Friday, September 30, 2011

The Fall of Man and the Atonement

Today I read Romans 5 where Paul mainly talks about the Fall of man brought about by Adam and Eve and the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how it corrects what happened because of the Fall. It got me thinking about the Fall of Man. I am given to understand that there are some religions that feel the Fall of Man was a mistake. That if Adam and Even had just resisted and not eaten of the forbidden fruit, we would all still be in a state of paradise. We know from the scriptures that this is not true.

Lehi teaches his son Jacob, and subsequently us, in 2 Nephi 2 that the Fall of Man was necessary and needed to happen. There would have been no progress without it and Adam and Even would have remained in their state of innocence forever. We really don't know how long they were in the Garden of Eden at all. But we do know that the Fall of Man was a necessary component of the plan of Salvation. Satan thought that he was thwarting the plan of God by tricking Eve to partake of the fruit but in fact he was doing what God knew would happen all along. God could not be part of what brings death and suffering into the world. That needed to be all man's doing. So He left it in the hands of Adam and Eve and Satan came and tricked Eve into partaking of the fruit after which Adam recognized that since Eve had partaken of the fruit, she would be cast out and in order for mankind to be born he needed to go with her so he partook of the fruit with full knowledge of what would happen.

So Adam brings death and suffering into the world, and Jesus Christ, through His Atonement was able to overcome and conquer death and suffering. We know of course that Adam's Fall brought about two types of death, physical and spiritual. The physical death is obviously the death of our mortal body. Spiritual death is the separation of our spirits from God's presence which is caused by sin. No mortal can overcome either of these obstacles on their own, it took the Atonement of Jesus Christ to save mankind from death and from sin. We are very fortunate that Jesus was so obedient to Heavenly Father's wishes and did not back out at the last moment. Without His perfect sacrifice in our behalf, we would all of us still be stuck, damned forever. I am eternally grateful to Jesus for what He has done for all of us, for me. Without Him we would all be lost forever. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Faith, Works and Grace

Today I read Romans 4 which is Paul talking even more about how we are saved by grace, but this time he adds to things, he talks about faith quite extensively and mentions what he calls the law of works a lot. He also does all of this in reference to Abraham. I've always found it interesting and fascinating how different cultures look at their ancestors. For example, we know from the Bible that the Jews revere their ancestors in a way that Americans never have. They even go as far as to call themselves, at least in Jesus' time, Abraham's children. In Chinese culture, they also revere their ancestors and several of the rituals if you will in Buddhism involve providing for your ancestors in the afterlife to ensure they have money, food and other necessities.

I have wondered from time to time why Americans don't have this same desire or reverence for their ancestors. We're getting there, little by little with the spirit of Elijah helping and turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and vice versa. I don't watch much TV, almost none in fact, but I still will frequently see commercials for websites that talk about ancestry and finding out who they were. This is clearly the spirit of Elijah stirring the hearts of the children to the fathers. But we are still no where near where other cultures are and it makes me wonder, is it even important? I will say that it is extremely important in the sense that we have to do the ordinance work for them all who have not had the chance to do it themselves, but other than that, no, where you come from does not determine who you are now.

We talked a lot yesterday about how we are saved by grace and that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. But Paul talks a lot about faith in this chapter and brings up the law of works also. We did not bring it up yesterday, mostly because I consider it to be self evident, but I understand that not everyone will, but in order for you to take advantage of the grace of Jesus Christ, you have to have faith. This is because you have to believe in Jesus Christ and that His grace is sufficient for you before you can take advantage of it. If you did not believe that Jesus could save you, why would you try and take advantage of His Atonement?

I once had a girlfriend in college. A wonderful girl who I loved very much. She was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As we dated and started talking about the future she told me that her best friend was a Latter-day Saint and so she understood a lot of the religion. As we started talking about marriage and where we were headed and if that was the direction we were going, she told me that she would be baptized and join the church because she knew it was important to me, if we decided on getting married. I was grateful for her willingness, but I knew it was not based in faith and would have only been done so that we were the same religion and could be married in the temple. I did not say it at the time, but I wondered if we did decided to get married, if she did decide to join the church, would a testimony come later? Well we decided that marriage was not the way to go for us unfortunately so it became a moot point but it was a very real concern for me.

It is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. It happens all the time I believe. But I prefer to do the right thing, for the right reasons. Now, as to works, we know from the book of James that faith without works is dead, so it makes sense to me that if faith is a requirement to take advantage of grace, works would be too. We have to do something to demonstrate our faith, it is not enough to just say we believe. We have to prove it, even if only to ourselves. The way we do that is through the ordinances that God has asked us to perform, as we mentioned yesterday. I honestly don't know how others can miss it when it is plain as day right there in Romans 4. But as I said, I am not here to bash anyone or any religion. I am here to talk about my impressions as I read the scriptures. I am grateful for my understanding of the Gospel and how it helps me to understand the scriptures better. I hope you appreciate the gift of the Holy Ghost also and how it can help you better understand the scriptures. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We are Saved by Grace

Today I read Romans 3 which is a chapter that has caused the Latter-day Saints no amount of grief. What I mean by that is Paul explicitly says in this chapter that we are only saved by grace, and not by any works. Because of that one statement, whole religions have sprung up that firmly believe that all you have to do is accept Christ into your life and you are saved, forever. It doesn't matter what you do after that. Now, I am not here to trash another person's faith. But I am here to talk about the scriptures and the Latter-Saint faith.

Latter-day Saints believe that nothing we will ever do will save us. Period. We are saved because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and only through the Atonement. As Paul states in this chapter, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Latter-day Saints firmly believe this. Where Latter-day Saints differ with some other religions and this is where the confusion comes from about whether or not we think we can save ourselves through our work, is that we believe certain ordinances must be performed or it doesn't matter that you have lived a good life or accepted Christ into your life, His Atonement has no affect on you. This is why I think some other religions think that Latter-day Saints feel we can save ourselves, which is just not true.

I have put it to most people this way. We are saved by Jesus Christ and what He did for us. However, let us say that we have a man who did every kind of sin you could think of. He murdered people, he raped women, he stole, he committed arson, everything wrong and offensive to man and God. On his deathbed, he starts to think about his life and realizes that he needs to accept God if he is going to go to heaven. So he confesses his sins and accepts Christ's Atonement. Now, are you really comfortable with this type of a person receiving the same reward as Mother Theresa? Now, I'm not saying he won't because that is in God's hands not mine, but I have a real; concern with someone who lived a wonderful life and everyone who has even heard of her agrees she is about as close to God as a person can get in this life getting the same reward as a murderer with a deathbed confession. Not only that, but I don't think I would be very comfortable spending eternity in such a person's company and I don't think such a person would be comfortable in God's presence either.

Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ took upon Himself all the pains, sufferings and sicknesses of the world. We believe that He saved all mankind, IF we do certain requirements that He has asked of us. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If we want to receive the rewards and blessings that God is offering us, we must pay the price and do as He asks. We must be baptized by one having authority for the remission of our sins. We must receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We must perform the ordinances of the temple. And a few others that I will not go into now. But at the end of the day, even if we do all that, we still could not be saved if it weren't for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He saves us, we do not save ourselves. Latter-day Saints do in fact believe that we are saved by the grace of God and that is all there is to it. I am so grateful that Jesus Christ loved us enough to perform the Atonement so that we could be saved if we choose to be. I long for the day when I can thank Him in person. In the mean time, I will show my gratitude by living a good and righteous life, like He has asked me to. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Judge Not Unrighteous Judgments

Today I read Romans 2 where Paul mainly focuses on being the right kind of person. I'm not sure what the Saints in Rome were up to, but it doesn't sound like they were living the Gospel the way they were supposed to. It strikes me as interesting how often the scriptures say the same things. For example, I have blogged every day for 1 year and 3 and a half months. In that time, we have talked about the same things over the course of 4 books of scripture. And I'm not just referring to the Gospels in the New Testament. It is interesting to me that the Lord keeps saying the same things in every generation and with every Prophet that He calls. He is still saying the same things today. I'll bet that when we have General Conference this Saturday and Sunday we will hear a lot of the same messages that we have heard before. The Gospel has not changed, which is comforting.

Paul warns the Saints that they must not judge because they will judge unrighteous judgments. We have talked about this before. We know that it is unrighteous of us to judge according to how God will judge, or in other words, we must not make judgments ourselves of who we think will be a good fit for the Gospel or things like that. We make judgements everyday about people and what type of people they are and that is ok as long as we are adaptable. For example I have had to make many judgements in my life about people as far as who do I want to spend my time with. I seem to attract people to me for some reason. I am not quite sure why but people are drawn to me. They like me and want to be around me. The problem is they are not always the best of people. I once knew a gentleman who lived in the same apartment building as me who liked to hang out with me who told me a story once of how he savagely beat a man because he told him to not date his daughter. He was not a nice person but he seemed to always want to hang out with me. I decided early on that this was not a good person for me to be spending my time with. He was not living a life conducive to the Spirit, the kind of life a good Latter-day Saint should be living. Friends should uplift and make it easier to live the Gospel.

But Paul is talking about making judgements that only God is fit to make. Just like King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon taught us that when we see a man asking for money we should not say to ourselves that he has brought it upon himself, but rather we should render the aid he/she is requesting. It is not our place to judge what they will use the money for. It is our place to honor their request if we are able to. The Lord has told us that we are to care for the poor and needy, He did not say how we are to do that but left it up to us to figure it out. There are a myriad of ways we can help those around us and we should be helping when we can.

Paul also spends a large majority of the chapter talking about what to me sounds like not looking down upon those without the law. He talks about circumcision and looking down on those without the circumcision. That to me translates to we should not look down upon those who are not living the Gospel. We are not better than they are, we are just living the Gospel more completely. The fact that they have not heard of it or are choosing not to live it, does not make them a bad person. I have met hundreds of people who are good, upstanding people but do not live a life based on the 10 commandments. I personally think it is easier to live a good life when you are living the them, but it is certainly possible to live a good upstanding life without them. It just will not bring a fulness of happiness. The early Saints in this dispensation lost their inheritance in Missouri because they did not live this principle. They were haughty and looked down upon those who were not Latter-day Saints and were subsequently driven out. Now, what the people Missouri in those days did was inexcusable and they will answer for it to God, but it never would have happened if the Saints had been less proud.

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again, but the best tool we have to spread the Gospel is to live a good and righteous life, to lead by example. If we do this, opportunities will arise and we should be ready to take advantage of them. If we ask Heavenly Father to help us in this regard we will be prepared when they come our way. Few things can equal the joy that spreading the Gospel will bring into your life. I urge all to make it a priority in your lives and you will find it enriches all aspects of your life. Until tomorrow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Homosexuality is a Sin before God

Today I read Romans 1, Paul's epistle to the Saints in Rome. Most of this chapter is a preface to the rest of the epistle. Paul stats off by stating that he wishes he could come and be with the Saints in Rome like he has with the Saints in other areas. He states that he is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, which we are all aware having just read the Acts where Paul goes into situations that others fear to go into because of what awaits them. Paul just goes ahead and enters into them because he has an eternal view of things. He doesn't worry about what will happen to his mortal body. He is only concerned with doing what the Lord wants him to do, a topic we have discussed much in this past week.

Paul then goes on to talk to the Saints in Rome about the sins that beset them. In what he describes I can only assume he is referring to homosexuality. We have talked about this briefly in the past few weeks but it bears looking into further. Homosexuality has been around for thousands and thousands of years. It is commonly thought that the city of Sodom was destroyed because of this sin. While it is correct that the city of Sodom practiced homosexuality, that is not the reason it was destroyed. We'll talk about that later. Most of the ancient cultures seemed to practice homosexuality in abundance and it seemed quite acceptable according to what records we have left. The Greeks and Romans in particular seemed to be almost infested with it. But do we really want to emulate the Romans? This is the same culture that built a huge stadium if you will for the sole purpose of watching men kill each other or be devoured by wild animals. Is that really something we want to look up to and emulate?

As I mentioned before I have several friends who are homosexuals and they are wonderful people. I consider them my friends and enjoy their company. But I do not approve of their lifestyle and am not ashamed or sorry about that. Like Paul, I answer to God, not to man. I often wonder how it is that homosexuality got so popular anyway? I mean all the signs point to it being wrong. Even those who practice it want to be like the rest of society, they want to be normal. They desire to be married. One of them will usually take on the qualities of the other gender. If there is nothing wrong with homosexuality then why do men start acting like women and women like men? I personally believe it is because deep down they recognize that it is wrong and they are trying to make up for it. I'm sure those who practice it would deny that and of course not all of those men and women who prefer same gender intercourse fit into this mold. But it's enough that it is the stereotype.

As I mentioned above I also find it interesting that they want to be married. They want to be like the rest of society and fit it. The Light of Christ is still working in them, even if only dimly. Some will say that they were born this way and I do believe that some might be born with the predisposition to have that sin. Just like some might be born with the predisposition to smoke, or drink alcohol or any other sin. But they still have a choice just like the rest of us do. There are no mistakes, there are no women born into men's bodies or vice versa. We have always been a man or a woman or whatever we were born as, since the day we were created. There are no mix ups. But we do have predispositions like I just mentioned. It is their trial to overcome in this life. That is what Latter-day Saints believe this life is all about. We are here to learn to control our bodies and our passions so that they do not control us. We live in a day and age where it is acceptable to do almost anything and that if anyone thinks otherwise, they must be a bigot. The media attack those who stand up for what is right. It is entirely possible that I may be thought ill of or even attacked for the things I have said in this entry, but it is the truth and I have nothing to apologize for.

Once again though I reiterate that there is nothing wrong with these people as people. They are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father and He loves them very much. However, they are making choices that pain Him deeply and will mean that they cannot return to live with Him or receive of the fullness of His glory. They will not be given all that He hath. Which is the definition of hell. They will know they could have had more, but because of their choices they won't. But that is the same for any person who has a sin they cannot overcome, not just homosexuals. God has a strict set of rules and laws that must be adhered to in order to be thought of as holy, or good. They are the 10 commandments and other commandments that our modern day prophets have revealed to us. I choose to live my life according to those commandments because I believe that just like my earthly father had a good idea of how to help me navigate my teenage years and be happy, so too does my Heavenly Father know the formula for a happy life. I choose everlasting happiness and I make no secret what that formula is. It is right there for all to read for themselves. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Paul Preaches in Rome

Today I read Acts 28 where Paul and his companions are shipwrecked. The inhabitants are very friendly and help the inhabitants. Paul is bitten by a snake when he is collecting firewood and the inhabitants are convinced that Paul is a criminal that escaped justice. However, Paul is protected and not harmed when the snake bites him and the people think he must be a god. I am sure that Paul disabuses them of this notion almost immediately but Paul makes the best of a bad situation. He is given an opportunity to heal someone in the village of a bad fever and his ability spreads through the island. He is then given ample opportunity to heal the other inhabitants of the island.

Paul is always about the business of the Lord. He doesn't let the grass grow under his feet when he is on the island and as I mentioned above spends the time helping the inhabitants and I would not be surprised if he didn't manage to convert a few of the sailors as well. Paul is a man who lived his religion to it's fullest and took advantage of all the opportunities that God gave him. He eventually makes it to Rome and stands before the council to give his testimony.

Luke reports that he lives there for 2 years and preaches the Gospel converting some and not others. But he is treated like an oddity and people from all over the place come to see him and hear his story. This is where the church in Rome gets its start, from Paul and his testimony. Paul is a perfect example of how we should all be living our life in service to God and Jesus Christ. No matter where he was, he was always ready to share his testimony and was not ashamed of Jesus Christ. How often do we not speak up because we are scared to offend the person in question? Why are we more afraid of the people here than we are of God? I think it is because we are creatures of immediate gratification. What I mean by that is we are more concerned with what we can see, than what we can't see, meaning we are too focused on not offending the people that are right in front of us that we forget about our eternal focus. We need to be more concerned with Heavenly Father and what He thinks of us because this is the life that is not permanent.

Our ultimate goal in this life, like we have talked about before is to return to live with our Heavenly Father, that is what Eternal Life is. As we learn to be more like Him, we will want to share with the world what it is that makes us so special. It is up to us to show the world that we have the secret to true and everlasting happiness. That is the message that we have to share with the world. If we had a note that told us where $100 million was wouldn't you want to share it with your loved ones? Well we have a message of infinite more worth than mere money. We have the good news of the Gospel and Heavenly Father asks that we share it. After all he has done for us is that really such a hard thing to do on His behalf? I promise that the more you share it with others, the easier it is to continue sharing. It becomes enjoyable and we desire to help all of those around us. It will also help us be better people.

We have finished the book of Acts and now are moving into the Epistles portion of the New Testament which I am excited about. We are going back to reading about doctrine and not so much reading about the day to day activities of the Apostles. We should have lots to talk about in the coming weeks and months. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Living the Gospel Makes Us Stand Out

Today I read Acts 27 where Paul is being transported to Rome in a ship. If I am reading it correctly, it makes it sound like they were fasting without food, all of those in the ship, for 14 days. That is incredible if that is the case. I do not think it is true and perhaps it means something else than what we normally think of as fasting. I just cannot even imagine being a sailor and all the rigors they have to endure, especially during a storm, without any substance for fourteen days!

Paul tries to warn them not to leave the isle of Crete that a storm is coming but they push off anyway and are caught up in a huge storm for many days. Paul comes to them and tells them that they will all be saved but that they are going to be shipwrecked. When they do become ship wrecked the sailors want to kill the prisoners so that they don't escape but the centurion in charge stops them because he wants to save Paul.

Paul seems to have a very commanding presence. People that are around him take him seriously and do as he asks. I wonder if that is because he is so full of the Spirit? People take notice of those who are full of the Spirit. I remember when I went through the temple for the first time it was in the Saint Louis temple. I was told by at least 3 people, workers, that I had a glow about me. When I asked my parents about it they said to them it was like my face was shining. I had never heard of something like that before that day and had only read about it in the scriptures. But when someone is full of the Spirit, even if only for a little while, it can't help but shine through, sometimes literally. As Latter-day Saints, or even upstanding Christians, people notice that we are different. They want what we have. I have a friend that all the time tells me how he wishes he could clone my wife and I tease him saying that even a clone of my wife would not have him because of his bad habits.

It often reminds me of how people look at a concert pianist and desire to be able to play as well as they do. But when they hear about the years and years of practice that that pianist had to put in, well their interest wanes considerably. It is the same with the Gospel. We look and we see someone like our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson and see how humble he is and say to ourselves that we wish we could be more like he is. But he is that way because of a life of humble service to God, of putting God's needs first. If we want the same results, we've got to follow the same recipe.

We are all meant to be an example unto the world. Even good, upstanding members of other Christian faiths do not typically live their religion to the extent that a typical Latter-day Saint does. We stand out in a good way and it's meant to be that way. I'm personally disgusted by how much this world is driven by alcohol. It drives me crazy that when my wife and I go out to a restaurant the waiter/waitress automatically assumes we will be drinking wine. I hate it. Dare to be different. I love being different from this messed up world. Stand as an example, be the city on the hill and God will use you as His instrument. You will be able to do wonderful things for Him. Until tomorrow.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Don't Be Apologetic for Believing in what is Right

Today I read Acts 26 where Paul stands before King Agrippa and testifies of the things he has seen and done. He tells him that all he has preached was preached before him by all the holy prophets and King Agrippa utters his famous line that Paul almost persuades him to be a Christian. The force of Paul's testimony to make King Agrippa say that must have been strong indeed, almost palpable.

I've always thought of Paul as being forceful and unapologetic about his testimony and the things he has experienced. The way we all should be. I don't think he was overbearing and pushy. I think that if he was asked to leave he would, but I can't imagine him making any excuses or apologies about who he was or what he believed in. It is how we all should be, no matter what church we believe in.

In this day and age of fear of offense and so called tolerance, it is all too easy to be apologetic about our beliefs and what we will and won't do. However we have nothing to be ashamed of. We have a belief and a hope in Christ and that is noble and commendable, no matter what our government or others might have us believe. There is nothing wrong with believing in God and living our religion. We should not even feel the need to apologize for who we are and what we believe. Fortunately I have never come face to face with such bigotry but we hear and read about it in the news. I sometimes wonder if it isn't a little blown out of proportion. I tend to only hear about in places like Los Angeles or New York City. Of course I have personally never felt drawn to those places ever, even though I spent 2 years in one of those cities.

I sometimes wonder how people can feel offended by talk about God or the sight of a cross or any other reason why supposed atheists give for being offended by Christians. I have never once felt offended by a Buddhist or a Muslim performing their rites of worship. Now, I think I would be offended by a Satanist performing their rites, but I think every non-Satanist would be. That so called religion almost seems designed to offend. Given who its creator is, I wouldn't be surprised if that was exactly the case. I digress though. The point I am making is that we should be proud of who we are. We should feel proud of what we stand for and should stand up for what is right in this world.

Just as our leaders have told us in the most recent General Conferences, just because our country mistakenly is trying to change what is morally right and correct with laws, does not change that it is wrong. I have many friends who are homosexuals and choose to live that lifestyle. I am still friends with them and they are all very wonderful people. But I do not support them in being married because marriage is between a man and a woman as God has decreed it. You can try and take off the phrase in God we Trust off of our money, but it won't change the fact that 80% of the country believe in God and trust in Him. Just because it is not popular, doesn't make it right, or wrong as the case may be. If they are truly honest with themselves, everyone knows what is right and what is wrong.

We are all born with the light of Christ inside of us. If we have not squelched it, we know instinctively what is right. Just because the Supreme Court of America has decreed, illegally I might add, that it is legal for a woman to have an abortion does not make it right. Most of the nation agrees with that. If we are ever going to stem the tide of sin we have to be unapologetic about what is right and what we stand for. We do not need to go out of our way to offend, but we don't need to apologize for our beliefs either. We have God on our side and as I stated if those who believe otherwise are truly honest with themselves, they know they are wrong. But they have been living a lie for so long they have dimmed if not killed the Light of Christ inside of them. Our purpose is not to offend, but to be a light unto the world. Be a witness for what is right. You can make a difference. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Paul Stands Before Festus

Today I read Acts 25 where Paul speaks to Festus, who I am not really sure who he is but he is over Felix. The Jews ask Festus to bring Paul down to Jerusalem to hear his testimony there because they wish to kill Paul while he is en route to Jerusalem. Festus declines stating that he will leave Paul where he is but if the Jews in question have something against Paul, they should come up with Festus to give their testimony against them.

When Festus hears Paul's testimony and hears what the Jews are upset about, he declares that there is nothing that Paul has done that he can determine. However he doesn't want to offend the Jews so he asks Paul if he is willing to go down to Jerusalem to be judged. Paul says he is not willing to go because he has done nothing wrong and he appeals to Caesar. I can only assume Paul appeals to Caesar because when Jesus visited him He told Paul that He wanted Paul to testify of Him in Rome.

Festus returns Paul to his cell to wait until he can send him to Rome. While Paul is waiting, King Agrippa arrives to visit Festus. Festus tells him all about Paul, how he inherited this trial from Felix and that he cannot find anything wrong with him or worthy of death at all and that it all involves some superstition of the Jews and now Paul has appealed to Caesar. King Agrippa wants to hear Paul also and so Festus arranges for him to hear Paul's testimony.

I am again struck by how in both the case of Jesus and Paul, no one could find any problems with what they were doing, except the Jews. They were the only ones who were upset and they always resorted to trying to kill them. They almost remind me of a petulant child who when they are having an argument and they can't win resort to hitting the other person. If they can't win fairly, then maybe violence will solve it, or some such nonsense. You've got to hand it to the Jews that at least they are trying to do it legally, but when it fails they have no problem whatsoever resorting to violence. It almost reminds me of the radicals in the Muslim religion. Most people who belong to the Muslim faith are wonderful, kind individuals who are trying to worship God in the manner that they know how. The extremists however are bloodthirsty misguided individuals who desire to kill all those who don't believe the way they do.

I mean, which religion would you rather follow? The one where you are taught to be a good person and look out for each other? Or the one that when someone doesn't believe the way you do, you kill them? I personally prefer to do good to others and help people no matter what name they use to call upon God. We are all brothers and sisters and God is our father. Shouldn't we love all of those around us and try to help our brothers and sisters? The golden rule teaches us treat others as we would want to be treated. Imagine if we all did that. What a world that would be. That would be a true paradise. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Living the Gospel Changes Us

Today I read Acts 24 where Paul is brought before Felix to answer for his crimes. The council stands before Felix and accuses Paul of sedition and causing riots among the Jews. The more I read Acts the more convinced I am that Paul could be a lawyer because his answers are straight to the point and have a way of making the opposite side look almost silly. For example he tells Felix that it has been some years since he had come up to Jerusalem and so he went to the temple to worship. He invites Felix to ask anyone who was there what he did in the temple and whether or not he was causing any problems or doing anything beyond minding his own business. He also points out that if he had been causing trouble with certain people in the temple then why aren't they present to bring forth their charges personally?

I wonder if the Jews maybe didn't view the Romans as inferior to themselves because they seem to underestimate the intelligence of the Roman governors that are put over them. They underestimated Pilate when they accused Jesus. Pilate found no fault in Jesus and would have let him go if he had been a stronger man. Now they are bringing Paul before Felix, again on trumped up charges and again Felix, upon hearing Paul's side of the story sees right through what the Jews are trying to do and defers his judgement until the chief captain arrives and can give his testimony. So it just makes me wonder about the Jews and why they thought the Romans would just swallow their story without question.

Paul does such a good job that Felix actually gives him his freedom, with limitations. He allows Paul to be unbound and move around with an escort, kind of a 1st century house arrest I guess. Paul seems to have one of those personalities that almost seems to radiate something is different and goodness. Everywhere he goes he seems to find people who want to hear his message and learn what is different about him. I have had multiple experiences like this too. I have had people ask me what makes me different or why am I so happy all the time. The spirit makes a huge difference in your life and will shine through if you allow it to. If you are following the commandments you will be seen as different. Those who realize there is more to life than what they currently have or who are disturbed with the world around them will yearn for the happiness that you have and will ask you about it. Our job is to be ready to answer their questions and to help them realize that there is more to this life than what they currently have.

The more we live the gospel, the more it changes who we are. When I was a missionary at one point in my mission I became a district leader, which was not all that different but one of the main things I had to do was to teach the elders in our district in our weekly district meetings. I remember once I gave a physical demonstration where I had two chairs side by side. I had one of the missionaries stand on them with one foot on each of them. They represented the Gospel and the world. As I talked I slowly moved the one representing the world further and further away from the one representing the Gospel until the missionary was very, very unstable and about to fall. I pointed out that if we are not living the Gospel completely but focusing too much on what the world does and wants then we are eventually going to fall or have to join the world completely because it is impossible to please both. I moved the chairs back together and this time had the elder stand with both feet on the one representing the Gospel and this time when I moved the chair representing the world he stayed steady and strong. I concluded by saying that when we are rooted in the Gospel it doesn't matter how much the world changes we will be strong and stable.

When we live the Gospel it changes us, as I mentioned in the last paragraph. And that is as it should be, we should not be staying the same in this life or moving backwards either, we should be progressing. When we live the Gospel, we realize how shallow the world is and how their so called "fun" is revolting and completely against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How can any good Christians can honestly picture Jesus Christ binge drinking? Or in a bar at all? Or smoking? Or using drugs? Or participating in a sexual orgy? Or gorging Himself on sweets? Or anyone of the other dozens if not hundreds of sins that so called good Christians indulge in on a daily basis. Living the Gospel is meant to change our nature and make us more like Jesus and when that happens we are going to stand out. We cannot serve God and Mammon, we have to make a choice. And the best part is, you already know the outcome of who is going to win and what your reward will be depending on who you choose to serve. Choose wisely. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Paul Sees Jesus and speaks to the Council

Today I read Acts 23 where Paul is brought before the council of the Jews which is a mixture of Sadducees and Pharisees. We learn that Paul was a Pharisee as was his father and he successfully manages to turn the council against each other by admitting he believes in the resurrection and by telling his story that he has seen angels. Interestingly enough, the Pharisees find no fault in him and declare that if Paul has indeed seen an angel or a spirit then they should tread lightly so that they are not fighting against God. This is quite a different stance than what they took with Jesus, that is for sure!

Now the more radical element of the Jews did in fact treat Paul just like they did Jesus, meaning they took it upon themselves to do what they deemed "God's work", or kill Paul. It is really interesting how the Romans who were in Jerusalem really took their job seriously, they protected Paul against all threats, perceived and real. Paul's nephew, his sister's son, somehow found out about the group of 40 Jews that were planning on having Paul killed. He goes and tells Paul who tells him to go and tell the Roman centurion what he has learned. The centurion takes it very, very seriously and has 200 soldiers prepared to transport Paul to Rome for questioning. This of course is the direct result of God, as prior to this Paul receives a visit from Jesus Himself telling Paul how pleased He is with him and his testimony that he has borne of Jesus in Jerusalem and Jesus wants Paul to bear testimony of Him in Rome as well.

It never ceases to amaze me how Jesus and Heavenly Father plan things out in advance like they do. I mean for this chief captain to be in place at this particular place at this time they had to put this in place a good 30 - 50 years in advance depending on how old the chief captain was. Just like Heavenly Father put the star that appeared on Jesus' birth at the exact night He was born, that had to have been put in place thousands or years beforehand. It is comforting to know that Heavenly Father has it all figured out and that He has a plan for all of us. If He can calculate the time it takes to put a star in place so that the light of that star reaches earth at a precise moment, or plan to have a chief captain in place so that he is in Jerusalem at the right time to guard Paul so that Paul makes it to Rome unmolested. It really makes me feel protected and safe to know that Heavenly Father has a plan and has it all under control. Until tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Paul Bears His Testimony to the Jews and is Rejected

Today I read Acts 22 which is Paul testifying to the Jews in Jerusalem about his conversion and how it happened. The Jews completely reject what he says and he is taken away. I have often wondered about different cultures and the way they react to things. For example, Chinese and Japanese when they come up against something surprising or unbelievable, they fall, or sag down towards the ground. The Jews apparently rip and remove their clothing when they are upset. It is very strange to me where these customs and traditions come from. I mean removing your clothing because you are upset? That is just very, very strange. But it is in the Bible all throughout so I can't deny that it is there just because it is strange.

Paul is taken away from the crowd when they reject all of his words and taken by the centurion and has his hands bound and they are preparing to whip him when he asks if it is lawful to beat and bind a man who is a Roman citizen? Then centurion then goes to his chief captain and warns him that Paul is a Roman. The chief captain asks Paul if this is true and admits that he had to pay for his citizenship but Paul admits that he was born free. The centurion then unbinds him and sends away the man who was to scourge Paul.

From a doctrinal standpoint there really isn't anything in this chapter that we haven't already talked about many times and all Paul is doing is recounting his conversion story which we already know about and have talked about in the past. Nothing really struck me as unique about this chapter other than Paul once again doesn't let rejection get him down. He is bearing his testimony to these men and they flat out reject him and send him away to be beaten and whipped and they are not only ok with that fact but happy about it. I know it's a different culture but it is still incomprehensible to be.

But if there is anything we can learn from Paul it is to try and learn from his unconquerable spirit. He never lets the rejection or the manner of it get him down. He's been beaten, whipped and stoned and yet he still willingly came up to Jerusalem when he knew that it might all happen to him again. He truly feared God more than man. That is what I take away from Paul's life. He is a perfect example of doing what is right now matter what. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Paul Goes to Jerusalem and is Beaten and Arrested

Today I read Acts 21 which recounts the story of Paul going back to Jerusalem. All the brethren were trying to get Paul to not go to Jerusalem because they feared what the people would do to him. A man even prophesied by the Spirit that Paul would be bound if he went up to Jerusalem. All the people begged him not to go but Paul just tells them that he is not only ready to be bound but to die for his testimony of Jesus Christ if necessary. His conscience was clean before God and man.

Not withstanding Paul's bravado and trust in the Lord, he accepts the counsel of the Quorum of the Twelve in having 4 men stay with him to try and counter the accusations against him that he is telling the Jews to go against Moses. I am actually pretty surprised Paul agrees to this idea considering that these so called accusations were all true. He was teaching the Jews that there was no more need to circumcise their children. He was teaching them that there was no more cause to follow the law of Moses. All of these things were completely true, because under the higher law, they were not necessary. So since all these accusations were true I'm really surprised Paul agreed to this subterfuge, but he probably looked at it as following the counsel of his priesthood leaders.

But sadly it does not work. When Paul goes to the temple, he is recognized and taken by a mob of Jews and beaten, so savagely that he cannot walk unaided. His life is spared by the guards who when they hear the uproar of the mob go down to see what is going on and promptly arrest Paul assuming that he is the cause of the riot. Paul begs the leader of the guards who rescued him to let him address the people and the guard agrees to let him talk to them, which is the next chapter.

Paul never ceases to amaze me. I know he trusts in the Lord, but honestly his trust almost comes across as fanaticism. I guess he really just does understand that it doesn't matter what happens to him in this life because this life is temporary and it is the next life that actually is what lasts for all time. He understands and he does not fear man at all, that is obvious. When he is faced with bodily harm or potential death, he just accepts it and walks right into the hands of the Jews if it means he can preach and do as he feels he needs to do as he has been commanded to do by the Spirit. He has been stoned, beaten, imprisoned and who knows what else at this point and he still is just plugging away and doing what he feels is the right course of action for him to pursue. You have to admire him and his dedication really, I mean it is impressive to me. It definitely gives me something to strive for that is for sure.

Now some might confuse Paul's confidence with arrogance but I don't think Paul is arrogant. I think he just has a perfect understanding of the plan of salvation and understands that his duty is to preach the word of God and do His will and act as the Savior would act were He still upon the earth. Anything more than that is superfluous and just a distraction. Luke in his recording of Paul's life in typical Jewish fashion, omits anything and everything about Paul's personal life, whether he was married or had children or anything about his life outside of the ministry so all we really know about Paul is he was a disciple of Christ and eventually an Apostle testifying of the resurrection of Jesus. He is an inspiration to all of us and give us something to emulate in his zeal for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how a disciple should behave. Perhaps his greatest lesson is that he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ and that is something we should all strive to be able to say. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Paul Raises a Man from the Dead and Prophesies Apostacy

Today I read Acts 20 and I can't help but wonder, what must it have been like in those days to hear the Apostles speak and see the miracles that followed them. It must have been amazing I think. I say this because in this chapter Paul and his brethren are preaching to the people and performing miracles, I mean raising people from the dead miracles.

Paul was preaching in a church and it must have been a very tall church because there was a young man sitting in the window sill of the windows 3 floors up and he fell asleep due to Paul's long preaching. After he fell sleep he fell out of the window sill and was killed from the fall. Paul then brings him back to life and finishes his sermon. This must have been incredible to see, to have personally witnessed a death like that only to have it reversed before your very eyes? If there were any that were not converted prior to that, I imagine they sure were afterwards.

I often wonder what it would be like to live during different time periods than our own, without instant communication or travel. What must it have been like to be going about your life and then you hear from someone that there is a man in town that just raised someone from the dead in front of at least a hundred people. It must have been an interesting time, no modern conveniences, working in the fields every day most likely, a very different world indeed. I think I would miss air conditioning and forced air heating the most. But I digress.

I wonder how the Apostles did it back then. I mean they knew, they KNEW that all their efforts were essentially not going to last because an apostasy of the church was going to happen, no question. In fact Paul straight up tells the people that as soon as he leaves there will be false prophets and a falling away from the truth. But I think they were able to do it because they weren't focused on the long term, they knew that every soul is precious in the sight of God and knew that they owed it to those who they could help here and now to do all they could to build up the kingdom and not let any of the souls they might have helped suffer. The Lord told them that they were not doing this for the long term, the time had not yet come for that. They were instead sent out to gather the elect that were currently on the earth in their sphere of influence.

That must have been a hard message to receive on the part of the Apostles. It would be hard to know that what you are doing would not last. However, these men did it anyway because that is what Jesus required of them. They are truly an inspiration to everyone to do as they are asked and not question the Lord's plan. We could all learn from them. It is a hard talent to cultivate to just do as you are asked and not question the Lord. But as we learn to do it, we will become a better, more profitable servant. And isn't that our goal? Until tomorrow.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Paul and His Companions are Again Protected by the Law

Today I read Acts 19, where Paul goes to Ephesus and finds those who have been baptized but have not been sufficiently taught the truth. The reason I say this is Paul asks them if they had received the Holy Ghost and they reply that they have note even heard that there was such a thing as the Holy Ghost. Paul, with probably no small amount of confusion, asks them to what then were they baptized? To which they replied that they were baptized after the manner of John's baptism. Paul then takes the opportunity to teach them about the Gospel and baptizes them again and this time gives them the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I have often wondered through multiple readings of this chapter, just who taught these men the Gospel and who baptized them. Because the person did not do a complete job of it at all.

It reminds me when I first came back from my mission I had a friend that had some questions about the church and what I had been doing for the past few years. I remember inviting him to hear the missionary lessons and he politely declined but wanted me to explain certain things to him about it. I started and tried to briefly go over the plan of salvation and I remember it was very difficult and not at all like I remembered it being in the mission field. I eventually came to the conclusion that I was the wrong person to teach him. I of course could answer his questions and bear my testimony, but I was no longer set apart to teach the Gospel. Sadly I had more than that one experience before it really clicked in my mind. I eventually got the message but it was a little while before it sunk in and I accepted it.

The rest of the chapter is again about Paul and his companions causing an uproar among the people with their preaching. It always seems to start when they encroach on someone's money earning potential. Until they start costing someone money, the populace are quite content to just let the missionaries do their thing. But the second it costs them money, suddenly Paul and his companions are dissenters and must be silenced, etc etc. The people of Ephesus were worshipers of the Greek goddess, Diana. The chief antagonist who has a problem with Paul and his fellows is a man whose occupation is making silver statues of Diana to sell to the people so they can worship her, I guess in their own home. When he finds out that Paul is preaching that there is only one God, he realizes that if this catches on his pocketbook is going to suffer.

He causes and uproar and they grab Gaius and Aristarchus, two of Paul's companions, and take them to the amphitheater and start shouting at them that Diana is the goddess of Ephesus. Again however, I am impressed with the officials of the time. The townclerk stands up and appeases the people who by this point are almost in a frenzy. He tells them that all know that Ephesus worships the great Diana and these things cannot be assailed. Therefore they need to be careful because they have these two men who are not robbers or lawbreakers and at this point aren't even blasphemers against their goddess. He goes on to remind them that there are laws if any man has a grievance against them and they need to be careful because there is no just cause for the uproar they have caused today and in this matter it is those two men who have been wronged.

I guess the reason I am so impressed by these examples of people upholding and using the law to protect the Christians is because it is just such a sharp contrast to how Jesus was treated. When it came to Jesus, all points of the law were blatantly ignored and those men twisted and flat out ignored the law. However so far Paul has been protected by it, and those with him, multiple times. It's very comforting that God is watching over His messengers. He watches over us too and will not let anything happen to us that will not be for our betterment as long as we are righteous. We have no promise if we are not obeying the commandments however. It is our choice. I for one choose to take advantage of His protection and help so I can further His work. It is the key to a much happier life. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Stand Up for What is Right

Today I read Acts 18 which continues the mission of Paul. This chapter made me chuckle and then upset me at the same time. Paul was in the city of Corinth and was there a year and six months. Paul at this point has stopped trying to preach to the Jews at all having been rejected by them in all places he has been so far. So he has decided to only preach to the Gentiles at this point. What made me laugh was the Jews tried the exact same thing with Paul that they did to Jesus and it didn't work at all. They took him before the deputy whose name was Gallio complaining that Paul was preaching they had to worship God in a certain way. Paul was opening his mouth to defend himself when Gallio flat out told them he didn't care. He stated that if Paul was accused of leud behavior or breaking the law then he would do something about it, but if all he was doing was using a different name and suggesting people worship God in another way, he could care less. He tells them to handle it amongst themselves.

Now the part that upset me, the Jews take Paul and beat him and Gallio does nothing. Luke makes it very clear Gallio was aware of it happening but did not nothing about it or to stop it. Why do people in positions of authority seem to only want to do something about the things they feel like helping with? It never ceases to amaze me when I read the scriptures and hear the news stories or the stories of my friends in other countries of officials with positions of authority and how they blatantly abuse that authority. Now of course not everyone handles their authority that way but some flaunt it all over the place. For example, a judge is the only profession I can think of where if you insult them, you could wind up in jail, just for insulting them. And yet I work in the customer service industry and get insulted by my customers on an almost daily basis.

It amazes me how as a society, at least here in America, we have degenerated so far. Our spirit of "tolerance" and "acceptance" has spiraled so out of control that we now feel we can get away with anything and that the world had better not call us out on it or else they must be bigots. Consumerism is by far the worst of it. Just yesterday I was insulted, mocked and threatened all by the same customer who when I politely asked him to refrain and that such words were not helping informed me that he was my customer and I had to do whatever he wanted me to do. What a ridiculous notion! That's like getting pulled over by a police officer and telling him you were speeding because your taxes built the roadway and therefore you can do what you like on it. Such behaviors would never have been acceptable in our parents or grandparents time. And yet you see it all over the place now.

I was thinking the other day on what the great challenge of our time, scripturally speaking, was. What is the biggest stumbling block. I'm honestly torn between 3 things, Chastity, the Word of Wisdom - which I including eating to excess in the Word of Wisdom, and Tempers. I really can't decide if the world has a larger problem with promiscuous behavior, not controlling their physical appetites, or just not controlling their emotions. I think they are definitely the top three problems in at least America if not the world over. Just this morning I had the radio going while I was cleaning up the kitchen and my daughter was playing on the floor and 3 times I had to change the radio station because an inappropriate song came on the radio, generally having to do with sex. When did it become alright to sing about sex on the radio? Do we really think that Heavenly Father would listen to that type of music?

Now we are not wholly gone and thankfully there are some really, really good people out there, not just LDS people either. I've met truly humble Christians, Atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, LDS and just about every other religion you can think of. I've also met really prideful people in all those same religions too. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with distancing yourself from the world. Those people in all those religions I just named that I met were really humble, were not of the world. Even the self proclaimed Atheist who didn't believe in God, still believed in being a good person and in not following 80% of what the world teaches. It's about being good for goodness sake, not just because you are scared of being caught by the police. We each of us have a choice to make, what type of men/women will we be? And I promise you the more different you are from the world in every respect, the more you will stand out, which is a good thing. It gives you the opportunity to speak out on why you are different. Take advantage of those situations and people will respond in amazing ways. Don't conform no matter what the world says. Right is right and no amount of laws passed or talking will change that. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Don't Be Afraid to Live the Gospel of Christ

Today I read Acts 17 which is about Paul and Silas preaching to the people in Thessalonica and Athens. Apparently Paul was very, very zealous in his preaching, much like Nephi and Lehi in the America's who were so persuasive in their preaching that none could disbelieve what they had to say. But Paul in his preaching was apparently making many Jews angry and upset with him because of his zealousness in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So they took him to the city council, again, and accused him saying that he was preaching sedition and that there was another king besides Caesar, as if the Jews really cared if he was. But the brethren realized the danger and so smuggled Paul out of the city by night and brought him over to Athens.

Now Paul was supposed to lay low in Athens while he waited for Silas and the others to join him, but Paul could not sit silent when he saw that the entire city was given to idolatry. So he want to Mars Hill and began to preach to those who would listen. He actually generated quite a bit of interest because of the people and their desire to learn new things. Now Paul had noticed that the people had erected an altar that was entitled "To the Unknown God" almost as if they were afraid of offending someone, some unknown deity. So Paul tells them that this unknown God is actually Jesus Christ and uses their belief to build upon common ground and teach them about the right way to worship God. Now he has them all listening captivated and wanting to learn more until he mentions the resurrection. Once he mentions being resurrected he loses most of his audience because the Greeks did not want to be resurrected, they thought the idea of coming back into these imperfect bodies was silly.

But despite this, several people believe what Paul preaches and desire to hear more and eventually get baptized. Paul is an excellent example of fearing God more than man, as we have discussed in the past. When it comes to following the commandments of the Lord we need to make sure we are being zealous like Paul and putting our trust in the Lord instead of doing what the world tells us we should be doing. The Lord always has our best interest at heart, the world does not. The world wants what it wants and has the philosophy that whatever a man, or woman, does in this life, when they die that is the end of it. We know differently that there is a hereafter and what we do in this life affects the next life. So why would we listen and give in to those who are operating under a false philosophy? Why should be ashamed to admit that we serve the Lord our God? We should be proud of our testimony and unapologetic about our membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or whatever church you belong to. You should not feel embarrassed or imposing to ask that someone not swear in your presence. You have just as much a right to ask to not hear it as they do to say it. So speak up, be proud of who you are, a disciple of Christ. Don't apologize for not drinking coffee, tea or alcohol. Don't make excuses for not watching rated "R" movies. Boldly declare and explain why you don't do those things.

The scriptures declare that Christians are a peculiar people, and that is by design. Christ Himself told His Apostles that the world would hate and reject them because they were not like them. That it would happen because it had already rejected the Savior Himself. He prepared them for what was to come just as He has prepared us by giving us loving parents to guide us for those born into the Church, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost for all who have been baptized. The Lord wants us to be different so we can preach His Gospel to those who are curious about it. He wants us to stand out and be different because the world does not accept Him. The world has rejected Him and so rejects His truth. In this day and age it is ok to be a Christian, but most Christians are not following their own faith. They drink alcohol, they are promiscuous and do not live the law of Chastity, they use foul language and dress in ways unbecoming of disciples of Christ. It is up to us to set ourselves apart from all of that and stand as a witness for Him as we have covenanted to do. The Lord will bless us as we do this for Him and will help us in ways we can't even imagine. And the rewards are great beyond belief. All we have to do is put our trust in Him and do as He asks. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Paul and Silas are Imprisoned and Convert the Jailer

Today I read Acts 16 which is a very interesting chapter. In this chapter Paul, Silas and Luke are directed to go to Macedonia by a vision Paul has. When they arrive there they find success and as they teach and baptize a few of the local people. However things start to go wrong when they come across a young woman who has an evil spirit in her. The evil spirit starts testifying of who they are and that they bear the words of salvation. Now this girl was apparently a slave or an indentured servant of some sort to someone who used her and the evil spirit to do fortune telling. Paul when he saw this was grieved for the poor young woman and commanded the spirit to depart, which of course it does.

Now, when the master of this woman saw that his chance for profit had fled at their command, they had Paul and Silas arrested and brought before the city council where they were beaten and tossed into prison. It is here that we get a glimpse into who Paul is and what type of man he is. During the night, Paul and Silas sing hymns to boost up their spirits and an earthquake happens that opens the doors of the prison and causes their shackles to fall off. The earthquake also wakes up the guard and when he sees the prison doors open, assumes that the prisoners have all escaped and prepares to kill himself. Paul sees this and stops him by saying that they have not fled and to not kill himself. Here is compassion on the part of Paul. This man is keeping them in prison, we have no idea how they were treated in the few hours up to this point but when the time comes to escape, the don't and it is because they are worried about the prison guard and his well being and that of his family. Perhaps the Spirit told them we don't know.

When the guard hears Paul's voice he comes in and sees them there and asks them what he must do to receive eternal life. Here we get a glimpse into the type of man the guard is. He is obviously a humble man who is a little shaken up by his experience and the terror he felt when he thought that the prisoners had escaped. However, despite his experience, he is obviously prepared to hear and accept the gospel because he is baptized almost immediately and so are all his family members. They clean Paul and Silas' wounds and give them food to eat. This is obviously a humble family that has been prepared to hear and accept the gospel. I am sure it was no fun being whipped, but I believe Paul and Silas felt it worth it to find this family that was waiting to hear the Gospel.

In the morning the rulers of the city send a message to the jailer telling him to release Paul and Silas and cast them out of the city. He relays this message to Paul and Silas to which Paul replies that they were beaten in public without a conviction of any type of crime and cast into prison, and now they send a quiet message in the morning to let them out in secret, he won't leave but demands that the city council come and release them in full view of the public and mentions that he and Silas are Romans. Now, at first glance this might seem like Paul is being arrogant and wants revenge for the way he was treated, and perhaps a very small part of him is thinking that. But I do not think that was his main reason for reacting this way. I think he responded in this way for 2 reasons.

I think he was concerned that some of the city's leaders might claim that they Paul and Silas had escaped in the night and used it to thwart the efforts of the members of the church in that area in continuing to preach the gospel and possibly made it so they would be persecuted. Paul probably realized that it would soon be well known that the doors of the prison opened in the middle of the night and it would be a simple matter to claim that Paul and Silas escaped. The damage that would do to the church's reputation in the area would be incalculable. So Paul demands that they are released publicly to show that the men made a mistake and that he and Silas had done nothing wrong.

Secondly and kind of related, I think Paul was a little worried about the jailer. If the city leaders were going to claim that Paul and Silas escaped, they would only be able to do so by claiming negligence on the part of the jailer, the very thing the jailer wanted to avoid and was driving him to suicide. Paul also probably thought that with the jailer and his entire family newly baptized they will probably come under fire and be criticized anyway, he was trying to contain the damage. At least that is my thought. So we see that Paul is a very shrewd man. In fact I would describe him the way Mormon described Ammon in the Americas, wise by harmless. Paul was very wise as to the learning of man and he knew that men can be untrustworthy and he wanted to do everything in his power to make sure that the work and the church's reputation was not damaged. I'm sure the Spirit helped him in realizing some of this as well and might even have coached him on what to say. Regardless of why it happened, the city rulers do in fact come down and publicly release them and Paul and Silas leave peacefully having had good success in Macedonia. This story is a good example of how God can use any situation to His advantage if we are adaptable and humble enough. Until tomorrow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Gentiles do not need Circumcision

Today I read Acts 15 which is about the Gentile converts and whether or not they should be circumcised and have to live the law of Moses. Apparently this was very hotly contested because the Saints in those days took it all the way to the Apostles to make a decision. The most vocal proponents of having them be circumcised were some of the Pharisees that had been converted that found old habits hard to break apparently because not only did they want to see all the new converts circumcised but they wanted the Gentile converts to have to live the law of Moses too. They did not understand that Jesus had fulfilled the law apparently.

Now the Apostles understood that the Gentiles did not have to live the law of Moses but they weren't sure what to do about the question of circumcision. Peter stood up in what is probably the first General Conference of the Saints. He laid before them the sequence of events as had transpired to that point, how the Lord had told Peter that the Gentiles could hear the Gospel and be baptized. Now if I might pause for a moment, I find a very interesting parallel here. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometimes takes a lot of flak for not allowing those with African ancestry to hold the Priesthood until 1978 despite the fact that it was Heavenly Father that forbade it, not man. And yet here in the early days of the church we see the exact same form of supposed "elitism" that the LDS church was accused of. The early Saints were not allowed to take the Gospel to non-Jews until the Lord told them it was ok. But where is the outcry and the howls of outrage? There really aren't any because it is quite obvious that it was God's choice, not mans. I wonder why such benefit of the doubt is not afforded to the Latter-day Saints on the Priesthood? Oh well, I digress.

Now Peter is talking to them rehearsing the events of how they were even allowed to hear the Gospel. Peter goes on further that there is no point to yoke them to a law that no one in it's history has been able to keep, not them and not their fathers. He is referring to the law of Moses of course. I guess even Peter did not understand that the Law of Moses had been fulfilled or perhaps he was tailoring his message to his audience, I'm not sure. But regardless what he says strikes a cord with his listeners. He then goes on to remind them that salvation does not come through the Law of Moses but rather is through the grace of Jesus Christ and that is the same for Gentiles as it is for Jews.

He then has Paul and Barnabas stand up and tell the Saints what miracles the Lord has performed among the Gentiles at their hands and reminds them that all are equal in the sight of God. This is a hard concept for some of the Jews to accept I would imagine. They had a sense of elitism their entire lives since they were the chosen people and really resented the Gentiles, especially the Romans for taking away their cultural freedom. But it's a lesson they had to learn, just as everyone has to learn it for themselves in this life. We are not better than anyone else, we are all equal in God's sight. That is important to remember and to keep in mind, because if we don't remember it on our own, God will help us remember it by helping us to be humble, an experience I'm sure most of us would like to do without.

But it is good to be reminded that we are all equal in the sight of the Lord. King Benjamin taught his people that in the Americas as recorded in Mosiah 4. God loves us as individuals and loves each of us, including those who we deem as evil. I imagine it is similar to if we had a child that murdered several people. We would be revolted and horrified by what they did, but you would still love them. So too does God love all His children and wishes they could be better than they are. But He has to rely on us, His imperfect tools to help influence their lives. But when we offer ourselves up to Him to use as He sees fit, we will be part of some wonderful experiences that will not be had any other way. It is so worth it. All you have to do is surrender your will to His, which is not always easy. But He will help you and will even help you in stages if that is what you need. Remember, He wants you to succeed. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Paul is Stoned, Trials Strengthen Us

Today I read Acts 14, which continues the story of Paul and Barnabas' first mission. During this part of their journey as they are preaching, Paul heals a man who is crippled. When he does so, the people of the city, particularly the Greeks, view them as gods and hail them as Jupiter and Mercury, or Zeus and Hermes if you prefer. Paul and Barnabas are very distraught about this and try to persuade them that they are men just as they are and that they ought to reserve their worship for the Lord God.

Apparently they are successful in convincing them that they are not gods because they next take Paul out of the city and stone him, leaving him for dead. It is not clear if they actually kill Paul or if they merely wounded him to the point of him passing out, but regardless of how severely he was wounded, he is healed by the power of the Priesthood as just a few hours later he leaves on his own two feet. This episode really brings to my mind the life of Joseph Smith and the scripture Hebrews 5:8. What I mean is, despite being on the Lord's errand, these men did not have an easy time of things.

Hebrews 5:8 states, "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;". Even Jesus Christ was not able to avoid suffering, in fact He suffered more than any other person on this planet, more than any of us can even comprehend. And yet His mission was more important than any other person's in the entire history of all of God's creations. And He suffered the most. Paul here is stoned and that is just the tip of the iceberg of what happens to him during his life. Peter was imprisoned, beaten and finally crucified. Joseph Smith was imprisoned often, was tarred and feathered, had poison forced down his throat and more other atrocities than I care to go into here. Just because we are on the Lord's errand does not guarantee we will have an easy time of it.

All too often we hear people in the church stating that they were doing everything right and can't believe that this trial is happening to them, or rather I hear it often. I have covered this topic before, more than once but it bears repeating. Living a righteous life does not guarantee an easy one or a life free of trials. It also does not guarantee bad things will not happen to you. Trials are a part of life and for whatever reason, you can rest assured that Paul was stoned by those angry people for a purpose and he was a better man because of it. The age old adage that whatever does not kill us only makes us stronger is very true. Every trial we suffer and every hardship we go through serves to make us just a little more perfect. We will not have to suffer all that our Savior did if we will repent, but we will need to humble ourselves as He did and allow the Spirit to help us make the necessary changes in our lives to become more perfect.

Heavenly Father will not force us to do as He wills us to and will not ask us to do things that will not benefit us. If we will place our lives in His hands and allow Him to help us and really truly trust Him then we will become more like He is and if that is our desire, to return to live with Him and the Savior one day. But it is only ours if we want it and if we reach out for it. He will meet us halfway and will stand waiting with His arms outstretched for us, but we have to reach out and take His hands. But if we do reach out to Him, the rewards are limitless and beyond our comprehension. It is very worth it I believe. And really if you think about it, is this life/world really all that great that this is what you want to inherit? I know that I am meant for something better personally, you are too. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Paul Preaches to the Gentiles

Today I read Acts 13 where Saul is first called Paul and he preaches to the people of Antioch. As I was reading I had a thought. Paul is preaching to the people and rehearsing unto them their history, ancient and modern. He talks about John the Baptist and how John denied being the Christ. I got to thinking about it and it is very strange to me that John would be thought of as the Messiah. He was teaching different doctrine but doing no miracles that are recorded and made no mention of throwing off oppressors or any other militant comments and yet people thought he was the promised Messiah.

However, when Jesus comes along, performing miracles and teaching the same doctrine, He is rejected. It seems very odd to me. Satan was definitely working on the people of Israel getting them to reject the Savior. I wonder if the Jews were looking for the promised Messiah so strongly at that time because they were in bondage to Rome or they felt the time was near? Or perhaps anytime they were in bondage they would look for the Messiah, I'm not really sure and the scriptures aren't clear on the matter.

The rest of the chapter is about Paul and Barnabas' teachings in the city of Antioch. I find it quite amusing how the Gentiles of the city desire to hear the message and so Paul tells them to assemble next week and he will preach to them. When they do so, the Jews of the city harass Paul and Barnabas and say they blaspheme by preaching to the Gentiles. I love Paul's response, it shows he is a blunt man and has no problem telling it like it is. He tells the Jews that it was necessary that the word be preached unto the Jews first, but since they have rejected it and they judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life, God has seen fit to command them to preach the word to the Gentiles. I can only imagine what an uproar that statement caused!

But Paul has a point. What do the Jews care if the Gentiles hear the message that they just rejected? Is it because it concerns their history that they are so sensitive about it? They don't believe that Jesus was the Messiah, so why do they care if Paul and Barnabas teach the Gentiles the message that they just rejected? All I can think of is that perhaps Satan put it into their heads to try and thwart the message at all costs. Because truthfully if someone offers you something and you say no to it, what do you care if it is offered to someone else? You didn't want it.

It is always interesting to see how people react to hearing the Gospel. Some react with gladness, some with indifference, and some with hostility. In this day and age we are lucky that all the media coverage and people trying to stir up hostility towards the Latter-day Saints have succeeded in only making people curious about it and wanting to seek it out. So in a sense, Satan's efforts in that regard are actually helping the church move forward. And of course the absolute best missionary tool that we have is ourselves and how we live our lives. People notice that we are different even if we don't advertise it. The people at my work noticed how different I was just by the simple fact that I never swear or use foul language. If you are a good Latter-day Saint who lives the commandments as they should, you will stand out in a good way and draw people to you and by so doing you can assist God in moving the work forward. And when we are questioned about it, we need to make sure we are boldly declaring the truth and fulfilling our baptismal covenant. We need to be bold like Paul was and not fear what others will say or do to us. And as always the Lord is willing and ready to help us, we just have to ask. Until tomorrow.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Peter's Life is Spared

Today I read Acts 12 where the Apostles start being killed. Herod has James, the brother of John the beloved, a member of the First Presidency put to death by the sword. It does not tell us why he had James put to death, only that it happened. However, when he sees how much the Jews liked it, he has Peter arrested with the intent to put him to death too. Now, some might wonder why Herod cared whether the Jews were happy with him or not, but we've got to remember that Herod was a Roman and was almost universally hated and despised because he was in charge and not a Jew. Since he was in charge, any unrest or discontent that happened under his watch was his fault. So anything he could do to make the Jews happy would make his job that much easier, not to mention make him look good in the process.

The Lord however had other plans for Peter. During the night he helps Peter escape by sending an angel to let him out of prison. Now at the time Peter doesn't know if he is awake or asleep, he wonders if it is really happening or if he is seeing a vision. It is not until they reach the safety of the streets outside the prison that he is convinced that what he saw was indeed an angel and not a vision. It must have been a hard life to be an Apostle back then. To be universally hated and to be constantly facing persecution like they did. It must have been very challenging. We are very lucky to live in a day and age where difference of opinions are tolerated and that most people do not hate the Latter-day Saints.

It reminds me a lot of the church in the early days when Joseph Smith was alive. It is hard to believe that such things happened, regardless of how the Saints were acting at the time. It really was a different time when one could not even count on the law to protect them in certain circumstances. Now, the Lord allowed most of it to happen because of the way the Saints were acting and how they were not living the law of consecration as they had been commanded to and were not sufficiently humble. But just like the Jews who put Jesus to death, it doesn't matter that it had to happen, they will still be accountable for their actions, so too will the men and women who persecuted the Saints in modern times be held accountable for what they did, regardless of what the Saints did to provoke it. I promise that the age old, "He started it" excuse that children love to give adults will not hold any water at all when we stand before God. I have always believed that nothing gives us the right to treat someone other than the way Jesus would treat them.

Fortunately for Peter and the rest of the Apostles in those days they had known this was going to happen to them. Jesus warned them that the world will hate them for His sake. But knowing something is going to happen is very different when the time actually comes down to it. Jesus proved that Himself with what He did in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had been preparing for it for thousands of years, but when it came down to it, He was scared and desired for another way if it was all possible. Thankfully for us, He went through with it. It's kind of interesting to me to contrast the Apostles after Jesus' resurrection from before it. They understand it all now and are willing to do things they never would have thought of before. Now when they are punished for His sake they are happy that they are counted worthy to suffer in His name. This is only because they know what He did for them now, they understand.

I am reminded of President Spencer W. Kimball. He made a statement at some point to some missionaries that was included in the notebook that my mission president gave to each new missionary. President Kimball stated that he wished the missionaries could see the vision he had seen. He wished that he had the strength of our young bodies and if he did he would run as fast as he could shouting the Gospel message to all those in hearing. When he couldn't run anymore, he would walk. Then he would crawl and finally he would lay there continuing to shout until his voice gave out. He understood the importance of the Gospel, like Peter and the other Apostles did after Jesus spent those 4o days with them.

It has often been said that our level of conversion to the Gospel can be measured by our desire to share it with those around us. All too often we let fear of what people will think of us if we open our mouths. But interest and desire to know more about the church has never been higher in all the history of the world. The scriptures really are true that state the people are kept from the truth only because they know not where to find it. Pray and work with God to find those who are searching for the truth, He will help you find those you can help. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Our Words Matter

Today I read Acts 11, where Peter returns to Jerusalem after preaching to Cornelius and baptizing his family. I love this part because his fellow Apostles are upset with him and he relays the vision he had to them and ends it with a statement that asks who is he to thwart the will of God? I love that question and how it really puts in perspective. The Apostles can be upset with Peter all they want, but truthfully he did the will of God and did what was asked of him. Now, his brethren were also men of the Spirit and when they heard this, glorified God and acknowledged what Peter had done was right.

The rest of the chapter is about the saints in Antioch and how the brethren sent Barnabas and Saul unto them. It is in Antioch that the saints are called Christians for the first time. I was thinking about it today as I read the chapter and why it is important that the Saints are called Christians or not. But almost as soon as I thought that, I was reminded of 3 Nephi where the disciples ask Jesus in what name they should call the church and Jesus reminds them that if it is His church, it must be called in His name. Therefore, if they are Christ's people, then they must be called in His name. We have talked before this about the importance of words and how words can make a difference. It seems so in-congruent because on the one hand, we know that unkind words don't hurt us and that we can rise past them and we can still serve God no matter what is said to us. But on the other hand, we know that words, the right words can be infinitely important. For example, all Priesthood ordinances must have the right verbiage in order to be valid. Moses found this out when trying to cast out Satan from his presence. It took him 3 tries before he got it right and Satan was compelled to leave his presence.

How we say things are just as important as what we say. We are taught this principle in Alma teaches the people in the city of Ammonihah that our words will condemn us. Jesus Himself taught us this principle in the Sermon on the Mount when He says that any who call their brother Raca, or a derogatory name, is in danger of the counsel. What we say is important and we will have to have an accounting of everything we have said in this life. I remember once having a discussion about swear words and were they really bad words and incorrect to say, or was it just the social connotation that makes them bad. For example, if you say a swear word in front of a person who does not speak English, the person will not react at all and it means nothing to them. So if that is the case does it still make it wrong? Yes, it does. For one thing, God is offended by them. If you ever doubt that, ask any missionary how they feel immediately before and after they hear a swear word. The Spirit leaves, immediately. I remember when I had just come off of my mission that I saw a preview for a movie on TV that looked quite funny. The premise seemed enjoyable and I went and saw it with my Mom and Dad. I can still to this day remember how horrible it was and how appalled I was at all the swearing and how awful I felt as we left the movie theater that night. Some might argue that those words are only bad because of the social taboo associated with them. However, I can say without hesitation that Heavenly Father is offended by them, and I would daresay He is offended by all swear words in all languages.

It is very hard sometimes to find quality entertainment in this day and age. I have learned that if something is popular with the masses, it will almost always offend God. I am very leery of new TV shows or movies that are extremely popular as a whole because I have found that they almost always contain nudity, copious amounts of swearing or lots of violence. It is rare that the world likes and approves of something pure and in keeping with the Spirit. Even books are getting outrageous these days. Unless one reads a science fiction/fantasy novel, one is almost always inundated with swear words and unwholesome passages. Even now in the aforementioned sci-fi genre swearing is becoming ever more popular. When did it become the popular thing to do to swear? I always viewed it as a weakness, that the person did not have a large vocabulary and so would fall back on such things. It is sad to me that so many people have to resort to swearing to get their point across. What's even more sad is that more and more people are not being offended by swearing. This is obvious as more and more shows include it and as the laws of cable have changed over the years. I remember as a child you would not hear any swear words at all on TV. Now you can hear them all except what are commonly thought of as the worst 2. And even those every couple of years or so, the media tries to push the envelope to see how far and how much they can get away with.

It is up to us who declare ourselves Christians to set ourselves apart from all of this. It should be so obvious that you don't swear that when your friends do it around you, they should apologize by habit. At my work I don't even have to say anything anymore, people have learned that I don't talk like that nor do I appreciate it when people talk like that around me and so the apologize to me when the say such things in my presence. I did not request it, they do it out of respect for me. If your co-workers and friends don't know that you dislike swearing, you need to take a look at your speech and find out why. We should always make sure our words and our speech are pleasing to God. We will be very uncomfortable in His presence if our speech is laced with profanity, I guarantee! Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Peter is Told to Preach the Gospel to All Men

Today I read Acts 10 where Peter sees in vision that it is alright to eat animals with a cloven hoof where previously it was against the law of Moses to eat such animals. Peter is shown this vision and hears a voice 3 times state that what the Lord has cleansed call not thou unclean. This is very significant and removes the restriction against eating certain animals and birds. I have always felt that the preclusion against eating certain meats during those days was more of a health code than anything. But it makes me wonder if that is the case, what changed from the time of Moses to the time of Jesus that allowed them to cook those animals properly to get rid of all the bacteria and harmful substances found in those meats? Maybe it was just they didn't know you had to cook them to a certain temperature and the Lord educated them on it at this time. But that again begs the question of why couldn't He have taught them back in the time of Moses too? If I had to guess I would say it is because they were very mobile, moving everyday at the time that the Lord gave them the Law of Moses and it was easier to forbid it than to try and teach them one way and then a different way once they were more settled in.

But this vision of Peter's is more significant than just allowing the Christians to eat any food they want. It is also the first time that Peter is told that it is ok to teach the Gentiles the Gospel of Christ. As a matter of fact, Peter gets to put that into practice almost immediately. A devout man named, Cornelius was fasting and praying to know the will of God and what he should do and was shown in a vision to send for Peter so that Peter could teach his household the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As luck would have it, or rather as God arranged it, Cornelius' servants arrive for Peter just after he sees this vision declaring that what God hath cleansed is clean and should not be called common or unclean. Prior to this point the Gospel was reserved for the Jews and the Samaritans and had not been preached to any of the Gentiles.

Peter is told by the Spirit that the men who have found him were sent to him by God and he should go with them and not fear. Peter goes with the servant of Cornelius pondering on the message of the vision that Jesus had given to him and when he arrives at the house, he asks Cornelius what he can do for him. Cornelius then relates to Peter the vision he had received 4 days earlier and asked Peter what it means. Peter then replied that it is unlawful for a Jew to keep company with a non-Jew but God has just told him that he should not call any man unclean or common. Really I think it's very impressive of Peter, I mean he has just been told 2 days prior to this that God has authorized him to preach the Gospel unto all men and women and he goes forth and does it without hesitation. Granted he had 2 days to think on it, but that is still a very, very quick turn around! Think on it this way, what if tomorrow, President Monson released a statement to the world that the Lord had declared to him that the Priesthood should be given to all worthy females. How would you feel? Would you accept it wholeheartedly right from the start? It might take a little while to readjust your thinking wouldn't it? That is kind of what it would have been like for those early Saints to suddenly be told that the Gospel was for everyone, not just the Jews.

But Peter accepts what the Lord tells him immediately and does not doubt the Lord's word. Now, Peter is the only one who has seen this vision and thus is the only one who knows God's will at this point and there are other Jews with him that are probably wondering just what in the world Peter was doing. But they don't interrupt him and Peter proceeds to teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ and while he is doing that, the Holy Ghost is in attendance and the Gentiles receive the Holy Ghost and start speaking in tongues. When the Jews that were with Peter saw this they were quite surprised that the Holy Ghost fell upon the Gentiles in addition to the Jews and Peter seizes the opportunity to ask these men who are full of the Holy Ghost if there is any reason he should not baptize Cornelius and his household? None object and Peter proceeds with the baptism. This is very significant as it is the first time that non-Jews were baptized in the dispensation of Christ, to our knowledge anyway.

This particular chapter is good from a historical standpoint, but also gives me hope that God truly is no respecter of persons and that He will do what is best and right for all of us. He loves us and wants us to be successful. As we follow His commandments and strive to do what is right, we will become more like Him and will be better able to understand His will concerning us. He loves us and wants us to become like Him and return to live with Him. How wonderful a gift it is that God lets us choose for ourselves. Just make sure you are happy with your choice. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Saul is Converted

Today I read Acts 9, the conversion of Saul. Just about everyone knows I think that when Saul was on the way to Damascus to bring back the Christians there to Jerusalem to put them on trial he saw a light and heard Jesus speak to him. He then goes on to Damascus and Ananias visits him and heals him through the Priesthood and baptizes Saul. He then proceeds to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people in Damascus and does such a good job that the leaders of the city decide to kill him. So he leaves with the help of the Saints there and goes to Jerusalem to meet with Peter.

This story has often reminded me of Alma the Younger and his conversion, which I think is one of the main problems opponents of the Book of Mormon have with it. They think that Joseph Smith just lifted whole sections of the Bible and changed a few details about it. We know of course that Joseph did not do this, but I can certainly see why they might think that. As I was reading my scriptures this morning I was wondering why Jesus chose Saul and why He didn't just choose someone else who was already converted. The answer came almost immediately of course, it was because of the qualities that Saul possessed. Saul was a driven man and very, very passionate. He used that passion to hunt down the Saints who had converted to Christ and bring them to justice, or so he thought. Well, Jesus knew that Saul would use that same level of drive to preach His gospel as he had to persecute the Saints. And He was right. As soon as Saul becomes converted it's almost like he is driven to right the wrongs that he committed earlier in his life. And he becomes the most well known Apostle of all time.

It really reminds me of David, he was a young, easily overlooked child and people did not think much of him. However, God knew his heart and knew what David was capable of doing in His name. The Lord does not look on our outward countenances like others do, but rather he looks upon us as what type of person we are. God knows who we are and what we are capable of, just like he knew about David and Saul. He knows who is willing to repent and who is hungering to know the truth and waiting to find the Gospel. That's why it is ever so important to listen to the Spirit of the Lord when striving to do missionary work. God knows who is being prepared and who is ready to hear the message and He will tell you who needs the Gospel in their life. It may be very surprising too. It may be someone you look at and wonder what is God thinking? Obviously this person will never accept the Gospel. And yet if you take God at His word and open your mouth you will be surprised at what happens.

Because we are mortal and fallible we all too often make the mistake of looking at others through the eyes of a mortal. God knows what type of person we are on the inside and what we will be capable of doing for Him. What is Ananias had refused the Lord's command to go heal Saul because of what he had heard? And he thought about it too! He told the Lord that he had heard this man Saul was an active opponent of the Lord, as if God didn't know that already! The world would be completely different today if Saul had never become converted to the Lord. For one thing 80% of our New Testament would not be in existence since Paul wrote it! Fortunately for everyone of all generations though, Ananias listened to the Lord, despite his misgivings, and went to find Saul and give him back his sight as the Lord had commanded.

The Lord knows who we are and if He has confidence in our abilities, what do we have to fear? Nephi understood that with the Lord's help he could do all things. He knew that if the Lord wished it, he could cause the very ocean to become dry land and certainly he could, and did, build a ship with His help. We sell the Lord short all too often when we doubt ourselves when He asks us to do something for Him in His name. We need to have faith and trust that He will not leave us to our own devices. He loves us and wants us to succeed. He will help you, and if you believe that, well then you are capable of accomplishing wonderful things in His name! Until tomorrow.