Thursday, April 11, 2019 0 comments

Some Thoughts on the Parable of the Wheat and Tares

24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matt. 13:24-30)

To me, this parable is about the church and how the church ends up with a mix of people in it, both good and bad. We wish it were all good, but of course people have their choice and at the same time that God does His work, Satan is also on the march, seeking to destroy faith and tempting to sin. It stands to reason that at the same time that God has His successes, Satan is going to have his as well, even in the church.

At the beginning, all the seed looks the same, but over time when the fruits of our works start to appear, then it becomes clear that some fruits are good, and other fruits are…not so great. Naturally, the bad fruits concern us, and we want to correct the people who were responsible or root them out.

To the desire to gather out the tares, Jesus says “Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.” Rooting out the bad requires a surgical precision and accuracy. Our knowledge is so often incomplete that we can’t always see the line between the good and the evil or the causes behind each, so if we were to try to root out the bad, we might accidently condemn something good that had been intertwined with it. Good people might see the condemnation and say to themselves, “I have those qualities in myself too; I must be evil as well,” and become discouraged and self-condemning. Or we might not root out all the bad and thereby give those left some reason for self-justification and complacency.

Instead, Jesus says, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” The key word there is grow. Both good and evil does not remain the same over time. They both grow. Evil that was present only in thought or intent eventually become action, and if it isn’t arrested by repentance, it multiplies into a pattern of behavior, then grows into a habit, and hardens into a way of life. And naturally, patterns of life may be hidden for a while, but eventually they manifest in stronger and bolder public actions. When evil gets that big, then it can be dealt with by church discipline.

In the same way, good that was only sporadic likewise turns into a pattern, then a habit, then a confirmed way of living that brings a rich harvest of blessings.
So how does this parable help us? If we’re wise, we will look at everything we do and think about what it might turn into if it is grows bigger and stronger in our life. If we don’t like what it will become, we need to squash it. If we want more, we need to nurture it.

Our errors and mistakes and sins will magnify over time if we don’t repent and overcome them.  Laziness will turn into inactivity and spiritual apathy. Unbelief and fault-finding will grow into apostasy. Looking to lust will turn into adultery. Occasional meanness and flashes of temper will grow into cruelty and abuse.

On the other hand, our service will become sacrifice. Diligence in the scriptures will become the skills of a scriptorian. Kindness will become deep charity. Following the promptings of the Spirit will make us a mighty instrument in the hands of God. Paying regular tithing will become complete and total consecration. Encouraging others will become inspirational leadership. Exerting a particle of faith over and over turns into the ability to move mountains and work wonders.

No doubt the Lord wants us find the tares in our own character and weed them out before they grow into something so malignant and poisonous that requires others to remove us out of the kingdom. He also wants us to continue to nurture the goodness within us that we can eventually enjoy the unspeakable satisfaction of heaven’s favor.
Sunday, April 7, 2019 0 comments

Some Challenging Directions from the Lord to the Brother of Jared

And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel. (Ether 2:5)

It is interesting that the Lord directed the brother of Jared to take the people into an area where man had never gone before. Now, people are pretty adventurous, so when there’s a place no one has gone before, it is usually because the route looks really forbidding and desolate. So it might have looked like there was a really good reason no one had gone that way.

But if the Lord wanted them to take that route, it was because He knew more about it than man did, that He saw it had the resources to supply their needs even if it didn’t appear to.  (And if it didn’t, He could provide by miracle and build their faith.)  It would take faith to follow the Lord’s directions, trust that it would be alright when appearances were against it.

Not everyone has the faith to do this kind of thing. In Numbers 20:1-8, the children of Israel were led to the desert of Zin where there was no water, and they gathered against Moses to complain, wishing they had died before then and wondering why they had been led there. A miracle brought them water, but even if they hadn’t complained, they would have needed the miracle anyway.  But it would have been better for them if they could have refrained from complaining at all and simply recognized their need for a miracle.

So, lesson #1 – The Lord may lead us in ways that don’t look very possible, and it takes faith to follow.
Lesson #2 – The Lord wants us to learn to depend on Him, so He will bring us by ways that require us to do that.
Lesson #3 – The Lord brings us to places where miracles are required so that we can experience what He is capable of doing. But these places also require a lot of faith from us too.
Lesson #4 – It is best not to murmur when we are stuck and simply realize we need miracles and ask for them.
Sunday, March 31, 2019 0 comments

Part of the Great Work of the Lord which Nephi Sees

In 1 Nephi 13-14 we have parts of Nephi’s vision in which he saw history and the future (all of which was future for him). We are pretty familiar with the parts of history from 1 Nephi 13:

·      The formation of the great and abominable church
·      The Gentiles coming out of captivity to the land of promise
·      The fight for independence
·      The book carried with them that has many covenants and prophecies
·      The coming forth of the Book of Mormon

However, we are less familiar with the stuff from 1 Nephi 14, except for v12-14 that talks about the mother of abominations gathering multitudes to fight the saints and the saints being armed with the power of God.  Let’s look at v1-10:

1 And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks
2 And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded.
3 And that great pit, which hath been digged for them by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell—yea, that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God; not the destruction of the soul, save it be the casting of it into that hell which hath no end.
4 For behold, this is according to the captivity of the devil, and also according to the justice of God, upon all those who will work wickedness and abomination before him.
5 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, Nephi, saying: Thou hast beheld that if the Gentiles repent it shall be well with them; and thou also knowest concerning the covenants of the Lord unto the house of Israel; and thou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish.
6 Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God.
7 For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken.
8 And it came to pass that when the angel had spoken these words, he said unto me: Rememberest thou the covenants of the Father unto the house of Israel? I said unto him, Yea.
9 And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look, and behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil.
10 And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. (1 Nephi 14:1-10)

What I realized is these verses have important aspects of history too, but it is hard to see how because we’re in it.

These verses talk about:
·      the Lord taking away stumbling blocks,
·      a great work that either convinces and delivers people to life, or brings them to captivity and destruction temporally and spiritually
·      people of the great and abominable church digging pits and falling into them themselves and becoming captives of the devil

Don’t we live in a day in which all kinds of deep pits are being dug for people which can take them captive? Pornography is a pit. Excessive cell phone use is a pit. Drug use is a pit. Excessive video gaming is a pit. All kinds of addictions are pits. The risks of captivity through addiction today have multiplied, and there are lots of people that stumble over this, that, or the other thing.

But the Lord wants people to know the risks and avoid stumbling and falling into the pits, so He will do His best to make the truth known and people have to choose. We all of us have to choose whether we go on and stay in our various pits (because we all have our struggles and vulnerabilities that drag us down into pits) or whether we will get out of it and leave it alone.

Further, verse 3 warns that those who dig the pits for others to fall into will fall into them themselves, to their utter destruction. So that’s a warning to those figuratively in any “pit-digging” industries to get out of that work.

Whenever the prophets warn us about something, they are pointing out a pit that we might fall into. I’m so grateful for that because it takes a number of years for society to get the memo that certain things are harmful, and even then, they may never get it. If we went by society, we would become casualties of whatever it is.  But if we listen to the prophets, we will know to be cautious ahead of time, even if we don’t immediately see and understand the full significance and danger.
Friday, March 29, 2019 0 comments

The Five Kings Joshua Conquered: A Type of Christ

16 But these five kings fled, and hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah.
17 And it was told Joshua, saying, The five kings are found hid in a cave at Makkedah.
18 And Joshua said, Roll great stones upon the mouth of the cave, and set men by it for to keep them:….
22 Then said Joshua, Open the mouth of the cave, and bring out those five kings unto me out of the cave.
23 And they did so, and brought forth those five kings unto him out of the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon….
26 And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening.
27 And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day. (Joshua 10:16-18, 22-23, 26-27)

In Joshua 10 is told of the five kings that combined to fight against Joshua and Israel. The kings’ forces were discomfited and the kings fled and hid in a cave, and the Israelites were commanded to put stones over the mouth of the cave to keep them in there until the battle was over.  Once the battle was done, Joshua had the kings brought out, and he staged a foot-on-the-neck demonstration to show the Lord would help Israel conquer the land of Canaan. Then he had the five kings killed, hung in the trees until sundown, then thrown back in the cave and great stones laid in the cave mouth.

It seemed to me that what happened to the five kings was a sort of twisted type of Christ, though slightly out of order and in two parts.
First part:  Kings. Kept in a cave (like a tomb), with great stones to prevent them from getting out. With men set by to keep them there. And then they are brought out alive.
Second part: Kings hung on trees until sundown, then put in the cave with great stones over the cave’s mouth.

As you can see, the parts are out of order, so it isn’t a perfect type, but it is still recognizable how it anticipates the crucifixion, the entombment, and resurrection of Christ. And too, Joshua as the high priest orders all of this to happen, taking the part of the Jewish and Roman authorities who condemned Christ.

Sunday, March 24, 2019 0 comments

Some of Jesus’s Interesting Instructions to the Twelve about Missionary Work

In Matthew 10, Jesus gives His disciples instructions about missionary work. I found v26-28 particularly interesting this time through.
26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. (Matt. 10:26-27)

Why emphasize this thing about secrets being revealed? And how is that supposed to help them with their missionary work?

I realized this was a promise that Heavenly Father would reveal to them (the disciples) ahead of time secret things about their listeners. They were to talk about those things and teach principles about those things. That divinely-given knowledge was to be a sign to their hearers that Heavenly Father knew them intimately and that what they were hearing was the truth.

We see a specimen of this in the story of the woman at the well. Jesus told her, “thou has had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband…” (John 4:18).

How would these things be revealed?
·      “what I tell you in darkness” – This was an oblique reference to dreams. Heavenly Father can use dreams to reveal things to His disciples.
·      “what ye hear in the ear” – This is an oblique reference to the still, small voice of the Spirit, which can reveal things as well.

Heavenly Father knows all the details of our lives. He can reveal those things to His servants when He deems it will bring us closer to Him and help us repent.
Sunday, March 10, 2019 0 comments

Jesus casts out an unclean spirit

23 And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,
24 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.
25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.
26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. (Mark 1:23-26)

One observation frequently made about this story is that the unclean spirits recognize Jesus, not having a veil over their memory. But if you notice, that knowledge doesn’t do any good.  The effect they have on the man they have possessed is to torment him, making him think he can have nothing to do with Jesus, as if Jesus is some different kind of person and that He has come to destroy all the wicked.  The man seems to have had an over-consciousness of his sins combined with despair, a view that he could expect no help from Jesus.

But once Jesus cast the unclean spirit out, the man knew Jesus could help him. Unclean spirits want to paralyze people with a sense of their unworthiness to keep them from getting the spiritual help they need.

Now, here’s a question – if the text had not labeled this man as having an unclean spirit, would we have been able to tell that was his problem? (Read through it, covering up the label, and see.) Could we have known from his words and behavior what his problem was?   I suspect this story is in the scriptures exactly so that we can learn to recognize and diagnose this problem.

Here’s another question—If we ever recognize this kind of spirit in ourselves, can we discern that and cast it out?  Because it must be cast out in order to exert the faith for salvation.

I think this story should help us learn discernment so we can recognize when we are under the influence of this kind of unclean spirit so we can escape. It is hard to escape that sort of thing if you think it is you instead of realizing it is a spiritual influence. Remember, it is not you.  Cast it out. Tell Satan where to get off.

Sunday, March 3, 2019 0 comments

By What Basis Do You Judge?

14 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.
15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?
16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.
19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?
20 The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?
21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.
22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?
24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
25 Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?
26 But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?
27 Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.
28 Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.
29 But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.
30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.
31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?
32 The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.
33 Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me.
34 Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.
35 Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?
36 What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?
37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.
41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?
42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
43 So there was a division among the people because of him.
44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.
45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?
46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.
47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?
48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?
49 But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.
50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)
51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?
52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.
53 And every man went unto his own house. (John 7:14:53)
In this chapter it is interesting that Jesus tells the people, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (v24)  He tells them this because they allow people to be circumcised on the Sabbath to keep the 8-day law, but they had been angry at Him for healing on the Sabbath to make someone completely whole.

Throughout the rest of this chapter, we get to see a variety of opinions people express about Jesus as they try to work out whether He is to be followed or not. We get to see the basis on which they judge Christ. This challenges us to think about how we decide to trust the prophets, as well as the bigger issue of how we decide Christ is the Messiah and the one to put our faith in.

V26 – Some note that Jesus speaks boldly and that the leaders let Him continue instead of shutting Him up. They wonder if that’s because the leaders believe He is Christ. They were judging based on the fact that the leaders hadn’t stopped Him yet. In their mind, permission equaled agreement.

V27 – Some note they know where Jesus is from, but that Christ’s origins are supposed to be mysterious. I have to wonder if they get this idea from some scripture we don’t have or whether this was folk tradition. They judge based on Jesus’s place of origin. (They aren’t the only ones who do this.) Is this a good basis for judgment? I doubt it.

V41-42 --   Some say, “Shall Christ come out of Galilee?” They cite the scriptures that Christ comes from the seed of David out of the town of Bethlehem. We have stories that show us Christ fulfilled that, even if Bethlehem was a very short-term residence.  Ignorance was tripping them up here.

V52 -- Some Pharisee say, “Search and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” They think that just because no prophet has come from Galilee that means no prophet can come from there. It’s as silly as Latter-day Saints saying “No modern prophet can arise outside of Utah.” God can easily upend those notions.

V31 – Some say, “When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?” They judge on the basis of miracles. Miracles are significant, but they can’t be the foundation of faith. Miracles follow faith, confirming it rather than preceding it.

V40-41 – Some say, “Of a truth, this is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” They say this in response to Jesus’s promise that those who come to Him and drink will have living waters flow out of their bellies. They judge by Jesus’s sayings and promises and how they felt and how it matches the scriptures.

V46 – The officers who were supposed to apprehend Jesus and take Him, did not do it, and they say, “Never man spake like this man.” They judge by how Christ speaks and the authority they sense from Him that is greater than any other they have heard (and since they work for the Jerusalem temple administration and chief priests, they’ve had the opportunity to hear the greatest that Judaism had at that time).

V48 – The Pharisees say, “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?”  They judge by the numbers of rulers that accept Him, in effect holding themselves hostage to popularity among the elite.

V50-51 – Nicodemus says, “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” It seems Nicodemus didn’t feel like the Pharisees knew enough about Jesus—what He said or did—for them to be able to tell one way or the other, and he felt to caution them to reserve judgment until they have the real facts.

When we add it all up, we get this:

Bad basis for judging
Good basis for judging
--Looking for mysterious origins
--Judging based on where He comes from
--Judging based on whether authorities allow it
--Judging based on whether authorities accept it and believe it
--Judging based on popularity among elites and authority

--Doing many miracles to benefit others
--Based on sayings and promises given, how they feel and how it matches scripture
--Based on authority felt when He speaks
--Based on what one knows about what He does and says

I’m taking a Global Business law and ethics class this semester and I get to read summaries of court cases and see how judges make their decisions. Mostly it is based upon law, but when they hit fuzzy areas where there isn’t clarity, often they create tests for themselves with various criteria, and those tests get used by other judges.

 In John 7, we get to see how people of John’s day had their own tests they used to judge, some of which were mental shortcuts that depended upon the judgment of others rather than their own, some of which failed because of their ignorance, and some of which were simply created out of prejudice. 

It think it shows us the importance of thinking about the basis by which we judge the modern prophets or anything, for that matter.  It challenges us to become more conscious of the criteria we judge by. If our criteria is faulty, sooner or later we will run up against something that challenges our notions. If we can’t adjust those criteria appropriately, we will reject something good, thinking it is evil, or accept something evil, thinking it is good.
Sunday, February 24, 2019 0 comments

The Lunatic Child

14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. (Matt. 17:14-18)

It struck me as I was reading this how odd it was that the child often fell into the fire or the water. A footnote on the “falling” says the Greek means “throws himself” instead of falling. So this child is actually trying to destroy himself, not falling accidentally. The child was vexed and suffering mentally-emotionally to such an extent that the only way he could think of to end it was to try to kill himself.

And actually, Jesus seems to have understood this. His statement, “how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?” shows that Jesus knew what it felt like to suffer at length and wonder how long it would go on and when it would all be over.  His description of “faithless and perverse” shows that He knew a lack of faith and perverse tendencies contributed to the suffering the child was going through.  The fact that He rebuked shows that the child needed to learn some principles and the fact that He cast out a devil shows that there was a devil that was involved in the child’s suffering, making it worse.

If we ever feel like we can’t go on through our suffering, we need to fast and pray and exert our faith. We can get through it. Christ can help us get through it. Take it moment by moment, day by day.
Thursday, February 21, 2019 0 comments

Three Different Places Christ Was to Come From

4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. (Matthew 2:4-6, emphasis added)
And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. (Matthew 2:15, emphasis added)

And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. (Matthew 2:23, emphasis added)

In these verses are recorded three different prophecies about where Christ was to come from: born in Bethlehem, called out of Egypt, called a Nazarene.  If we didn’t know the circumstances of Christ’s birth and youngest years, we might be inclined to say these were seriously contradictory and mutually exclusive. But Matthew’s record shows how all of them were fulfilled in their way: by movements because of universal taxation, by threat requiring flight, and by strategic settlement ostensibly out of reach of a different danger.

This shows us that the Lord knows the unusual circumstances that will occur, even hundreds of years in the future. (I wonder if the Lord decided to give those prophecies in such a way as to make them sound mutually exclusive so that He could underline His ability to carry His plans out.)

This is another one of those things that shows we can trust the Lord will do His own work and fulfill His covenants.

Monday, February 4, 2019 2 comments

Thoughts about Alternatives if Buying and Selling is Prohibited

Remember these verses?

16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:16-17)

If you’re like me, you may have read these verses and wondered how one might survive if you are prohibited from buying and selling. What alternatives can we imagine?

One alternative that comes to mind immediately is the formation of a black market (or in this case, it would be a white market that is officially deemed “black” by the powers that be.) However, black markets are demoralizing inasmuch as it forces one to live outside the law. Living in fear of discovery like that is no way to live for faithful people who are commanded not to fear but be of good cheer.

This brings us to the other alternative. An alternative economy must be formed on a legal basis, and that alternative economy must operate on principles other than buying and selling. This is hard to imagine, but what it amounts to is that of volunteering, giving and sharing. Charity becomes the legal basis by which the Zion economy must be run at this time. Workers must give their labor to the Lord, and producers must give their production to the Lord and thereby make Zion the clearinghouse for where the labor is to be bestowed and where the goods to be produced must be sent.

This will take a lot of trust, and will likely not be perfect, but it will be a better alternative than taking the mark to be part of a corrupt network or living in fear as part of a black market.

Consecration will be Zion’s protection.

Monday, January 28, 2019 0 comments

Where the Beauty of Israel Comes From

Ezekiel 16 is an extended allegory of Israel as a woman the Lord finds naked, abandoned, and dirty in the field, and the Lord washes, clothes, and covenants with her and cares for her.

These verses struck me:

13 Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.
14 And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God.
15 But thou didst trust in thine own beauty… (Ezek. 16:13-15)

This reminds us of an important truth: Israel’s beauty is perfect because it comes from God. It isn’t Israel’s at all, but the goodness Israel is given by grace through obedience.

I think it is also the same on the individual level. Any attractiveness we have is from God. Looks are only surface-deep, but the real attractiveness rests in attitude and outlook and the way we do things, all of which, when affected by and guided by the Lord and our focus on His ways, will be greater than it would be otherwise.  Interestingly, with God’s help, we escape the excessive preoccupation with looks that makes beauty less appealing because our priority are on the things of eternity that really matter.

Let’s not make the mistake of “trusting in our own beauty.” (I’ll leave it to you to look up verse 15 to read the rest of what happens when that mistake is made.)

Sunday, January 20, 2019 0 comments

The Lesson in Darius’ Decree

When we were studying Daniel back in December and got to the story of Daniel being protected in the lion’s den, I thought it was really interesting to read the decree King Darius sent out to his people afterwards. You’d think it would be something like, “Daniel’s God does signs and saves and delivered Daniel from the lions,” but there is more to it.

26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and steadfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.
27 He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. (Dan. 6:26-27)

When even the conquering gentile king acknowledges God’s kingdom will not be destroyed, that’s a strong encouraging message to the Jews. It’s probably the main message of the book to the Jews, who had their kingdom taken over. It’s to remind them that God’s kingdom can exist even if their nation didn’t have independent political power. The Jews of Daniel’s day didn’t yet know that.