside of the judgment or tastes or fancies of your best friends. Nobody on earth could have been found to sanction the offering up of Isaac. Joseph’s family did not agree with the imprudence of his dreams. If Paul had consulted the eleven apostles, he never would have done the things he did. Daniel went against the advice of all the old, sober heads in refusing the king’s meat and wine. Perfect obedience must be independent, calm, settled and fearless.

How many thousands of souls have weakened in faith by not obeying God on some point, great or small, just because it did not meet the sanction of the circle of friends in which they moved!"


-GD Watson

Saturday, February 9, 2013

After the order of the Nehors

..And he began to preach to them in their synagogues, for they had built synagogues after the order of the Nehors. (Alma 21:4)

Folks believed or had become so entrenched in the philosophy of Nehor that they actually built synagogues after his order. It seems they built after this manner intentionally. It wasn't an accident. I imagine buildings at that point in history took extensive time and effort.

We know Nehor taught, promoted, and introduced priestcraft. Priestcraft is someone preaching and setting themselves up for a light to the world that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they do not seek the welfare of Zion (2 Ne. 26:29).  Such things undermines your faith.

It's interesting that Nehor had an "order".  Other places in scripture that use that term are D&C 107:3.  There is says that before the days of Melchizedek, The Priesthood was called "The Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God".  How would that differ from Nehor's order?

So this Nehor had some pretty influential doctrine and philosophy. A deadly combination even.  His testimony and false doctrine was powerful enough that it influenced church architecture. He is even said to have a "profession" named after him (Alma 15:15).  That profession conveniently did not believe in repentance of sins.  Likely because they believed it unnecessary which was pleasing to the carnal mind.

When we read that they built synagogues "after the order of the Nehors" does this refer mostly to architecture? Art? Or something else?  What would a Nehor synagogue look like? Would it include things like statues of men in/on the buildings? Would it be a place of worship (or a place that people worship) that celebritizes men, makes them popular, and sets them up as a light? Perhaps naming the buildings after men?  

Mormon didn't just spill all the beans for us when abridging the Book of Mormon. But in a way he did. He engraved that sentence about the manner of building synagogues into metal plates for a reason. He likely wanted us to think about our own places of worship in our day.  He wanted us to know that a civilization built religious places of worship after the manner of priestcraft and it was disastrous.  It came so short of what God truly offers it should give us pause.

After what manner do we build Church owned buildings, malls, and places of worship? Are we at risk of building after the order of the Nehors?   

Monday, January 28, 2013

Getting out of our own way

How often would you say we get in our own way?  With things of the Spirit, the Gospel, our work, families, kids, relationships? I wondered today just how often we ourselves are predominately what gets in our own way.  Sometimes it's the mind, which tries to run the show or become overly analytic, or at times it could be our heart which is troubled, holding on to pain, regret, or not moving towards forgiveness.  

I wonder if most problems we associate with "others" or attribute to "them" or blame on someone or something else involves a lot of us getting in our own way.  Take any problem and notice how it will usually be presented or pass through our mind as though someone or something "else" is the cause or culprit.  And yes sometimes others could stand to make some changes, but if we're not careful that is where we get stuck. We may deceive ourselves into thinking we couldn't possibly be contributing to the problem.  Self deception, blaming, being the victim, fear of not doing it perfect, avoiding, needing to "prove" our virtue, indecision, denial, doubt, anger, amplifying the faults of others to justify our assessment of them, the need to be right, the need to correct others all the time, needing "them" to change.  These are things and tendencies that so often get in our own way.

Those things can also easily cover their own tracks.... meaning we feel totally justified by doing them and then don't notice or remain unaware that we are doing them.  What if, in the last analysis it turns out one of our greatest impediments was not God, others, or our circumstances, but ourselves getting in our own way? 

The times in life when we truly "listen" to the light within us and then get out of the way are fulfilling and enjoyable.  Freeing even.  Sometimes it's the simple, unexpected solution which you didn't expect.      

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Despair

Despair involves the opposite or absence of hope (Moroni 10:22).  Moroni says despair comes because of iniquity.

When recounting his experience just prior to the First Vision, in one part Joseph said he was about to sink into despair due to being seized upon by the adversary...  Here is a boy, out in the woods praying to God inspired by a phrase from James in The New Testament.  Nothing in that would have produced a whole lot of despair. The despair in this situation doesn't seem to be the kind that came from Joseph's 14 year old iniquity.  This despair he says he was about to sink into appears and is described as having come from the actual unseen being that sought his destruction. (JSH-16)

Satan's presence was one of despair.  He is the author of iniquity so it would make sense that despair accompanies him.  It's opposite is hope.  Satan seeks to destroy hope, which leads to despair and regret.

Because of the Lord, there is always hope.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The "Bad" Guy's Testimonies

I thought it would be interesting to look at the testimonies of some of the folk in scripture we typically don't associate ourselves with, but which in reality may carry some striking relevance for us and our day.  We often thing of the "bad" guys in scripture as not having a testimony.  However they too believe things.  And sometimes it's strikingly similar to our own beliefs.

It's not helpful if we insist that we are only, and exclusively associated with the good guys in scripture; and therefore never look at how we may be guilty of the same errors made by the "bad" folks.  When we refuse to see ourselves as anything but the good guys we may miss a great deal of what the scriptures are trying to teach us and tell us.  It may even boarder on willful blindness.

Laman and Lemuel's Testimony

"And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words..." (1 Ne. 17:22).

"we know that they are righteous".... They had a testimony that the people they lived among were righteous. They "knew" it was true. They base this on some form of keeping the (outward) statues and judgments of the Lord and all his commandments according to the law of Moses (read checklist). This brought them comfort and pride.  From that position they incorrectly evaluated Lehi as being judgmental. As it turns out they were mistaken, their "foolish father" (as they called him) actually had the true view of the situation.  Lehi's view was that the residents of Jerusalem were in serious peril, and needed to repent.  Being outwardly religious did not necessarily mean the residents of Jerusalem (or Laman and Lemuel for that matter) were righteous.  All was not well even though they may have perceived and sang that it was.

Lehi on the one hand "prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people."  He came to know God.  Laman and Lemuel on the other hand would have seen no need for such a thing, because they "knew" the people were already righteous. So unless your testimony is based on the truth it seems it ends up mostly blinding you.  That's why it's so important to receive the truth through the Holy Spirit.  The arm of the flesh or flattering assessments by men are not trustworthy.

Sherem

And ye have led away much of this people that they pervert the right way of God, and keep not the law of Moses which is the right way; and convert the law of Moses into the worship of a being which ye say shall come many hundred years hence. And now behold, I, Sherem, declare unto you that this is blasphemy; for no man knoweth of such things; for he cannot tell of things to come.... (Jacob7:7)

And I said unto him: Believest thou the scriptures? And he said, Yea. (vs 10)

Sherem claimed he believed in the scriptures, and also in the law of Moses.  He saw himself as a missionary. He uses the words of scripture to teach and share his beliefs and witness.  But, regardless, his beliefs were false.  What we have recorded of his testimony is sort of anti-testimony since it deals a lot with what can't happen, what isn't going to happen, and who doesn't exist.  He claimed to believe and teach the "right way".  You see you have to claim yours is the right way or you'll never be an effective missionary.  The misled folks however would not have thought they were mislead.  They, like all of us, need to harken to true messengers and obtain God's word for ourselves, so we are not dependent on others who are capable of misleading us. The precepts of men are very misleading, even the humble followers of Christ are subject to such things (2 Nephi 28:14).  Interestingly the D&C teacher's manual lesson 42 (link) quotes Sherem in their description of the correlation committee.  They ironically quote an anit-christ in their description of their own existence.

Sherem disagreed with the law of Moses being "converted" into something that worshiped a future Christ.  He preferred the law of moses which he taught was the right way.  Instead of looking for the reality, he preferred the symbol.  

The Priests of Noah

...Behold, we have brought a man before thee who has prophesied evil concerning thy people, and saith that God will destroy them. And now, O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned; therefore, this man has lied concerning you, and he has prophesied in vain. And behold, we are strong, we shall not come into bondage, or be taken captive by our enemies; yea, and thou hast prospered in the land, and thou shalt also prosper. And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man? (Mosiah 12: 9,13-15)

...Therefore, what teach ye this people? 28 And they said: We teach the law of Moses. (vs 27-28)

These priests had a testimony of the scriptures as well as the the law of Moses. These were leaders and teachers of the people. They recognized prophecy when they saw it. The problem is they didn't like how it made them look. Based on their teetering testimony, they assure Noah that he really hadn't sinned, because they keep the law of Moses, and they are guiltless, therefore any news to the contrary just HAS to be a lie because it just doesn't fit inside their testimony. As it turns out they were wrong. Who you choose as your advisers matters. They may be more off base than you.

These priests are another example of someone supporting or basing their testimony on outward appearances or religious observance.  Seems that when testimonies assure us that we are just so dang amazing, chosen, and guiltless, and prospering, such talk should raise red flags because they can set us up to reject anything and everything that goes against your "testimony", even if its a true message from God.        

Nehor

And he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people. And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life. (Alma 1:3-4)

Nehor's Testimony is that the Church leaders should be "popular"!  They should be supported so they don't need to work to support themselves or families due to their church service.  He practices and promotes priestcraft.  His testimony helps the leaders get gain, get rich, and acquire the honors of men.  He wants them to be religious celebrities, awed, reverenced, and fawned over and celebrated. This is all done for the sake of "riches and honor" (Alma 17:16).  Many folks found this pleasing (guess who found this most pleasing?).  They even built synagogues after the order of this Nehor (Alma 24).  Seems their very religious architecture/statues, followed after the pattern of priestcraft.

Nehor basically testifies to the people they they are righteous...indicating  that they should not fear nor tremble (which is the true reaction to someone discovering their lost and fallen condition before God). In other places in the scriptures we are told to work out our salvation "with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12) Nehor attempts to dispel fear with lies.  He was also skilled at using scriptural phrases, he "testifies" to the people but did so with lies and deceit and sets men up as a light. This would be like lulling someone to spiritual sleep, gently soothing their troubled conscience with partial truths, softly assuring them that all is well with platitudes and pretty flowered memes, and no harm will come due to their righteousness.  Apparently this kind of testimony was lucrative for the leaders.  

Zeezrom

Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being.  Now Amulek said: O thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations? Believest thou that there is no God? I say unto you, Nay, thou knowest that there is a God, but thou lovest that lucre more than him...(Alma 11:22-24)

Zeezrom trusts in things like logic, deception, status, money, and social persuasion and manipulation. He relies on the arm of the flesh.  He tries to get the crowd to turn against Alma.  After all Alma was perceived as being offensive, offensive to the core almost.  The offending Prophet however revels that Zeezrom is in love with money.  Zeezroms's actions in the verse quoted are consistent with his love of money.  He would sell what matters for it.  However later on he undergoes quite an ordeal and experiences a mighty change.  The trouble in his mind over his wickedness brought an intense, scorching fever (Alma 15:3).  However through faith in the Lord he was healed and then was "Baptised unto the Lord" by Alma.  That should give us hope.  Rather than being soothed by others and flattered into disregarding Alma's troubling testimony Zeezrom repented, came to the Lord, and was baptized.        

Zoramites 

Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.  But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.  And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen. (Alma 31:17-18)

In Vs 28 Alma gives some insight into these folks hearts: 28 Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish.

The Zoramite's testimony is that they are part of the true Church. They are grateful they haven't been deceived by all the other foolish and errant people living in their day.  They give thanks as part of their testimony.  A thankamony even! But it's empty gratitude. The gratitude may have been sincere to a degree, but it was false in that it was based on error, and motivated no true Gospel fruit.  Their testimony builds on pride. They again, perceive themselves as righteous. Alma tells us that they love nice clothes, they love jewelry, they love expensive stuff obtainable at the local places of commerce. The wealth deceives them into thinking they are favored of God while others perish.  That belief is so bad it causes Alma pain in his soul.  Alma wants them to come to the truth, and make a course change, but their strong testimonies make them a tough crowd....

And last but certainly not least is our friend:

Korihor

His testimony is that people have frenzied and deranged minds as a result of the foolish religious traditions they follow.  He claims that this hope in Christ is vain and foolish, and there is no Christ because we can't know of things to come. He's an atheist. I know a number of Psychological or other professionals who would agree with Korihor's assessment about peoples minds being deranged and frenzied by religion.  It's convenient to view all religion that way, it makes it all easier to dismiss.  You can dismiss entire populations of people as objects, and mere biological creatures over which we needn't show regard.  It appeals to the carnal mind.    

But here's the real interesting part of his testimony.  It necessarily flows from the above position about there being no Christ, no hope, and basically no God or accountability.  "and that every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime."  (Alma 30:17)

This part extends the Christ-less view of life.  He says "whatever man does was no crime".  In other words you can treat people as poorly as you need to in order to get ahead because people don't matter anyway.  They were just creatures, objects even.  Prior to that he says that man "fairs in this life according to the management of the creature".  You can find that teaching at any given college campus on any day of the week.  And often taught from the pulpit in church.  Don't people get rich depending on how they manage the creature?  Don't they conquer according to their genius and strength?  I mean, don't they?

A theme in all these testimonies is that none of them initially think they are wicked.  They think the opposite.  They believe they are either guiltless, sinless, righteous, chosen, favored, or completely safe.  But when an offending true prophet comes along and actually tells them what God thinks, they can't conceive of themselves as being the ones the message addresses.  They think the messengers sent from God are crazy, look wrong, are off the wall, out of line, judgmental, arrogant, offensive, overly critical, apostate, lacking the right calling and credentials etc....  Instead of the truth, their testimonies only allow room for what makes them feel good.  And there exists plenty who are are happy to sell them that very thing in any shape, size, or color that suits their (our) fancy.  Some even offer feedback surveys to ensure the audience is happy with the quality of the deception offered.  Hugh Nibley is a great antidote for Korihor.  If you haven't read Approaching Zion, that's a great one.

In closing, the "Bad" guys are people too.  Just like you and I, they lived with hopes and dreams, they were subject to the trials of life, deceptions, and all the rest.  We will learn better from them by viewing them as people, people who faced not so very different illusions and temptations than we face.  They too were subject to a myriad of challenges, false doctrine, false testimony, difficulties and enticements. As people they can teach us much. As punching bags and as people by which to make ourselves feel prideful they don't offer quite the same benefit to the reader.  Don't forget to regard and see them as people, in doing so we may come to see some reflections that can open our eyes.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Waiting on the Lord Conclusion

Waiting Develops Patience

Impatience can be an ugly thing to encounter. It's easy to notice in young children, who at times can hardly wait for anything. In our spiritual lives, patience is mature virtue, or rather a virtue that comes from maturing. God loves us too much to allow us to skip the character building times when waiting develops patience. James 1:3-4 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. [We are also taught by the Lord to not "run faster than we have strength" (Mosiah 4:27)].

Waiting Encourages Others and Gives Greater Ability to Witness

Psalm 40:1, 5, 9-10  A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, and heard my cry. …5 Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which Thou hast done, And Thy thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with Thee; If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count. … 9 I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; Behold, I will not restrain my lips, O LORD, Thou knowest. 10 I have not hidden Thy righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation; I have not concealed Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth from the great congregation.

Psalm 119:43-44, 74 And do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, For I wait for Thine ordinances. 44 So I will keep Thy law continually, Forever and ever. … 74 May those who fear Thee see me and be glad, Because I wait for Thy word.
We must never discount the impact of our lives on others both for bad and for good. It is hard to have a positive word and a positive witness to others when we haven’t been waiting and aren’t resting on the Lord.

David wrote Psalm 40, a psalm of praise (vss. 1-10) and petition (vss. 11-17), while surrounded by trouble. First, he praised God for past deliverance and declares the blessedness of those trust God (vss. 1-4).

Psalm 40:2-12 A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, and heard my cry. 2 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. 3 And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear, And will trust in the LORD. 4 How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.

Second, he declares the incomparable nature of God and offers his life in dedication to God and His purposes (vss. 5-10). Verses 6-8 go beyond David and apply to Jesus. 5 Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which Thou hast done, And Thy thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with Thee; If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count. 6 Sacrifice and meal offering Thou hast not desired; My ears Thou hast opened; Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me; 8 I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart.” 9 I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; Behold, I will not restrain my lips, O LORD, Thou knowest. 10 I have not hidden Thy righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation; I have not concealed Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth from the great congregation.

Third, he then brings his present needs before the Lord, but it is his knowledge of the Lord and His truth which preserve his heart in the midst of his plight (vss. 11-12). Thou, O LORD, wilt not withhold Thy compassion from me; Thy loving kindness and Thy truth will continually preserve me. 12 For evils beyond number have surrounded me; My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see; They are more numerous than the hairs of my head; And my heart has failed me.

Finally, he cries out to God for deliverance and vindication from his enemies, but in it all, though asking God not to delay, his motive is “The Lord be magnified.” Therefore, he is committed to waiting on the Lord as his only help and deliverer (vss. 13-17). Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me; Make haste, O LORD, to help me. 14 Let those be ashamed and humiliated together Who seek my life to destroy it; Let those be turned back and dishonored Who delight in my hurt. 15 Let those be appalled because of their shame Who say to me, “Aha, aha!” 16 Let all who seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee; Let those who love Thy salvation say continually, “The LORD be magnified!” 17 Since I am afflicted and needy, Let the Lord be mindful of me; Thou art my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God.

Conclusion

I don’t know what you may be going through at the moment, but whatever it is the challenge of Scripture is to wait on the Lord because, unlike temporal man and the fleeting world in which we live, the sovereign Lord of the universe loves us with a steadfast love and personally cares for us like a father. So David wrote in Psalm 103:13-19: Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. 14 For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. 16 When the wind has passed over it, it is no more; And its place acknowledges it no longer. 17 But the loving kindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, 18 To those who keep His covenant, And who remember His precepts to do them. 19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all.

Wait for the LORD; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

[Rather than getting bogged down with Why? and How long?, we should instead choose to say, “I will wait upon the Lord . . . and I will look for Him” (2 Nephi 18:17), perhaps in a moment when we’re not expecting it, we will find Him.]

___________________________________________________________________

1 Mark S. Wheeler, “Hurry Up and Wait,” Kindred Spirit, Autumn 1991, p. 11.

2 G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd edition, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1937, p. 384.

3 Ibid., p. 46.

4 Ibid., p. 31.

5 The New Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas, general editor, InterVarsity, Downers Grove, 1982, electronic format.

6 Young, The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1971, p. 64.

7 Larry J. Crabb, Understanding People, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1987, p. 109.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Waiting on the Lord Pt 10

Waiting Means Remaining Teachable.

Proverbs 1:7 : The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. 

[The Lord knows more than we do (Abraham 3:19).  When we wait on Him we stay open to new understanding and thing never before considered. What was before an insurmountable challenge can take on new light and a new perspective as we learn from and wait on The Lord. Waiting is not rigidly clinging to and playing out old ideas, traditions, and patterns. It's instead staying open to receive higher understanding and instruction. Waiting implies remaining teachable.  This as opposed to becoming old dogs who won't learn new tricks. The Lord is the Great Teacher, desiring for us to learn and grow in light and truth without force. Some instruction will undoubtedly challenge us and our views. When we close our hearts and minds and won't consider new, challenging, or unfamiliar things, we may not truly be waiting on the Lord. (Matthew 7:7-8, Proverbs 12:1, Matthew 5:6, 1 Corinthians 2:14, D&C 50:24)]

Waiting Straightens and Builds Character

Waiting is part of maturing.  We see this with children, as they mature, they can develop the ability to be patient and wait when necessary.  

One of the emphases in the following three passages is on what happens in us and to us as we learn to wait on the Lord. It builds our character because through the process of waiting, we learn to depend on the Lord alone and to find our source of strength, security, and joy in Him which is the lesson the Apostle learned and refers to in Philippians 4:11-13. But let’s look at Psalm 37.

Psalm 37:1-11 has three challenges:

(1) Look Ahead. Verses 2, 9a, and 10 are absolutely true of everything that is rooted in time and not in eternity. We must learn to wait on God’s time and purposes and turn our minds and hearts towards Him.  (vss. 7-9). 

(2) Look Up. An obsession with problems, with rivals, with painful circumstances and the consequent harmful attitudes and strategies cannot simply be switched off, but they can be exchanged or removed by a new focus which rests and waits on the Lord (vss. 3-8).  Remember our explanation of what it means to wait on the Lord? It included spending time getting to know and love the Lord. Look at verse four “…delight yourself …” This means “take delight” or “find delight.” Remember Paul and Silas in prison who were singing as well as praying.

(3) Be Productive. This is put forth both in the positive and in the negative. This is seen in “do good” and “dwell in the land” (verse 3), and in the negatives of verses 1 and 8.
  • Doing good involves living for the Lord and positive ministry. It means living out of deep dependence on the Lord.
  • Not fretting, ceasing from wrath and anger which leads only to evil doing means setting aside our strategies for handling pain or getting our desires (cf. vs. 4b).
  • Doing evil, the product of fretting rather than waiting and resting, constitutes our human substitutes and false routes to joy, a common ingredient:

All false routes to joy, …  have one thing in common: they represent strategies for living that in some measure we can control. They do not require us to yield our core commitment to independence. God’s message is consistent: utter dependency is the route to satisfaction.7

The results of all this is verse six, the Lord is free to bring forth our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the new day. The result is nothing short of godly character with wise choices reproduced in the life of those believers who learn to wait on the Lord by way of patient faith rather than by self-assertion. These are the meek who will inherit the earth.

Psalm 39:7-8: Deliverance From Sinful Patterns.
Psalm 39:7-8 And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee. 8 Deliver me from all my transgressions; Make me not the reproach of the foolish.
Psalm 40:1-9: Stability With Obedience
Psalm 40:2-9: A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD ;And He inclined to me, and heard my cry. 2 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. 3 And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear, And will trust in the LORD. 4 How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood. 5 Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which Thou hast done, And Thy thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with Thee; If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count. 6 Sacrifice and meal offering Thou hast not desired; My ears Thou hast opened; Burnt offering and sin offering Thou hast not required. 7 Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me; 8 I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart.” 9 I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; Behold, I will not restrain my lips, O LORD, Thou knowest.


Waiting Lifts Us Out of Despair and Causes Praise to God


Psalm 40:2-3 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. 3 And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear, And will trust in the LORD.

Psalm 42:5-11 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. 6 O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember Thee from the land of the Jordan, And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep at the sound of Thy waterfalls; All Thy breakers and Thy waves have rolled over me. 8 The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life. 9 I will say to God my rock, “Why hast Thou forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 10 As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 11 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 43:5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, The help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 145:15-21 The eyes of all look to Thee, And Thou dost give them their food in due time. 16 Thou dost open Thy hand, And dost satisfy the desire of every living thing. 17 The LORD is righteous in all His ways, And kind in all His deeds. 18 The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. 19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them. 20 The LORD keeps all who love Him; But all the wicked, He will destroy. 21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD; And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.

When we are in despair or depressed, we moan and groan, whine and complain. But waiting on the Lord gets our eyes focused on Him and our glorious future. It puts a song in our hearts and praise on our lips.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Waiting on the Lord Pt 9

Waiting Teaches Humility As We Confront What We Are Not Able To Do

We live in an world that has constraints and limitations. We all live within the confines of what the Lord has allowed and given us. [It is enough. Personally we will all encounter weaknesses, difficulties, challenges, or setbacks that reveal our own limitations or capacities. These things can produce humility if we let them. Then in humility, we are drawn to approach the Lord. When we come to Him in faith and meekness He has promised to make weak things become strong (Ether 12:27). There will likely be times when this is not all accomplished in an instant, but involves persistence, faith, and humility as we set about doing what the Lord would have us do, while waiting confidently on Him.]    

Psalm 52:6-7 And the righteous will see and fear, And will laugh at him, saying, 7 Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, But trusted in the abundance of his riches, And was strong in his evil desire.

Prov. 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

Jeremiah 10:23 O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself, it is not in man who walketh to direct his way

Psalm 37:9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.

In contrast to the mighty man of wolrdly strength and acclaim is the godly one who waits on the Lord. The mighty man is the person who thinks he is sufficient in himself and thereby refuses or see's no real need to wait on the Lord. He’d rather trust in himself and his own philosophies for life. He works evil, and gets ahead (he thinks) by using others and by selfishness. But the Lord cuts him off, uproots him like a tree. 

So what happens when we wait on the Lord? A number of marvelous things happen to us, in us, and through us.  Here are just a few of the benefits of waiting on the Lord


Waiting Sustains and Satisfies (or Allows the Lord to Do So)


Psalm 145:14-16 The LORD sustains all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to Thee, And Thou dost give them their food in due time. 16 Thou dost open Thy hand, And dost satisfy the desire of every living thing.

While the word “wait” is not found in this passage in the English translation of the NASB, the concept is clearly here. Note the words, “The eyes of all look to thee.” “Look” is sabar which means, “look, wait, hope” and is so translated in the KJV. Compare its use in Psalm 104:27-28 where it has the idea of “be dependent on.”

But can’t the words of Psalm 145:15, “in due time,” perfectly describe those periods in our lives when we are sitting in one of those places God has marked with the words “Waiting Room”? But how does it describe us? As fallen, bowed down, yet looking, waiting on the Lord to supply and sustain, but in His season, in His time! Every time we encounter one of the variegated problems of life, we are faced with a very important choice—to look up and "wait", or focus on the problem and worry, run away, throw in the towel, or run ahead of the Lord.  Persistence, in the face of opposition develops our faith.  Waiting implies faithful persistence.  

When we choose other ways than the Lord we can even suffer various kinds of consequences:  Of course not all are a result of disobedience, but choosing ways other than the Lord's will eventually have consequences.  

(1) Some are physical and we become prime candidates for ulcers, migraines, high blood pressure, etc.
(2) Others are financial (like the burden of debt or bankruptcy).
(3) Others are relational (like the heartache of a marriage in turmoil, divorce, or rebellious children).
(4) Still others are geographical and situational placing us in difficult circumstances and places.
(5) But always, when we refuse to wait, there are spiritual consequences—loss of fellowship with the Lord, loss of spiritual strength and wisdom, loss of our witness, or being out of the Lord’s will.


Waiting Strengthens and Enables


Isaiah 40:29-31: 29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

As we look at this passage, we might think about the following:

(1) While there are obviously other causes, continued weariness and a lack of strength to carry on may be the result of failing to wait on the Lord as it’s defined above. (Cf. verses 29-30 with verse 31.)
(2) We all become not only physically tired and weary, but emotionally and spiritually depleted. That’s human. But God says part of the solution along with good health habits (diet, rest, exercise, etc.) is “wait for the Lord.”

Isaiah is telling us we often grow weary because we fail to wait on the Lord. When we run around in our own strength and operate by our own insufficient resources we are going to sooner or later run out of steam.  The key question is, why don’t we wait on the Lord? Often it’s because we do not believe sufficiently in God and all that He is. For some reason, we begin to think and act like God is simply not involved or doesn’t understand, [or the biggest lie of all.... that he doesn't care].

Isaiah 40 is a chapter designed to bring comfort to its readers. Let’s never forget—God is the God of all comfort. He wants to comfort His people, but this doesn’t mean He always removes the sources of our pain. This chapter is written against the background of 39 chapters announcing judgment against Israel, Judah, and the nations. Israel would suffer and go into captivity. In fact, even this captivity was a result of God’s love.

Intellectually we acclaim God’s care, but practically, we often deny it. Isaiah 40 challenges our knowledge and how well we are really listening to the Word, it then quickly focuses our attention on God as the one who is all-powerful, full of wisdom, and faithful to strengthen us in the struggles of life.  At times however we feel or suggest we have been forsaken or passed over (Isa 40:27-29… It is a universal complaint, raised in times of difficulty and adversity.6  Perhaps you have said something similar.  The idea of the questions in vs 28 are designed to awaken and expose us in order to get them (us) to evaluate our thoughts and actions in the light of God’s person, His principles, and His promises. Why? So we can see just how far off we have drifted from anchoring their hope in the Lord as those who wait on Him.

Lets turn to the promises of verse 31:
Isaiah 40:31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

First, there is a general promise, “… those who wait … will gain new strength”: It is the promise of new strength to do what is needed. This would include emotional, moral, and spiritual strength, and undoubtedly, physical strength is to be included since it is often affected by our spiritual condition.

Then there are three specific promises:

(1) “They will mount up with wings like eagles.” This would seem to point to the ability to rise above the problems of one’s life through one’s heavenly experience or relationship with the Lord by waiting on Him.
(2) “They will run and not get tired.” The analogy to running because of the stress involved would look at the strength God gives to handle particularly stressful situations that come up in life. The tougher the situation, the more we need to draw on the Lord and literally cling to Him.
Compare Deuteronomy 10:20, 13:4 and Joshua 23:8. The Hebrew word there is dabag, “to cling, cleave, keep close.” But also compare Deuteronomy 13:17 and Joshua 23:12Jeremiah 13:11 gives us an illustration of the meaning of this word, like the waistband on a pair of trousers, or a belt around the waist.
(3) “They will walk and not become weary.” Walking portrays our everyday life with all of its daily and often humdrum activities or routines. Even when things aren't particularly stressful, we still need to wait on the Lord.

What a beautiful and complete way to describe the blessed consequences of waiting on the Lord.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Waves

Amazing video and music.



-Taylor

Waiting on the Lord Pt 8

Why We Should Wait on the Lord?

What are some of the benefits of waiting on the Lord? And what are the consequences when we do not?
To wait on the Lord, we must know what waiting on the Lord means and involves, the foregoing discussion has hopefully clarified many aspects of this. But we also need to know why we do these things. One of the keys to obedience or appropriation of something is motivation. There is, of course, great motivation to wait on the Lord.  It is best done, when done out of joy.  

We Wait Because of Who God is and what He is able to do

Waiting on the Lord means learning to have a single and consistent focus on God as the source of life because of all that He is as God—holy, just, sovereign, good, righteous, merciful, gracious, loving, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, infinite, truth, and eternality.  We need to know God's character to exercise faith enough to wait on Him.  

Jeremiah wrote,

Are there any among the idols of the nations who give rain? Or can the heavens grant showers? Is it not Thou, O Lord our God? Therefore we hope (Hebrew = qavah, wait, look to, hope) in Thee, For Thou art the one who hast done all these things (Jeremiah 14:22). David wrote, My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken (Ps. 62:1-2). IPsalm 25:5 David said, Lead me in Thy truth and teach me, For Thou art the God of my salvation; For Thee I wait all the day.

In each of these passages, we can quickly see it is because of who God is that we can and should wait on Him.  As the familiar commercial might remind us, we are “in good hands” when we are in God’s caring, powerful, wise, and loving hands. But because of our natural tendency to wander and go our own independent way, keeping up outward appearances, one of the issues we face is how can we maintain a spirit of meekness, and humbly wait on our Lord.  

Obviously, as mentioned previously, we must recognize that waiting includes seeking the Lord. As we saw, that includes study and meditation on God's Word and prayer, those spiritual disciplines that help to keep our eyes and confidence on the Lord. But still, how do we maintain consistency in seeking the Lord?
Several of the verses on waiting reveal some interesting reminders of a number of biblical principles that are quite fundamental to our spiritual life. These principles sometimes get lost in the busyness and routine of everyday life. Sometimes they get lost in our spiritual life too because we can so easily fall into the rut of a deadening religious routine. Remember, the only difference between a grave and a rut is a rut has the ends removed.

If we have been going our own way—too busy to take time with the Lord—we need to acknowledge that and return to the Lord with a view of waiting on Him. Hosea 12:6 looks at this very need of returning to the Lord in an attitude of confession with a view to looking to (waiting on) the Lord for His salvation. “Therefore, return to your God, Observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually.”
In Psalm 39:7 we see David’s determination to wait and hope in the Lord rather than the futility of anything he might be prone to trust in. But David’s determination is an acknowledgment based on the realization of the futility of his own resources to handle life, especially due to its brevity. “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee.”

The words sometimes translated “wait” are at other times translated “look” in the sense of dependent expectation, and included are the ideas of focus and attention.

Note Psalm 123:1-2: A Song of Ascents. To Thee I lift up my eyes, O Thou who art enthroned in the heavens! 2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress; So our eyes look to the LORD our God, Until He shall be gracious to us.
In Psalm 145:15 none of the regular words for “wait” listed earlier are used, but the concept is the same. “The eyes of all look (Hebrew = sabar, “to wait for, hope”) to Thee, And Thou dost give them their food in due time …” (cf. also Isaiah 5:17). Psalm 52:9 reminds us again of why we should wait on the Lord: “For I will wait on Thy name, for it (God’s name) is good.

What’s the point? How do we wait on God’s name? Remember that names in the Bible have great significance—especially the names of God. The reason for this is because the names of God stand for His character, for who He is, what He is, and will do. They stand for the principles and promises. For instance, the name Yahweh means God is the self-existent and independent one, the God of revelation and redemption. As such, He has revealed Himself as El Shaddai, “Almighty God,” as El Elyon, “God Most High,” as Yahweh-Jireh, “the Lord will provide,” and as Yahweh-Tsidkenu, “the Lord our righteousness,” among others.

So the Psalmist declares that he waits on God’s name because it reminds Him of God’s character and His promises.

Application:

(1) Are you in an impossible situation? Do things seem out of control? Then wait on God as the Almighty and as God Most High, the Sovereign One.
(2) Are you facing a problem of need? Then wait on the Lord as the One who will provide, but be careful to wait according to His timing and purposes.  In this be wise, and use common sense. 
(3) Do you lack assurance of your salvation, or are you facing feelings of guilt or insignificance? Then keep His commandments, and wait on the Lord as your righteousness, the source of all truth, and the giver of the Heavenly Gift.  

Psalm 62:5-6 again reminds us of why we should wait on the Lord: “My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken” (emphasis mine). In this Psalm, David said he would wait on the Lord because He was like a rock and a stronghold. As names are used to portray God’s character, so pictures are used in Scripture to portray certain aspects of God’s character and provision and life’s situations. Here David used the pictures of an immovable rock and a impregnable stronghold.

Life is full of battles and enemy attacks. We need defenses that will be able to stand against the enemy. So we wait on the Lord for our security and our strength. But let’s turn to our next reason to wait on the Lord.