Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We can be an Instrument in God's Hands

Today I read Acts 3, where Peter heals a man who has been lame since his birth. Peter does it to help the man, but also to create a teachable moment. When the Jews in the synagogue see the man they recognize as being the man who was lame from birth leaping about and running and walking and rejoicing in his new found ability to walk and run, they are astonished. Peter takes the time to teach them it is done by their faith in Jesus Christ. The doctrine Peter teaches is not new and is very similar to that taught in Acts 2.

I am interested in the lame man who Peter healed. I wonder what type of a person he was. Was he lame from birth so that, like the blind man, Peter could show forth his power unto the convincing of others of the power of Jesus Christ? Whether that is the entire reason he was born lame or not, that is definitely the reason he was at that synagogue that morning, I can assure you. When I was a missionary I used to call God the grand Puppetmaster. I meant no disrespect by saying such, but rather I was referring to the fact that God can help us get to where we need to be and put people in our way and it all seems so effortless to us. Much like a marionette He moves us to where we need to be and moves others into our way so that we meet who we are supposed to.

I stopped believing in coincidences when I was a missionary too. Things would just seemingly happen that when I stepped back and viewed them in their entirety, found that there was a little too much order in those seemingly random events and that in fact it is God making sure we are where we need to be. If we desire it, God will use us as His tool here on the earth. Sometimes He will use us that way anyway, but most of the time I think it needs to be our decision and needs to be our choice. But it is a wonderful thing to be Heavenly Father's instrument here on the earth and to help someone in need. I would advise not asking Heavenly Father to use you as His instrument unless you really mean it though, because a lot of the time you will be required to give up things you would rather be doing and will have to go out of your comfort zone. But the reward is amazing and like nothing else in this world. It is like the scriptures state, if you would lose your life for His sake, you will find it. And it is very, very worth it as any of the General Authorities of the church or missionaries will tell you. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Day of Pentecost

Today I read Acts 2 which covers the events on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the Apostles and they preached and over 3000 men, and I assume women, joined the church through baptism. I have always found this story interesting because it has always been my understanding that the Apostles are given the Gift of the Holy Ghost at this point, and it's not just a matter of the Holy Ghost's influence being poured out upon them, but rather they are being given the Gift of the Holy Ghost, entitling them to His constant companionship if they remain worthy of it.

The reason I find it interesting is it is one of the few instances in history that we know of, where the Gift of the Holy Ghost is given without the laying on of hands. The only other person in all the scriptures that I know of, is Adam, the first man. He was baptized by the spirit, according to the Pearl of Great Price, and had the Gift of the Holy Ghost given to him in much the same way we are reading about the Apostles being given it here in this chapter, it is poured out upon him. Every other person in history, that we know of, are given the Gift of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands, as prescribed in modern revelation.

But however it happened, everyone agrees that the Holy Ghost was poured out upon them and those in attendance saw cloven tongues of flame above their heads. What a sight that must have been! Once it had happened, the 12 Apostles started to teach those in attendance and were given the gift of tongues. Each man in attendance was hearing them speak in their own native tongue. Interestingly enough, those who were not believers claimed the Apostles were "full of new wine", or drunk. What a silly thing to think when there were literally thousands of people there stating that they were hearing their native tongue. But non-believers have often grasped at straws and come up with the most ridiculous explanations for miraculous events.

Like a good missionary, Peter takes advantage of the Spirit's strong presence and speaks to all those in attendance and proclaims Jesus as the Messiah, the promised Christ. He teaches them that salvation is only through Him and that they must be baptized in order to receive salvation. After he makes that invitation, 3000 souls go into the waters of baptism and are received into the church. This event really reminds me of my mission. I remember when I was still a relatively young missionary, out only about 13 months or so, I became a senior companion and was given a missionary who had only been out for 4 months but still knew relatively little in the way of missionary work and the language. So I was suddenly required to shoulder the majority of the work which was not a problem, but it was a change as I had prior to that had mostly companions who like to be in charge so I was regulated to a kind of secondary role. During this first transfer as a senior companion, we taught many people and were able to help 3 individuals enter the waters of baptism and we committed 2 others for baptism at a later date.

I bring all this up because the 2 that we committed to be baptized were 2 that when we were teaching them, although the Spirit was present, they did not really seem to be too enthused with the message we were sharing so I had some reservations about inviting them to be baptized. But I did in both cases and to my real surprise, both of them accepted. That was when I learned to not be afraid of rejection when sharing the Gospel and, at least as a missionary, to always invite for baptism unless the Spirit prompts you otherwise. As a non-missionary, I would say always invite friends to hear the missionary lessons from the full time missionaries unless you feel the Spirit telling you otherwise. The Spirit can quite literally work miracles on a person and you will be amazed at what the Spirit can do if you just act as it's mouthpiece and are bold in declaring the truth.

As members of the church we have covenanted with God to stand as a witness for Christ at all times and in all places. If we let fear of rejection overcome stop us from testifying of the truth, then we are not being faithful to that covenant. We can only expect blessings from God when we do our part. They may come otherwise as He deems fit to bless us, but we can count on them when we live up to our end of the bargain. God truthfully asks so little of us. How can we not do as He asks? We will be glad we did but I promise that if we do not, we will regret it for all eternity. Until tomorrow.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The 40 Days of Teaching and Matthias Replaces Judas

Today I read The Acts 1. The Acts, it is commonly accepted, was written by Luke, the same Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke. He accompanies Paul on many of his journeys and it is my understanding in this way is able to catch up on all that he had missed prior to that point. In chapter 1 the Apostles replace Judas Iscariot and choose another Apostle to be a witness of Jesus' resurrection, as Peter puts it.

But before that, Luke records that Jesus was with His Apostles for 40 days, preparing them, and teaching them. Now, this one single line in a verse in the New Testament has caused a LOT of confusion among the Christian world. Many different religions have very differing opinions on the matter of what went on during those 40 days. I will admit that I gave it much thought myself over the years and I have come to a conclusion. About the only thing that makes sense to me as to what was taught during those 40 days, would have to be the temple ordinances.

Think about it, Paul mentions in a letter to the Saints in Corinth about baptisms for the dead. But that is the first and only time it is mentioned in all of the Bible. So where did they learn about it since we have never heard of them doing it before? How did the Apostles, which were so wet behind the ears if you will, that when Jesus was telling them plainly about His death and resurrection and they didn't understand, suddenly become these powerhouses of faith and knowledge? Peter, who was always very zealous sure, has suddenly become quite level headed and performing miracles left and right and is able to lead a church that spans 2 continents. How is such a transformation achieved?

It is no secret among Latter-day Saints who have been to the temple that the ordinances performed there change you. It imparts knowledge and sacred covenants are made and as one keeps those covenants, they are blessed by our Father who is in Heaven. I can think of almost nothing else that would so completely prepare these men for their task of leading the church without Jesus there to guide them besides temple ordinances. Perhaps I'm wrong and perhaps Jesus was teaching them administrative things and how to run a church in His name, but I doubt it. For one thing, if that were the case, why wasn't it widely known? What Jesus taught the Apostles and perhaps others was not recorded in any book of scripture that we have today and many Christian churches throughout the years used that to their advantage stating that they had the lost 40 days teachings the Jesus gave to His Apostles. But honestly, if you want to know what Jesus taught His Apostles, just go to the temple and perform the sacred ordinances, and you'll know.

The last half of the chapter are the 11 Apostles choosing another Apostle to replace Judas Iscariot. Here is an example of what I was just talking about. Impulsive, reckless Peter showing a quite levelheaded approach to things, guiding the Apostles in that which they need to do. They chose from a group of men who had been with them from the beginning, meaning the baptism of Jesus at the hand of John according to Peter, all the way down to His death. One of the disciples who had believed and stuck with Jesus through it all. They eventually narrow down the choices to 2 men and cast lots as they put it after saying a prayer and Matthias is chosen.

This single act shows a spiritual maturity and levelheadedness that we just haven't seen out of the Apostles prior to this point. Prior to this Jesus was having to spoon feed the Apostles the Gospel and now it is the Apostles feeding others, in the course of just one chapter! So what had changed? Again, the 40 days Jesus spent with them. There certainly must have been some administrative knowledge on how to run the church imparted to them however otherwise why would they have thought to replace Judas Iscariot and make sure they had 12 Apostles? But I don't think it took the entire 40 days.

It is also interesting to me that the way they chose the Apostles is in keeping with the method of receiving revelation that God has given us. First they studied it out in their minds, meaning out of the 120 some odd men and women there they narrowed it down to just 2 choices. Then they took the matter to God in prayer asking them to help them know His will and then cast lots based on who they thought the Lord wanted. This is a perfect example of how to obtain revelation from God. We have to first do our part then go to God with what we have done and ask for help and confirmation. The Apostles have truly matured indeed. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Feed My Sheep

Today I read John 21, the last chapter in the book of John. In this chapter we have a peculiar event between the Lord and Peter which has always made me wonder just what it was all about. After the Lord had appeared to His Apostles, Peter and a few others went fishing. They fished all night and did not catch anything at all. As they are finishing for the day, or night as it were, Jesus approaches them and from the shore tells them where to cast their nets after they tell Him that they have not caught anything. When they cast the net where He tells them to, they cannot pull up the net because of the amount of fishes in the net. This act reveals to John that it is Jesus and He tells Peter.

As miracles go, this one seems like it would be pretty simple. I would imagine telling 153 fish to all congregate on the right side of their ship would be much easier than the miracle of the loaves and fishes. When John realizes it's Jesus he tells Peter who, impulsive as ever, jumps into the water and swims to shore. The others merely sail back in, only being out 200 cubits, or around a football field, out to sea. When they get to shore they find that Jesus has a fire going a with some fish cooking on it. None of them seem surprised by this fact and sit down to eat with the Savior.

Now, as they are eating, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus more than the fish. When Peter answers in the affirmative Jesus tells him to feed His lambs. Jesus then asks 2 more times if Peter loves Him and each time when Peter says yes, Jesus replies to feed His sheep. Now, I have heard that in the original Greek, each time Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, a different form of the work love is used. I do not know where I have heard this and do not know if it is true or not. I have personally always thought that if Peter was not instructed by the Lord to deny Him to save his life, perhaps this is Jesus' gentle rebuke to Peter. Peter denied the Lord 3 times so now Jesus is asking Peter 3 times if he loves Him.

This scene has always reminded me of John 14:15, where Jesus says if you love Him, keep His commandments. This is very similar in that if Peter loves Jesus, he will feed His sheep, or care for His disciples. And this goes for all of us really. If we love and follow the Savior, we will do as He taught and do as He did, we will care for the poor and needy around us. If we are truly His disciples, we will try and emulate what He did with His life and will try and do as He taught. We will not live a hedonistic lifestyle but will instead live a lifestyle in keeping with the principles the Savior taught and lived Himself.

It is no wonder why John is the only one to include this story in his Gospel. For one thing, he was one of only 6 people that was even there, but more importantly, remember that John was writing to those who were already Christian and converted to Jesus Christ. His audience would be the only one who could understand that this command from Jesus was not to Peter alone, but to all of us. We are all commanded to feed His sheep, or in other words, to care for those in need wherever they may be. It is one of our sacred duties to care for the poor and sick and the afflicted. Unfortunately most of us conveniently seem to forget that when it comes time to assist those in need.

When it comes time to stand before the Savior to be judged, our actions are going to count while our words will not. I promise that if we tell the Savior that yes we are converted but we spent all our time focusing on ourselves and neglecting our families and those in need we will hear about it and we will be ashamed of ourselves. None of us want to be in that position and truly if we we are converted to the Lord, we will not be in that position, we will want to do as Jesus would if He were here. We must first convert ourselves, then we need to focus on those around us, that is the formula. If we can do that, then we have nothing to worry about and we will stand proudly before the Lord. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mary Sees Jesus and Doubting Thomas

Today I read John 20, which is the story of the resurrection of Jesus. Essentially everything John brings up is new to us and we have not read before. John records that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb on Sunday, the first day of the week, after the Sabbath and found 2 angels on the stone. John does not record any other women with Mary, just mentions her. In John's version the angels do not speak to her, but rather she sees the empty tomb and runs to tell the Apostles. John and Peter then run to the sepulcher.

John outruns Peter but does not go in at first. Rather he just leans down and looks inside. He sees that the burial clothes are nice and neatly folded and John records that it was then he believed. I think it was Elder Jeffrey R. Holland who stated that he thought the reason John believed when he saw the burial clothes is because if it were grave robbers they would not take the time to fold the burial clothes nice and neat and the facial napkin in a separate pile. And truly they would not, it lends a lot of weight to what Mary and the other women had told them.

I have often wondered on just why the Apostles had so much trouble believing each other after all they had seen and heard over the past 3 years. I mean, at first Mary just tells the Apostles that she saw 2 angels who told her that the Savior is risen and that indeed the chamber is empty. But then she sees Him with her own eyes, and if the JST is to be believed, even hugs Him! The part I am referring to is when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and asks her why she is crying. She thinking Him to be the gardener asks Him where He has taken the body and she will come and take it. Jesus says her name and her eyes are opened. Quite naturally she runs to Him with the intent to hug Him. The King James Version of the Bible seems as if she does not get the chance because He asks her not to touch Him. However, the Joseph Smith Translation changes touch to hold so that He actually says "Hold me not". This indicates to me that Jesus let her hug Him in relief but could not stay. It would almost be the equivalent of saying I can't stay long in our modern day culture. At least that is how I have always looked at it.

I have wondered just what the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene was that Jesus chose her to appear to first and even let her hug Him. Some have theorized that she was Jesus' wife although there is no evidence of this being the case anywhere. Luke tells us that Mary had seven devils inside of her that Jesus cast out, but we do not hear much else about her. We will not know if there was more to their relationship than disciple and Master and perhaps even friendship, until we meet the Savior again in person and can ask Him. But whatever the reason Mary sees and hugs the Savior and the Apostles do not believe her.

It is, perhaps, understandable why the 11 do not believe Mary as she is just a single witness. But what gets me, is when the 10 see Him and Thomas does not believe them. That is almost incomprehensible to me. Unless the Apostles were a LOT more lighthearted than I have always given them credit for and were in reality pranksters always playing jokes on each other, there is no reason that Thomas should have not believed them when they told him that they had seen the Lord. And yet he doesn't, earning him a nickname that would forever live on in infamy, Doubting Thomas. It is sad that such a man would be forever saddled with this title because of one moment of weakness. This is the same Thomas that when Jesus came up to Bethany to see Lazarus and all the other Apostles tried to talk Jesus out of going, Thomas said to the others that they should all go with Jesus and if it so be that they die, they would die with Him. What faith and love! But despite that love and faith, Thomas doubts the testimony of what is most likely, his 10 best friends in all the world. However, once he does in fact see the resurrected Savior he believes.

The Savior commends Thomas for believing but tells him that those who have not seen but believe are even more blessed. That has always made me feel good about myself because we fall into that category. We have not seen the Savior, at least I have not, but we believe that He is risen and conquered death. We shall see Him someday and see the prints in His hands and feet, but it should not be a revelation to us at that point. In my mind it should be more like seeing an old friend again after many years of separation. What a day that will be! I look forward to it as much as anything else in this world. I hope you do as well. Until tomorrow.

Friday, August 26, 2011

He Died for Us

Today I read John 19, John's version of the crucifixion of the Savior. He does not add a whole lot that we didn't already know. He does tell us more about how Pilate tried to save Jesus' life multiple times though and it wasn't until the Jews threatened to tell Caesar that Pilate was revolting against his rule that he finally relented and had Jesus killed. The way he writes it, it is almost like John feels that Pilate was forced into crucifying Jesus, although I do not think this is the case. I think it is more likely that John wanted to record the events as truthfully as possible. Perhaps John also wanted to show just how many chances Pilate had to back out and let Jesus go.

As we know, Jesus was crucified despite all of Pilate's efforts to let him go. About the only additions that John adds to the crucifixion story is Jesus taking care of His mother. I don't know all that much about Jewish culture, but Jesus feels a need to make sure His mother is cared for. Jesus has brothers and sisters, in American culture the responsibility of taking care of His mother would have fallen to one of Jesus' brothers, or perhaps even a sister. Perhaps in Jewish culture though the responsibility for the parents relies upon the oldest brother. But whatever the reason, while on the cross Jesus gives responsibility to care for His mother to John. John takes care of Mary from that time forward. When you think about crucifixion and you have to push up on your feet to allow your diaphragm to expand so you can speak, it really hits home just how much Jesus loved His mother and was concerned about her being taken care of.

Once Jesus had fulfilled all things He gave up the ghost. I have often wondered what happened on the cross that fulfilled and ended the Atonement. I mean, why did He have to be on the cross for 9 hours? It is my understanding that the Atonement was Jesus taking up on Himself our pains, sicknesses and sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and then His overcoming of death through His resurrection. So what was accomplished on the cross? Why did He have to wait to give up the ghost? He could have died at any time, when He decided to die, He died instantly and did not have to go through the fatigue and tiring that most crucifixion victims have to go through where they weaken to the point they cannot stand up to breathe anymore and thus they suffocate. This is why the guards broke the thieves legs to speed up the process. But when they came to Jesus they found He was already dead. One of the guards pierced His side with a spear and blood and water came out. I have been told that the only way water can enter into the heart is if it literally breaks. Jesus died of a broken heart of His own choice.

Of course it is not necessary for me to know why Jesus had to remain on the cross for those 9 hours. As my father in law says it's a black hole question, it is not necessary for me to understand for my salvation. It is enough to know that He did it for us. After He gave up the ghost Joseph and Nicodemus petitioned Pilate for the body of Jesus and were granted the privilege of preparing Jesus' body for burial. It must have been a very sobering task but I can only imagine how strong the Spirit must have been in that little sepulcher. They did not at that time know that He would rise again in just 3 days, because they did not understand what He was saying when He had explained it to them. But we know He would rise again and conquer death for all of us. It was the single most significant event in the history of the world. And tomorrow we will get John's take on the event. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Arrest and Trial of Jesus

Today I read John 18, John's version of the arrest and capture of Jesus as well as His arraignment before the high priest and Pilate. It is interesting that although John is writing to those that are Christian already, he completely glosses over what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane, the whole purpose for Jesus' life and the 1 single act that saves all of creation. John doesn't even mention it. Perhaps it is because he wrote his gospel last and he knew the others had already covered it and he did not wish to repeat anything, who really knows.

Whatever the reason, John does not dwell on it but jumps instead to the arrest. John makes no mention of Judas pointing out the Savior or a kiss to betray Him, but only mentions that Judas was with a band of men. A band is roughly 500 men by the way for those that did not know, this was not a small group of men that were thrown together. This was a full blown assault on the Savior. Now, a strange episode is recorded by John that when Jesus asks them who they seek, they reply Jesus of Nazareth and when Jesus replies with, "I am he" the band of men falls down. This is commonly thought to be because when Jesus stated that I am He, He was actually using the name of God, I AM, or Jehovah. In other words, when they stated that they sought Jesus, Jesus replies that He is Jehovah. That is the common interpretation anyway of why they fell down. It may be another reason, I do not know. I personally think though that this interpretation is the right one, I mean Jesus was never shy about proclaiming who He was I'm not sure why He would start now.

The rest of the chapter is pretty straight forward and almost the same as the other versions. Jesus is brought before Caiaphas and asked to tell them about His doctrine. Jesus replies that He has ever taught in the open and never in secret and He was always heard in the temple and other places and they can ask anyone what His doctrine is. The guard hits Him for the apparent insult in His answer and Jesus calmly asks why the guard hit Him and if His answer was wrong to point it out. It speaks volumes to me how in control Jesus was. He is exhausted, covered in dried blood, and just got hit for answering their question. And all He does is calmly ask the guard why He was hit. It may have been why He was born, but Jesus was not going to just roll over and play dead. But He was not being difficult either. He was pointing out the obvious and remaining calm and giving them every chance to back out.

I remember once asking as a teenager why Pilate would be punished for putting the Savior to death when it had to be done or all was lost. The answer I got has always stayed with me. I don't even remember who gave it to me, but I still remember the answer. Basically the answer was that yes, it had to be done, but it didn't have to be done by him, meaning Pilate. He had his agency and could have released Jesus despite it all. Now, Pilate was not a good man, or even a nice man. His history according to Elder Neal A. Maxwell is quite dark and hideous and we will not go into it here. The mere fact that he was willing to whip Jesus, a man he opening admitted multiple times to have done nothing wrong, proves just how dubious he was, at least to me. I mean, who whips an innocent man? Especially with a whip that was known to kill people! Yes it is commendable that Pilate was trying to do the right thing while still keeping the peace in Jerusalem, but in the end, he put to death an innocent man and he knew it. In the end, despite the warning from his wife, despite the fact that he knew Jesus to be innocent, he still had Jesus put to death. In a sense, he bowed to peer pressure.

There is a lesson to be learned in all of this. How often do we avoid doing what is right because it is not the popular choice? How often do we just sit there and be quiet and go with the crowd? Do we stand as a witness for God at all times and in all places as we have covenanted to do? Do we stop people from doing what is wrong when we have a chance? Do we stand up for the Savior when His name is being abused? Do we take a stance on moral issues of the day? Do we share our beliefs with those around us? Do not make the same mistake Pilate made. Do not give into something you know is wrong just because that is the popular and easiest choice. If we do then we are no better than Pilate, who knowingly whipped and crucified an innocent man. You do not want to be in the same boat as him, I promise. Stand for what is right and do not be afraid. Remember, this life is only temporary and has an end. But the next life stretches on for eternity. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This is Life Eternal, That They Might Know Thee

Today I read John 17, also known as the great intercessory prayer. This chapter is a prayer that Jesus offers up to the Father. It is interesting to me that so many religions only recite the Lord's Prayer when they want to pray and that is all, although I think these days it is becoming increasingly such that they recite the Lords prayer first and then go on to offer up a prayer. However, you will notice that in this prayer Jesus does not recite the example prayer that He gave years before that we all refer to as the Lord's prayer. I have often wondered why some people latched on to the Lord's prayer like that. I mean it is just an example of a good prayer and a good type of prayer to give.

I personally think this is a much better example of how our prayers should be than the Lord's prayer. I mean this is Jesus praying to His Father. We see His joy in His Apostles and His desires for them. We see the Savior talking to the Father as if His Father were present, exactly how we should be talking to Him. We should speak to Him as if when we are kneeling down we are kneeling at His feet and speaking to Him. Now, we should of course show proper reverence and humility for the God in our prayers and our dealings with Him, but we should also feel able to speak to Him as we would to our earthly father.

Early in the prayer Jesus mentions that life eternal is to know God. And truly it is, because as we have talked about in the past, eternal life is life with God. How can we know that is what we want if we don't know God? How can we be sure that life with Him for eternity is the kind of life we want to have? The only way we can know that for certain is if we understand His qualities and what He does. In order to understand that, we need to live the kind of life He lives. He has given us the qualities He possesses in the form of the commandments. God does not lie, He does not steal, He does not commit adultery, He does not blaspheme, He honors His father and mother and so forth. We are all making our choice each and every day by the type of life we choose to live. If we struggle with living the commandments but we are supplicating our Father to help us so that we enjoy living the Gospel more, then we are on the right path. If we instead are holding onto our favorite sin, or just going through the motions of a righteous and worthy life, then that is a problem. But God loves us enough to let us choose what we want. It is quite sad and a little disgusting how comfortable the vast majority of people are with the world today and it is clear that they enjoy a telestial life. But I strive for something more. I enjoy living the commandments and while I have a few that haunt me, I am striving each and every day to get better and to live them a little more perfectly.

We have talked about this quite extensively in the past and the rest of the chapter goes on as the Savior prays for the Father to strengthen and uplift His Apostles as well as those who believe on their preaching. It really amazes me the love and concern the Savior is showing for His Apostles at this, His most difficult hour, the entire reason for His mortal life. But, then again, charity and service to others, are the best way to overcome depression and sad feelings. So perhaps this is actually helping Him prepare for the rest of the night and next day. I guess we'll know one day when we see Him and can ask. But regardless of all else, Jesus has given us yet again a perfect example, this time of prayer and how our relationship with our Father in Heaven can be. It is a relationship I want and strive to cultivate. Maybe one day I'll get there. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Choose Not to be Offended

Today I read John 16, where Jesus continues to prepare His Apostles for what is to come. I like how this chapter opens up. Jesus tells them that they should not be offended. I like that choice of words because it shows that there is a choice to be made. And truly there is. No one can offend us, we have to choose to take offense. And it seems that people are choose to take offense more and more these days. And it's sad because I do not think that most people truly desire to cause us pain or hurt or offense, but we choose to take offense and think the worst about such people. Life is so much better if we choose to think that the majority of the people and their intentions are benign.

I decided a LONG time ago that nothing anyone said or thought about me was going to change the truth of who I am, so why should I care about what they thought or said? It's a simple thing really but most people are not able to accomplish it. They care too much how they are thought of by others. The only person on this earth that I care about their opinion of me, is my wife. Everyone else can draw their own conclusions about me, and do of course, and it won't change anything. But for some reason, I care deeply about what my wife thinks about me. But when you stop caring about what other think, you can accomplish great things for the Lord. You can be an instrument in His hands.

I cannot stress too much that it is a choice to be offended or not. If you have trouble overcoming feelings of hurt or anger over something someone else has said to you, you can always pray for help in overcoming those temptations. The Lord will most definitely help you in this regard. It is not worth throwing away YOUR salvation just because you don't like someone or don't like what they said once upon a time. This is especially true if you dislike someone who is called into the bishopric or branch presidency where you live. It is not acceptable to the Lord to stop going to church because you dislike who HE has called into that position. You do not know better than the Lord. Plus, I have seen in about 80-90% of the cases where someone stopped going to church because they were offended, there was sin in their life before hand anyway. The offense is just a smoke screen for the real reason, guilt. Guilt over not being perfect like the other members of the ward/branch are. Guilt for not being able to overcome their weakness. Guilt over liking their favorite sin.

Such people are not ready to be called to meet God. They are not willing to admit the truth to themselves. They also have grossly misinterpreted their fellow Saints. No one is perfect. No one is living the commandments 100% of the time. It's just not possible. Everyone has a favorite sin. And most people enjoy it, that is why they keep going back to it. And it is almost impossible to overcome this sin without help from Heavenly Father. It was designed this way on purpose so that it would bring us to Heavenly Father. Heavenly Father is the only one who can change us, change our nature, so that we no longer desire to do evil. We have to humble ourselves and ask for His help in overcoming our weakness and to change our nature so that we no longer desire to do those things. This is true whether our weakness is a bad temper, pornography, alcohol consumption, laziness or whatever else might be keeping us from fulfilling our duty to God as we should be.

I once had a discussion with a very good friend of mine who had fallen away from the church. He had sinned, as is ALWAYS the case I personally feel, and so avoided church. I once got him to talk to me about it and he said that he felt terrible because he did not feel bad about the sin. He was worried that because he did not feel bad about the sin that he was not welcome back in church or something like that. Sadly, he made the choice to not come back and to stay away from church to this day. He did not understand the Atonement well enough and was not ready to give up his favorite sin. I still hold out hope that one day he will come back, along with several other of my friends who have fallen for one reason or another.

Always remember that your salvation is much more important that holding a grudge against someone who has said something to you they shouldn't have, on purpose or by accident. We are required to forgive all men, whether they deserve it or not. It is not our decision if they are deserving of our forgiveness or not. And I promise when we stand before God and He asks us why we did not forgive someone, our excuses of he offended me will ring very, very hollow in our ears. Please don't put yourself in that position. Forgive all men their trespasses against you. Learn not to be offended. Heavenly Father will help you in this regard if you ask Him. He is waiting for you to come to Him for help. Don't make Him wait in vain. Until tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Greater Love Hath No Man Than This

Today I read John 15, where Jesus continues His talking to the Apostles during the Last Supper. The majority of this chapter is the Savior telling the Apostles that the world will hate them and trying to prepare them for this eventuality. To be hated, it is strange to think about. I don't think most of us understand what it means to be truly hated. We read about it in stories and see it in movies, but how many of us really have someone truly hate us? It's actually pretty rare I think for the common individual. Those of you who have served a mission have a greater chance of having run into it than others. The only way I can describe it is a profound lack of the Spirit. It's quite creepy.

But especially as a missionary they do not really hate you, they hate what you represent, which is oddly enough, Jesus Christ. They don't look at it that way, but it is in fact what is happening. They hate the church, deeming it un-Christian. I have often wondered just what is there in our religion to be upset about? I have met some people that didn't like Latter-day Saints because of polygamy and I was able to talk with them and explain that we do not do that anymore. But people that hate Latter-day Saints, I just don't get it. We have the Book of Mormon, so what? Others use the Apocrypha, but that doesn't give me license or cause to hate them for it. They are upset that we believe we can become as God is one day. I guess they feel it lessens God somehow. I've not been able to get one of the people who expressed their hatred of me for being a Latter-day Saint to have a rational conversation about it with me. Go figure.

On the flip side of this equation, Jesus also tells His Apostles that greater love hath no man than he give his life for his friends. Every time I read that verse I am taken back to when I lived in Southern California one summer living with a college roommate and his family working on their turkey ranch. I was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting, the father of my roommate was the bishop, and impress upon us the love our Savior has for us. I thought about it for days. The good thing about working on a turkey ranch is a lot of the work you do day to day is very rote and leaves the mind free to think. I finally decided the best way for me to impress upon the ward our Savior's love was to share two stories. One was from my own past where I feel into a pond in the middle of winter and could not get out and my brother and a friend risked falling in themselves to save me. I did not let on though that it was me in my story, I just told it as two brothers and a friend. The second story though I told a much more personal version of the plan of salvation and focused on the personal relationship of the Savior and myself as Him being my older brother.

In both stories a brother was willing to give his life for that of his younger brother. When I fell through the ice on the pond we were all three on the ice but I had them leave before I tried to move because I was the furthest out and on the weakest part as it turned out. But Jesus did in fact give His life for us, and He did it for each one of us, make no mistake about that. He could have stopped it, could have turned back at any time. He had the power but He did it willingly, which is as it had to be. He did it because He loved us. I don't see how any one of us will be able to meet Him again on the other side of the veil with anything less than tears and worship.

The other part of the chapter that stood out to me is where Jesus states that He will not refer to His Apostles as His servants anymore, but as His friends. He says this is because He has shared with them His Father's plans, which He would not do with a servant. It reminds me of Joseph Smith. If you will notice as you read the Doctrine and Covenants the Savior calls Joseph different things. At the beginning Jesus refers to Joseph as, my servant. But as time goes on He starts to refer to Joseph as, my son, until finally he becomes Joseph, my friend. In the past I wondered if the change was in Joseph of Jesus, what I mean is, did Jesus really change how He thought of Joseph or did Joseph change his relationship with Savior through his obedience and prayers? I have come to believe that the change was on Joseph's end. I think the Savior always viewed Joseph as His friend but as Jesus is telling His Apostles, a friend does His will perfectly and is taken into confidences about the Father's will. It is my greatest hope that one day when I meet Him again that Jesus will welcome me home as a friend, not a servant. That is what I work for, each and every day. I hope you are doing the same. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

If ye Love Me Keep My Commandments

Today I read John 14, where the Savior teaches His Apostles about the Father and about the Holy Ghost. I wonder if Jesus ever got frustrated with His Apostles and how they just didn't get it? But can you really blame them? I mean Jesus was teaching them very different doctrine than they were used to. Love them that hate you? Who honestly does that? Be good to them that do evil to you? Almost nobody is willing to do that. So I am not surprised at how Jesus' Apostles didn't seem to understand His doctrine at times and needed Him to explain it to them. It doesn't surprise me because if I read it without the help of the Spirit, there are times where I don't really understand what He is saying either.

But this chapter contains some scripture masteries and verses most people recognize. The first one is If ye love me, keep my commandments. It is one of the most well known verses in the New Testament. It seems to be a concept not really understood anymore these days, to do as someone asks you to do as a sign of love, respect and loyalty. Oddly enough, it seems that the people who understand this concept more than more, at least in the movies and books because I have never met one, are the people in organized crime! They do as their boss commands them to do and don't question why. There are always exceptions, but for the most part they do as they are told. That is very ironic to me. How is that the followers of Satan are better at showing their love for him than the followers of Christ seem to be? Now granted, I am sure that in the world of organized crime, a large part of their desire to please and do as they are told is fear, but they are still doing it. Whereas in the Christian world, almost no one seems to understand the concept of following the commandments anymore.

Everywhere you look you see people drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, lying, stealing, being promiscuous, taking advantage of their neighbor and the list goes on and on. People showing a profound lack of respect for the Savior and His commandments. Now I am sure that most of the world does not consider drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco to be against the commandments but it's so funny to me. I sometimes I want to ask them if they can picture Jesus with a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth? Or can you picture Him at a bar drinking a mug of whatever? I sure can't. The very imagine is SO out of character as to be laughable. And as we've been counseled to do by our past Presidents of the Church, if our leaders are not doing it, why are we? I think part of the statement that if we love Him we will keep His commandments is because if we love Him, we will want to be like Him and do as He does.

Truth be told His commandments are not that arduous or outrageous. They are quite simple actually and it is only the world that has made them seem outdated and sinning as being the ideal lifestyle. It used to be that the masses obeyed God's law and followed His commandments almost to point of being zealots. But now we have swung the other way and it is the popular thing to do to be coarse and unrefined and break God's laws and commandments. It is up to us who still love the Lord to follow His commandments and show the world that we are not afraid to be righteous and that we love the Lord! It is the only way to lasting happiness, I promise you that. Don't be afraid of the world and don't be afraid to do what is right. You can be a light to the world and when you come face to face with God again, you can say with a clean conscience that you did the best you could. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jesus Washes the Feet of the Apostles

Today I read John 13, which is where Jesus washes the feet of the Apostles. John is the only one to mention that it even happened which causes me to wonder, what about washing the feet is meant for church members? I don't mean that there is something mystical that only church members can understand, but John wrote to those who were Christians or members of the church, the other 3 writers of the Gospel did not, therefore it must have something to do with being a member of the church, but I sure do not know what.

John actually spends several chapters talking about the last supper whereas most of the other writers mention it happened and that the sacrament was instituted but that is all they talk about. I am glad John felt the need to write more and give us more detail about what Jesus did with His Apostles that night, His last night of instruction to them before He died.

As I stated above, Jesus took the time to wash His Apostle's feet before they ate the feast of the passover. From John's record none of the Apostles had anything to say about it except for Peter who declared that Jesus did not need to wash his feet. Jesus replied that unless He washed Peter's feet, then Peter had no part in being with Him. Peter, impulsive as always, stated that Jesus should then not just wash his feet only, but his hands and his head. The JST version of Jesus' answer shows that Peter had already prepared himself well for dinner. Jesus states that He who has washed his hands and head has only to wash his feet to be clean.

I personally believe Jesus did this to prove a point to His Apostles. They considered Him to be the greatest among them, and indeed He tells them in this chapter that He is the Messiah. And yet He gets down on the ground and washes their feet, which in a world without paved roads and sandals were one of, if not the most, dirty parts of the human body. What a humbling thing to do. In Jerusalem at this time period, the rich and wealthy had servants who would wash their feet for them. This could have been nothing more than Jesus' object lesson to follow up on what He had taught them earlier, that he who would be the greatest among them, must be the servants of all.

This chapter also contains the phrase that was turned into one of my favorite hymns. Jesus tells His Apostles that they should love one another and that by this shall men know they are His disciples. I have wondered if in the past these men did not get along the best and that is why Jesus gave this counsel. Or perhaps the term one another was relative and Jesus was telling them to have charity towards all men. Perhaps the men had trouble with being kind to all that came their way. Certainly there are stories in the Gospels where the Apostles are less than courteous to some people. I have often wondered what causes people to be less than nice, civil and professional to others? Is it pride, that one feels they are above the rest of the people and therefore not obligated to be nice? I really don't know but I know that we need more people to be nice and friendly in this day and age. Think how much nicer the world would be if everyone was nice and polite to everyone else? What would that be like?

This is also the chapter where Jesus reveals Judas Iscariot as the one to betray Him. Jesus tells John that the one to whom He gives the sop, or a piece of food, is the one that will betray Him and He then proceeds to give it to Judas. I remember a few years back that there was a "gospel of Judas" that was found and it rocked the faith of some. I remember talking about it with one of my brothers and my father. Even then I did not believe it to be genuine because it had claimed that Jesus told Judas to betray Him. I do not believe that because all of the modern Apostles and even Jesus Himself declare Judas to be a son of perdition and that it were better that he had never been born. He was NOT instructed to betray the Son of God. It was a willful and deliberate rebellion on the part of Judas. Despite knowing it was coming, it must have hurt Jesus to know one of the men who had been with Him daily for 3 years would betray Him like that. I can't even imagine what that must have been like. No wonder Jesus' heart was heavy with all that was expected of Him. But He did not falter and He did not shy away from it as we shall see in the coming days. Until tomorrow.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Beginning of the End of Jesus' Mortal Life

Today I read John 12, where Jesus rides in triumph into Jerusalem. There is really not much that is different in this chapter than we have already read in the other Gospels. However, John adds a little bit more information such as a lot of people came to see Lazarus. In fact the scriptures make it sound as if as many people as came to see Jesus came to see Lazarus. And who can blame them? I mean, what if you heard in the news today that a man who had been dead for 4 days suddenly came back to life and it was as if he had never died? No brain damage, no lasting effects, it was just as if he was in a coma and not dead for those 4 days? I personally would be very intrigued and want to meet him and find out does he remember anything from his time he was dead?

Lazarus was so popular in fact that the Sanhedrin were not just contemplating putting Jesus to death, but they wanted to put Lazarus to death too. The reason was because Lazarus was as popular as Jesus Himself and what was worse in those men's eyes, because of Lazarus, lots of people were believing that Jesus was in fact the Christ. This was not in their plans and so they conspired on how to put Lazarus to death. Now, we never hear about this again and I think if they succeeded there would be more about it. I would assume that once they put Jesus to death they let it drop since clearly if he had been the promised Messiah He would not have died. At least I imagine that was their reasoning.

This chapter also contains a rare instance of the Father speaking. Jesus is troubled in spirit because His time is coming and He is scared, and who can blame Him? I mean who could do what He did? He is trying to teach His Apostles that what He does next is what He was born to do and He asks the Father to glorify His name. The Father responds and the people wonder thinking they have heard an angel. Jesus tells them that the Father did not speak for His benefit but rather for their benefit. What an experience that must have been. To be standing there and have a voice thunder out of heaven all around you like that! I think it would be scary honestly. I mean think about it. We're pretty used to PA systems and things like that in our world of technology. But think about if you were outside and suddenly you heard a voice from overhead. That would be a little spooky.

But this marks the beginning of the last week of the Savior's life. He knew it was coming, and yet nothing could have prepared Him for it. The next few chapters will go into detail that none of the other authors did, partly because they were not there in the case of Mark and Luke, and because he was more focused on other things in the case of Matthew. But John treats us to what it was like to be with Jesus, at His side the last week of His mortal life and to give us insights to the things Jesus taught His Apostles and to show us what it was like to be with Him at the end and the crux of all creation. We will read about it in the coming days and see what the Spirit wants to teach us. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lazarus is Raised from the Dead

Today I read John 11, the chapter famous for the telling of Jesus raising Lazarus. It also contains the shortest verse in all the standard works for those of you who like those kinds of facts. There are many parts of this chapter that I find interesting and are worth talking about. First and foremost, this chapter tells us that Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, was the sinner that entered into the home of the Pharisee Simon and cleaned the Savior's feet with her tears and her hair. If you recall the story, Jesus points out that her sins were many, but they are forgiven. We can infer from this chapter and the fact that Jesus has continued association with her, that Mary turned her life around and sinned no more. It is always nice when you see someone turn their life around and start to live a good, upstanding life. Any returned missionary knows that feeling.

The second thing that I noticed in this chapter is when Lazarus was sick, Mary and Martha sent a messenger to Jesus to tell Him that Lazarus was sick and to please come and help him. Now, Jesus waits for two days before starting out to Lazarus' house where He finds that Lazarus has been dead for four days. I had never noticed this before this reading, but unless it took two days to travel to Bethany where they lived, Lazarus was already dead by the time Jesus even got the message that Lazarus was sick. I had never quite picked up on that before today. Now, we'll discuss the timing of this miracle in just a moment and why Jesus waited the precise amount of time before going to Bethany but I had never noticed that Jesus only waited 2 days but Lazarus was dead for 4 days, so he must have already been dead by the time Jesus got the message. Now that is only really significant if Jesus were a regular man and had no power over death He could have pointed out to Martha and Mary that Lazarus was already dead when He got the message. However, Jesus does have power over death and He waited for a very specific purpose.

It is also interesting to notice the different responses between Martha and Mary. Mary berates Jesus that if He had been here, Lazarus would still be alive. Martha says the same thing, however adds on that she knows that He is the Son of God and all things will be as He commands them to be. What a testimony! Whereas Mary was only grieving, Martha knew that Jesus had power over death and that if He so chose, He could bring her brother back from the dead. At first she is a little confused and thinks Jesus is talking about the resurrection, but then Jesus reminds her that He IS the Son of God. At that point Martha goes and gets Mary because she knows something amazing is about to happen, but she still has doubts. When Jesus wants to roll back the stone she forgets herself and tells Jesus that Lazarus stinks at this point. But I can understand Martha's position, I'm not sure how I would react to the prospect of someone I love being brought back from the dead.

Now, I'm sure most of you reading this already know this next part. It is commonly brought up in Sunday School classes and is a point usually made by people talking about this story. At this point Jesus had caused 2 other people to rise from the dead, Jarius' daughter and the widow's son. Both had only been dead a few hours. This was significant to the Jews because the Jews, at the time, believed that the Spirit of the body stayed nearby the body for 3 days and had the ability to re-enter into the body within those 3 days. But after 3 days the spirit leaves and is no longer able to enter into the body. This means that with the first two people Jesus brought back from the dead, the skeptics and enemies of Jesus could claim that Jesus did nothing but in fact it was the spirits of the bodies entering back into the bodies and nothing that Jesus did. Jesus also knew this and counted on it. Hence why He waited two days where he was so that by the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus will have been dead for 4 days, too long for his spirit to re-enter the body on its own. So this time when Jesus caused Lazarus to rise from the dead, no one, not even His critics, could deny that is was Jesus who had performed this miracle. And so Jesus raises Lazarus back from the dead in front of dozens of witnesses and it cannot be denied.

Now, at this time the Pharisees are quite worried. They also cannot deny Jesus' power and this miracle. But they are worried because they think the people will proclaim Him to be the promised Messiah and therefore will rise up against the Romans who will then send forth their armies and destroy the people. They do not know what to do about this. It is then that Caiaphas, the high priest, ironically enough, declares that it is better that one man should perish than an entire nation. He has no idea that he is directly quoting the Lord from 600 years prior when the Lord commands Nephi to kill Laban and again even further back than that when the Plan of Salvation was first told to us and explained that Jesus would be our Savior and suffer so that we might all be saved. It is ironic that one of the men that considered Christ to be his enemy was in fact saving his people, so he thinks, in the exact same fashion that Jesus saved all of us. I wonder what Caiaphas thought of that when he learned the truth on the other side?

I can only imagine what it must have been like to see someone raised back from the dead like that. It must have been fantastic and a little scary I bet until they realized that Lazarus was whole and healthy. What must it have been like to live in those days and see the miracles of Jesus first hand? I suppose one day we will view it all and remember what we saw before we were born into this life. I can't wait for that day! Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Other Sheep I have, not of this Fold

Today I read John 10, where Jesus is talking to the Jews and He tells them He is the good shepherd. This chapter also contains the famous verse about the Nephites and the lost 10 tribes of Israel. Jesus tells the Jews that He has other sheep not of this fold and them also He must bring and they must hear His voice and there will be one fold and one shepherd. The common thought here is that Jesus is referring to the Nephites and He most likely is. In the Book of Mormon, when Jesus visits the Nephites, He tells them that He has still other sheep, the lost tribes of Israel.

Also in this chapter, the Jews ask Jesus to tell them plainly if he is the promised Messiah or not. Jesus replies that He has already told them and showed them miracle after miracle and they haven't believed Him. He then teaches them some more and they become extremely angry and pick up stones to kill Him. Jesus is quite calm about it all and politely asks them for which of His many miracles and good works are they going to stone Him? They answer that they are not going to stone Him for any of His good works but rather for the blaspheme of saying He is the same as God.

I have often wondered, looking back in hindsight as I am, how these people did not realize the futility of arguing with Jesus much sooner than they did. I mean every single instance for at least 3 years, anytime someone tried to match wits with Him, He shuts them down, effortlessly! And why shouldn't He? He wrote the scriptures they are quoting and using against Him!! And so it is with this instance. He asks them that isn't it written in the scriptures that ye, meaning the people, are gods? It is another instance of Jesus turning their own laws and scriptures against them.

But I have to wonder, if they asked Him if He was the promised Messiah, why were they so mad at Him for answering truthfully? I mean weren't they expecting the Messiah to be the Son of God? So why are they so angry with Him for answering honestly? Again it just doesn't make sense to me. But whether their reasons were justified or not, the Jews want to stone Jesus and pick up the stones to do so. Jesus is quite calm about it all and continues to teach them until they try and lay hands on Him, and that is when He escapes out of their midst. It is not His time yet an so He does not let them catch Him.

If we are not careful, one could draw the wrong lesson from this chapter. We are told to emulate the Savior and do as He does. And He always faces His accusers with the scriptures and puts them in their place. But in our day and age we call the Bible Bashing or any other of the colorful names we call it and it is NOT conducive to the Spirit. In our day and age we are told to bear simple, powerful testimony and to make sure that we do not engage in any arguments that would drive the Spirit away from us. Remember, it is not our job to convert, it is our job to bring in the Spirit and to bear testimony. That is what we are supposed to do. It is the Spirit that converts others. As we bear testimony, if the person is prepared to accept the truth, or is sufficiently humble, they will feel the Spirit and will be interested. We cannot convert people by logic. Heavenly Father has purposefully made it difficult to convert anyone on logic alone. We have to convert by the things of the Spirit. But as we bear our testimonies, we will be able to help many people find the truth they have been searching for and will be able to plant many seeds. And that is one of the most wonderful feelings in the entire world. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jesus Heals the Man Born Blind

Today I read John 9 which contains one of the best stories in all of the scriptures in my opinion. This chapter contains the story of the man who was born blind from birth and as they are walking by, Jesus' disciples ask Him who sinned during the premortal life that He was born blind, was it he himself, or his parents. Jesus replied that no one had sinned but he was born blind for the express purpose of furthering the kingdom of God on the earth, or in other words, he was born blind so that Jesus might heal him and others would believe.

Having so said all of this, Jesus spits on the ground, makes clay and puts it on the man's eyes. He then tells him to go wash in a river nearby, the river Siloam. Now, again we must ask ourselves the question, why did Jesus not heal him outright? Why did He tell the man to go and wash? I think it has to do with the individual themselves. I am reminded of Nathan the Leper in the Old Testament who came to see Elisha and was told to wash 7 times in the river Jordan and he went away upset because he was not required to do something big and grand. It wasn't until his servant reminded him of this that he humbled himself and went and did as Elisha asked and he was healed. That is my personal thought anyway. I think it all revolved around the person since we have ample examples of Jesus healing someone from far away without ever being near them. In this instance though I think it has more to do with the fact that it was the Sabbath day and Jesus was making yet another point.

The man came back with his sight restores and rejoiced with his friends. Now, the Pharisees heard of it and knew that it had happened on the Sabbath day and was upset with the man because he did not give the glory to God but instead gave the glory to Jesus. They told him that they knew this man, meaning Jesus, was a sinner and he needs to give the glory to God. The blind man was not intimidated by them in the slightest. He replies to them that whether Jesus is a sinner or not, he can't say, but what he can say for a certainty is that he was blind before, but now he sees. I really like this chapter because I like that the man who used to be blind is not intimidated by the Pharisees at all. He goes round and round with them and he is not concerned with being tossed out of the synagogues.

The pharisees try all manner of things to discredit the man too. They even bring out his parents and ask them if the man is their son who was blind since birth. They replied that he is indeed their son, and he was blind from birth and they do not know how he sees now. I personally believe they know exactly how he is healed because their next answer is one full of fear and caution. They reply to the question of how did he receive his sight by saying, "He is of age; ask him". This tells me that they know exactly what happened and why he can see but they are terrified of being expelled from the synagogues. Like the poor in heart Zoramites about 100 years prior and thousands of miles away, this man and woman were making the mistake of thinking they can only worship God in their synagogue, or their churches if you will. Nothing could be further from the church. As Amulek goes on to teach those Zoramites, God will hear your prayer no matter what it is about and no matter where it is offered. You don't have to pray in a fancy, well built church for God to hear you. Truthfully the real reason we attend church each week is to partake of the sacrament. That is the crux of the reason why we go to church each week.

So this poor man and woman were scared to be tossed out of the synagogues and lose their standing among their peers. They did not have the faith necessary to stand up to the Pharisees. So they instead shifted the question to their son saying in essence, he is an adult, ask him for yourselves. So the Pharisees ask the man again about Jesus and where he is. The man then gives one of the best, "in your face" answers in all of the scriptures. If there was any doubt that he is worried or intimidated by the Pharisees it is washed away when he answers them, "I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?" I love it and laugh every time I read that verse! What a great answer! He is not afraid of these man in the slightest and he is proving it to them. He's basically telling them to do their worst. The part about asking them if they intend to become Jesus' disciples too is fantastic! I love it!

Now, it is my opinion that Jesus heals certain people certain ways based on who they are. Jesus knew that this was a man not easily intimidated and I believe He healed him in this way because Jesus knew exactly how the blind man would react when questioned and pressured about it. I doubt Jesus would have put someone who hates confrontation or who buckles under pressure in this position. But Jesus knew the man, knew he was not one to be intimidated and knew that when push came to shove, this man would not back down but would valiantly stand up for what is right. And boy does he ever. The Pharisees try every tactic they know of to try and get him to admit that Jesus is a sinner and he will not do it! He even tries logic and reasoning with them when all else fails. He asks them, in essence, since time began has anyone ever healed a blind man except they were a man of God? THAT does not go over well at all and is the final straw for the Pharisees.

The Pharisees end up expelling him from their synagogues and most likely their city too. Jesus, prepared for this, went and found him and asked him if he believes in the Son of God? The man asks Jesus who the Son of God is so that he may worship Him. Jesus reveals Himself to the man and the man believes. What a story! I love it! What a great example of standing for a witness for Jesus no matter what. What a great example of doing what is right no matter the consequences. This is a fantastic example of how we should behave and how we should stand as a witness for Jesus at all times and in all places. The blind man was not intimidated even though the men he stood up to had the authority and power to make his life here on the earth miserable. They were wrong and he knew it and would not be pushed around for it. I am filled with the Spirit and fierce joy every time I think about it. I can just see the scene before my eyes, the man standing before them, perhaps as Abinadi of old before him, facing his accusers, so mad by this point that they are perhaps even frothing at the mouth and yet he is calm as a summers morn. What a wonderful story. What a wonderful example for the rest of us. I could go on forever it seems. It is without a doubt, the way we should live our lives. Stand for what is right, and let what consequences may be come. We will have done what is right and that is all that matters. Until tomorrow.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Woman Taken in Adultery and Jesus Argues with the Pharisees

Today I read John 8, which is more of the Savior talking with and arguing with the Pharisees. It also contains the story of the woman taken in adultery. As the scriptures read, the woman was actually caught committing adultery and she is brought to the Savior for judgment. Now, under the rule of the Romans, the Jews are not allowed to put anyone to death so their question to Jesus is moot anyway. Nevertheless they are trying to trick Him by telling Him that under the law of Moses adultery was punishable by death.

At first Jesus flat out ignores them, bends down and starts drawing in the dirt. I have often wondered why He did that. He certainly did not need to formulate any opinions or come up with an answer, He knew what He was going to say already. So why ignore them and draw in the dirt? When they continue to pester Him, He tells them that let he that is without sin be the first to cast a stone. Then He goes back to what He is doing and ignores them again. One by one they all leave until only the woman is left, which I personally feel is significant. This woman was caught having some kind of a sexual relation with a man that is not her husband, she knows the penalty as well as those men who accused her but she remains to face the Savior, even after being given a perfect opportunity to leave. That tells me the caliber or the woman right there, that she is a good woman who has succumbed to temptation and is not lost. When Jesus asks her if any man is left to condemn her she answers that no one is left. Then He states that He does not condemn her either and to go her way and sin no more.

Now it is significant to note that He does NOT forgive her of her sins like He does with so many others. This tells me a few things. She is not repentant. She is upset and sorrowful that she got caught surely, as all who make wrong choices are. But she does not have godly sorrow at this point. She is not ready for forgiveness yet. But Jesus tells her that He does not condemn her, meaning He will not have her stoned and sent to the Father in this state, but rather will give her the opportunity to repent and turn her life around. Then He commands her to sin no more. What a compassionate thing to do! Jesus knew the law, He wrote it for crying out loud! He knew that a woman taken in adultery with so many witnesses like this had called for her death. And yet, He chose compassion and knew that here in this woman, perhaps BECAUSE she was caught, was the potential for repentance and a new life and it would be completely unmerciful to send her to her Father in Heaven as she is right now.

As we said above Jesus does not forgive her at this time but rather tells her to go on her way and sin no more. This is one of the few times that Jesus does not forgive someone of their sins. He frequently forgives those who are labeled as sinners by those around Him. The difference being those men and women are repentant and ready for His forgiveness. But this woman is only now starting to feel the desire and need to change her life. She has a long way to go before she can be forgiven of her sins. But she has started on the path to get there. But Jesus has at least given her the chance to start on that path, hopefully she took it.

The rest of the chapter is the Savior arguing with the Pharisees about who He is and whether or not He has a devil in Him. As we have stated in the past, the Jews are a very passionate people and are prone to forget the fact that they are not supposed to put people to death. At the end of this chapter, Jesus says the name, the true name, of their God, Jehovah, or rather the Hebrew version of it, which is forbidden under Jewish law. They immediately pick up stones and prepare to put Him to death. So why would He do this knowing it was forbidden? Well for starters it's His name. He can say it if He wants to. But they don't know that and that is exactly what they are arguing about. Secondly, Jesus is trying to remind, and in some cases, prove, to the Jews that Abraham was a great man, but he was only that, a man. They revere him way too much and are not focusing enough on what he taught them. Because Abraham taught them that Jesus would come one day and they need to be ready for Him when He does.

I sometimes chuckle to myself how confrontational the Savior can be. I mean He could have had all these discussions with the Pharisees in such a way that they wouldn't have tried to stone Him immediately and could have been less abrasive with them. Or perhaps He couldn't have. They were incredibly volatile and so perhaps even if He had tried the kinder, gentler approach, it would have ended up the exact same way. I certainly am not critiquing what the Savior did, that would be both foolish and pointless. He knew the right way to do things and I'm sure He took the best way. When you start to question leaders, that's when trouble starts. We do not need to engage in blind obedience, that is what prayer and the Holy Ghost are for, to help us know if what we are being told is the truth that God would have us follow or not. Be sure you take advantage of it. It is too rare and precious gift to squander. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nicodemus Stands up for Jesus

Today I read John 7, where Jesus sneaks into Jerusalem and teaches in secret. I just never can seem to get over how the Jews want to kill Christ when He says things they don't like. I mean what a bloodthirsty people! Were all cultures this way back then? Someone comes around saying things you don't like so you try and kill them? I know in America the Nephites when the Anti-Christs came around they would remove them from their village and lands, but they never killed them. So why are the Jews always trying to kill Jesus?

The argument could be made that it was centuries of conditioning. The Law of Moses called for the death of any blasphemer. This was to minimize that amount of dissensions and apostasies among the Israelites. If there was one thing the Israelites in the Old Testament were good at, it was falling away from the truth and going away after strange gods. Even right when God had saved them from the Egyptians and brought them across the Red Sea and Moses was up communing with God getting the law for them, they create a Golden Calf and have an orgy! Talk about your lack of attention span!

But because of this, I assume it was because of this, it made the Jews very, very impatient with those who did not believe the way they did and made them seem very bloodthirsty. Especially the Sanhedrin, I mean they almost come across like organized crime or something. Jesus comes around their turf, saying things he ought not to say and ruining their good life and so He had to go! Sound familiar? I can understand the Jews not believing in Him, and even rejecting Him, but the way they were always trying to put Him to death is just disgusting and very disturbing.

I sometimes wonder if the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been more plain, would the people have accepted it more? What I mean by that is, in this chapter Jesus says that His doctrine is not His but, His who sent Him, meaning of course, Heavenly Father. He then goes on to say that if any man will do His will, he/she shall know if Jesus is speaking of Himself, or for God. In other words, you have to try it and you will know that it is the truth He is speaking. But if Jesus had come down and said here is my doctrine and all you have to do is count to 10 to know it is true, or something else that if very simple, would it have been more accepted? I also wonder if He had overthrown the Romans as they expected Him to do, AND given them the higher law, would they have accepted Him as the promised Messiah, or would they still have accused Him of blasphemy? We will never know but it is a moot point because that is not the way it happened.

It is interesting to me that even today we have a similar system and people still react the same way. To know the Book of Mormon is true, all you have to do is read it and pray about it. That's it! Not some grand thing, not some big thing, just read it, and pray about it. And how many people won't even do that much? And there are people who are openly hostile about it to, when all the Book of Mormon does is ask people to come unto Christ and prove that Jesus IS the Christ. What is there to be hostile about? I have never understood it. But hostile they are. When I was a missionary I was threatened, had objects thrown at me in a hostile manner and cursed at numerous times, all because I was bringing a message of peace and happiness. For no other reason. Those people did not know me personally, they only knew I was a Latter-day Saint missionary and they hated me for it. But so persecuted they them before me, for His sake. I did not mind the persecutions, truthfully they were very, very few compared to some.

One part of this chapter that I like is Nicodemus, the one who visited Christ in the night, apparently has grown some backbone. The Sanhedrin are meeting to discuss how they can put Jesus to death and he speaks up, asking if it is legal to put someone to death without even meeting them or hearing their side of the story. He is immediately shut down and despised for his kind words towards Jesus. But it is nice to note that not everyone in the Sanhedrin hated the Savior and that even then there were those who would stand up for what is right. Today we likewise have the opportunity, some of us daily, to stand up for Him. Are we being brave and standing as a witness for Him in all times and all places? Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Jesus Teaches Those Only Looking for Free Food

Today I read John 6 which tells the story of Jesus feeding the multitude of 5000 men from only 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fishes. However, John doesn't just stop there but continues the story where the other writers of the Gospels leave off. It got me thinking about recent events back in 2007 and 2008, which I'll get to in just a minute. The basis of the story is that Jesus feeds the multitude, then His disciples leave without Him and He joins them later by walking on the water. Later the multitude wake up and find that Jesus is gone and track Him down. The rest of the chapter is Jesus teaching the members of the multitude that tracked Him down.

At the beginning of the part where the multitude tracks down Jesus, He rebukes them saying that they didn't find Him because they believed on Him, but rather because He fed the multitude food. This part got me thinking about some things that happened a few years back. A few years ago the welfare system was getting a little out of control and some people didn't like it, mainly the ones doing all the paying into the system, or the middle class. One of the arguments those who were either on welfare or thought we should just give and give and give without question used to try and guilt everyone else into doing the same, was that Jesus gave to those in need without question. Clearly, that is not the case as we can see here in this chapter.

I find it very funny that those who do not believe in God or religion are very quick to try and use it to strong arm others into doing as they wish. The fact of the matter is, yes, we do need to help those in need, but it is a voluntary system and no one should ever be coerced into doing something they don't want to do. There are a few exceptions such as school for children but for the most part, assisting in charity work and helping those in need, while noble pursuits, needs to be done by those who want to help. I personally have a real problem with the health care system that President Obama has shoved down our throats. Yes, I agree that health insurance is way out of hand, but in my opinion it is because there are so many erroneous malpractice lawsuits. I feel that if you really want to make a dent in health insurance premiums, make it MUCH harder to sue a doctor or hospital or other medical entity for malpractice. That will lower the doctor's insurance premiums and so they will lower their rates, which means it will cost less to go to the doctor which means that health insurance will not need to charge as much. I have a real problem with the way our legal system, particularly the part dealing with litigation, works in this country. I find it ridiculous that we reward people that hurt themselves and then punish a company for not warning that person about it because it was common sense.

But I am getting off topic. Jesus took the opportunity to teach those who sought Him out looking for more free food about the Gospel. Many did not accept it and even many of His own disciples stopped following Him at that point. Now, I have no problem with giving someone all they need to survive and even raising my taxes to do it, if it were contingent on them joining a Christian religion, I don't even care which denomination, and making them adhere to its tenants strictly and the moment they stop following the basic 10 commandments they stop getting the assistance. Because that would weed out all but about 10% of those seeking assistance.

Now, in the chapter, Jesus again used a parable so that those who were not ready to receive His doctrine would not be held accountable for it. He referred to Himself as the bread of life and whosoever partook of His flesh would not perish. The people did not understand at all and tried to bring the conversation back to where they wanted it, free food. They mentioned that Moses gave their ancestors manna from heaven, what was Jesus going to provide them? Jesus then reminded them that Moses did no such thing, it was God, Heavenly Father, who caused manna to rain down from heaven, not Moses. Moses was indeed a great prophet, but it was God who provided the miraculous food for the Israelites for 40 years. The Israelites were making the mistake a lot of people make, they were attributing the work done by the tool, to the tool instead of the hand that wielded the tool. Yes, prophets are the physical outlet before the people who work the miracles. But it is the priesthood, or the ability to act in God's name, that make the miracle happen.

I don't think that there are very many Latter-day Saints that would fall into this category of only coming to church for a free handout, but there are some I am sure. But if such is the case, what they really need is spiritual food. They need the Gospel of Jesus Christ to uplift and strengthen them so that their spirits are bolstered and they can provide for their family. It never ceases to amaze me how many people need work, and yet turn their nose up at perfectly good jobs because it is "beneath" them. Such is the danger of pride. We should never let our own pride get in the way of providing the necessities of life for our family. But I firmly believe that if we get our lives in order spiritually first, then the rest will all fall into place. I have seen it over and over again in my life and we hear about it several times each year in General Conference. As we get our personal lives in order with God and His doctrine, everything else just falls into place. That is not to say we won't have challenges and trials, but we will be able to overcome them with His help. I promise! Until tomorrow.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Go thy way and sin no more

Today I read John 5. John contains the story of the infirm man at the bath in Bethseda, where the folklore states that an angel will come down and disturb the waters. Whoever is the first person to enter the pool once that happens will be healed of their infirmities, whatever it may be. Jesus was walking by and saw a man who had suffered some infirmity that apparently made it hard to walk, for 38 years. 38 years! That is a very long time, longer than I have been alive. Jesus asked the man if he desired to be healed. The man replied that there was no way he could make it into the waters before someone else because he would need assistance in order to enter the waters and he would never be able to beat those also waiting on his own. So Jesus tells him to take up his bed and walk, which he does.

Now, it was on the Sabbath day and of course the self appointed commandment police of Jerusalem saw him carrying his bed and told him that it was against the commandments for him to carry his bed on the Sabbath. He tells them what has befallen him and they want to know who did this healing on the Sabbath day. He doesn't know but later see's Jesus in the temple. Now this is where it is interesting. Jesus tells the man to sin no more, otherwise a worse infirmity might come on him.

I find this interesting for two reasons. Number 1, it is obvious to me that based on the Savior's language, the man's infirmity for 38 years is because of his own actions, something he did. I really cannot even imagine what the man might have done to make it so he cannot walk on his own, but Jesus' warning leads us to believe that this is indeed what happened. Now this leads us to another thought or conclusion, are there infirmities in our life that are a result of a sinful life? There are obvious infirmities that come from not following the commandments such as sexually transmitted diseases, although it is possible to acquire one of those and not do anything wrong at all, but it is rare. Another obvious one would be health problems from illegal drug usage. But there are other infirmities that can happen to us. Guilt is a powerful thing. Just as it is possible for a person to die from sheer fear, it is possible for a person to make themselves sick just from focusing on it. Therefore I think it is entirely possible for a person to make themselves sick from the guilt of a sinful life. It's just another reason to live a righteous life.

The second thought that comes to me because of the conversation Jesus has with the man, is that Jesus does NOT forgive the man of his sins. Jesus tells the man to go his way and sin no more lest a worse infirmity befall him. But Jesus does not actually forgive the man of his sins. In the past when Jesus has healed someone with an infirmity caused by sins, we assume, He did it by forgiving the person of those sins. This would indicate that of the two infirmities, the man's sins or his physical ailment, the sins were what worried him more. But in this case, Jesus heals him and tells him to sin no more, but never actually forgives the man of his sins. This could be because the man had already recognized his predicament and so had repented of his sins previously, or it could be that the man was not repentant at all and so Jesus felt no cause to forgive him. We don't really know. All we know is that a sinful life was somehow associated with this infirmity.

However, Jesus' advice to the man is something we can all take to heart. If we live a good and sin free life, we are most certainly not guaranteed an easy or trial free life. Health challenges may come to us. But we can be confident of our standing before God and can know that our trials are in no way associated with the way we have conducted our life. Well, at least we can be sure it is not something we caused ourselves, but rather a trial to help us grow because we are doing so well. Trials will come to all of us, it is unavoidable. But some trials we create ourselves. It's just like watching a young child. They are going to fall and get bumps and bruises, but some of the lumps they take are caused by their own actions. They are exploring the world around them and will sometimes do things that no one in their right mind would do, like try and stick a fork in a power outlet! Likewise, there are physical ailments that God does not plan for us to have, but rather are caused by our own actions instead. The way to be sure none of those befall you, is to live a good and righteous life. That way you can be confident that any trials that come your way are not a result of your own actions.

God loves us and wants us to be able to have the type of life we choose for ourselves. But like any parent, He does not want us to suffer needlessly. This is but one of the reasons for the commandments. They are restrictive for our protection. A child might think his/her parents are incredibly mean and don't care for him/her at all because of the rules imposed on him/her such as don't play in the road. But a caring parent knows the consequences of such playing and only wants to protect and ensure the safety of their child. So too is our Heavenly Father trying to warn us and make it so that we are safe from accidents that don't need to befall us if we will just listen. But like most children, we are convinced we know better and are doing it our own way anyway. But if we will just listen, we will not only be protected, but we will be happy also. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Woman at the Well

Today I read John 4 which is the account of Jesus teaching the woman at the well in Samaria. John is the only one to record this event, as he is with so many others as we have stated earlier. The Samaritans were of course Jews that had intermarried with Gentiles centuries before and so they were not pure blooded Jews. Because of this, the Jews did not like them at all. Most Jews would actually go all the way around Samaria, despite how much time that added to the journey. Jesus and His disciples just cut right through and took a break at Jacob's well. Jesus waited there while His disciples went to find some food.

Never one to let the grass grow under His feet, Jesus begins teaching immediately. A woman comes to the well and He teaches her the gospel. She doesn't understand it at first, although how many of us would have if someone at a well started talking about living water? I've always been impressed with how Jesus always gives the people a chance to act. Elder Bednar would refer to it as a chance to be an agent exercising their ability to act. Jesus tells this woman at one point to go and call her husband and return to Him. She replies back that she has no husband. Jesus tells her that she is being honest and truthful, because she has had 5 husbands, but the man she is currently with is not her husband. So obviously He knew for a fact she wasn't married but He still phrased it to her that way on purpose so that she would have the opportunity to tell the truth, or to lie.

This is the same situation as the woman with an issue of blood. Jesus knew exactly who had touched Him and removed strength from Him. But He wants us to act, just like Elder Bednar is always telling us. So instead of rebuking her for living with a man out of wedlock, He gives her a chance to reveal it herself. She is very impressed with His ability to know all about her and runs and tells everyone she knows about Jesus.

This is an excellent example of how testimonies are gained and strengthened. Most missionaries have seen examples where people investigating the church and perhaps even getting baptized are converted to the missionary themselves, not so much the Gospel. This can happen because the person understands that they feel the way they do when the missionaries are around and don't when they aren't. This can happen when they don't understand the workings of the Spirit. It can also happen when they don't have any friends in the ward or branch. Most people will only continue to go to church if they know someone or if they feel comfortable. They won't go just because of their testimony. It's sad, but there are literally thousands of examples in the church of it happening. It is most certainly nice and important to have friends at church, however our going to church should not be contingent upon them. We attend church because it is a commandment from God and because it is one of the main ways to keep our testimony strong.

Jesus ends up staying in Samaria for 2 days and many believe on His word, at first because of the testimony of the woman. But later because they hear Jesus for themselves and feel the Spirit testify to them that He is the Christ. It is so very ironic and funny to me that the Samaritans would recognize the Savior and the majority of the Jews could not when the Jews despise the Samaritans because they are not pure bloods. Very funny and ironic indeed.

After Jesus leaves Samaria, He and His disciples travel back to Galilee and meets a nobleman whose son is sick. He entreats Jesus to come down and heal His son and Jesus tells him that his son is made well. The man believes Jesus and heads for home. He is met by some of his servants who tell him that his son is made well. He asks them at what time his son began to recover and finds that it is the exact hour that Jesus told him that his son would be made well. This is an instance like I talked about a few weeks ago, where Jesus is quite cable of healing without ever touching the person. And yet, the most frequent way He heals someone is by touching. I think it is symbolic and to help the person in question. For example, every time Jesus heals a leper, He touches them. I think this is part of His compassion. Leprosy was so feared and they were considered unclean and were banished to the outskirts of town. No one would touch them, not even other lepers. I can only imagine how lonely that must be for those people. Jesus, knowing all of this, goes out of His way to touch these people and to give them some much missed human contact. He does it to be compassionate.

One of the things that I have always taken away from this chapter is that the Lord knows us. He knows our needs and our wants. He knows our triumphs and our sins. He is able to help us if we will be willing to reach out to Him. He knows how to succor us in our time of need. Are we fully taking advantage of that resource? If not then we are like a man dying of thirst in the desert turning his nose up at a glass of water because it is not cold. This life is hard enough, there is no need to make it any harder on ourselves. A man drowning in an ocean does not pause to examine the life line that is thrown to him, he grabs it immediately and holds on for dear life. So too should we be taking advantage of the one person in all of creation that truly knows what we are going through. Do not be so proud that you won't ask for help. You might be able to do it on your own, but why would you choose to when you can have help? I know I personally need all the help and advantages I can get, and unless you are some kind of superman or woman, you do too. Take His hand, it is outstretched and waiting to assist. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Baptism is Necessary for Salvation

Today I read John 3 which is famous for a few reasons. It is famous in one respect because people at sporting events like to hold up signs that read John 3:16. I have never understood why they hold up a sign with that particular scripture. Now don't get me wrong, it is a fantastic scripture, I just don't understand what it has to do with a sporting event. The scripture reads, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I guess it could be as simple as they are trying to show their love of that verse of scripture. I just don't know.

This chapter is the first time we are introduced to Nicodemus, a Pharisee who actually believes in Jesus. Now, he does not believe to the extent that he is willing to be publicly associated with Jesus, but he knows that Jesus is sent from God. Nicodemus goes to Jesus in the middle of the night to ask Him questions. It is here that Jesus tells Nicodemus that a man must be born of God in order to see the Kingdom of Heaven. Given that all Christians believe the Bible, I have often wondered how it is that certain denominations declare that baptism is not necessary for salvation given this scripture. It clearly states that man must be born of water and of the Spirit. Although, I guess to someone reading that without the Spirit to help them, it could be a little vague, I suppose.

This chapter is also the first recorded instance in the New Testament of Jesus baptizing people. In verse 22 it states that Jesus came into the land of Judea and He tarried with he people and He baptized. So, even if the part with Nicodemus is vague, how can you argue against the fact that Jesus Himself was baptized and that He baptized others, personally? I just don't understand how someone can say that baptism is unnecessary and actually believe it. Jesus Himself is baptized, no one can dispute that, although the manner in which He was baptized seems to be in dispute. So why would we not follow the example of the Savior? Why was He baptized? I don't know what other denominations who state that baptism is not essential say. Latter-day Saints know from the Book of Mormon of course that He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness and to set a perfect example. In other words, He was baptized because it is a commandment from God and Jesus was perfectly obedient.

I also think it is important that Jesus personally baptized people. How neat would that be? To have your baptism done by the Savior Himself? What an honor that would be! But honor aside, as I mentioned above, this is the first recorded instance of Jesus or His Apostles doing actual baptizing. Unfortunately John does not record the method of baptizing they used or that would have avoided a millenia of confusion and arguing and strife. Few things were argued, and in some places still argued, quite as fiercely as the method of baptism or for that matter whether it is necessary for salvation. The fact that it is necessary should really not be in contestation in my opinion given this chapter, but then again I have no idea where the doctrinal basis for baptism by sprinkling comes from either.

The rest of the chapter is John the Baptist bearing witness and testimony of the Savior. John's disciples were asking John about Jesus stating that He received any and all that came unto Him. The Jews had a real problem with the fact that Jesus accepted everyone who came to Him and did not discriminate against those who were sinners or afflicted with illnesses. I imagine that the Jews were not the only culture to have issues with such things, but we have many instances where the Jews are quite vocal about their distaste for sinners and publicans especially. So it's no wonder those people had a hard time accepting Jesus since He did not discriminate against anyone and accepted all who came unto Him. He gave us a perfect example to follow. As we overcome our own prejudices, we will become better Christians and better people. And that of course is really what we are here to do, after all. And as we become better about accepting all people and not judging those different from us, we really will be a lot happier, I promise you. The best part is, as with most of the Gospel, you can try this for yourself. Put it into practice, the next time you feel the urge to reject someone for whatever reason, be nice to them and see what happens. The Lord will bless you for your efforts and you will feel much better about yourself, I promise. Until tomorrow.