Monday, March 16, 2015

Piety from the Teeth Outward

Jeremiah 12
Piety from the Teeth Outward

Piety from the teeth outward is no difficult thing,”said Matthew Henry.  How true!  What a great title for today's blog and such a fitting quote in reference to the treachery that surrounded Jeremiah in his day and thrives still, in our lives today.

1 Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? 
2 Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.
Jeremiah was concerned, and genuinely inquisitive, about the mortal prosperity of the wicked.  He saw how their happiness seemed to attract and magnify and bear fruit despite the evilness of their ways and wondered why God suffered their pious masquerade.  It's a good question and one that I too have pondered at great length (far too much I think).  Why indeed does it seem that those who cast aside the teachings of Christ prosper and bear fruit while professing Christianity?

There's the whole agency argument – God won't intervene in the choices of man – but lately I am leaning more toward the simple argument that “…it mattereth not.”  Seriously, the more time I spend whining and complaining about my lot and my righteousness in comparison to others, whom I deem with less moral stature but an abundance of mortal treasures, the less time I will be blessed with the reality of true happiness.  Jeremiah figured it out in due course but how perfect it would have been for The Lord to respond as He did when Moroni asked God to give charity unto the Gentiles…

ETHER 12:37
37    And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.
There it is…why am I, we, bothered with it?  We see the wickedness around us.  We see through the fa├žade of piety that so many project and therefore have to know that God is not blind to it – we are mere mortals and He is The Almighty God.  Let the judgements and things of God be His and let us worry about ourselves - our own weaknesses.  I have plenty of chinks in my armor that need attention and have no cause to waste one more second in thought of another's issues…it mattereth not!

Where does my piety begin?


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

You and Your Works Shall Be Found

Reading:   Isaiah 13

President Ezra Taft Benson said:
Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life ("Jesus Christ--Gifts and Expectations," New Era, May 1975, p. 20). 
Turning your life over to God is a far better choice then turning to your own people (v.14) and fleeing to your own land (v.14).  I decided to make this point first, before revealing the dark words of prediction from the prophet Isaiah, because I wanted to show, again, the importance of God versus man and how we can avoid the darkness of the last days with our faith and good works...

ISAIAH 13:14-16, 18
14    And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land. 

15    Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. 

16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished. 

18 Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children. 
The lesson that Isaiah is trying to teach beginning with the roe (deer) metaphor is simply this: there is no place to run and if your works are worth nothing (you're as the unwanted sheep) you will be destroyed.  Turning to your people will not save you! Fleeing to your land, your guarded earthly fortress, will not save you!  The time of man will be at an end!  You will be found and thrust through along with all those you love and all those you've ultimately led to this day of quickening - you and your works will be found and dealt with!

Now, if you turn not toward man but instead attend God and your garment of works are good then the reward will not be so grisly.  You will instead receive a glory immeasurable.  So, pointing back to the last blog (We - The Dwelling Places), make yourself a dwelling place in Zion and rely on faith because, as President Benson said, "God...can make a lot more out of [your life] than [you] can."


Thursday, April 17, 2014

We - The Dwelling Places

Reading:   Isaiah 4

The dwelling places of Zion, hmm, this is an interesting topic.  I have several ideas swimming around in my head but I can't seem to align them into a clear understandable path (often is the case with my ramblings and blog but sally forth I shall continue to do).

The bottom line here is that we, each of us, is a dwelling place in Zion.  The Saviour taught, "...the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21)."  Anything can be achieved if we hold fast to faith - the first principle of power (see Faith: Principle of Power ).  The kingdom of God is a vast, unmeasurable, immovable, mountain of a force that bows and yields only to the power that is our faith in Jesus Christ.  We are bearers of the kingdom! Understanding that can give so much more meaning to...

5    And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.
The Lord will create a defense upon every dwelling place in Zion.  If my faith is strong I can and will be a dwelling place of Zion!  A place where others will come to feast upon the spirit and partake of the offered defense until such time as their faith has enflamed and created another dwelling place, another haven of faith, and strengthened our collective assembly.

President Harold B. Lee shared this story...
I recalled an experience that we had with a group of students from Brigham Young University ... sixteen students, representing sixteen foreign countries, were asked to stand and tell how they came to know about the gospel and accept it, ... and to bear their testimonies. It was a most intensely interesting evening. We heard from young men and women from Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, the Scandinavian countries, France, and England. The story was the same. When they began to relate how they came to find the gospel, it was this: They were yearning for truth. They were seeking for light. They were not satisfied, and in the midst of their search, someone came to them with the truths of the gospel. They prayed about it and sought the Lord intensely, intently, with all their hearts, and came to receive a divine testimony by which they knew that this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. ... So within the heart of everyone, every honest seeker after truth, if he has the desire to know, and studies with real intent and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God may be within him, or in other words, the power to receive it is his. (In Conference Report, Oct. 1953, 26-27.)
How important is our faith...


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Guise of Bravery

Reading:   Isaiah 3

Who are we?  Do the people we are acquainted with know who we are by our clothing, money, job, and other masquerades of the natural man or are we known by our works, our spirit, our faith.  Do your closest friends, your wife, your children know who you are, really?  Have you told them?  Can you tell them?  These are serious questions that need personal contemplation and more then likely action.

I know that my close friends know me as someone completely different than those who don't.  My appearance does not lend itself to being an approachable guy and I'm okay with that, my kids seem to be okay with that, and, for the most part, my wife is okay with it (although I'm sure she would like me to be more social).  The question for me, and all of us, is whether or not our personality changes when stripped of all the trappings (clothes, jewelry, cars, accolades, titles, etc)?  Will we lose our sense of being?  Will our confidence be diminished?  Who will we become?

The scripture I chose from today's reading really brings to light the need to confront who we are, what others see in us, and ultimately, who we are when we stand before God - without the excess of man...

18    In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, 
I love the idea that all theses trappings are a source of bravery, it is so true!  For so many the clothes we wear, the car we drive, the school we attend, food we eat, our bank account and many other things are a representation of who we are and give us psychological confidence and strength over those of less material worth.  But we are not better!  When we stand soul-bared before God we are only the sum of our works.

Who are you?


Friday, April 11, 2014

Derived and Depending

Reading:   Isaiah 2

At the end of this chapter there is a sweet throw back to Solomon and the brooding book of Ecclesiastes.  The inevitable truth that man is but mortal and limited while God is infinite and eternal.  Only folly can be found in the temporal worship of man because all men cease breathing.  Through God we can redeem spiritual gifts and obtain glories beyond measure - even after death.

22 Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? 
The natural man is an enemy to God because men fall prey to that which is easy and known. It takes effort to have faith and believe in that which is not seen.  Let's give the last hammer smash to Matthew Henry - drive it home brother Henry!
Put not your trust in man, nor make even the greatest and mightiest of men your confidence; cease to do so. Let not your eye be to the power of man, for it is finite and limited, derived and depending; it is not from him that your judgment proceeds. Let not him be your fear, let not him be your hope; but look up to the power of God, to which all the powers of men are subject and subordinate; dread his wrath, secure his favour, take him for your help, and let your hope be in the Lord your God.
Man is "derived and depending" - got to love Brother Henry!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Never Give In

Reading:   Isaiah 1
In the first half of this first chapter, Isaiah really hammers down the wickedness of Israel and how far the chosen people had fallen from righteousness, "...The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint (v. 5)." The Israelite disregard of faith and heritage was so ensconced that their religious ceremonies and acts of prayer were considered blasphemous by God...

ISAIAH 1:13, 15
13    Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 

15    And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 
An interesting thing happens in verse eighteen, despite their heinous acts, a calmness occurs in Isaiah's speech, almost a pleading for Israel to give heed - there is still hope...

18    Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 
Here is where I want my emphasis to reside; the simple truth that all can be and will be forgiven if repentance is honestly sought.  There is a plethora of articles, speeches, videos, and wisdom available  in regards to this scripture but the one talk that really captured my desire for insight included a Peanuts comic strip...

Doesn't that lay it out quite succinctly?  The address that brought this idea of resolutions and moving forward without the weight of regret was given by Robert L. Backman at the 1989 October General Conference (Priesthood Session) in a speech titled, Chastity: The Source of True Manhood.  Elder Backman pleads, with the subtlety of Isaiah, for our resolve to avoid pitfalls and look steadfastly ahead...
...Take control of your life. It is your body-the clothing of your spirit-you are dealing with. Don't become a slave to your appetites or passions. Be mature enough to have the spirit control your body. Self-control is vital when you are resisting what you know is wrong, especially when a friend insists. This self-control comes with practice, so it's important to build your inner strength. Constantly remind yourself that you are a son of God with great things to do.  
Winston Churchill, that courageous World War II statesman, gave sound advice to all of us. He thundered his conviction: "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty-never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense." (Address to Harrow School, 29 Oct. 1941, in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 15th ed., Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1980, p. 745.) 
We must, after accepting the cleansing power of repentance, move forward with a thundering conviction to "...Never give in!"  Let our past transgressions be ladders of learning not weighted crosses of self reproach.  You have been forgiven!  I have been forgiven!  Wisdom is the result and strength to move on, never give in, and to forever fight forward, must be our mission!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lovely Carmel Head

Reading:   Song of Solomon 1-8 (All)

First off I want to emphasize that this is ONE SONG, not "Songs" and, though poetic and lovely in parts, I cannot imagine blundering through 1004 more of these?  Solomon supposedly penned 1005 songs -YIKES- unfortunately (or not) we are only privy to one.  Is this his best not.

There are some good lyrics though (chapter:verse).
...Behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes (1:15).  Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn...(4:2)...Honey and milk are under thy tongue...(4:11).  Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies (7:2).  Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple...(7:5).  And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak (7:9).
My critique:  The interplay of voices is too confusing and hard to keep up with.  Verses not only change gender but also point-of-view throughout.  There are numerous allusions to things I needed Wikipedia to decipher.  Also, there are many suggestions for whom the doting lovers represent - one of the more prominent being the Savior and his church .

I choose not to dwell...why...see below...

SONG OF SOLOMON (Bible Dictionary)
Sometimes called Canticles (as in Latin) or Song of Songs (as in Hebrew). Whether Solomon is actually the author is doubtful. The composition has many beautiful phrases and lyrical prose, often quoted in nonreligious literature. The JST manuscript contains the note that "the Song of Solomon is not inspired scripture." Both Jews and Christians have at times been reluctant to accept it into the canon of scripture because of its romantic content, but have permitted it on the basis of its being an allegory of God's love for Israel and/or of the Church.  
There you have it...authorship doubtful, really?