Merry Christmas

Those of us working here behind the scenes love the Savior of the world. It is He, Jesus Christ, who has atoned for our sins and through His grace we are healed and redeemed.

As you finish out the year 2009, we pray it has brought you increased understanding and hope. If not, the scriptures can help you find peace. You may want to obtain your own set if you do not yet personal scriptures. But in the interim, here is a link to online scriptures. Enjoy browsing the link. Find your favorites. Transfer them to your journal. The peace that can come from pondering this way is truly restorative.

Merry Christmas!

The Lord’s Voice for Times of Poverty

Found this in Haggai (Old Testament) yesterday and I found it so interesting, given the current economic conditions:

HAGGAI 1:6
Ye have asown much, and bring in little; ye beat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that cearneth wages earneth dwages to put it into a bag with eholes

As I think about the economic conditions found in the world, this scripture seems very fitting as I read and re-read the verse.

What does the Lord’s ancient prophet say about severe economic conditions? The answers are in Haggai 1: Value the temple. Build temples. Attend temples. Make of ourselves clean and holy people. And then God can bless, as He always delights to do so.

Haggai 1 and 2 are very illuminating chapters from the Old Testament about economic difficulties and their sources. (Thus, perhaps, President Hunter’s recommendation back a few decades when he desired that every Latter-day Saint be temple worthy and have a current temple recommend…even if the temple were a long distance away.)

Maybe we all need to attend the temple doubly often. If we — due to distance — attend currently once a year, perhaps we could double that to twice a year. If we attend monthly, perhaps we could attend twice a month. Weekly? Maybe we could step that up a bit also.

I know that the Lord’s promises are sure. I tell the EFY kids that I speak to at EFYs the following little thought (and I reference it over and over again): God Keeps His Promises!

May we do the same. As we return to Him, He will return to us. This is what I thought on as I read in Haggai yesterday. Maybe our nation as a whole won’t, but we certainly can. ( See the reference in Genesis about Sodom!)

My little family is focusing on this tiny expression:

FAITH = trust.

In other words, faith simply means we trust God’s truths. That’s why faith is really trust in action.

OK, done musing on all this. I just was really struck by the economic principles contained in this ancient prophet’s words, spoken to a people who had become cavalier towards the importance of the Lord’s house.

Faith…

I’ve been studying “faith” this morning in the Bible. I find the following passage interesting from Matthew 17. Traditionally, I think that it is read one way, but today it occurred to me perhaps it refers to something else:

14 ¶ And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,

15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he afalleth into the fire, and oft into the water.

16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

17 Then Jesus answered and said, O afaithless and bperverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.

18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?

20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your aunbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have bfaith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this cmountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be dimpossible unto you.

21 Howbeit this akind goeth not out but by prayer and bfasting.

I have often heard reference that verse 21 signifies that certain miracles won’t happen unless you pray and fast (which are true and essential acts).

But today it struck me that perhaps Jesus could have been referencing this statement, “O faithless and perverse generation…” when He said: “Howbeit this kind goeth not out by by prayer and fasting.” Perhaps the Savior was meaning that an unbelieving heart is the thing that requires fasting (and prayer) to change sufficiently, which then always leads to miracles.

He himself said that the most minute particles of faith, such as the size of a mustard seed, could cause a mountain to move. So perhaps it is not that deep fasting and prayer force fruition of miracles. That would seem almost contradictory (Christ Himself said that miracles only require a particle of faith to occur). Perhaps the Savior simply was saying that it is perverse unbelief that requires prayer and fasting to be removed.

Just a thought that struck me today.

Old Testament Saul, David, and Solomon

I am a seminary teacher. Working with teens is an amazing privilege. Doing so in the wee hours of the morning each week day is a challenge. But it is all worth it.

As we’ve studied Saul, David, and Solomon, I’ve been led through sorrowful paths. Here are some of my thoughts I shared in an article recently over at the LDS portion of BellaOnline.com.

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SAUL

Contrast these two scriptures:

1 Samuel 9:2
“And [Kish] had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he:…”

Now here is Saul some years later:

1 Samuel 13:14
“But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart,…because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded [him].”

Saul began as a man that was described as “there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he…”, yet with the passage of time the Lord removed the kingdom from Saul because he had “not kept that which the Lord commanded thee.”

Many today know of Biblical Saul. Not only did he decide to worship how, where and what he may (see 1 Samuel 13:8-14), but he continued to attempt to kill David (who was the Lord’s newly anointed servant and future king); Saul even tried to kill his own son, Jonathan, for speaking rationally about David (see 1 Samuel 20:29-33).

Saul’s choices perhaps made sense to him, but they were willful choices and selfish ones at best. No wonder he lost all that God had given him (the sad account in its entirety is found in 1 Samuel in the Old Testament).

DAVID

Contrast the following two scriptures. The first is David speaking as a youth. He is aghast and enraged that one such as Goliath would defile the God of Israel and His people. Note David’s honor and valor!

1 Samuel 17:45
“Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defiled.”

Flash forward years later. David requires that Bathsheba “lay with him.” She becomes pregnant. David wants to cover it up. He commands that Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, come home; his intent is to give Uriah a “weekend pass” with his wife.

Uriah honorably balks. He now is the one with honor. He cannot stomach forgetting his fellow soldiers fighting a vicious war. David’s response to this honest response? The next morning, David sends Uriah to the front lines of battle to have him killed. Now who has defiled whom?

2 Samuel 11:14-15
“And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.

“And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.”

SOLOMON

Contrast these two scriptures. The first is when Solomon is a new king. The Lord asks of Solomon whatever Solomon wills. Solomon requests wisdom, which immensely pleases the Lord:

1 Kings 3:11-12
“And God said unto him, Because thou has asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;

“Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.”

Now flash forward to Solomon years later in his old age:

1 Kings 11:5-8
“For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.

“And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord,…

“Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.”

For those who are not familiar with ancient pagan gods, the Lord found pagan worship ceremonies more than repugnant. For example, worship of Molech and other ancient pagan systems utilized even infant sacrifice at times (see Samuel Fallows, Bible Encyclopedia, s.v. “Ashtoreth,” 1:168).

Not only did Solomon participate in worshipping ancient pagan gods during the end of his life, he actually built places of pagan worship as we can read above. According to Biblical verse and commentaries, these activities were reprehensible to God due to human sacrifice involved as well as the sexual orgies and the turning of hearts away from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Summary

What do Saul, David, and Solomon all have in common? A very disheartening and sorrowful fall from grace. What do their stories have for us? That we must watch ourselves in every manner to ensure that we do not follow lives of selfish abandonment.

The Lord watches His people. He gives prophets to teach us to also watch our own lives. As King Benjamin said in the Book of Mormon:

“But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not” (Mosiah 4:30).

How urgent to learn from these ancient Biblical men; how important that we continue to “watch ourselves” so that we will be ready for the Savior’s coming when He actually is here. Truly a sobering thought.