Friday, July 31, 2009

Acts 3

I have in my notes that the man Peter heals is 40 years old, but I don't know how I got that information. I like to think of this through the man's eyes. He's asking for money at the temple when two men who he evidently doesn't know come up to him. He's thinking they are going to give him money. Peter says he doesn't have money, but what he does have is much more valuable and heals the man. The man is so happy, he's walking and jumping around, shouting his joy over what the Lord has done. I would think he's saying something like "I can't believe God did this, I can't believe God did this!" As he keeps hugging Peter and John, all the people come running up. They've seen this crippled man at the temple every day and know who he is and can't believe what they see.

Peter tells the people they shouldn't be so amazed. Who did this was the Savior, the same person they denied and killed. The same being who worked all the miracles in their sight, is continuing to do the same now. Then Peter says something interesting. He says, "I know that through ignorance ye had done this..." meaning they didn't realize what they were doing when they chose him over a criminal to be crucified when they could have set him free. He tells them that atonement of the Savior is in their scriptures. It was all prophesied, and now they should change and believe so their lives can be refreshed. I like that word refreshed which I think in this case means renewed. When the Lord renews our lives, he does it in the way that things will be better in the most meaningful way for us. It doesn't always coincide with what we want, but when all is said and done, we will admit that his way was the best because he knows us better than anyone.

Verse 21 is a great scripture telling of the restoration of the gospel. He says the heavens will receive the Savior until the times of restitution of all things. You can't restore something that is already there. He also says that the restoration was spoken of by all the prophets since the world began. We don't have those verses in our Old Testament today.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Acts 2

This is one of the really remarkable historical chapters in the scriptures. It is about the end of May, one week after the ascension of Christ. A large number of the followers of the Christ are met in a room with the 12 apostles. Suddenly a sound from heaven is heard and the only way they know to describe it is it's like a mighty wind rushing through the room. Light appears above each of the apostles and this too is indescribable and they say it's like tongues of fire, each of them divided in two. Then they begin speaking in tongues. This isn't gibberish, but they are speaking in the different languages of the people there. Verses 9 -11 say that more than 14 different languages are spoken. People run out of the room and spread the word and more and more people come. As with sacred experiences, some are amazed, while others mock saying the people are drunk.

Then Peter, the president of the church stands up. You can sense the majesty and power with which he speaks. He tells them it's only 9 am so it's not likely they are drunk, but in fulfillment of the prophecies of the scriptures, the Holy Ghost is being given to all people who will receive it. Peter bears a powerful testimony of Christ, of his coming from the lineage of David. This is extremely important to the Jews because they all know the Messiah must come from the house of David. He then recounts how the wicked of the Jews have crucified Christ, and how he now has resurrected, been exalted to the right hand of God, and all of them are witnesses of it.

Three thousand people feel the witness of the Holy Ghost and ask the apostles what they must do. He then explains the process that all of us must follow. That it's more than just believing something and then going on. He tells them they must repent and be baptized so they can receive the Holy Ghost. This and as we go through Acts, we will see that baptism is essential and it must be done by someone who has the authority to baptize.

In this whole experience, you can see the three ways in which God works by the Spirit with people. All of the people assembled have the light of Christ. The power of the Holy Ghost comes upon some and gives them knowledge. But the Holy Ghost will leave them after having given that knowledge. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and sanctifies those who have it and live righteously.

Those who hear Peter receive the power of the Holy Ghost and get a witness that what Peter is saying is true. So they ask him what they should do. He tells them they must repent and be baptized so that they are cleansed. Then they can receive a member of the Godhead in their lives on a permanent basis, much like a person would clean their house and in anticipation of receiving an important guest. Three thousand people are baptized on that day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Acts 1

I like Acts because it's the action book of the New Testament. Lots of stories as well as good doctrine. From this point on, we learn not only how courageous the apostles are, but how intelligent too. These were not naive, simple minded men. These were men who could hold their own with kings, emperors and the most intelligent minds of the time. Roman and Greek intelligence was at it's height and these men were not afraid to go right to the top. We'll see Paul take on the greatest of Rome's philosophers and teachers.

In Acts 1 we learn the following:

1. Jesus was with the apostles and trained them for 40 days after his resurrection.

2. He tells them they will have the power of the Holy Ghost to witness to all of the earth concerning the Savior. They literally went to all of the known earth after that.

3. The apostles see the Savior ascend into heaven from the Mount of Olives and two angels testify that he will return to the earth in the same manner. He did when he appeared to Joseph Smith. After he ascends into heaven, he continues to lead the church by revelation to the apostles.

4. We see Peter assume leadership of the church.

5. Judas committed suicide. The accounts differ. Both say he went to the potter's field. Then says that he hanged himself, the other says that his bowels burst when he fell. It could have been a combination of both.

6. 120 people gather together including the 12 and Mary the Savior's mother. The apostles choose Matthias by revelation to replace Judas as an apostle.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

John 21

The last chapter of John seems to show that the apostles are not totally converted and unsure as to when and how to start their ministry. Their total conversion will come on the day of Pentecost. I think this is how it is for all of us. We believe to one degree or another, we love the Lord, but some time in our life there will come the a witness of the Holy Ghost that will put the fire in our bones and totally convert us to the point that we are willing to sacrifice anything for the Lord.

The apostles are back at the Sea of Galilee and it's almost like they're sitting around wondering what to do and Peter gets up and says, "Well I'm going to go fishing." That's what he has done all of his life. So they all go with him. They see a person on the shore but don't realize that it's the Savior. This tells me that resurrected bodies look just like mortal bodies. Then they get the miracle of catching so much fish that the nets can't hold them.

The Savior asks Peter three times if he loves him. This is evidently a chance for Peter to make up for the three times he denied the Savior. But I think it's also a question where the Savior is calling him back to the ministry. The chief apostle had gone back to fishing and temporal things and now the Savior is saying it's time to feed his lambs. I would imagine that much training went on now. This is the eighth or ninth time the Savior has appeared after his resurrection.

The Book of Acts tomorrow. If you didn't finish John, I'd suggest that you jump to Acts.

Monday, July 27, 2009

John 20

I love this chapter. To me, this is one of the most beautiful chapters in the gospels. It not only reflects the great love the Savior had for the 12 and the others who were close to him, but how deeply they loved him. And how deeply he loves us.

I believe there was an important relationship between Mary Magdalene and the Savior. The scene of Mary and the Savior is such a tender one. There is speculation they were married and I wonder why not. If the Savior was going to be perfectly obedient to all of God's commands, why would he leave out the most important ordinance in the gospel, being sealed for time and eternity to a wife? Our Father in heaven has a wife. To follow his example, the Savior would need to have one too. This would not make him less than a God, but more of one.

Why else would Mary Magdalene get up extra early and go to the grave alone? Why would the two angels appear to her and the Savior appear to her before the First Presidency of the church? Notice how John, who is the other disciple mentioned (he's so humble), defers to Peter who is the president of the church, by allowing Peter to enter the tomb first. If protocol is important, the Savior would have first appeared to Peter. But Mary must be more important in some way than Peter and the only way that could be is if Mary had a more important relationship with the Savior. The church does not put that forth as doctrine, but I think it's widely held among gospel scholars in the church and among general authorities.

There is also speculation as to why the Savior said "Touch me not; for I am no yet ascended to my Father." Some translate that as hold me not (the JST). But that could mean embrace, it could mean "don't delay me." I personally think protocol is being observed here. As much as they would have liked to embrace, the privilege of that first embrace belonged to the Father. It makes sense to me that the first to embrace the Savior after his completed work and his resurrection would be the Father. That would be a very important moment for both of them, more important than we can imagine. When you think of what the Savior went through not just for us, but to fulfill the Father's will, that embrace would be the most tender and emotional moment of all.

Since all things have been completed and the apostles and others see the resurrected Lord, now they can understand the resurrection fully with the right perspective. They couldn't have understood his resurrection until they had witnessed it. With all things complete, there is no reason to hold back giving them the Holy Ghost (verse 22). The Lord does this and I'm sure the Holy Ghost gave them a witness concerning the resurrection even though a complete witness of all things may not come until the day of pentecost.

When the Savior does not condemn Thomas for not believing until Thomas saw and touched the Savior for himself, it shows how merciful and understanding the Lord is. Thomas must have done a lot of thinking and soul searching in the eight days between the Savior appearing to the other apostles and when he appeared to him.

The last verse, 31, sums up what it all means for us. All that John has written is so that we can know and believe that Jesus is the Christ and the promise of everlasting life is real and true. What John has written is proof for us that his life, his teachings, his atonement, and his physical (not just his spirit) resurrection is true and it happened and we will be resurrected and can return to the Father too. Deep in your heart, you know this is true. You knew it without doubt before this life. But it's possible to reach through the veil and find that knowledge again because it is there.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

John 19

I'm impressed with how cruel the Romans were. They looked upon the Jews as a servant state and considered them a lesser people. But Pilate has been warned by his wife about Jesus not to harm him, he is impressed with the Savior, finds no fault in him and insists that the title King of the Jews be placed on his cross against the wishes of the Jewish leaders. In spite of all this, he still has him scourged. Why scourge someone just because it's the custom to do so to all prisoners? If he was impressed with Jesus, why do it? He could easily have said do not harm him. He could easily have said, I find no fault in him and I am releasing him. He is your problem not mine. But when the Jewish leaders accuse him of not respecting Caesar, then he fears for his own position. Elder Maxwell was right when he said never were Pilate's hands more dirtiy than when he washed them.

One thing I've noticed is that those making the most noise about having the Savior crucified are the chief priests and officers. I wonder how much of the main body of the Jewish population were even aware of what was going on? Should we condemn the entire Jewish nation or just their religious leaders for the crucifixion? On the other hand, he had so many followers. Thousands of them. Why did they not rise up and fight for him?

The puzzling thing to me is, it had to be this way. The Savior came purposely to die this kind of death. I know it fulfills prophecy, that it was necessary in the Lord's eyes, but I wish he wouldn't have had to die such a cruel death. He had to descend below all things and this was evidently the worst and most humiliating way ever devised for a person to die.

I'm impressed with John's humility. He doesn't say that the disciple mentioned in verses 26 and 27 is him, but evidently it was. It was John who stood by Mary and Mary Magdalene, probably to comfort them as much as to be with the Savior. It was to John that Jesus turned over the care of his mother to. And it was John that Savior loved evidently in a way that was deeper than the others disciples.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

John 18

I wonder if John does not mention the last supper because for him it was too sacred an experience. He was the one who rested his head on the Savior's chest and he seems to have had a deeper love for the Savior. What's different in John's account is that when Judas brings the officers and other men from the Pharisees and chief priests, the Savior asks them who they are seeking and when the Savior says "I am he," they all fall to the ground in fear and Jesus has to tell them to go ahead and do what they must do. We also learn that Malchus is the soldier's name who Peter cuts off his ear with his sword. But John doesn't mention that the Savior heals Malchus. I think the reason John mentions his name is because Malchus becomes a member of the church and comes to know John. There's nothing in the scriptures to support that. But it's a good possibility.

John also mentions that he (at least Bible scholars agree that it was him) followed the Savior with Peter. When the Savior was taken inside to Annas, the high priest and father in-law of Caiaphus, Peter must remain outside but John is allowed inside because Annas knows him. This is evidently how we know what happened and what was said once the Savior is inside.

Annas wants to trap the Savior in blaspheme by getting him to state some false doctrine, but the Savior says he always taught in the open for anyone to hear and Annas can ask anyone what he taught and find out if he taught anything that was evil. Obviously Annas doesn't know how to handle him so he sends him to Caiaphus who is equally frustrated and Caiaphus seends him to Pilate.

When Jesus is before Pilate, he tells him that he came into the world to bear witness unto the truth. Pilate then rhetorically asks, "What is truth?" That is the great excuse of the world, that you can't know the truth because there is no absolute truth. It differs for each person. There can't be a true church, because people are too different and what is true for one person isn't going to be true for the next. The Savior teaches that the truth is in him. That people, through him, can know what is true and what isn't. A church that has revelation will have the truth. At the beginning of Acts after the Savior's death, it states that the Savior continued to direct his church by revelation through the apostles. That is the way he continues to reveal truth. So if you want the truth, you have to find the church that has revelation. How fortunate we are to belong to that church.

Friday, July 24, 2009

John 17

Have you ever noticed that when the Savior prays, he to talks to the Father in a very personal way? It shows me how to pray. Too often I pray but I don't just talk to Him. I just talk. It helps me to picture Him in my mind. Then I can pray with more faith that He is there and does hear my prayers. I can honestly say he's answered every one of my prayers.

In this prayer, he is praying for the apostles (and through them for us) and by what he says, we see how strong their faith in him was.

Verse 5 shows that unlike what many others believe, the Savior existed as a God before he was born in Bethlehem.

In verses 11, 21-23, we learn what the Savior means when he says he and his Father are one. He prays that the 12 will be one in the same way he and the Father are one. To it also means he wants us to all be united in the same belief. He doesn't want a thousand different Christian churches that have different beliefs about him. He is the way, the truth and the light and there can't be a thousand differing truths about him. He wants us to be perfect in our belief in him, to have a true knowledge of what he did and what he is like.

The last verse of the chapter is the conclusion to his prayer and the main reason for what he is praying. It is that we will have the Father's love and his love. If we could only realize how much the Father and the Savior love us, what a difference that would make in our lives. We would be at more peace. We would be more content with who we are and where we are in life. And we would have so much more faith in ourselves, in them, and in our ability to do whatever we set out to do.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

John 16

Chapter 16
How would you like a church calling where the bishop says, "Oh and by the way, as a result of accepting this call, the people are going to kill you?" For years, evangelicals have persecuted the church, even lied about the church, in an effort to bring it down in people's eyes for the very reason the Savior gives that people will kill the apostles, because they think they are doing a service to God.

Verses 27 and 28 sum up much of this chapter and once again show to me that the Father and the Son are separate beings. He came from the Father and soon he's going to go back to the Father. If, as the doctrine of the trinity asserts, the Father and Son are the same God, how does he leave and return to himself? He doesn't say, "I'm going to return to heaven and be the Father." He says throughout the gospels that he's been taught by the Father, he's prayed to the Father, he's observed the actions of the Father, he does the will of the Father, he's been in the presence of the Father and created with the Father. He always acquiesces to the Father, always puts the Father above him. The only thing that is confusing at times is he now can carry the title of a Father because he has created also, So he can be a Father to earth or a Father to the church. In a similar manner, I was only a son until I married. Once we had children, I became a father. But Christ isn't THE Father. In verse 32, he says the Father is with me. He doesn't say I am also the Father

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

John 15

Chapter 15

The Savior emphasizes even more the importance of abiding in his love and again he tells us that the way to do that is to keep his commandments. He says in verses 9-10, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love.' And then he gently reminds us to follow his example when he says, "...even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love."

In the first verses of the chapter, he tells us that by doing this, our lives will have significant purpose and we will accomplish those things that matter most. The Savior uses the word abide. He wants us to abide him, abide in his love, and abide in the Father's love. To abide means to accept and act in accordance with. So he wants us to accept in his love and act in accordance with it by keeping the commandments. If we do this, we will do the things that are most meaningful, reach and change the deepest parts of our souls and the souls of others, and as a result, what we do will have important eternal consequences.

I think verses 12-13 sum it up the best. By abiding in his love, we learn to love others as he loves them. The greatest love a person can have for for someone is to lay down their life for them. The Savior did this by dying for us. But I think what he wants from us is that we sacrifice for those around us. We live for them. If we spend all of our time pursuing the things of the world, trying to possess as much or be as successful as the next person, seek praise for our accomplishments or try to be more important than others, we miss the opportunity of having our lives be successful and important in the ways that matter most.

I think it's so important to teach our children that commandments aren't just a set of rules we have to keep. They are the guidelines to true happiness and success. And when we keep them for the purpose of experiencing the Savior's love, we come to know him because he comes to us and we can feel his love. We come to know that he is there, that he does love us. And in turn, we learn to love others as he has loved us. And that's when we find out what life is really all about.

That's something I can certainly go to work on.

More on John 14

I wasn't able to do chapter 15 today because I had to take Grand Dad to the U of U hospital to have some skin cancer removed. So I will do that on Wednesday (except it's already Wednesday). I can't fall asleep tonight so I thought I would share some cross references I have with a verse in Chapter 14. I think they are very important for us to know and for our children to know because of the moral environment we live in today. I'm going to mostly summarize the verses, but I hope you take the time to read them in their entirety in the order below. We will start and end with the same verse. This may be a bit long, but I hope it's worth the read.

John 14:21, He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me...and I will love him and manifest myself to him.

Romans 8:1, There is no condemnation to them who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit

Romans 8:5-9, 13-14, They that are after the flesh, mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit [mind] the things of the Spirit. To be carnally (sexual, physical, things of the world) minded is death. To be Spiritually minded is life and peace. They that are in the flesh cannot please God. If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die (spiritually), but if you subdue the flesh through the Spirit, you will live. If you are led by the Spirit of God, you are his sons and daughters.

Galatians 5:22-26, The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness. They that follow Christ (love and keep his commandments) have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts (that are out of the bounds of the gospel). If you live in the Spirit, you will walk in the Spirit.

Galatians, 5:16-17, Walk in the Spirit and you will not fufill the lust of the flesh. The flesh and the Spirit fight against each other and if you follow the Spirit, you will not do the things that are of flesh that would destroy the Spirit in you.

Galatians 6:7-8, Don't be deceived, whatever you sow, that you will also reap. if you sow to the flesh, you will reap corruption in yourself. If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap life everlasting.

2 Samuel 22:20-25, David talks of how the Lord has delivered him because of the cleanness of his hands, because he has kept himself from iniquity, according to his righteousness and according to the cleanness of his eye sight. (If only he had continued on that path!)

1 Corinthians 9:27, I rigorously discipline (Hebrew translation) my body, and bring it into subjection...lest I should be a castaway.

D&C 62:1, The Lord knows and understands the weaknesses of man and how to succor (give timely aid) them that are tempted.

Moroni 10:32-33, Come unto Christ and deny yourself of all God with all you heart, might, mind and strength...and you will be sanctified and will become holy, without spot.

D&C 67:10, Humble yourselves before me [and] the veil will be rent and you shall see me and know that I am - not with the carnal or natural mind, but with the spiritual [mind and heart].

D&C 93:1, It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.

John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

Monday, July 20, 2009

John 14

Now that we're back from vacation, it's good to get back to the scriptures.

John 14 is one of the great chapters in the four gospels. There is so much here we could spend a week talking about the great doctrines and promises in this chapter. Here is what I think are some of the important things in this chapter. I know you'll find more that are important to you.

Verses 1, 16-18, 26-27: The Lord will not leave us without comfort and peace. It is through the Holy Ghost that this comfort and peace comes and so the Holy Ghost is called the Comforter. This alone is motivation to have the Spirit at all times.

Verses 2-3: Heaven is not a single place but a place of multiple dwellings that fits the spirituality of each person.

Verses 15-18, 21, 23, 26: If we love the Savior, we will keep his commandments and if we do, we receive the promises of the Holy Ghost. Along with comfort and peace, these include the Holy Ghost dwelling within us, we will learn truth, the Holy Ghost will teach us all things and bring all things to our remembrance, the Savior and the Father will come and dwell with us, we will feel the love of the Savior and the Father.

Verses 6-9: The Father and the Savior are the same. To see one is to see the other. To hear one is to hear the other.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

John 13

Chapter 13
This chapter gives some more tidbits that I love that we don't find in the other gospels. For example, in verse one, John tells us that the Savior loved those in the world and he loved them to the end of his ministry. John isn't saying this from an eternal perspective, but from the perspective of his experience with the Savior while the Savior was on the earth and John walked with him.

We see the depth of Peter's dedication in verses 6-10. When Jesus washes the feet of the 12 apostles, notice that he washes Judas' feet also. He doesn't wait until after Judas has left. Even though he knows what Judas will do, he still bows before him and serves him. It was the duty of the lowliest slave or servant to wash the feet of the people when they entered a house. Their feet would be dirty from walking in sandals and when home owners returned, or guests arrived, the servant removed their sandals and washed their feet. So for the apostles, Jesus is lowering himself to the most humble positions of a slave. I think it's interesting that when we learn to be truly humble, when we forget about comparisons with other people and just love and serve them, that's when we can be truly happy (verse 17).

In verses 23-26, John doesn't say it was him who was leaning on Jesus' breast, that Jesus had a special love for him, but that is who Bible scholars think it was.

And then we get the verses 34-35 that are now the Primary song. This is where it is so easy to miss the boat with the gospel. It's how we treat others, regardless of how they treat us. If we love others, then we are true disciples.

Friday, July 10, 2009

John 12

Chapter 12

We learn some details in this chapter of John we don't in the other gospels. In this chapter we learn that Judas is a thief. It's interesting that the Savior allows him to carry the money bag for the apostles. We also learn that the Pharisees are planning a way to put Lazarus to death because so many people in Jerusalem are following Jesus now, so many that Pharisees say that the whole world is starting to follow him. Wouldn't it have been interesting if they had put Lazarus to death, but the Savior raised him again from the dead? What would the Pharisees do then?

It is at this height of acceptance, that Jesus states he must be crucified and atone for sins of the world. He is troubled by the thought of what he must eventually go through and would just as soon not have to do it. But he says it is for this very reason that he came to earth. He says, "Father, glorify thy hame." I think what he is saying is "To thee goes all the glory." In return, the voice of the Father is heard saying "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." I think this means, "My name has been glorified, but it will be glorified again through thee."

Some Bible scholars say that when the Savior said he was troubled, this the first sign of a fear that will become so great that he will suffer in Gethsemane to the point of sweating blood. The Savior didn't fear this. I believe what troubled him was the thought that he would have to take upon him all sin. He would lose the companionship of the Father. He had been perfect in resisting temptation. He was perfectly pure. That would end in the Garden of Gethsemane. What an awful thing for a God to have to descend into.

When the Father speaks, some people just hear thunder, but others hear his voice. Some are in tune, others aren't. Some hear God's voice through the Holy Ghost today, others do not. It is obvious that some are following just because they have seen or heard of the miracle but do not know who he really is. In verse 34, they ask him "who is this Son of man?" Others don't believe in spite of the miracles. Some of those who believe are among the chief rulers, but they won't confess their belief because they are afraid of being thrown out of the synagogue, or excommunicated, and "they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." That last sentence is true of today's world too. Many people reject the gospel today, reject Christianity, for that very reason.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

John 11

Chapter 11

This is one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament. Mel Peterson, who lived in our old ward and was with the religion faculty at BYU, gave one of the best talks I have ever heard on the Savior and he based it on this chapter. In this chapter we can see that the 12 apostles and other disciples don't comprehend who he really is yet. At this point, they should understand more, although it will be until the day of pentecost before they really understand.

The key verse is 25 where the Savior says, "I am the resurrection and the life." He holds the power of all life and death and especially his own. He has said previously that he has power to lay his life down and he has power to take it up again. He holds the same power for all of us. When the Savior learns that Lazarus is dead, he stays three more days. He knows that he is going to raise Lazarus from the dead and tells the 12 that he is going to do that. They think he's talking about being asleep and tell the Savior it would be better if he let Lazarus rest. When he says he's ready to go to Lazarus, the 12 don't want him to go because they think he will be killed. Finally, Thomas says, "Let us go also, that we may die with him." This says something about the courage of Thomas.

When the Savior is not yet there, Martha, and then later when he comes to Mary, both reprimand him saying if the Savior had come earlier, he could have healed Lazarus and kept him from dying. In essence, he has let the people who are closest to him down. That is when the Savior flat out says he is the resurrection and the life. He controls those things, but they don't understand.

When the Savior comes near the tomb and sees Mary and Martha and the other Jews weeping, it says that he groans and is troubled, and then he weeps. Why is he troubled and so upset? Not because Lazarus is dead, but because after all he has taught, and after all the miracles he has done, including raising others from the dead, they still don't understand who he is and what he can do. Even when he tells Martha to have the stone taken away from the grave, she hesitates because Lazarus has been in the grave four days and the body will stink.

Then the Savior raises Lazarus from the dead. To show how spiritually dead the Pharisees are, they talk about all of his miracles and how if they don't do something, they will lose their positions. The Romans will come and take their power to control the country away from them.

I think we should always ask ourselves, how much do we believe he is the resurrection and the life and how well do we know that? After all he as done for me, I know that I need to do much more and come to know him better. I know that as we allow the atonement to work in our lives, we come to know and love him more and more. As we come to know how much we really depend on him, we come to appreciate and love him more for all that he does for us, much of which we don't understand or realize.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

John 10

Chapter 10

The parable of the good shepherd teaches how much the Savior wants to protect and care for us. A shepherd's fold is an enclosing with walls. At night, a shepherd leads the sheep through the fold's door where they are protected from wolves and other predators. The shepherd remains at the door so that nothing can go in and no sheep stray out while the sheep are in the fold. This metaphor works really well and when he says he has sheep that are not of this fold, then that means there are other folds and he will speak to and lead the sheep of these other folds. Eventually, gather them all into one and that is what is happening now with the restoration. In third Nephi, the Savior tells the Nephites that when he said to the people in Jerusalem that he had other sheep in other folds, he was speaking of them and the other tribes of Israel.

As you probably know, shepherds in the middle east have a name for each of their sheep. The sheep know the shepherd's voice and will follow him wherever he leads them. That's different from this country where the sheep are driven. A hireling is someone who is paid to watch the sheep take the place of the shepherd when he can't be there. Good shepherds don't hire someone else to watch their sheep because the sheep won't know the hireling; they don't recognize his voice and sill not follow him. And if danger arose, the hireling would protect himself first and flee leaving the sheep unprotected because he doesn't care about the sheep. But a good shepherd loves his sheep and will lay down his life for them if he has to.

The Savior says he knows each of his sheep and his sheep know his voice and follow him. He says that he is the good shepherd and he will lay down his life for his sheep. The Jews seem to get tired of hearing things in parable and they essentially say, "Look, just tell us in plain language. Are you the Christ or not?" The Savior tells them if they were his sheep, they would recognize his voice and follow him. These Jews don't believe so they are not of his sheep.

When we read the scriptures prayerfully, when we listen with open ears to the prophets and apostles, the Savior's truth will ring true in our hearts. That is recognizing the voice of the good shepherd. We can feel that it is right and true.

Many churches use verse 30 as proof of the doctrine of the trinity. But if you cross reference that verse with John 14:20-21, you can see what the Savior means by being "one."

John 9

Chapter 9

Asking who sinned, the blind man before he was born, or his parents, implies some knowledge of the doctrine of pre-mortal life. You have to wonder how much doctrine the Jews had, even in their extreme apostasy, but did not understand

What the Pharisees say in verse 29 is something missionaries are confronted with all of the time. People are willing to believe in the writings of the apostles and the prophets in the Bible, but to believe that there is someone God is speaking to today is out of the question.

I love the courage of the blind man. His parents are afraid of being kicked out of the synagogue so they say, don't ask us, ask our son. But he confronts the Pharisees beginning in verse 30 and says it's amazing that a man can come among them working miracles but they, the religious leaders, have no idea who he is or where he comes from. If he wasn't of God, he couldn't work these miracles. The Pharisees are insulted that a man who had sinned before he was born would presume to lecture them. The Savior knows about all of this and when the man is cast out, the Savior goes and finds him, confirms that he is the Son of God, and the man continues to follow him.

This teaches me that we never need to be ashamed of the gospel. When the world looks on Christians as naive and lacking in intelligence, the time will come when they will be long gone and forgotten. Their comments and attitude will be of no consequence, something like a mosquito bite, irritating for a while, but then gone and forgotten.

I forgot to mention that when some one was kicked out of the synagogue, that means they were excommunicated.

Monday, July 6, 2009

John 8

Chapter 8

As I look back on my life, I can see so many ways in which I haven't followed the Savior's example in my personal actions and the way I treat other people. To me, the way in which the Savior reacts to the woman brought to him in adultery, and to the men who accuse her, exemplifies his love and acceptance more than any other time in the New Testament except for the atonement and crucifixion itself. Too often we think of ourselves and how people's actions affect us rather than how our reactions affect them, and how their actions harm them. I can see why the Savior says to pray for charity with all the energy of your heart. In this instance, it was like the Savior was saying we have all sinned; we know we have. And what sin isn't serious if it creates a greater gulf between us and God? I think he wold prefer that we worry about our own sins instead of making an example of someone else who has sinned. Instead of compassion, we tend to separate ourselves from those we know who sin by condemning then in hopes that others won't see our own failures. This action by the Savior doesn't change the consequences of the woman's sin, but does teach us how we should treat each other and have more compassion for those we know who don't measure up to our own standards or the standards of the gospel. This is especially important when we consider how others who don't have the gospel should be treated.

Later in this chapter, the Savior makes a sharp difference between those who believe in him and the Pharisees who don't. The Pharisees claim that being children of Abraham make them righteous and therefore saved. The Savior tells them they don't know God at all, that if they knew God, they would do the acts of God. To those who believe on him, he has a great message. All they have to do is continue believing on him, continue living righteously. In that discipleship is freedom.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

John 7

Chapter 7

Isn't it interesting that in Galilee he can walk and teach in the open, but in Jerusalem, he can't. People in Jerusalem are even afraid to talk about him.

I have learned in my life that one of the most important keys to having a testimony, to knowing, is given verses 16-17.

Jesus heals on the sabbath, and he declares he is the son God; he tells the people that they do not know God and keep the traditions of the elders instead of the Law of Moses; they say he has a devil. Well, lots of people are possessed, or crazy, why are they so bent on killing him? Why don't the pharisees just say he's crazy and move on? I think the answer is in verse 28. They know who he is, but can't admit it. They can't stand the idea of being wrong and losing their power over the people.

In verses 40-43, the leaders and people argue that Jesus can't be the Savior because he has come out of Galilee, or of Nazareth, and others that he can't be the Savior because he isn't a descendent of David and has come out of Bethlehem. If they did their homework, they would know he is the seed of David and was born in Bethlehem. But they're looking for outward reasons when the Savior has just told them they will only know by the power of the Holy Ghost (verses 38-39).

And in all of this that is going on in Jerusalem, the people have never heard anyone teach as he does. To me, this is a people who have no ability to follow the dictates of their heart and to trust the feelings that they have deep down.

Friday, July 3, 2009

John 6

Chapter 6

John tells us something that none of the other gospels mention. Verse 15 tells us that when Jesus saw that the people would try to take him by force and make him king, he leaves and goes by himself up into a mountain.

And only John gives us the bread of life sermon, which is really more of a conversation than a sermon. The Bread of Life is used as a powerful metaphor and it's is much easier for us to understand what he is saying than it was for them because we understand the symbolism and know how his flesh and blood are symbolized in the sacrament when we eat the bread (his flesh that was sacrificed for us) and drink the water (his blood which was shed for us). For them, there was no such thing as a sacrament yet. This symbolism was so hard for many of them to grasp that they stopped following him. The 12 didn't.

When Jesus asks the 12 if they are going to leave too, Peter says "to whom shall we go?" I have often told myself that if this church isn't true, no church is true. There would be no where else to go. I looked at so many other churches and none can claim priesthood authority, revelation, additional scripture, or temples. In other words, this church has the complete gospel. President Hinckley said, either this church is true or it's the biggest fraud ever presented to mankind. Sometimes we get tired of church; sometimes we get tired of the shortcomings of the people, and sometimes the leaders fall short because of their own human weaknesses, but the gospel and everything about it never fails.

So for me, that's the important lesson of this chapter and what we should do is summed up in verse 27. The world seeks after physical nourishment, but we should be seeking spiritual food, the food that lasts beyond this life, and that spiritual food is the Savior.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

John 5

Chapter 5

I'm going to look at things in a sort of reverse order. A key verse for the Jewish leaders is 42. They have no love in themselves and therefore have no love of God. That's why they can't rejoice over the healing of the man at the pools of Bethseda; that's why they're more concerned that the healed man is carrying his blanket or thin pad on the Sabbath. They also assume in their conceit that they have salvation because of their strict observance of the Law of Moses. In verse 39, they think they have salvation because they have the scriptures, but the Savior tells them in that verse and verses 45-47 that if they truly studied the scriptures they would believe in the Savior because they testify of him. He says that Moses wrote of him. If they believe Moses, they should be believe him because Moses testified of him. This also shows that we don't have all that Moses wrote.

Verses 26-30 give me great comfort. There are so many in this life who get away with things whether it be harming children or ruining the lives of adults. They never really pay the price for what they've done, and more especially, they don't get it. They are so focused on themselves, they have no clue and do not care what damage they inflict on others. If there were no justice given out to these people, it would be easy to become cynical in this life. I'm grateful that evil people will suffer great torment for what they have done and that they will have a perfect realization of the pain they have caused, the change they have forced in the lives of others, and not for just those they hurt, but the generations after who also were affected. At the same time, how grateful we should be for repentance so that when a person does repent, healing takes place and suffering is replaced with peace.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

John 4

Chapter 4

Nearly all of this chapter is about the Samaritan woman at the well and the people that are a part of that village. They have their own temple, but the Lord doesn't accept it (verses 20-22). It's interesting to me how readily they believe and the people believe and not because of what the woman said, it's because they have heard his words and know he is the Christ. Verses 41- 42 is as strong a declaration of testimony as any found in the gospels.

The Samaritans are descendants of the few Israelites of the ten tribes of Israel that once comprised the Northern Kingdom of Israel when it was destroyed by Assyria. These remnants of those tribes intermingled with the Assyrians and so they are not pure Israelites. This is why there is such tension between the them and the Jews because the Jews, who are now a mix of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin have maintained a purity of their race. The Samaritans believed:

1. Belief in one God

2. Moses is the greatest and final prophet

3. The first 5 books of the Old Testament are the word of God and they reject all other scripture

4. Mount Gerizim (in Samaria) is the chosen place of God and the temple they built there is God's chosen temple

5. At the end of time, a restorer will come and usher in a new gospel dispensation and resotre the proper law and modes of worship

6. A final day of judgement when people will be rewarded for their righteous or wicked beilefs