Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hebrews 12 and 13

Hebrews 12 & 13

There are a number of things wonderful simple statements of guidance in these chapters. Here are the ones that I noticed:

“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.” Sin is the greatest burden in life.

“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Sometimes life is much easier if we accept those things that we cannot change, and look at things we must do as our duty in life.

“Jesus… endured the cross, despising the shame.” Crucifixion was the most shameful way a person could die. Early non-believers scoffed at the idea that a person who had been crucified should be worshipped. Crucifixion was one of the ways the Savior “descended below all things.”

“Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord… For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth… For what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” Our trials are the very things that help us to grow and become more like our Heavenly Father if we endure them well.

“Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?” We were born into a pre-mortal life as spirit children of a Heavenly Father. The fact that he is a personable, approachable, and loving God, does not make him less of a God, but more so.

“Lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees.” The best way we can care for ourselves is to care for others.

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” We should be kind to all, regardless of appearance, or physical or emotional condition, for we never know who they really are, or who they were prior to this life.

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever. Be not carried away with divers and strange doctrines.” His truths will always stand the test of time. The interpretations of men will always fall by the wayside.

“Obey them that rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account.” Our church leaders care deeply for us and know they are accountable before God for how they lead us. They will not lead us astray.

“Now the God of peace… make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” God can do so much more with our lives than we can.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hebrews 10 and 11

Hebrews 10

Paul continues his teaching that Christ, by virtue of the atonement, is the great high priest of the church and only his singular sacrifice can be bring the forgiveness of sins. Repetitive sacrifice in the temple is of no affect. Two important verses are 16 and 17. The Lord will put his law in our hearts and minds and when sins are repented of, he says he will remember them no more. And knowing that are sins are remitted, it gives every person the confidence to enter the Holy of holies, or his presence.

Hebrews 11

This is the greatest chapter on faith in the Bible. Verse one defines what faith is, the assurance that enables us to move forward and actively work towards something we hope to obtain even though there may not be any evidence of our accomplishing it. Paul then gives examples throughout the scriptures of great prophets and women who obtained miraculous and/or marvelous accomplishments because of their faith. Notice how Isaac is called the only begotten son. The only other person referred to that way in the scriptures is Christ. At the end of the chapter, Paul does not name specific people but talks of what others accomplished or suffered. Each of these things can be related to a specific person in the Bible. For example, with sawn asunder, Paul is most likely referring to the way in which Isaiah was killed by King Mannaseh of Judah.

Two verses particularly impress me. In speaking of Moses, Paul mentions how when Moses became of age, he chose to be with his people rather than stay in the house of the Pharaoh where he would have had position and wealth. Paul says he did this because he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt. Obviously, Moses knew of and chose to follow Christ. And to most, this doesn’t make sense because nothing in the Old Testament mentions he has this knowledge unless you understand that Jehovah is Christ.

The other verse that I think important is verse 6. “Without faith, it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” We cannot find God if we do not seek him. And the amazing thing is, if any person will do three things, and they are not hard, they will gain an assurance, gain the faith, that he exists and knows them personally. One is to live righteously, just do what is right. Two is to read some scripture every day. And three is to consistently pray every day. If you do this, like Alma promises, this seed of effort will eventually grow into a strong tree of belief, faith and knowledge.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hebrews 8 and 9

Hebrews 6

This chapter begins with incorrect wording that many translations have corrected including the JST. “Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ” doesn’t sound like good counsel. The JST says, “Not leaving” and a rendering of the Greek is more like “leaving the beginning doctrines.” Two ways to look at is to not build the foundation all over again, or it’s time to move on from the milk to the meat. I believe that verses 4-6 refer to those who have had their calling and election made sure. The Savior has appeared to them, they have perfect knowledge of his existence, and yet they still fall away, do evil and deny him. Joseph Smith said that these people stand outside in the noon sun and say it doesn’t exist. President Kimball said that in the end, the number of people who do this will be very few. In scripture they are referred to as sons of perdition.

Hebrews 7

We learn a little about the greatness of Melchizedek in this chapter. His name means “King of righteousness.” He was king of the city of Salem. Ancient tablets give the name of the city as Uru-Salem, which is easily identified as Jerusalem, meaning in Hebrew “the city peace” and this was about 2000 b.c. The JST also helps verse 3 to have more sense, “For this Melchizedek was ordained a priest after the order of the Son of God, which order was without father, without mother…” It wouldn’t make sense for Abraham to be born without father or mother. Verses 11-12 make clear reference to two priesthoods, the Aaronic and the Melchizedek. Perfection could and cannot be achieved through the lesser or Aaronic. As Paul states, if it could, there would be no need for the higher or Melchizedek priesthood. This was important for Paul because he didn’t act by the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood which the Jews held at the time of Christ, but by the authority of the higher priesthood. For the Jews, there had now come a change in priesthood, and as a result, a change in the law. As Paul says, the former laws were disannulled because they were unprofitable for salvation. The Aaronic was given through lineage of the tribe of Levi. The Melchizedek was given by oath and covenant. Christ is the great high priest of Melchizedek.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hebrews 6 and 7

Hebrews 6

This chapter begins with incorrect wording that many translations have corrected including the JST. “Leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ” doesn’t sound like good counsel. The JST says, “Not leaving” and a rendering of the Greek is more like “leaving the beginning doctrines.” Two ways to look at is to not build the foundation all over again, or it’s time to move on from the milk to the meat. I believe that verses 4-6 refer to those who have had their calling and election made sure. The Savior has appeared to them, they have perfect knowledge of his existence, and yet they still fall away, do evil and deny him. Joseph Smith said that these people stand outside in the noon sun and say it doesn’t exist. President Kimball said that in the end, the number of people who do this will be very few. In scripture they are referred to as sons of perdition.

Hebrews 7

We learn a little about the greatness of Melchizedek in this chapter. His name means “King of righteousness.” He was king of the city of Salem. Ancient tablets give the name of the city as Uru-Salem, which is easily identified as Jerusalem, meaning in Hebrew “the city peace” and this was about 2000 b.c. The JST also helps verse 3 to have more sense, “For this Melchizedek was ordained a priest after the order of the Son of God, which order was without father, without mother…” It wouldn’t make sense for Abraham to be born without father or mother. Verses 11-12 make clear reference to two priesthoods, the Aaronic and the Melchizedek. Perfection could and cannot be achieved through the lesser or Aaronic. As Paul states, if it could, there would be no need for the higher or Melchizedek priesthood. This was important for Paul because he didn’t act by the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood which the Jews held at the time of Christ, but by the authority of the higher priesthood. For the Jews, there had now come a change in priesthood, and as a result, a change in the law. As Paul says, the former laws were disannulled because they were unprofitable for salvation. The Aaronic was given through lineage of the tribe of Levi. The Melchizedek was given by oath and covenant. Christ is the great high priest of Melchizedek.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hebrews 4 and 5

Hebrews 4

Paul teaches how, because of their unrighteousness, ancient Israel forfeited the blessing of entering into the Lord’s rest or glory. Had they been righteous, they would have become sanctified. He promises the saints (and us) that if we are wiser and more obedient than they were, the promises still stand. We will still be tempted to not live righteously. Righteous living doesn’t protect us from being tempted. But it does give us the strength to avoid giving into it. The greatest help we can gain is found in verse 16. Just as D&C 121:45 promises, virtuous living increases our confidence in being in the presence of the Lord. When we have that confidence, we can approach him without fear and receive the help that God knows is best for us.

Hebrews 5

There is an order in the way that God conducts his business. Paul teaches an important principle in this chapter concerning the authority to act in God’s name. This authority, or the priesthood, is not something that man can take upon himself. It is not something that simply comes through a prompting to the heart and mind. Conversion doesn’t give one authority. A college or seminary degree can’t give a person God’s authority to act in his name. As Paul says, “No man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” If you go to Exodus chapter 28, you can see how Aaron was called of God. God spoke to Moses, one who had previously been ordained by God, and instructed Moses, to ordain Aaron. That is the procedure that God requires.

The same procedure was followed in the New Testament. Christ chose and ordained his apostles. He said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you.” Christ set the example. Verse 5 states that he didn’t take it upon himself “to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.” In other words, it was the Father who ordained Christ, who is our great high priest.

The 11 apostles ordained Matthias to replace Judas. Paul received his call directly from the Lord, but he didn’t just go and start preaching. He was sent to Damascus to be healed and taught by Ananias and the disciples. It is only logical that before Paul began his preaching, he was ordained by those same disciples who had the authority to do so. At some later point, he had to have been ordained an apostle to be an apostle, just as all of the apostles were before him.

You will remember that Simon offered to give Peter and the apostles money to have priesthood power and authority and he was condemned because they thought that it could be obtained that way. A man must be called and ordained by the laying on of hands by those are in authority. That is the way it was done anciently. It is the way that it was done in New Testament times. And it is the same today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hebrews 2 and 3

Hebrews 2

The Savior took upon himself a mortal body and one of the reasons he did this is so that he would suffer and be tempted in the same way we are. In chapter 3 of Hebrews it tells us that he was tempted in all things as we are. Between his life and atonement, he suffered all things that it is possible for mankind to suffer. In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin taught, “… he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue.” Alma taught, “And he shall [suffer] pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people… and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

The Savior knows perfectly how anyone at any time feels because he himself descended below all things. He knows every physical pain, every mental and emotional pain, and suffered it more deeply than it is possible for any person to suffer. And he did this because of the love and mercy he has for each of his children. He is not a detached God who silently observes us from his throne. But he is very much involved in our lives. He cares about what we are suffering and nurses us through it. He does not usually remove it because he would remove one of life’s greatest teachers. But he understands perfectly and cares perfectly and will help us through whatever it is that we enduring.

Hebrews 3

The Jews seem to have spent more time honoring Moses more than God. Paul tries to teach them that Jehovah is Christ and he is the God of the Old Testament and they should honor him more than Moses. In first Corinthians it says that the children of Israel in Moses’ time “did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” He is the creator of all things. While the Jews venerated Moses, Paul points out that he who built the house, in this case the house of Israel, is greater than the house. Moses was faithful, but was a servant in the house. Later in Hebrews, it says that Moses regarded the reproach of Christ greater than all the riches of Egypt. In verses 7-11, he quotes Christ who says that the children of Israel tempted him, proved him and saw his works for forty years. But they hardened their hearts against him, they were wrong in their hearts and as a result did not know his ways.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Philemon and Hebrews 1


The book of Philemon does not teach any doctrine but tells us more about the personality of Paul. Philemon was evidently a rich member of the church in Colossae and Onesimus was his slave. Onesimus ran away and evidently stole from Philemon in the process. Sometime after, Onesimus converted to Christianity and is now helping Paul while Paul is a prisoner in Rome. Paul writes to Philemon and says that he is sending Onesimus back, which Paul is legally bound to do, and asks Philemon to accept him, not as a slave, but as a brother in the gospel. Paul promises to pay Philemon anything that he has lost. This would be probably be the cost of a slave plus what was stolen.

Hebrews 1

Bible scholars have debated over who wrote the book of Hebrews. Joseph Smith stated that it was Paul. In chapter one, there is a wonderful abundance of evidence that the Father and Son are separate beings, that Christ is the creator of heaven and earth, that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones, and that Christ now sits as a God, like his Father, on a throne at his Father’s right hand. Here are some of the verses and what I feel they teach:

Verses 1-2: God has always spoken through his Son to prophets until Christ came to earth and spoke himself. Following Christ’s death, he spoke through his apostles who were chosen by him to be his spokesmen on earth. (see Acts 1). It is Christ who is the creator of our universe.

Verse 3: Christ is in “the express image of his person.” This cannot be more said more plainly in explaining that Christ is the Son, and the Father and the Son are persons. They have bodies and they look alike. They do not meld into one being that is an indefinable spiritual essence, but Christ sits (how does a bodiless essence sit?) at his right hand (and how does a bodiless, indefinable spiritual essence have a physical right hand?)

Verses 4-8: Here it is said explicitly that the Father and the Son are separate beings. One is the father who sires a son. They speak as separate individuals to each other. Christ has received an inheritance above the angels, and the Father says to Christ, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” The Father calls Christ a God. Being a called a God does not place Christ above the Father, but the Father gives him the status of a God. The other religions will differ with us on this and that is fine. But that is the difference between a religion that is based on the interpretations of men and one that is to revealed by Christ to men who are apostles and prophets, who have seen the Lord, been taught by him, and continue to receive revelation from him. The Old Testament testified of Christ, but when he came, the Jews could not accept him because he did not fit into their interpretations of the Messiah of the scriptures they had at that time. In the Old Testament, prophets were continually killed because they did not fit with the teachings of that time. But Christ was the Messiah, he did have apostles and prophets who he chose and ordained. In our time, he has come again. And in preparation for his second coming, he has once again called apostles and prophets who like all those of old are rejected for the same reason that apostles and prophets were rejected in the past. Religion is once again revealed by God to man. It is up to man to accept it or reject it. I add my witness, as revealed to me by the Holy Ghost, which I cannot deny, to millions of others that these things are true.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Titus 2 and 3

The theme of chapters 2 and 3 are very closely related. In these chapters, Paul gives guidelines on how to live our lives. What impresses me about these is that they are not guidelines that apply just to the LDS or Christians. These are qualities of life that are observed by all good people. Any person that we admire, who affects are lives in a positive way, whether they be someone we are acquainted with, or a teacher or leader of some sort, if we look into their lives, they will possess these qualities. The are people who see as being mature, possessing self-control and sense of being grounded in life. They know who they are and where they are going. They know that if they want to be happy, if they want success, if they want quality relationships, they must live lives that have these attributes.

One of the practices of Benjamin Franklin was “To speak evil of no man.” He felt our country was besieged by peopled who were critical and condemning of each other (He should see us now). Paul says, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient…” No person is perfect, and had need to change something in their life. Change comes easier when we recognize that these principles are based on eternal laws just as our physical world is based on eternal laws, and conforming to them is what gies our life substance and purpose. Disobeying the law of gravity will always have consequences, especially if we are anywhere above the ground! Stop breathing, and there will be a natural result. It is no different with disobeying the law of chastity. It will bring consequences. But when we learn to harness these laws, we can obtain great things. We have learned to harness electricity and it brings us blessings of comfort in many ways in our lives. So it is with these teachings. Harness the principles and they will bring power to our lives. It is a wise, happy, and successful person who can recognize on what side of life, what side of the these principles they are living and have the maturity to change accordingly.

Friday, November 20, 2009

2 Timothy 4 and Titus 1

2 Timothy 4

These are the last words of Paul. He again tells how the church will fall into apostasy, not because of forces from without the church, but from within. He knows he is going to die but also knows that he did his best and completed all that he was supposed to do, something we all hope we can say at the end of our life. You can sense the contradiction of feelings in what he writes, his frustration with those who do not stay faithful, and his exulting in the gospel and those who stay true. Timothy is evidently coming to Rome to be with Paul and Paul asks him to bring the scriptures and/or his own writings. Nero, who had already begun what would become a savage persecution of Christians, had Paul beheaded and a short time later crucified Peter who requests to be upside down on the cross because he felt unworthy to be crucified as the Savior was.

Titus 1

Verse 2 is obviously a clear reference to a pre-mortal life. Paul says that we were given a promise of eternal life before the world began. There are many references to the premortal life of our spirits in the Bible. One of my favorites is in Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament. Speaking of our death it says, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.” You can’t return to somewhere you haven’t been. President Harold B. Lee once said that our greatest death was in our mortal birth because of the veil. Leaving our pre-mortal life, we were not only separated from Heavenly Father and the Savior, but we said goodbye to prophets, apostles, great men and women, and friends, and because of the veil we would lose all memory of them. President Lee then talked about death being our greatest birth because the veil is removed and we are reunited with family and friends into a far better life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2 Timothy 2 and 3

2 Timothy 2

Paul tells Timothy that the Lord knows his children. The shepherd knows his sheep. And if those who know the Lord will turn from all iniquity, they will “be a vessel of honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” To me that means that I will be able to accomplish more of the important things in life, the things that really matter and will be meaningful, making a difference that lasts. The way that we do this, he says, is to flee youthful lusts, live righteously, seek faith, charity, peace, and be gentle, patient, and teach with meekness.

2 Timothy 3

Paul gives more signs of the last days. These are not only telling of our day, but of the apostasy in his day also. Each of the signs that he lists is evident today. One the particularly sticks out to me is, “Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” There are so ministers, leaders, politicians, teachers, who would seem to be, or set themselves up to be possessed of great wisdom. They will hop on the popular issues and have the answers. But without the inspiration of God, man’s wisdom will always be short sighted. There are many verses in the scriptures that differentiate between the wisdom that is based on man’s reasoning and wisdom that is based on inspiration. For example, Isaiah warns that the wisdom of our wise men will perish. King Benjamin says that the Spirit will guide us in wisdom’s path. I believe any honest seeker of truth can be inspired with true wisdom. Those that have true wisdom will have a form of godliness and the power of inspiration. They will display the qualities of a true leader Paul speaks of and will exude faith, peace, and meekness. Their answers will not always be the easy answers, but the ones that cause us to stretch and learn and be better in more meaningful ways.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

1 Timothy 6 and 2 Timothy 1

1 Timothy 6

Verses 2-5 teach something that I think is very true. In fact, the verses in this chapter are as applicable today as they were then. In the early verses, Paul says that if a person cannot accept the words of Christ, it is because of pride. And often there are those who are steeped in pride who, while professing knowledge and having the ability to ask the “right questions,” an argue the good argument, are in reality destitute of the truth and rather than creating peace and enlightenment, they create envy, strife and suspicion.

Two other verses I think are very important for our times. One is verse 6 where he says godliness with contentment is a great gain or blessing. The other is one that we are all very familiar with, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” There is so much pressure in our day to have the latest technology, the best fashions, the nicest cars. I contrast that to when Susan and I were first married. We had practically no furniture, little income, Susan made most of her clothes. Undoubtedly, those were some of the very best and happiest days of our marriage. We had each other and that was all that mattered.

2 Timothy 1

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is the last epistle that Paul probably wrote. It was written about 68 A.D., shortly before his death, and while he was imprisoned by Nero the second time in Rome. Looking at this chapter in reverse order, I am impressed with Onesiphorus who Paul says was not ashamed of his prison chains and ministered to him while he was a prisoner in Rome.

Paul says that all of the church in Asia has now apostatized showing how general the apostasy has become. Paul must sense his impending death and says these wonderful words, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Fear doesn’t come from God. Fear is born out of our own weaknesses or from Satan, or both. The opposite of fear is faith and love. The scriptures say, “Perfect love casteth out all fear.” I know that to be true.

Finally, I’m impressed with how much Paul loves Timothy who he says was taught the gospel by his mother and grandmother, converts of Paul’s, probably from his first mission. Timothy is the first bishop in Ephesus.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

1 Timothy 4 and 5

Paul prophecies about some of the things that will happen in the latter days, our time, that will affect not only those in the church, but all people. He speaks of the people falling away because they give heed to things that aren’t true. Of the things he prophesys, one that stands out to me is the forbidding of marriage. Today, a relationship is the preferred arrangement by many. I think relationships are preferred because they offer an easy out. They don’t require a commitment that is binding. Most often they are based on the physical which is mistakenly called love. The physical expression of love is important, but is woefully short of the true expression of love that comes from years of commitment and sacrifice. President Kimball once taught that he saw true love expressed He didn’t see expressed between a young couple newly fallen in love, but between an elderly man and his wife as he watched his friend take care of his invalid wife, bathing her, feeding her, and combing her hair for the twenty years before she died.

The earth was created for the express purpose of establishing families. The family is the most marvelous of all of God’s creations. A family is the one place where you belong without qualifications. It is the place where you are loved regardless of your shortcomings and failures. It is the one group of people that you can count on above all others. No one does everything right in a family. Sometime selfishness replaces love. Parents sometimes mess up some things raising their children. Children don’t always live up to the standards their parents hope they have instilled in them. A million and one things can go wrong in a family. But in the end, they still have each other. And in God’s end, the atonement will heal and make right what was wrong, and exalt those families in a union that is sealed together for eternity.

1 Timothy 5

Nearly a whole chapter is dedicated to taking care of the widows in their midst. It is so important that we revere and care for the elderly. Also important in this chapter is Paul’s counsel that a man must provide for his family otherwise he’s denying the faith. I have always had a difficult time with men who could never seem to find work and relied on their wives to bring in the income. Working at McDonalds would be better than nothing at all.

Monday, November 16, 2009

1 Timothy 3

In this chapter, Paul lays out the qualifications of a priesthood holder and especially the office of bishop. His qualifications go along with what is said in D&C 121. What he says that isn't in the D&C is that wife of an office holder should be honorable and righteous. It is not unusual in the church that when a man is considered for a demanding or important calling such as bishop, it is the wife that is considered first. If she isn't dedicated and supportive, it would be very difficult for the man. A wife must be willing to sacrifice a great deal for her husband to hold such callings since he will be given extra burdens of responsibility and required to be gone many hours during the week. There are great blessings that come from this, but isn't easy for the wife. The Lord knew what he was doing, because if the roles were reversed, I'm not sure how well some men would do.

1 Timothy 2

I noticed three things in this chapter as I read this time. One is, Christ desires all men to be saved. Not a few. All men. Evangelicals will tell you that a person is condemned to hell if they do not, in this life, confess Jesus as their Savior. This means that the vast majority of God’s children will end up in hell under the domination of Satan. That would make God a failure and Satan a success. I cannot accept that. It doesn’t make sense spiritually and it doesn’t make sense logically.

Second, Paul says there is “one God and one mediator between God and men… Jesus Christ.” Two separate beings. Not one.

Third, men are to be prayerful at all times. Women are, according to the Greek, to be modest and not dress in an immodest fashion. They should dress (adorn) themselves with godlike works. I will always maintain that the most spiritual members of the church, the ones who do the most important work and are the most godlike, are the women. The priesthood provides the administration and the ordinances, the women minister to the needs. Men tend to seek position and authority. Women tend to seek out those in need of help.

1 Timothy 1

Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy after his release from his first imprisonment between 63 and 66 A.D. 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus are called the pastoral epistles because they were written to pastors or shepherds of flock. Timothy and Titus were leaders. Timothy had the authority to call bishops and must have been something similar to what we now call an area authority. Paul obviously has a great love for Timothy who he calls his true son in the gospel.

Everyone who has ever sinned needs to take heart from Paul’s example. Once again, Paul marvels how even though he was a “blasphemer,” a “persecutor,” and an “injurious” (violent) person towards the members of the church, Christ granted him mercy and grace to become an example of the faith and a leader. Christ came to save sinners, which means he came to save all of us if we are willing to accept him.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

2 Thessalonians 3

When Paul tells the Thessalonians that they are not to associate with people who do not believe. I believe he is talking about apostates, people who have left the church and teach false things about it to lead others away. Apostates are more often than not, people who have not repented of sin. Rather than repent, the leave the church in bitterness, blaming it for their unhappiness. But because they are still unhappy, they can’t leave the church alone. If the church wasn’t true, there would be no reason to fight against it and spend your life trying to draw others out of it.

He also admonishes the people to not be idle, but work. Elder McConkie makes an interesting point about this, “Man cannot be saved in idleness. It is not enough simply to believe the great spiritual realities. We could do that in the [pre-mortal life].” The Lord expects more of us and we should expect more of ourselves. I think this is true for those in the church and it’s true for our jobs and occupations.

Friday, November 13, 2009

2 Thessalonians 2

Chapter 2 confirms two things very strongly. One, there had to be an apostasy before the second coming. The words falling away were translated from the Greek apostasia which means apostasy, revolt, to break away. The English word apostasy means the renunciation of religious belief. The second thing is how Christ allows this to happen so that people are responsible for their choices. Wrong choices allow Satan to do his work. He opposes everything that is good, makes the false seem true and the truth appear to be false. He is the master deceiver and is extremely good after thousands of years of practice. By destroying the free agency of individuals and gaining power over them, he exalts himself to a position of god and sits on his throne thinking he is god. When Christ comes, the brightness of his glory will expose Satan and his nothingness. There will be no darkness, no doubt between what is good and evil. Satan's influence will be destroyed. All untruth, all lies, all evil, all of his secret work will be revealed. The scriptures say that when Satan is revealed, we will marvel that such weakling had so much power over the world.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2 Thessalonians 1

The Thessalonian members of the church had received Paul’s first epistle and evidently were trying to do all that he had counseled them. They were still being persecuted for their beliefs and still had questions about the second coming of the Christ and when it would be. Paul attempted to put this at rest by teaching them that there has to be an apostasy before the second coming and this is the theme of this epistle.

One sentence, a half sentence really, jumps out at me. “And to you who are troubled, rest with us…” There are times when our responsibilities, our trials, whatever combination of burdens it may be, weigh down on us heavily. We are left with no choice but to see it through. The promise is there will come a time of rest, of peace, of release from all that makes life difficult to bear. If we keep that hope, we can endure it. Without that hope, life would seem unbearable. Moroni asked, “How is it that ye can obtain faith, save ye shall have hope?” The two go together, but I think hope leads to faith. We hope it’s true, we hope we’ll be able to endure, and as we hope, our faith increases and the Lord gives us the strength we need. But in the end, there will be peace and rest and the satisfaction that we did what at times seemed absolutely impossible.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thessalonians 5

Living in this world where life is fairly routine, it’s sometimes hard to keep in mind that the second coming of Christ is real, it’s near and will come unexpectedly. If we are as Paul says, children of the light, if we don’t hinder the Spirit, we will be aware of the signs and know to prepare and be ready if it should happen in our lifetime. But Paul didn’t know when it would come. I think he knew it wouldn’t be anytime soon because of all the signs that had to be fulfilled. On the other hand, he’s telling the Thessalonians to be ready. Joseph Smith didn’t know and didn’t think it would be in his lifetime. We do know in general when he will come, just not the hour or day. In another place, Paul compares it to a woman who gives birth. She knows about when it will be, but not the exact hour or minute. Paul’s instructions are to be “awake” and not asleep on the watch.

In closing this epistle, he gives the Thessalonians some counsel, rules which are good for all of us on how to live, and at the same time will keep us prepared for the Savior’s second coming.

1. Comfort and teach each other
2. Know and esteem your leaders
3. Be at peace with each other
4. Comfort the despondent
5. Support those that are weak
6. Do give evil for evil
7. Always rejoice
8. Pray without ceasing
9. Give thanks for everything
10. Don’t hinder the Spirit
11. Prove all things and hold fast to what is good
12. Abstain from all evil

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thessalonians 4

In Chapter 4, Paul talks of sanctification or becoming holy. For some, holiness has taken on the connotation of being “holier than thou.” But what it means is to rid ourselves of any impure or unclean habits or thoughts. The more we gain self-control, not only do we become stronger and more self-disciplined, we gain more power in directing our lives towards those things that matter most. Every day, we take a shower or bath and clean ourselves in preparation for the work we have to do. The clean feeling we get after a shower always feels good and invigorating. You feel more ready to take on the day. Some times, it washes all the stress out and helps us to feel free of all the burdens that we have been feeling. Some days, we work hard and get extra dirty and it feels extra good to get rid the dirt and grime. Each week when we take the sacrament, it is our spiritual shower. When we strive to keep our lives morally clean, it is as if we are baptized and cleansed again. Each week, the degree or level of our sanctification can increase. I think it is a gradual process. Perhaps that is why so many elderly people seem so pure and full of love. Through this process, we see and feel more clearly. We feel renewed and strengthened. The Holy Ghost isn’t hindered from influencing, teaching, guiding and protecting us, often times without our being aware of his presence.

Sanctification increases our ability to love. That is why being “holier than thou” is actually the antithesis of it. Notice that Paul says to live a quiet life, to mind our own business and to do the work required of us. There is no process of comparison with other people in this. The only comparison is between who we have been and who we are now. So I believe that a sanctified person is able to love more easily and as a result, get along with all people regardless of their beliefs and life styles. President Hinckley was a prime example of this. He never sacrificed his values, but used them to bless others. People were drawn to him, felt better for having been around him. And he never caused a person to feel less because of the type of person he was.

Thessalonians 3

I'm so impressed with Paul. I have to think he was an intense person, the kind that you sit back and wonder how he does it all. But what impresses me in these chapters is his humility and love. He sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to see how the saints were doing and Timonthy returns and reports that they are wonderful, enduring a lot of tribulation, but staying strong and faithful. For this success, Paul doesn't take any credit but gives the credit to God and thanks Him for this great blessing. He says, "For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy where with we joy for you sakes...?" Then he tells the Thessalonians how he prays they will love each other and become perfect in their faith. This is the hope of every missionary whoever baptized someone, that the person they taught and brought into the church will stay strong. And like Paul, every missionary knows that it was not them, but the Lord who touched the convert's heart and made the conversion possible.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thessalonians 1

This is Paul's first epistle, probably written around 52 A.D. Greece was divided by Rome into two provinces, Macedonia and Achaia. Thessalonica, named after the sister of Alexander the Great around 350 B.C., was the capital of Macedonia. During Paul's second mission, he had been driven from Thessalonica by Jews but the church took hold and Paul later sent Timothy and Silvanus (Silas) back to see how the saints were. They found that the members of the church were being persecuted but remaining faithful. Evidently, the saints in Thessalonica were a model for all believers throughout all of Greece. So Paul praises them in this first chapter.

Verse 5 teaches a very important principle. Anyone can have the word of the gospel. It can come in the form of words spoken or from books. But the gospel must come in power also and power can only come to man from God. Without power, there is no scripture given, no new revelation. Without power, there are no saving ordinances making salvation possible. The Savior gave is apostles and prophets sealing power to bind in earth and in heaven. If there are no sealing powers, there are no eternal families. Anyone can claim to have the gospel in an intellectual sense, and even have spiritual confirmation as to their belief. But the fulness of the gospel can only exist where the power of God has been given.

Thessalonians 2
The first verses in this chapter describe how the gospel was brought to the people by Paul and his associates. They were gentle, affectionate, fair, holy and upright. As Elder McConkie points out, this is quite a contrast to the way the gospel was taken by force during the apostasy. It was taken through civil war in England, through the Inquisition in Spain, through the sale of indulgences in Europe, through the swords of Cortez in Mexico. Crusaders killed non-believers and burned their villages. Christians were kept in darkness and were refused access to the scriptures. It was against the law to read them. But Paul's efforts were similar to the words in D&C 12:8 where the Lord says, "No one can assist in this work except he shall be humble, and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care."

Paul talks of how the saints in Thessalonica are their hope, their joy, their glory and crown of rejoicing. Elder McConkie says this; "No man can conceive how great is the worth of souls. One soul saved which would have been lost means added kingdoms and worlds, added spirit children born to exalted beings, added hosts of intelligent beings going forward everlastingly in eternal progression."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Colossians 4

Colossians 4
I like the way Paul instructs the Colossians to always speak with grace, seasoned with salt, so they know how to converse with every person. I think he is telling them (and us) to always speak with kindness and thoughtfulness. Salt was the symbol of the covenant. If you consider that and salt being a seasoning, I think he saying that we should the kind of person that enhances or improves the quality of a conversation.

Verse 10 refers to another epistle to the Colossians and verse 16 mentions an epistle to the Laodicians. These are writings of the apostles we do not have. Other scriptures mentioned in the Bible that we do not have are:

book of the covenant
book of the wars of the Lord
book of Jasher
a book of Samuel
the book of Gad the seer
the prophecy of Ahijah
the visions of Iddo the seer
the book of the acts of Solomon
book of Samuel the seer
book of Nathan the prophet
book of Shemmaiah
Acts of Abijah
book of Jehu
the sayings of the seers
the acts of Uzziah written Isaiah
the book where it says Christ shall be called a Nazarene
writings of Enoch
another epistle of Paul to the Corinthians
possibly an earlier epistle to the Ephesians

These books are written off by other churches by saying if the Lord wanted us to have them, they would be in the Bible. If they were to appear, I wonder if they would accept them if they were verified to be those mentioned in the Bible, but contradicted with their doctrine. I do not believe they would contradict truth. And I don't think our scriptures will ever be complete and they shouldn't be. Revelation came to prophets and they wrote it for the instruction and help of the people at that time. More than any other time in history, we need revelation and guidance to face the complexity and number of problems our world faces. I'm so grateful for prophets and revelation. It gives us something firm to stand on in a world that is a very slippery slope.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Colossians 3

Verse 3 uses the words "Your life is hid with Christ in God." Some of the Colossian saints evidently had their calling and elections made sure. This means that nothing but committing the unpardonable sin can keep the person from inheriting eternal life. A person who has his calling and election made sure has reached such a state of righteousness that they are sealed up by the power of the priesthood and will come forth with Christ in the resurrection. This is an ordinance performed in the temple and is referred to as the second endowment. It is not requirement of this life. But something we should seek for to obtain either in this life or the next.

Paul counsels husbands and wives in the same manner he did in Ephesians 5. And in this chapter he urges righteous living, asking us to control our appetites, and listing sins to avoid such as:

indecent affection
being covetous which is idolatry
anger and malice
flithy communications which is anything obscene or pornographic
following the natural man

Then as he usually does, he lists qualities we should pursue that show we've become a new and righteous person:

become the elect of God - we do this by accepting the gospel and gaining the blessings of the temple
be filled with mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering
be tolerant and forgiving
have charity
let God's peace rule our hearts
let the gospel make us rich in wisdom
sing hymns and spiritual songs from the heart
do whatever we do fully and do it for the Lord, not for men

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Colossians 2

The mysteries of God are those things that cannot be learned by reason, deduction, or the teachings of men. They are the things that must be learned by revelation. A person can look at the world and from that figure there must be a God, but to be saved and exalted takes revelation that gives knowledge of those things that God reveals through his prophets. Paul urges the members of the church not to follow the teachings men, to not have will worship or modes of worship designed by men, to worship angels or change the sabbath. He also says that just as Christ was buried and came forth a new person, we are buried in baptism to come forth a new person in the image of Christ and his resurrection.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Colossians 1

Colossae was a small, unimportant town east of Ephsesus. It isn't even on our Bible maps. In Chapter 1, two things are taught by Paul that stand out to me. One is what he teaches about Christ, that he is the creator of all things. If so, this makes him the God of the Old Testament where he is called Jehovah. It is through him that all things exist and he is in the image of his Father just as we are. Second, by coming here to earth, we were separated from the presence of God the Father and this separation is made more so by our actions. But through Christ, we can be reconciled, or reunited with God, through the Holy Ghost while on this earth, and then physically brought back to his presence.

Paul uses an expression that was the favorite of Elder Neal A. Maxwell. Paul says in verse 23, "If we continue in the faith grounded and settled..." This is how we should be with the gospel. Firm and established, steadfast in our beliefs, and immovable and undenying in our faith. We shouldn't allow anything to interfere or weaken our resolve to live a life that is righteous, doing what we know to be right.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Phillipians 4

There are so many wonderful teachings in this chapter. There is the admonition of Paul used by Joseph Smith in the Articles of Faith to seek after whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virture, and things that are praiseworthy. He tells us to be humble, to be content, satisfied with what we have and not always be wanting, that God will supply according to our needs.

One sentence that I have always felt important to remember is: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." That is where true strength comes from. That is where the ability to get through something, to accomplish an overwhelming task comes from. We really can't do very much on our own. Even when we think we are accomplishing something on our own, we have no idea how much help we are receiving from the Lord, usually through the help of angels we are unaware of.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Phillipians 3

Life is hard, tiring, and more often than not, takes us in directions that we hadn't planned on. It is not easy to live the gospel and be the kind of person we need to be. To live righteously and overcome the our weaknesses is definitely (and thankfully) a lifelong process. The Savior said that those who are willing to sacrifice all things for him will receive a hundredfold after this life. The key word is willing. A person can't be willing to sacrifice of suffer all things for the Savior without a knowledge of him, without having a hope of what he will enter into after this life. Without this knowledge and hope, we won't have sufficient faith to count everything in this life as worthless in comparison and be willing to let it go if we need to. As Joseph Smith said, a religion that doesn't require the sacrifice of all things never has sufficient power to produce the kind of faith needed to lead us to life and salvation. "Those, then, who make the sacrifice, will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God; and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life; and will be enabled, through faith, to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ."

I don't think I'm there yet. But I take comfort when Paul says, "Not as though I already attained, either were made perfect." He says he hasn't apprehended this yet, hasn't obtained this yet. "I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth for those things which are before, I press forward... for the the prize." And there is the key, to press forward, to keep trying, not give up, not get lost in the frustration of life and the weaknesses of others. It takes grit. It isn't easy. But is worth far more than anything else we can ever hope to obtain in this life.